SHORT CUTS

Cherry trees blamed for foal deaths

Researchers and horse owners have been scrambling to find the cause of several hundred foal deaths in Kentucky this spring. There seems to be a clear association with cherry trees, though scientists aren't sure why. Cyanide, present in cherry leaves, is the strongest suspect. However, investigators have also noted a high level of tent caterpillar infestation on cherry trees this year, and this may be associated with the foal deaths as well.

An especially long winter may have somehow played a part (in 1981, a similar phenomenon occurred, following a similarly severe winter) but it's not clear why. Also not clear is how the toxins — if indeed they are the culprit — are being ingested by horses.

EPA files erased

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The Landmark Legal Foundation recently filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to certain EPA records. In response, a federal judge on January 19 of this year ordered all records related to the lawsuit to be preserved.

As it turns out, however, electronic computer files of Carol Browner, former EPA head, and three top aides, were erased just before President Clinton left office on January 20. If true, this could be a serious legal violation. The Foundation is seeking records related to the influence environmental groups may have had on the EPA during the waning days of the Clinton administration.

Eco-terrorists torch hort center

Arson is blamed for the burning of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture on May 21. Simultaneously, arsonists torched the Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, Oregon. The same type of incendiary devices reportedly were used in both incidents.

At the Oregon scene, graffiti left by the arsonists indicated the radical eco-terrorism group Earth Liberation Front (ELF) was responsible, though no similar “calling card” was left at the University of Washington.

Toby Bradshaw, a plant geneticist who works at the Center, breeds hybrid poplars that can be field grown for pulp, as a substitute for forest-grown trees. The new poplars can produce up to 10 times more lp per acre than forests. Ironically, Bradshaw's research should help reduce the environmental impact of the pulp industry on forests, so sabotaging it seems to counter ELF's stated objective, which is to protect the environment.

And you thought even/odd days were bad…

Israel's water supplies are becoming so low that Shimon Tim, Israel's water minister, reportedly is going to call for a total ban on watering lawns for the next 3 years.

Does eating count as IPM?

Anchorage, Alaska, like many cities, is battling the omnipresent Canadian Goose. Anchorage's four airports spend several hundred thousand dollars annually to keep geese from endangering aircraft. The need for such efforts became tragically apparent in 1995 after geese were sucked into a jet engine, causing the Air Force plane to crash, killing 24 people.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits most activities that would harm the geese, making control efforts difficult. But under a special program, egg collection is being allowed if the eggs are donated to Alaskan natives, who consider this an ancestral food. The eggs reportedly taste quite good.

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