Bits and Pieces: Woodchucks, the Underground Economy, the EPA and More

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Cute as they may be, woodchucks have been causing problems at National Parks.

Learn about some current events that relate to the environment, economy and more.

Woodchucks Create Problems in National Parks

Rangers at California’s Sequoia National Park are doing battle with marmots over the chubby mammals’ fondness for gnawing on the rubber hoses, fan belts and electrical wiring in the engines of visitors’ cars. Since nabbing a female woodchuck snacking on the components of one of the park’s fire trucks (she was relocated in the High Sierras), rangers have begun trucking the critters farther into the wilds after catching them in traps baited with (what else?) old radiator hoses.

Booming Underground Economy

The part of the U.S. economy that’s booming is the “underground,” consisting of payments in goods, services, and wages that aren’t reported as taxable income. A Baruch College study says that the amount earned by Americans working “off the books” rose from $63 billion in 1971 to $368 billion in 1978. Another report places the 1978 figure even higher, at $848 billion. It is estimated that the government misses out on some $100 billion annually in uncollected taxes as a result of such practices.

Feds Declare War on Bartering Practices

The Fed’s opening shot was fired in 1979 when the IRS instructed its regional and district offices to identify and audit the returns of barter exchanges and their owners in an attempt to collect undeclared taxes on the trades. A recent U.S. district court decision has upheld the IRS’s right to obtain the names of members and the records of transactions conducted by the swap groups. Some organizations are taking precautions by erasing computer records every 12 months.

What is Johnnie Eating at School?

That is the title of a special issue of Nutrition Action magazine that takes an in-depth look at the U.S. school lunch program and outlines ways in which parents can work to improve the nutritional quality of the fare served to their children

EPA Finds Fault with Carbaryl

Despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s cancellation of a review of carbaryl — an act which implied a clean bill of health for the chemical — an internal EPA memo shows that the agency actually has found that the insecticide affects the nervous system, alters behavior in animals, and causes other serious health problems. The substance is commonly marketed under the trade name “Sevin” and is contained in many garden pesticides and flea powders.

Treated Solid Waste is Still Dangerous

A Cornell University study — in which the sludge from 50 cities’ waste treatment plants was analyzed — concludes that, with few exceptions, the substance is too toxic to be used as a soil amendment and should be burned. Researchers say the treated solid waste — which can contaminate both plant life and ground water — “may contain virtually any element and a galaxy of dangerous chemicals, depending on the spectrum of industries in an area.”

The Dieter’s Newest Friend

Here’s a dieter’s aid for the mechanized 1980’s: a battery-powered fork with a flashing green light (for “eat”) and red light (for “stop eating”). Joe Caruso, the inventor of “Slenderfork,” says he pared 130 pounds from his frame by heeding the utensil’s 6-second “go” and 88-second “stop” signals.

Good News for the Economy

The last adults from the “baby boom” generation will be absorbed into the work force by 1985. A Philadelphia research and consulting firm predicts that companies will subsequently have a much more difficult time recruiting experienced personnel and suggests that firms begin now to develop strategies to hire — and retain — valuable employees.

Garden News for 1982

Some 47 percent of all American households planted vegetable gardens in 1981, a figure that’s up 4 percent from the previous year. Gardens for All, the National Association for Gardening, said the 1981 produce had a retail value of $16 billion and reported two “small is beautiful” trends: More folks than ever are trying container growing and gardeners are decreasing the size of their cropping grounds (the plots shrank from an average of 663 square feet in 1980 to 847 square feet in 1981).