Monthly Archives: July 2008

Tales of a Specialized Generalist

About the author: Karen Reshkin manages the Web site in EPA’s Chicago office. She’s been there since 1991, and can still remember life before the Internet.

federal messenger envelopeI’ve worked at US EPA since the early 90s. I must enjoy my work, because I’m always surprised to watch the years mount up.

A more unsettling surprise comes when people ask me about EPA’s policies or recent actions that get into the news. More often than I like to admit, my answer is, “I don’t know.”

Why not? Well, I don’t follow news as closely as I probably should. But also, my job at EPA is mainly concerned with our Web site. I can help you find info on epa.gov, or tell you all about our Web standards (though you might never ask), but I can’t always tell you what was in the news release I posted yesterday.

One of the things I know best, oddly, is what we don’t do. Michelangelo is credited with saying that when creating a sculpture, he’d start with a block of stone and chip away everything that didn’t look like a horse (or an elephant, or an angel, depending on who’s telling the story). When I worked answering our hotline, I found that many calls and emails were “wrong numbers” – people contacting us for things we don’t do. For example, if you can’t renew your license plates because you didn’t get an emissions test for your vehicle, you’ll need to contact your state transportation or environmental department, not US EPA.

When I was invited to write for this blog, I decided to repair my ignorance. I plan to find out about some of the things that EPA does and tell about them as plainly as I can. It’s sort of the “inside outsider” approach. I’ll also do some sculpting and tell you about a few things you might think we handle, but we really don’t.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

What Have You Done With Your Old Cell Phone?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Modern technology enables us to be connected 24-7. Whether it’s via a computer, a PDA or a cell phone—most of us have some portable device to connect with family, friends, or work at a moment’s notice. Some of us rely on modern technology to be “connected” to the office even while away. (I recently committed that egregious act—repeatedly– during a recent family vacation). Others rely on the cell phone to text to or chat with friends about their daily comings and goings.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have four daughters. My 6 year old still does not have a cell phone, but she’s quite tech-savvy for her early years. She often surprises me with her technology skills. On the other hand, my other three daughters are avid Internet and cell phone users. Each with her own personality and cell phone needs. That brings me to today’s issue. How do you keep up with your mobile needs without hurting the environment?

I pose the question because many of us discard our unwanted cell phones after a couple of years even though they still are in good condition because we want the latest in mobile technology or perhaps we want a battery with more durability. These unwanted cell phones and accessories often clutter our drawers or, in worse cases, landfills. These discarded e-devices are made with precious materials that can be recycled. So why don’t we?

There are many ways to donate or recycle these used cell phones and other used electronics. Learn more about our Plug-In to eCycling program as well as our cell phone recycling campaign in English and Spanish. Let’s teach our children more about the life cycle of a cell phone, perhaps they’ll have a greater appreciation for these communication devices to limit e-waste—and unnecessary text messages as well.

¿Qué hacer con su viejo teléfono celular?

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

La tecnología moderna nos permite estar conectados las 24 horas del día. Sea mediante la computadora, un PDA o un teléfono celular—la mayoría de nosotros tiene algún dispositivo portátil para estar conectados al instante con familiares, amigos o el trabajo. Algunos de nosotros dependemos de la tecnología moderna para estar “conectados” a la oficina cuando estamos de vacaciones. (Cometí ese pecado mortal repetidamente durante unas vacaciones recientes con mi familia) Otros dependen de su celular para enviar mensajes de texto o simplemente conversar con amigos sobre el quehacer diario.

Como he mencionado antes, tengo cuatro hijas. La pequeña todavía no tiene un celular, pero se maneja muy bien con la tecnología moderna pese a su edad. A veces me sorprenden sus destrezas tecnológicas. Por otra parte, mis otras tres hijas son empecinadas internautas y usuarias de móviles. Cada una tiene su propia personalidad y gustos de telefonía móvil. Eso me lleva al tema de hoy, ¿cómo podemos adaptarnos a nuestras necesidades de telefonía móvil sin hacerle daño al medio ambiente?

Planteo la pregunta porque muchos de nosotros descartamos nuestros celulares usados dentro de un par de años a pesar de que todavía están en buenas condiciones o porque simplemente queremos la última tecnología móvil o buscamos una batería con mayor durabilidad. Estos celulares y accesorios indeseados muchas veces son arrinconados en nuestras gavetas o peor, amontonados en nuestros rellenos sanitarios. Estos aparatos electrónicos descartados tienen materiales preciosos que podemos reciclar. ¿Entonces, por qué no lo hacemos?

Hay muchas maneras de donar o reciclar estos celulares u otros aparatos electrónicos usados. Aprenda más sobre nuestro programa “Conéctese al reciclaje electrónico”, así como nuestra campaña de reciclaje de celulares en español. Enseñémosle a nuestros hijos sobre el ciclo de vida del teléfono celular, quizás tengan una mayor apreciación por estos aparatos de comunicaciones y así limiten los desechos electrónicos—y los mensajes de texto innecesarios también.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Words from a Kaizensider

About the author: John DeLashmit began his EPA career over twenty years ago in Chicago. He spent many years working in EPA’s hazardous waste cleanup programs, and now serves as Chief of the Water Quality Management Branch in EPA’s Kansas City office.

We hear its name in the halls and meeting rooms of EPA’s regions and Headquarters: Kaizen, the Japanese process improvement tool. It literally means change (kai) to become good (zen). Kaizen is used by states, feds, and major corporations, such as the Toyota Motor Company, to stay in tune with and provide a better response to changing customer needs. Some of you may wonder what it’s like to go through an Event? Is Kaizen painful, is it dignified, how do you know when it’s over? Do you wear a gi?

I worked with our four Regional states, Headquarters, and my colleagues in the Region at a Kaizen event to “lean” our water quality standard (WQS) review and approval processes in Kansas City. Our Kaizen event took place over four full days last summer. It was quite an experience; we became more enthused about our results as the week went along. The states came armed with diagrams and detailed descriptions of their processes. The Region had no prepared and polished descriptions…we described our procedures, fraught with delay and unnecessary steps, in front of all attending. An ugly process is often described as making sausage; we made our sausage in the window of the butcher shop.

We trimmed (notice that I really like the butcher shop analogy) almost 50% of the steps we’d historically used in our WQS review process, and we eliminated nearly all of the process delays. The refined process we came up with looks much better…on paper. Now, we must implement our ideas and make them work. It’s a new way of doing things, and we realize that there’ll be some frustrations (pain?) while we work to change our old habits.

At EPA, we’re very interested in expanding the use of the Kaizen tool to eliminate waste and delay. I’ll confess…we’re suckers for anything that helps us more efficiently deal with the complexities of regulation, oversight, and our fundamental responsibility to protect the environment. Our Kansas City office will soon use Kaizen to improve our water discharge permitting processes; in the near future, you’ll hear more about Kaizen events in our other regions and Headquarters. We’ll want to share stories about our success…I’ll admit that we’re more than a little proud of what we’re doing.

Just in case my 8th grade English teacher, Miss Osborne, is reading this, I’ll close with a haiku (she would be so impressed):

Kaizen leans our ways
Set a clear course forward
Never hesitate

Read more about Kaizen.

Linked to http://epa.gov/lean/admin.htm

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

On The Green Road: Post-Hawaii Musings

About the author: As Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoyed a recent vacation, he sent along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

We’ve been back home now for a few weeks. Hawaii was a pretty incredible way to spend our 15th anniversary. Aside from a sense of wonder, a couple of things struck me while I was there that have stayed with me.

First, it amazed me how little air conditioning is used in Hawaii. Between the trade winds and the magically low humidity (I mean, it’s a tropical island!), it was remarkably comfortable even in the upper 80s. And I get hot here in DC when it breaks 75. What’s funny is that when I’ve brought it up to friends who have also visited, they say they were also surprised.

The Honolulu airport was mostly open to the outside. Actually, some gates have air-conditioned spaces, but not the main terminal. I wonder how they decide where to put it? And then there’s the Kona airport, which really goes without AC:

small thatch-roofed buildings bordering an open-air courtyard


You check in under a series of open-air pavilions. Once you’re though security, there is no concourse. Instead, each gate area has its own pavilion, and you walk across an open-air courtyard to get to your gate.

My first hint that’s how it would be came when making reservations, and every place mentioned ceiling fans but not AC. In fact, the only place with AC was our Waikiki hotel. I wonder if that’s a heat-island effect, or it’s just that there’s little airflow through a high-rise hotel room. Or maybe it’s that tourists expect AC, so hotels there include it.

Hawaiians seem in tune with their environment in a way that I envy. And in this case, they save a lot of energy by relying on their special climate to keep things comfortable. If only we could import it here. When we landed in DC at 10:00 pm, it was only 73 degrees but about 20 times stickier.

coqui frogThe other thing I wanted to mention is the coqui frog. You may remember Lina Younes asking people in Hawaii not to eradicate this Puerto Rican favorite. I’ll leave the debate about whether to eradicate them in the comments on that post.

But Lina commented on my first Hawaii post asking whether I’d heard the little songsters. Did I ever! North of Hilo, we heard a single frog, and I can understand Lina’s fond memories of “co-kee, co-kee” lulling her to sleep.

But south of Hilo in the forest, they were so loud we could hear them through the car windows (yes, we were hot, so we put on the AC). So for Lina, I recorded them: Hawaiian coqui (MP3 sound file, 20 seconds, 550 KB, transcript).

Now I understand why people commented on Lina’s post that the coquis had destroyed their peaceful evenings!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

In Need of Some Guidance

About the author: Barbara Hostage is the Director of the Policy Analysis and Regulatory Management Staff in the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. She has been with EPA for 30 years, spending most of those 30 years involved in EPA rulemakings.

Anyone who’s ever worked with a real estate agent knows that it helps to let them know what you want. For example, if you’re looking for a three bedroom ranch on a quiet street, you should say so, or else you’ll spend a lot of time driving to five bedroom colonials next to busy shopping malls. There are a lot of houses out there and a lot of factors to consider. The more guidance you provide, the more effective your search becomes.

It’s a simple idea: providing guidance early leads to more effective work. It’s a good rule to follow when working with a real estate agent, hair stylist, or mechanic. It’s also a principle that we try to incorporate into our work here at EPA.

I help EPA put this principle into practice by arranging Early Guidance Meetings for my office. Developing an action (such as a regulation) is a detailed process. At the beginning of the process, a workgroup that includes all relevant parts of EPA is formed. The workgroup then proceeds to investigate the topic and identify what may need to be done. It is during this early phase that an EPA workgroup will turn to EPA senior managers for guidance…hence the name “Early Guidance Meeting.” In these meetings, senior managers help the workgroup identify priorities and establish expectations. Getting senior managers involved early in the process helps the workgroup avoid missteps and dead ends, which leads to a quicker and more efficient process.

It’s a simple step, but I’m convinced that these meetings make us a better agency. Early Guidance Meetings save taxpayers’ money by minimizing the amount of time spent pursuing dead ends, documenting decisions in case we need to revisit them later on, and completing regulations in a timelier manner. It’s only logical: a better process produces better actions. And during the early phases of the process – when a workgroup is looking for some ”warmer/colder” advice to nudge them in the right direction – a little guidance can go a long way.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Question of the Week: Do you pay attention to where your food comes from?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Much of the food we buy is grown in other places and transported to markets or restaurants where we live. Some people have tried to be “locavores,” consuming only locally-grown food or products, in an effort to reduce the environmental impacts from transportation, cold storage, or others.

Do you pay attention to where your food comes from?

.

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Gran parte de los alimentos que compramos son cultivados en otros lugares y transportados a mercados o restaurantes cerca de donde vivimos. Algunas personas han tratado de ser “locávoros” o “locávores” al tratar de consumir sólo aquellos alimentos o productos que han sido cultivados localmente en un esfuerzo por reducir los impactos medioambientales de la transportación, el almacenaje frigorífico, u otros.

¿Usted presta atención al lugar de donde provienen sus alimentos?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Delusional Reality About West Coast Salmon

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

About the author: Dr. Robert Lackey is a senior scientist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon. He has been involved professionally with West Coast salmon issues for 44 years and was awarded EPA’s highest award, the Gold Medal, for his salmon work.

Photo of Bob LackeyOne of my favorite fictional characters is detective extraordinaire Joe Friday. Joe demanded and provided “just the facts” as he sleuthed his way through the gossip and hearsay to winnow out the truth. Scientists responsible for informing the public and policy makers about ecological policy issues should attempt to do the same — just the facts — the straightforward, sometimes unpleasant realities.

A case in point: The 2008 collapse of salmon runs along the West Coast is being chronicled in major national newspapers, with headlines proclaiming “Disaster Strikes West Coast Fishermen,” “Worst Salmon Runs in History,” and “Agencies Baffled by Unexpected Salmon Collapse.”

Let’s apply Joe Friday’s “just the facts” approach to the wild salmon situation to see what society might expect in the future.

Fact 1: Wild salmon in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and southern British Columbia are in serious trouble. Most runs in the Western U.S. are at less than 10% of their pre-1850 levels. Over two dozen are listed as threatened or endangered, with many more likely to follow unless something changes.

Fact 2: Meager salmon runs along the West Coast are nothing new. The decline in wild salmon numbers (PDF) started with the California gold rush in 1848; causes include water pollution, habitat loss, over-fishing, dams, irrigation projects, predation, and competition with hatchery-produced salmon and non-native fish species.

Fact 3: If society wishes to change the future for wild salmon, something must be done about the unrelenting growth in the human population level along the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia). By 2100, there could be 200 – 250 million people in the region: a quadrupling by the end of this century — barely 90 years from now.

Fact 4: If the human population levels increase as expected, options for restoring salmon runs to significant, sustainable levels are greatly limited. Consider the demand for houses, schools, stadiums (PDF), expressways, automobiles, malls, air conditioning, drinking water, consumer goods, golf courses, and sewer treatment plants. Society’s options for sustaining wild salmon in significant numbers would be just about non-existent.

Whatever policy makers propose to do about the 2008 collapse of West Coast salmon runs, these four facts cannot be ignored. Policy makers should demand from scientists realistic and honest assessments (PDF) of the current and future conditions for salmon.

Joe Friday was a tough, no-nonsense professional. Those of us who provide the public and policy makers with the best available information about salmon ought to follow his lead: “just the facts”.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

At The Movies

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés. Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

As a mother of a four daughters (including a six year old), I’m always on the look out for good family movies we can all enjoy. Trying to satisfy the film tastes of the entire family is not always an easy task. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed something lately. Hollywood has started to incorporate green issues into movies for children with some commercial success. So we can still go to the movies and enjoy the experience while getting something positive out of the movie at the same time.

Just this past weekend, the whole family went to see WALL-E, the computer animated movie about a determined robot or more precisely a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class unit—hence the name—entrusted with the mission of cleaning up a trash covered planet. I’m not going to talk about the plot. But I must confess that upon reading the reviews, I went to see the movie with some hesitation. The movie was somewhat “dark” by traditional children movie standards. Nonetheless, my six year old enjoyed it, even though the true message went right over her head. My elder daughters were quite moved by the experience. Some of us shed a tear or two. I guess it was a win-win all the way around.

Other family movies with a green twist are Happy Feet and Hoot to name a few. And for the true film enthusiasts in the Washington area, I recommend a yearly green ritual—the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital which usually takes place in March.

So, if going to the movies, a park, or the zoo is your day of family fun, by all means, go ahead and enjoy. Yet, if you prefer to use your computer to teach your kids about environmental awareness, recycling, children environmental health tips, etc., please visit us at www.epa.gov.

Va Al Cine

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Como madre de cuatro hijas (incluyendo la menor que tiene seis años), siempre estoy buscando buenas películas que toda la familia pueda disfrutar. Sin embargo, el encontrar una película que satisfaga los gustos de todo el mundo no siempre es una labor sencilla. No obstante, sí he notado algo en el cine últimamente. Hollywood ha empezado a incorporar temas “verdes” (de perspectiva ecológica) en las películas para niños y han tenido éxito comercial. En ese caso, se puede ir al cine, disfrutar la experiencia y también sacar un mensaje positivo a la vez.

Este pasado fin de semana, fuimos toda la familia a ver WALL-E,
la película de dibujos computarizados animados sobre un robot cuyo nombre proviene de sus siglas en inglés para una unidad para compactar desperdicios – “Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class”. Dicho robot tiene la misión de limpiar toda la basura que cubre el planeta. No voy a hablar sobre la trama de la película. Debo confesar que cuando leí la crítica de la película, fui a verla con cierta vacilación. De primera intención, la película parecía algo lúgubre conforme a las normas tradicionales de películas infantiles. No obstante, a mi pequeña le encantó aunque no entendió su mensaje principal. A mis hijas mayores les conmovió la experiencia y algunas de nosotras también soltamos un par de lágrimas allí. A mi esposo le gustó también. Creo que fue una experiencia positiva para todos.

Otras películas con un mensaje ambientalista son Happy Feet y Hoot por ejemplo. Para los verdaderos amantes del cine ambiental en el área de Washington, recomiendo un ritual anual verde—el Festival de Cina Medioambiental en la Capital Nacional que usualmente se celebra en marzo.

Si va al cine, al parque o al zoológico para una jornada de diversión familiar, definitivamente debe hacerlo. Sin embargo, si prefiere utilizar su computadora para concienciar a los niños sobre la protección ambiental, o el reciclaje, o consejos de salud ambiental infantil, visítenos al www.epa.gov/espanol.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Environmental Researcher or Adrenaline Junkie: Sailing Through Changing Research Directions

About the author: Sandy Raimondo is a research ecologist with the Office of Research and Development in Gulf Breeze, FL. She joined EPA in 2003 and models potential effects of toxicants on organisms and populations.

Sandy and dog on boatA few months ago I joined a crew on a sailboat that competes in the local yacht club races. I’ve never been a huge water person, much more of a mountaineer than a sailor, but since I live on the Gulf coast I decided to harness the side of nature that’s in my backyard rather than dwell on what wasn’t. Since moving here I’ve given sea kayaking a whirl and tried to learn how to surf, but sailing definitely suits me better – I don’t eat sand nearly as much as I did trying to surf, and my body thanks me for it. But it’s also the invigoration that goes along with a boat keeled on its side, cutting through the water, powered by something that you can’t see. Or maybe it’s the Jimmy Buffet.

Anyway, sometimes I think environmental research is a lot like sailing. Not in the sense that it’s a breeze, or that you sit in your little vessel and let something else push you a long, although sometimes you actually do get to move downwind and head straight toward your goal. But much more often you have to tack back and forth against the wind, constantly changing directions to get to your eventual finish. But since the finish is a buoy, it’s not really concretely fastened. These days, new environmental challenges blow in before we can address the ones that popped up last year. Its one of those things that might be frustrating if all you want to do is sail downwind. But if you like the adrenaline rush of hanging off the side of the boat to keep yourself level while your direction and speed are determined by which way the wind is blowing, then environmental research is a good place to be.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Flying Fish

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

About the author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA who started in 1998. He serves as Chief of the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch in Kansas City.

Ever heard of a guy named Lew Zealand? He was the Muppet that threw boomerang fish (I expect a cut of your winnings if you ever go on Jeopardy and this bit of trivia pays off). I thought of Lew because it is field season again and on the Missouri River we have our own airborne fish. They are Asian Carp, a particularly troubling invasive species that have infested waters and pose a potentially devastating effect to the Great Lakes. They were introduced into the catfish aquaculture business in the 1970s but during floods these “prisoners” escaped their ponds into the Mississippi River, and have been on the run ever since. YouTube has a lot of great videos of them in action.

In Region 7 we administer our Regional Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) program where samples are analyzed for contaminants such as mercury, pesticides, and PCBs. States use the data to post fish advisories. Our biologists (including Lorenzo pictured here) end up with nets full of carp because they often are the most abundant fish in the Missouri River. If you talk to some of the old timers fishing along the banks they will tell you the odd-looking paddlefish were more abundant in years past. Paddlefish face many challenges from human-induced changes to the river such as dams, loss of habitat due to channel straightening, and illegal harvest of eggs for use as caviar. Now they count flying fish as enemies since the more abundant carp out-compete the paddlefish for food.

Photo of Lorenzo holding large Asian Carp near waterAs comical as the spectacle of jumping fish may be, invasive species are a serious threat. A plant may look pretty and an animal may seem cute, yet they may wreak devastating damage when introduced into a non-native setting. In 1884 a single Australian released twenty-four European rabbits on his property for hunting purposes. Within ten years those 24 had turned into over 2 million, and started the delicate ecology of Australia into a downward spiral causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage each year and bringing a $30,000 fine for anyone found harboring their own long-eared friend as a pet. For those outdoor enthusiasts among you, consider scanning your State Conservation Department’s website before you head out on vacation this summer. Find out what you can do to make sure you don’t unknowingly take home a hidden hitchhiker.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.