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Three Studies Report Good Environmental News

For a change, there's some good news from the world of the environment.

Several rare and vulnerable birds are rebounding in Europe. Conservation efforts in Peru are reducing damage to the Amazon rain forest. And black-footed ferrets are making a comeback in Wyoming.

The three positive trends are reported Thursday in a series of papers in the journal Science.

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Researchers led by Paul F. Donald, of Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, report that European Union policies designed to protect vulnerable species and their habitat seem to be working.

In 15 European countries studied, there was a significant increase in population trends for protected birds between 1990 and 2000, compared to 1970-1990, the team found.

They said the protected birds also showed an increase compared to birds not on the list.

Species doing particularly well include the barnacle goose, white stork, spoonbill, little egret Slavonian grebe and white-tailed eagle.

On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the once endangered black-footed ferret is repopulating its Wyoming homeland, according to researchers led by Martin B. Grenier of the University of Wyoming.

The last seven known ferrets of this type were removed from the wild in 1987 and placed in a captive breeding program. They have produced 4,800 juveniles, many of which were returned to the wild.

At first they continued to suffer losses and extinction seemed likely when they were down to five animals, but by 2003 the wild population had grown to 52 ferrets and researchers estimate the current wild total at more than 200.

And in South America, satellite monitoring indicates that the rate of deforestation is declining in the Peruvian rain forest.

Researchers led by Paulo J. Oliveira of the Carnegie Institution report that while deforestation is continuing, it is occurring mostly in designated logging areas and not in protected regions set aside by the government.

They concluded that the government's program intended to set aside land for indigenous people is also having an effect in protecting the forest.

The European bird research was supported by the European Bird Census Council and the European Union.

The ferret study was funded by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Peruvian forest analysis was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.