May 31, 2013

In this Issue

BUDGET SEQUESTRATION: COMMITTEE REPORT HIGHLIGHTS IMPACTS ON NATIONAL PARKS

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA) recently released a report further detailing sequestration’s impacts on national parks. Noting that visitors to national parks spent about $30 billion in 2011, the report highlights several impacts it says are unavoidable. The report was released May 24, to coincide with Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of summer park visitation season.

Under budget sequestration, non-defense discretionary spending for all federal agencies is cut across all programs by five percent, leading to staff furloughs, hiring freezes as well as service cutbacks. The report details cutbacks at 23 of the 400 US parks. Several, such as Grand Canyon National Park and Glacier National Park will see reduced hours for their visitor centers. Reduced visitor hours at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia will reportedly deny access to 20,000 park visitors.

The report also concludes that most parks will offer fewer educational opportunities and other special programs to visitors. In addition, parks will have less capacity to handle emergencies, such as coping with extreme weather events,   or law-enforcement situations, such as poaching and other crimes. Park repairs, maintenance of park facilities (including rest rooms) will also be scaled back due to sequestration, the report finds.

Congress and the White House have not indicated any willingness to address budget sequestration for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, which ends Sept. 30. It is speculated that lawmakers may wait until then to tackle the issue of comprehensive deficit reduction, which may coincide with the time when Congress will also need to raise the debt ceiling.

The temporary suspension of the debt ceiling enacted earlier this year by Congress expired on May 19. The Department of Treasury is once again enacting “extraordinary measures” and  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asserts that the government will be able to continue borrowing at least until after Labor Day. Increased revenue intakes this calendar year, generated in part from enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (P.L. 112-240), slightly extended the time frame that the US will verge on defaulting on its debt.

View the full report here:

http://democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/sites/democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/files/documents/2013-05-23_NatlParkSequesterCuts_.pdf

NOAA: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES AGENCY WEATHER FORECASTING RESEARCH

On May 23, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing entitled “Restoring US Leadership in Weather Forecasting.” The hearing examined legislation that intends to reprioritize research initiatives at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A sentiment among congressional Republicans on the subcommittee is that NOAA invests too much on climate research compared to weather research. “In 2012, NOAA barely spent one-third of the resources on weather research as it did on climate research,” asserted Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-UT) in his opening statement. In referencing disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the tornado that hit Oklahoma, he stated “We have seen the devastating effects that severe weather can have on this country, and this bill would establish a priority mission for all of NOAA to improve forecasts and warnings to protect lives and property.”

Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Susan Bonamici (D-OR) expressed concern that the legislation might hamper investment in NOAA’s other priorities. She pointed out that NOAA’s broad mission includes collecting weather data as well as research to help understand and anticipate ecosystem changes that may impact coastal communities. “NOAA has a sweeping mission to predict the weather, to insure healthy oceans and fisheries, to address climate mitigation and adaptation and to enhance the resilience of our coastal communities and economies,” stated Bonamici.  “To carry out all these missions requires that NOAA manage a very broad set of scientific challenges and look for ways to bring the insights of research into the daily lives of all our citizens.” 

The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act would mandate that funding at NOAA to increase investment in weather forecasting technology and weather-related activities. The bill would also call for cost-benefit analyses of various data sources, including government satellites, and seek to assess opportunities to increase access to weather data from commercial providers.

Witnesses testifying during the hearing included Barry Myers, Chief Executive Officer at Accuweather, Inc. and Jon Kirchner, President of GeoOptics, Inc. The two witnesses said that the US needs to improve its weather forecasting abilities and emphasized improving collaborations with the private sector something the proposed bill would seek to do. At Ranking Member Bonamici’s behest, she and Chairman Stewart agreed that the issue warrants a second hearing that would include representation from NOAA.

View the full hearing here:

http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-environment-hearing-restoring-us-leadership-weather-forecasting

INTERIOR: NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE LEADERS REQUEST MORE TIME TO COMMENT ON HYDRAULIC FRACTURING RULE

In a rare bipartisan effort, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee issued a joint letter to the Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell requesting additional time to comment on the agency’s new draft hydraulic fracturing rule.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA) each have concerns with the rule, albeit from different ideological perspectives. Chairman Hastings views the rule as unnecessary added regulation that will have detrimental economic impacts. Ranking Member Markey criticized the rule for not going far enough in implementing environmental safeguards.

Nonetheless, the two agree the current 30-day comment period is insufficient to allow comment on the rule they view as problematic. “We jointly believe that this timeframe is unacceptable and not nearly long enough to allow the public to formulate in-depth and constructive comments on this 171 page, complicated rule. Further, the Department previously allowed 120 days for the public to comment on the original draft rule that was proposed last year,” the letter states. Consequently, they call for Interior to allow 120 days for public comment.

To view the Hastings/Markey letter, click here:

http://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/05-21-13hastings_markeyltrtosecjewell.pdf

For additional information on the rule, see the May 17 Edition of ESA Policy News, here:

http://www.esa.org/esa/?p=7788

CBO: CARBON TAX WOULD MITIGATE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report May 22, outlining the economic and environmental impacts of instituting a carbon tax. While CBO acknowledged uncertainties on how such a tax should be implemented, it was clear in concluding that delaying the institution a carbon tax will lead to costly damage that will grow higher with time.

“Regardless of the effect that delaying emission reductions might have on the cost of achieving lower emissions, such delays would increase the expected damage from climate change by increasing the risk of very costly, potentially even catastrophic, outcomes,” the report states. “Given the persistent nature of greenhouse gases and the dynamics of climate change, warming would continue for several decades even if emissions were quickly cut to a small fraction of their current levels. In general, the risk of costly damage is higher as the extent of warming increases and as the pace of warming picks up; thus, failing to limit emissions soon increases that risk.”

The report noted that the institution of a carbon tax would generate increased revenue and improve public health. Regarding negative economic impacts, the report concludes that it would increase the cost of fossil fuels and decrease the purchasing power of lower-income individuals due to increased prices for emission-intensive goods and services. The report maintains that the use of revenues from the tax, through such options as deficit reduction or cutting marginal tax rates, could help mitigate its economic impacts.

Republicans and some Democrats have publically opposed a carbon tax. However, senior Democrats on key House and Senate committees have long endorsed the proposal addressing climate change and protecting public health. However, clear support for such a tax does not exist, even in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Coupled with the fact that the White House has stated it is not pursuing a carbon tax as a component of tax reform or revenue increases, it is unlikely that movement on such a proposal will gain traction in the 113th Congress.

Read the full report here:

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44223_Carbon_0.pdf

BLM: WIND PROJECT APPROVAL ALLOWS FOR KILL OF ENDANGERED CONDOR

On May 24, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a record of decision granting final approval of the Alta East Wind Project (AEWP) in eastern Kern County, California. The record of decision includes an authorization allowing the take (injure or kill) of a California condor.

Regarding adherence to the Endangered Species Act, the decision asserts that “because of the comprehensive condor avoidance and minimization plan that the Applicant will implement as part of the AEWP, over the 30 year life of the project, ‘Project activities are reasonably likely to result in the death of no more than one condor as a result of being struck by a turbine blade,’ and therefore the BLM’s issuance of a ROW grant for the AEWP is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the California condor.” In the event a condor is killed, BLM would mandate that the project only be operated at night.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service contends sufficient measures are being taken by Alta Windpower Development, LLC, a subsidiary of Terra Gen Power, LLC to minimize risks to condor recovery efforts. Among these measures, very high-frequency equipment will be installed to alert farm-operators of the presence of condors from as much as 16 miles away. According to BLM, the detection of condors within two miles of the wind turbines would signal operators to reduce speeds to 15 miles per hour. Terra-Gen will also contribute $100,000 a year for the life of the project to the Condor Recovery Program.

For additional information, click here:

http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest/alta_east_wind_project.html

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 2132, the Natural Hazards Reduction Act – Introduced May 23 by House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Technology Ranking Member Frederica Wilson (D-FL), the bill would reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. The programs collaborate with a number of federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to mitigate the impacts of natural disaster events. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee as well as the Natural Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.

H.R. 2023, the Climate Change and Health Protection Act – Introduced May 16 by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), the bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a strategic plan to assist health professionals in responding to the health effects of climate change. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Considered by House Committee

On May 23, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 255, the Provo River Title Transfer Act – Introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the bill would clarify language in the Provo River Title Act to enable the transfer of the Provo River Aqueduct from the Bureau of Reclamation to the Provo River Water Users Association. 

H.R. 745, the Reauthorization of the Water Desalination Act of 1996 – Introduced by Water and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-CA), the bill would reauthorize through 2018, research into converting seawater to freshwater.

H.R. 1963, the Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act – Introduced by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), the bill would remove federal statutes that prevent irrigation districts and other nonfederal hydropower developers in Montana and other Western states from developing hydropower on 11 Bureau of Reclamation canals, ditches and conduits. 

Passed House

H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act – Introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), the bill would exempt the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline from all federal permitting requirements, effectively fast-tracking approval of the project. The bill passed the House May 22 by a vote of 241-175 with 19 Democrats voting with Republicans in supporting the bill. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a tea-party member known for frequently breaking with GOP leadership, was the only Republican not to vote yes. He voted “present” instead. A spokesman confirmed that Rep. Amash supports the pipeline, but opposes the singling out of any one company in federal legislation.

Amendments adopted include one from Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) to require TransCanada to provide an emergency response plan to governors in states the pipeline crosses through in the event of an oil spill. The amendment was adopted by voice vote. All other amendments put forward by Democrats failed. Other proposed amendments included one from Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) to prohibit approval of the pipeline until the president finds that added greenhouse gas emissions produced from the pipeline are fully offset.  Forty-seven Democrats joined all Republicans in opposing the Waxman amendment, which failed 146-269.

Introduced in Senate

S. 1054, the Gold Butte National Conservation Area Act – Introduced May 23 by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the bill would establish a national conservation area of 350,000 acres at Gold Butte in Nevada, located between the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

 


 Sources the Bakersfield Californian, Bureau of Land Management, ClimateWire, Congressional Budget Office, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee

May 17, 2013

In this Issue

NSF: FORMER DIRECTORS EXPRESS CONCERN WITH DRAFT PEER REVIEW BILL

On May 8, six former officials who headed the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Board during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations sent a letter to the leadership of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee expressing concern with the High Quality Research Act. The draft bill would require the NSF Director to provide Congress with information certifying research projects meet certain national interest requirements before they can be funded, which has been interpreted as negating NSF’s existing scientific peer-review process for funding research.

“We believe that this draft legislation would replace the current merit-based system used to evaluate research and education proposals with a cumbersome and unrealistic certification process that rather than improving the quality of research would do just the opposite,” the letter states. “The history of science and technology has shown that truly basic research often yields breakthroughs – including new technologies, markets and jobs – but that it is impossible to predict which projects (and which fields) will do that.”

The High Quality Research Act, proposed by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), has yet to be introduced and there is no indication yet whether or when the committee will move on the bill. The draft legislation has already met strong opposition from scientific societies and universities as well as Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who asserted that the bill would “undermine NSF’s core mission as a basic research agency.”

View the directors’ letter here:
http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/Former%20NSF%20Directors%20Letter.pdf

NOAA: CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS REACH NEW MILESTONE

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have peaked above 400 parts per million (ppm), the first time since measurements began in 1958.

According to NOAA, the global carbon dioxide average was 280 ppm in the 19th century preceding the industrial revolution and has fluctuated between 180-280 ppm over the past 800,000 years. The agency asserts that a concentration this great has not been seen in at least three million years. The news got very little reaction from key leaders on Capitol Hill, on either side of the aisle in both the House and Senate. The exceptions were Democratic leaders on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

“We know that the Earth is warming, sea ice is disappearing, the glaciers are receding, the oceans are acidifying, and sea levels are rising. We know all of this from climate science research and monitoring,” stated House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “And, we now know that we have reached this carbon dioxide milestone of 400 parts per million thanks to a NOAA observatory on top of the volcano Mauna Loa in Hawaii that has been continuously monitoring and collecting data related to atmospheric change since the 1950s. The research being done at NASA, NOAA and other agencies is providing the crucial data that will enable us to assess, adapt to, and move forward on this critical issue. We must continue investing in this work.”

“The United States, as the biggest historical producer and second largest current producer of greenhouse gases, bears a great responsibility to the rest of the world to ensure that we promote policies that will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we continue to place in the Earth’s atmosphere,” asserted Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR). “As Dr. Pieter Tans of NOAA said of this latest finding, ‘It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem.’ We have to do better than this.”

View the full NOAA release here:
http://researchmatters.noaa.gov/news/Pages/CarbonDioxideatMaunaLoareaches400ppm.aspx

HOUSE: REPUBLICANS FORM ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT WORKING GROUP

On May 9, Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee announced the formation of a working group to review potential changes to the Endangered Species Act.

Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives after the 2010 mid-term elections, the House Natural Resources Committee has held numerous hearings that question the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act, raising questions about whether the law is transparent, economically burdensome or overly regulatory as well as whether new species should continue to be listed under its protection.

The new working group is founded by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA). In addition to Chairman Hastings, group members include Republican Reps. Cynthia Lummis (WY), Mark Amodei (NV), Rob Bishop (UT), Doug Collins (GA), Andy Harris (MD), Bill Huizenga (MI), James Lankford (OK), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Steve Southerland (FL), Glenn Thompson (PA) and David Valadao (CA).

For additional information click here: http://naturalresources.house.gov/esaworkinggroup/

ENERGY DEVELOPMENT: SCIENCE COMMITTEE MULLS KEYSTONE IMPACTS

On May 7, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittees on Energy and Environment held a joint hearing weighing potential economic and environmental impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Republican majority members emphasized the amount of time the administration has spent studying the proposal and touted its potential for job creation. Ultimately, there are two major concerns in this debate: 1) whether we have the ability to construct and operate the pipeline safely, and 2) whether the pipeline’s construction will contribute significantly to climate change. On both of these questions, extensive analysis undertaken by the State Department has affirmed the safety and environmental soundness of the project,” iterated Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) in his opening statement. “The Keystone Pipeline creates jobs and enhances our energy independence with minimal impact to the environment. This project, which has been thoroughly evaluated, should be approved immediately.”

Energy Subcommittee Chairwoman Cynthia Lumis (R-WY) said: “That the Administration would slow-walk a project that supports fossil fuels is perhaps no surprise to some of us. However, what I cannot understand is how the President can rhetorically claim to be committed to job creation and economic growth, and in practice obstruct a project that would support both,” she said.

“Although it has taken four years to look at this project, it could take only a matter of seconds to cause devastating consequences to our environment, our earth and people around the pipeline,” contended Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Eric Swalwell (D-CA). “I think it is worth making sure that we get it right.”

A majority of witnesses sought to highlight potential benefits of the pipeline. Lynn Helms, Director of the Department of Mineral Resources for the North Dakota Industrial Commission highlighted the safety benefits for transportation. He testified that the pipelines operation would cut down on accidents and reduce the potential for oil spills from truck transportation. Paul “Chip” Knappenberger, Assistant Director, Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute argued that the increased carbon omissions do not directly correlate to a measurement of climate change and regardless, the carbon dioxide produced by the pipeline will still not significantly influence climate change.

Committee Democrats contended that the job creation level posed by the Republicans is exaggerated. They argued that the pipeline would only create several thousand temporary jobs and only 35 permanent jobs, based on the findings of the US State Department’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Anthony Swift, testifying on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, was the lone witness allotted by committee Democrats. He argued that the amount of jobs the pipeline would endanger is not worth the potential number of jobs it would create. “In exchange for 35 permanent jobs, Keystone XL would pose a permanent risk to American communities, sensitive water resources and agricultural industry,” he said.

“Short-term benefits to our economy should not be overlooked, but they should be considered alongside the substantial environmental and safety challenges presented by the pipeline, including the potentially disastrous impact on the local economy if a spill were to occur,” asserted Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR). “That’s why Congress requested that the National Academy of Sciences study this type of oil, and it is my hope that we will soon know more about what differences exist between oil sands and conventional crudes.”

View the full hearing here: http://science.house.gov/hearing/keystone-xl-pipeline-examination-scientific-and-environmental-issues-joint-hearing-energy

SPACE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS EXOPLANETARY RESEARCH

On May 9, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittees on Space and Research convened for a joint hearing to discuss exoplanet research, the continued discovery of earth-like planets.

There was bipartisan support for continued investment in exoplanet research among the committee leadership. “Scientists are discovering new kinds of solar systems in our own galaxy that we never knew existed,” noted Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “In the universe, is there another place like home? Because of NASA’s Kepler mission, we know the likely answer is yes. Imagine how the discovery of life outside our solar system would alter our priorities for space exploration and how we view our place in the universe.”

“Since humanity first began looking to the heavens, we have been fascinated by the possibility that we may not be alone in the universe,” stated Research Subcommittee Chairman Larry Buschon (R-IN). “As the number of confirmed and cataloged heavenly bodies has swelled in the past twenty one years, we have sought to learn more about the conditions on these planets: the temperatures, the atmospheres, their core composition, how they orbit their respective stars, and ultimately, whether any are capable of sustaining life.” In his opening remarks, Buschon highlighted two life science space researchers affiliated with Purdue University in Indiana: France Cordova and Marshall Porterfield.

“The search for habitable planets outside of our own solar system was identified as a scientific priority in the 2010 National Academies Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics,” noted Research Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL). “And no wonder. This is exactly the type of scientific pursuit that expands our understanding of the world, or worlds, around us and grips the imagination of scientists and the public at large, even though we have no idea what we will find.”

Exoplanet research is conducted through a collaboration of National Science Foundation ground-based telescopes as well as National Aeronautics and Space Administration telescopes in outer space. Witnesses from both agencies outlined their progress in exoplanet research, which included the recent discovery of three “super-earth” sized planets that appear to have characteristics to support life.

When Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-MD) inquired about the impacts of sequestration on exoplanet research in fiscal year 2014, NASA Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld asserted his agency would likely have to turn off operating observatories or cut off funding for new missions and projects. James Ulvestad, Director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Astronomical Sciences stated that research grants to operate newer more expensive observatories would be at risk and exoplanetary research would be conducted increasingly by international partners as opposed to US researchers, post-docs, and graduate students.

To view the full hearing, click here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-space-and-subcommittee-research-joint-hearing-exoplanet-discoveries-have-we

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: BLM RELEASES HYDRAULIC FRACTURING RULE

On May 16, the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management released a new draft rule for hydraulic fracturing.

BLM maintains that current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and do not adequately address modern fracturing activities. The rule would require disclosure of chemicals injected underground on roughly 700 million acres of federal mineral estate, including about 60 million acres underlying private lands. The rule would allow states to propose their own standards for the controversial oil and gas production technique if they can prove their regulations are as strong as federal rules. The new rule would not require companies to disclose fracking chemicals until after the technique has been performed.

The move generated criticism from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, which has become typical related to hydraulic fracturing issues. “The Obama administration is once again choosing costly red tape at the expense of American jobs and American energy production,” stated House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA). It is charging forward with new regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands that are burdensome, restrictive, unnecessary, and directly duplicate what states have been doing efficiently and effectively for over sixty years.”

On the other hand, Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) criticized the rule as “extremely disappointing” for not going far enough in ensuring environmental safety protections. Among his criticisms of the rule, Markey noted the rule’s deference to internet-based disclosure of chemicals through a website not run by the government. He also noted that rule does not mandate closed system containment of wastewater in favor of open pit storage. Conservation groups assert open pit storage increases risks for spills that contaminate soil and surface water.

For additional information on the rule, including how to comment, click here:
http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/interior-releases-updated-draft-rule-for-hydraulic-fracturing-on-public-and-indian-lands-for-public-comment.cfm

GAO: LOCAL GOVERNMENTS NEED HELP COPING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE

A report recently made public from the General Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that “infrastructure such as roads and bridges, wastewater systems, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) centers are vulnerable to changes in the climate” and calls upon the federal government to work with local governments to mitigate the impacts of these changes.

The report notes that the federal government spends billions of dollars annually on infrastructure, which is affected by climate change. The report notes that sea-level rise and increased extreme weather events put this infrastructure at greater risk. It identifies several federal efforts underway to help improve adaptive decision-making at the local level, yet asserts that this effort is presently uncoordinated.

GAO recommends the president designate a federal entity to work with federal agencies to help local decision makers indentify the best available climate information for infrastructure planning.

View the full report, here:
http://gao.gov/products/GAO-13-242

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act – Introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Colin Peterson (D-MN), the comprehensive $940 billion farm bill would reauthorize agricultural programs though Fiscal Year 2018. Overall the bill cuts $40 billion over the next decade, largely from mandatory and nutritional programs. These cuts also include $6.9 billion from conservation programs. The bill also consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13. The bill was approved May 15 by a bipartisan vote of 36-10. Additional information on the bill is available here:
http://agriculture.house.gov/sites/republicans.agriculture.house.gov/files/farm%20bill/2013_FARRMSummary.pdf

Approved by Senate Committee

S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 – Introduced by Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the $950 billion farm bill would reauthorize agricultural programs through Fiscal Year 2018. Overall, the bill includes $23 billion in spending cuts, achieved through eliminating excess subsidies, reducing programs perceived as duplicative and consolidating other programs. Like the House version, the bill consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13. Unlike the House version, the Senate bill would require conservation compliance in order to receive crop insurance subsidies for highly erodible land and wetlands. The bill was approved May 14 by a bipartisan vote of 15-5, which included the support of Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS). Additional information on the bill is available here: http://www.ag.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/senate-agriculture-committee-approves-farm-bill

Passed by Senate

S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act – Introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), the comprehensive $12.2 billion bill, reauthorizes funding for Army Corps of Engineers programs related to environmental restoration, flood control, bridges and other water infrastructure. The Senate approved the bill May 15 by a vote of 83-14. Additional information on the bill is available here:
http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=1db8714f-ac01-4253-8c9f-367d09d6f573

 


 Sources ClimateWire, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Government Accountability Office, Greenwire, the Hill, House Agriculture Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Science Magazine

 

Zeal to ensure clean leafy greens takes bite out of riverside habitat in California

Perceived food safety risk from wildlife drives expensive and unnecessary habitat destruction around farm fields

 

Media Advisory

For release: Monday, May 6th, 2013, 12:01 am EDT
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

 

Field buffers: vegetation loss likely due to food safety measures. From Figure 3 of the paper.

Farm-field buffers: vegetation loss likely due to food safety measures. From Figure 3 of the paper.

Meticulous attention to food safety is a good thing. As consumers, we like to hear that produce growers and distributers go above and beyond food safety mandates to ensure that healthy fresh fruits and vegetables do not carry bacteria or viruses that can make us sick.

But in California’s Salinas Valley, some more vigorous interventions are cutting into the last corners of wildlife habitat and potentially threatening water quality, without evidence of food safety benefits. These policies create tensions between wildlife preservation and food safety where none need exist, say scientists for The Nature Conservancy, writing in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The study will be published online ahead of print on Monday, May 6th, 2013.

“Farming practices for food safety that target wildlife are damaging valuable ecological systems despite low risk from these animals,” said lead author Sasha Gennet.

Check the back of your bag of spinach or prepackaged salad greens, and you’ll probably find that they came from the Salinas Valley. Salad is big business in California.

In the aftermath of a deadly 2006 Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 outbreak traced to California spinach, growers and distributers of leafy greens came together to create the California Leafy Green Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) on best practices for the industry, enforced by third-party auditors and inspectors. The LGMA established standards for farm work hygiene, produce processing and transport, and proximity to livestock. About 99 percent of California leafy greens now come from participating farms.

But produce farmers in the Salinas Valley report pressure from some powerful buyers to take additional precautions not mandated by government or industry standards. These buyers insist that swathes of bare ground wider than a football field is long separate the leafy greens from rivers, wetlands and other wildlife habitat.  

Other precautions include treating irrigation water with chemicals toxic to fish and amphibians, and setting poisoned bait for rodents.

“The California Leafy Green Hander agreement is transparent, flexible and science-based,” said Gennet. “Going above and beyond it just creates costs for farmers and doesn’t improve safety.”

It also creates costs for wildlife. Although scant evidence exists of risk of food-borne disease spread by wildlife, the risk of rejection of produce by major buyers is too much for most growers to bear, say Gennet and her co-authors. They measured changes in wetlands and riverside habitat in the Salinas Valley between 2005 and 2009, finding 13.3 percent converted to bare ground, crops or otherwise diminished. Widespread introduction of fencing blocked wildlife corridors. Low barriers even kept out the frogs.

Unlike the LGMA standards, individual corporate requirements for farm produce are generally not transparent to the public. But in surveys, farmers report pressure from auditors to implement fences and bare ground buffers around spinach, lettuce, and other leafy greens.

Such pressures have set back years of collaboration between growers and environmental advocates to make farm edges slim sanctuaries for wildlife, as well as buffers between agricultural fields and waterways. Fallow strips along streams and rivers provide corridors for migrating animals and birds.

“This is an area that is already 95 percent altered – the habitat that remains is critical,” said Gennet. “Removing 13 percent of what is already heavily-impacted habitat and cutting off wildlife corridors is a significant loss.”

The Salinas River and its tributaries are an important rest stop on the Pacific Flyway, a major migration route for neotropical songbirds, and home to raptors and shorebirds. The waterways are also corridors for deer and other big animals moving between the high country of the Diablo Range and coastal Big Sur mountains that flank the valley.

Wetlands and buffers of trees, grasses, and shrubs help to keep runoff from fields out of the waterways, slowing erosion of soil and blooms of algae downstream. An overabundance of fertilizer has created problems for domestic drinking water as well as the ecosystems of the Salinas River watershed and its outlet, Monterey Bay.

“California has a big problem with concentrated nutrients in waterways, and there is a lot of pressure on growers to reduce those inputs – so to the extent that riverside wildlife habitat could be a benefit all around, a coordinated approach to agricultural management and policy makes the most sense,” said Gennet.

“The policies that these distributors are forming are very narrow,” said Lisa Schulte Moore, an agricultural ecologist at Iowa State University who is not affiliated with the Nature Conservancy study. Nervous distributers are looking at specific risks in isolation, she said, and not asking “does the food system create a healthy human environment?”

Schulte Moore works with Iowa farmers to incorporate native grassland habitat alongside corn and soy fields. Her experiments look for native grass mixtures that don’t tend to invade the crops and are highly attractive to beneficial native insects, including the natural enemies of agricultural pests. “If we design the systems right there could be substantial benefits to the agricultural system as a whole,” she said.

The key word, Gennet says, is “co-management.” As a community, we need to approach food health, wildlife health, and water health in the Salinas Valley as parts of an integrated system. She would like to see California growers, buyers, and consumers rely on standards like the LGMA. “We think it’s been a good process, using the newest science and trying to take a constructive approach.  If everybody stuck to those standards, that would be a good outcome,” said Gennet.

 

Farm practices for food safety: an emerging threat to floodplain and riparian ecosystems. (2013) Sasha Gennet, Jeanette Howard, Jeff Langholz, Kathryn Andrews, Mark D Reynolds, and Scott A Morrison. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (e-View 05/06/2013; print publication June 2013) doi:10.1890/120243

 

 

 

Outside source:

Lisa Schulte Moore

Associate Professor of Landscape Ecology, Iowa State University

515-294-7339

lschulte@iastate.edu

http://www.nrem.iastate.edu/landscape/

 

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

May 3, 2013

In this Issue

NSF: SCIENCE COMMITTEE LEADERS WEIGH IN ON BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH INVESTMENT

A letter to National Science Foundation (NSF) Acting-Director Cora Marrett from House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) received a sharp rebuttal from Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

In his letter, Chairman Smith expressed concern with how NSF prioritizes scientific research. “Based on my review of NSF-funded studies, I have concerns regarding some grants approved by the foundation and how closely they adhere to NSF’s ‘intellectual merit’ guideline,” he wrote.  “To better understand how NSF makes decisions to approve and fund grants, it would be helpful to obtain detailed information on specific research projects awarded NSF grants.” He then cited several social science studies, including research projects entitled “Picturing Animals in National Geographic,” “Comparative Network Analysis: Mapping Global Social Interactions,” and “Regulating Accountability and Transparency in China’s Dairy Industry” as “studies of interest” to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. 

Ranking Member Johnson’s response letter addressed to Chairman Smith came the following day. “Like you I recognize that NSF grants have a responsibility back to the taxpayers,” she noted. “But I also believe that: 1) the progress of science itself – across all fields, including the social and behavioral sciences – is in the interest of the taxpayer; and 2) that NSF’s Broader Impact criterion is the right way to hold the individual grantee accountable.”

Her letter included a sharp criticism of the chairman’s move as entirely unprecedented in modern history. “In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF. In the more than two decades of committee leadership that I have worked with – Chairmen Brown, Walker, Sensenbrenner, Boehlert, Gordon, and Hall – I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value.”

During recent remarks commemorating the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama highlighted the importance of maintaining existing scientific merit peer review standards. “And what’s true of all sciences is that in order for us to maintain our edge, we’ve got to protect our rigorous peer review system and ensure that we only fund proposals that promise the biggest bang for taxpayer dollars.  And I will keep working to make sure that our scientific research does not fall victim to political maneuvers or agendas that in some ways would impact on the integrity of the scientific process,” said the president. “That’s what’s going to maintain our standards of scientific excellence for years to come.”

Recently, the Coalition for National Science Funding, in partnership with the House Research Caucus, sponsored a briefing that emphasized the importance of sustained investment in social and behavioral scientific research focusing on victims of natural and human-made disasters. For additional information on the briefing, click here:  

http://www.esa.org/esablog/ecology-in-policy/briefing-highlights-importance-of-social-science-research/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Ecotone+%28EcoTone%29 

To view Chairman Smith’s letter, click here:

http://www.cossa.org/CPR/2013/Rep.%20EBJLetter-toRep.Smith-Re-NSF-Grants.pdf

To view Ranking Member Johnson’s rebuttal letter, click here:

http://www.cossa.org/CPR/2013/Rep.%20EBJLetter-toRep.Smith-Re-NSF-Grants.pdf

To view President Obama’s full remarks before the National Academy of Sciences, click here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/04/29/remarks-president-150th-anniversary-national-academy-sciences

SENATE: APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS EPA FY 2014 BUDGET REQUEST

On April 24, the Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee convened for a hearing examining the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget request for FY 2014.

Committee Democrats expressed concern over proposed cuts to clean water and brownfield programs while Republicans, specifically Sens. Roy Blunt (MO) Mike Johanns (NE), took issue with agency surveillance programs. EPA Acting Director Bob Perciasepe testified that the aerial surveillance is used to monitor Clean Water Act violations and is not used to obtain information on law-biding citizens.

“I’m disappointment with the overall budget level. This is the fourth year in a row that the agency’s budget request has contracted,” noted Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI). Chairman Reed cited clean and drinking water state revolving funds, beach cleanup, brownfields clean up, and environmental education programs as troubling proposed cuts that would endanger public health and stifle economic and infrastructure productivity. While acknowledging that more funding is needed for water infrastructure overall, Perciasepe noted that past investment, including funding through the Recovery Act, has helped sustain funds. EPA will continue to work with states and local agencies to make better use of the funds, given current fiscal concerns, said Perciasepe.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expressed concern with certain EPA rulemakings and asserted that she hears more complaints from Alaskans about the agency than about any other federal agency. She asked about the status of Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watershed assessment, which seeks to identify the impacts of large scale mining on the Bay. Murkowski specifically inquired when the agency would be able to provide the committee with the overall cost of the assessment. Her concerns about getting the overall assessment completed in a timely fashion were echoed by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). Perciasepe said that a cost assessment should be available sometime in May.

View the full hearing here:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/webcasts.cfm?method=webcasts.view&id=47a2d012-529d-4fef-9999-35a7cab3b0e4

Additional information on the Bristol Bay assessment is available here:

http://www2.epa.gov/bristolbay

HOUSE: SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING REVISITS CLIMATE CHANGE

On April 25, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment convened for a hearing entitled “Policy Relevant Climate Issues in Context.” The hearing was the first of the subcommittee to focus on climate science for the 113th Congress.

Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-UT) re-emphasized the contention among some congressional Republicans that there is debate as to the degree to which the planet is warming and the factors at play. “The number and complexity of factors influencing climate—from land and oceans to the sun and clouds—make precise long-term temperature predictions an extremely difficult challenge.  Contrary to the predictions of almost all modeling, over the past 16 years there has been a complete absence of global warming,” said Stewart. “When we encounter those who claim to know precisely what our future climate will look like, and then attack any who may disagree with them, we have stepped out of the arena of science and into the arena of politics and ideology.”

House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) was slightly more reserved in his skepticism in his opening statement. “Climate change is an issue that needs to be discussed thoughtfully and objectively. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes surrounded by claims that conceal the facts and hinder the proper weighing of policy options,” he asserted. “I believe in the integrity of science. And I find it unfortunate that those who question certain scientific views on climate have their motives impugned. Challenging accepted beliefs through open debate and critical thinking is a primary part of the scientific process. To make a rational decision on climate change, we need to examine the relevant scientific issues along with the costs and benefits and better understand the uncertainties that surround both.”

Full Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), while not present at the opening of the hearing, released a statement for the record criticizing global warming skeptics.  “The science surrounding this issue reached a consensus a long time ago, and that consensus is that the world is warming and most of that warming is being caused by humans…Unfortunately, many of my colleagues in the majority don’t seem to have gotten the memo.  Many openly dispute the science or allude to some unspecified but supposedly vast scientific conspiracy.  Others, while less conspiratorial, insist that nothing can be done about the problem.  This is a failure of leadership of the highest order.”

The majority of witnesses testifying during the hearing said that existing federal efforts to address climate change were harmful to the economy and of marginal benefit. Bjørn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, criticized the Kyoto treaty and carbon tax proposals and stated that the US should fund research for new carbon capture technologies that would be less expensive than conventional fossil fuels. Judith Curry, Professor of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology, echoed concerns that there is inadequate understanding of the cause and nature of climate change to assess the costs and benefits of taking policy action.

The lone witness invited by committee Democrats was William Chameides, Dean at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, who argued that uncertainty should not be used as a roadblock against taking action. “We, as individuals and as a society, often act in the face of uncertainty.  And often we choose to take a conservative path, and rightly so,” he argued. “I, for example, cannot predict if, let alone when, there will be a fire in my house, but I pay for fire insurance.  Similarly, in the face of uncertain but substantial risks from climate change, a prudent course of action is to develop and implement a risk-based and flexible response to the climate change challenge.”

Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamci (D-OR) illustrated various examples, peppered with a local perspective, of how climate change is affecting the economy. She noted the role of wine grapes in Oregon’s economy and how even minor temperature changes can adversely impact production of pinot noir wine grapes. She also pointed to the negative impacts of increased ocean acidification, caused by climate change, on the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry.

“As a nation, we are becoming too familiar with the consequences of waiting until the eleventh hour to develop solutions to the problems we face,” stated Bonamici. “Let’s not make that mistake with something as serious as climate change. And even though we may have differences of opinion about what is causing climate change, but we can still discuss the economic gains we can make by investing in a clean energy economy, modernizing our infrastructure, and seeking energy independence.”

View the full hearing, here:

http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-environment-hearing-policy-relevant-climate-issues-context

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA ANNOUNCES NOMINATION FOR NEW COMMERCE SECRETARY

On May 2, President Obama announced Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker as his pick to lead the US Department of Commerce. Pritzker, a longtime fundraiser for Obama, is also the daughter of the founder of the Hyatt Hotel chain. If confirmed, Pritzker would be the wealthiest secretary in Obama’s cabinet, with a net worth of $1.85 billion.

Pritzker currently serves as Chief Executive of PSP Capital Partners and its affiliate, Pritzker Realty Group. She has previously served as a member of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and also worked on the administration’s Skills for America’s Future initiative, an effort to improve industry partnerships with community colleges to develop job skills for students. Pritzker attended Harvard University and received law and business degrees from Stanford.

As Commerce Secretary, Pritzker would oversee the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, one of the federal government’s key science agencies and the single largest federal bureau under the department’s jurisdiction. Several key positions have remained vacant at NOAA in the time between the final year of the administration’s first term and the onset of his second-term. Foremost among them is the position of NOAA administrator, left vacant by the departure of Jane Lubchenco, a former president of the Ecological Society of America.

Both industry and environmental advocates expressed optimism about the nomination. “Manufacturers welcome the nomination of Penny Pritzker to lead the Department of Commerce,” said National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons in a press statement. “Penny brings to the table an extensive business background and understands what it takes for businesses to create jobs. She comes from a family with a rich history in manufacturing as her uncle, Bob Pritzker, served as chairman of the NAM.”

“The direction and vision set by the Commerce Department are crucial to managing our nation’s fisheries,” stated John Mimikakis, Associate Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Program. “EDF looks forward to Ms. Pritzker’s leadership as secretary and will continue to work with fishermen, regional councils and NOAA to develop solutions that will end overfishing while protecting the business and sport of fishing for future generations.”

FWS: GRAY WOLF TO BE DELISTED FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROTECTIONS

The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently began efforts to remove the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal protections would be removed for most wolves across the continental United States. Protection would remain in place, however, for a subspecies of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The removal would be the culmination of a series of regional and state efforts that have been enacted in recent years. Members of Congress from western states that represent hunters and ranchers have also frequently pushed delisting efforts over recent years. 

Environmental groups have expressed dismay regarding FWS’s intention. In a press statement, Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark accused the Obama administration of “giving up on gray wolf recovery before the job is done.” Defenders of Wildlife contends the move is premature given that recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest are just beginning and the fact that there are no wolves in the states of Colorado and Utah. “Gray wolves once ranged in a continuous population from Canada all the way down to Mexico, and we shouldn’t give up on this vision until they are restored,” contended Clark.

Federal protections for the gray wolf are expected to be lifted this year. Once delisted, wolf management efforts are predominantly provided by individual state governments. Federal agencies will continue to monitor the status of the species and have the capability to reinstate federal protection if numbers dwindle to a point that scientists consider dangerously low.

To view the Defenders of Wildlife press release, click here:

https://www.defenders.org/press-release/feds-propose-abandoning-gray-wolf-recovery-across-most-united-states

For additional information on FWS gray wolf recovery and monitoring efforts, click here:

http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A00D

ESA: SOCIETY’S DIVERSITY PROGRAM RECEIVES NSF AWARD

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) “Diverse People for a Diverse Science” project with a $183,158 grant.

The ESA initiative seeks to increase diversity participation in the field of ecology. In addition to funding existing program components such as research fellowships, the grant will also support an independent evaluation of ESA’s Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program.

The professional evaluation will assess SEEDS program activities between 2002-2012, documenting outcomes, effectiveness of program components and identifying opportunities to strengthen the program. The evaluation will determine to what degree program participants’ knowledge of ecology as increased, how it has buttressed career opportunities and influenced ESA members who have served as mentors during its existence.

Formative Evaluation Research Associates (FERA) is conducting the SEEDS program evaluation. FERA is a woman-owned firm with experience evaluating NSF-supported and other science education programs focused on engaging underrepresented groups. 

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: NOAA’S FIVE YEAR RESEARCH PLAN RELEASED

On May 3, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its five year research and development (R&D) plan.

 The plan provides a roadmap for research implementation at NOAA from 2013-2017 in support of goals related to monitoring the status of climate, weather, oceans and coastal areas. The plan will help NOAA and partnering organizations understand how to adapt and respond to change, provide a common understanding between NOAA and its various stakeholders of the purpose of NOAA R&D as well as develop a framework for making mission-oriented decisions and setting targets on how to measure progress and the degree of stakeholder engagement.

 For additional information on the plan, click here:

http://nrc.oarhq.noaa.gov/CouncilProducts/ResearchPlans/5-YearRDPlan.aspx

 To provide comments go here: https://docs.google.com/a/noaa.gov/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEV3WkYyWVdhTzREcHlJR21nVDREQ2c6MQ#gid=0

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: PROTECTIONS PROPOSED FOR WESTERN AMPHIBIANS

On April 24, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it was considering adding new amphibians in the Sierra Nevada region for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The Yosemite toad and the mountain yellow-legged frog would be listed as “threatened” under the proposed rule. The distinct population segment of the Sierra Nevada yellow frog would be included in this listing. FWS cites these three species as being threatened by “habitat degradation, predation, climate change, and inadequate regulatory protection.” The proposal would also designate a combined two million acres of critical habitat for the animals, largely across California and 16 counties in the Sierra Nevada.

Public comments will be accepted through June 24, 2013. Comments can be submitted via email at http://www.regulations.gov using docket number FWS–R8–ES–2012–0100 for the listing and docket number FWS–R8–ES–2012–0074 for the critical habitat rule.  Comments can also be mailed to the following address:

 Public Comments Processing

Attn:  FWS–R8–ES–2012–0100 or FWS–R8–ES–2012–0074
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203                            

For additional information, click here:

http://www.fws.gov/ventura/newsroom/release.cfm?id=93

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

On April 25, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Insular Affairs held a hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 638, the National Wildlife Refuge Review Act – Introduced by Fisheries, Wildlife and Insular Affairs Subcommittee Chairman John Fleming (R-LA), the bill would require congressional approval of any expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

H.R. 1300, to reauthorize the volunteer programs and community partnerships for the benefit of national wildlife refuges – Introduced by Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), the bill reauthorizes community partnerships and volunteer programs for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The bill is cosponsored by Subcommittee Ranking Member Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands).

H.R. 1384, the Wildlife Refuge System Conservation Semipostal Stamp Act of 2013 – Introduced by Subcommittee Ranking Member Sablan, the bill would provide for the issuance of a Wildlife Refuge System Conservation Semipostal Stamp. 

Approved by House Committee

On April 24, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act – Introduced by Rep. Terry Lee (R-NE) – the bill would remove the  requirement of a presidential permit for approval of the XL Keystone pipeline. The bill would deem the environmental impact statement issued by the Secretary of State on August 26, 2011, coupled with a final evaluation report, sufficient to satisfy all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and of the National Historic Preservation Act. The bill was approved in committee by a vote of 24-17.

Considered by Senate Committee

On April 23, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks considered several bills, including the following:

S. 155, to designate a mountain in the State of Alaska as Denali – Introduced by Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill would rename a mountain named for President McKinley as Denali, the name it is referred to by Alaskan residents.

S. 156, Huna Tlingit Traditional Gull Egg Use Act – Introduced by Ranking Member Murkowksi, the bill would allow for the harvest of gull eggs by the Huna Tlingit people within Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) has cosponsored the bill.

S. 219, Susquehanna Gateway National Heritage Area Act – Introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) the bill would establish the Susquehanna Gateway National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania.

S. 225,  Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act – Introduced by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the role of the Buffalo Soldiers in the early years of the national parks.       

S. 349, Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act  –  Introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the bill would designate a segment of the Beaver, Chipuxet, Queen, Wood, and Pawcatuck Rivers in the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island for study for potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

S. 486, Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act – the bill bars imposition of any additional restrictions on pedestrian or motorized vehicular access to any part of the Recreation Area for species protection beyond those outlined in an interim management strategy issued by the National Park Service in 2007.  The bill comes in response to a National Park Service plan issued in Feb. 2012 that bans off-highway vehicle use in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina for the purpose of protecting nesting sea turtles and birds.

For a full listing of bills considered during the hearing, click here:

http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=9df237db-2a0f-4e28-9476-b1c5b43d454a

On April 25, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the following bills:

S. 340, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act – Introduced by Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill would transfer 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corp. Among its concerns with the bill, the Obama administration claims the legislation could imperil wildlife in the region, including wolves and goshawks.

S. 27, the Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act – Introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the bill would authorize a land swap intended to protect the cultural rights of the Ute Tribe in eastern Utah while allowing expanded access for oil and gas drilling.

S. 28, the Y Mountain Access Enhancement Act – Introduced by Sen. Hatch, the bill would provide for the conveyance of a small parcel of National Forest System land in the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah to Brigham Young University.

S. 159, the  Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act – Introduced by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), the bill would designate the Wovoka Wilderness as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System and provide for certain land conveyances in Lyon County, NV to facilitate construction of a copper mine.

S. 241, the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act – Introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the bill would establish the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area in New Mexico.

S. 255, North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2013 – Introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the bill would protect the North Folk of the Flathead River in Montana from future mineral claims and oil and gas development.

S. 312, the Carson National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act of 2013 – Introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), the bill would adjust the boundary of the Carson National Forest in New Mexico to incorporate 4,990 acres of land identified as the Miranda Canyon Boundary.

S. 341, San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act – Introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), the bill would designate certain lands in San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan counties in Colorado as wilderness.

S. 342, the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2013 – Introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the bill would designate the Pine Forest Range Wilderness area in Humboldt County, NV as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

S. 353, Oregon Treasures Act of 2013 – Introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the bill would designate certain land in Oregon as wilderness and make additional wild and scenic river designations in Oregon.

For additional information on bills considered during the hearing, click here:

http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=5832cf6a-fd18-4046-bb7c-5c4ba9ae7853


 Sources: ClimateWire, Defenders of Wildlife, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, LA Times, National Association of Manufacturers, Senate Appropriations Committee, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Post, the White House

ESA’s Diversity Program receives NSF Award

ESA SEEDs logo

Media Advisory

For immediate release: May 2, 2013

Contact: Nadine Lymn, Nadine@esa.org, 202.833.8773, ext. 205

 

The Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) long-standing program to diversify the field of ecology recently got another boost from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The federal research agency awarded ESA a grant of $183,158 to support the Society’s “Diverse People for a Diverse Science” project. Not only will the funding go to key existing program components, such as research fellowships, it will also fund an independent evaluation of SEEDS.

“As a longtime SEEDS supporter and current advisory board member, I’ve always been convinced we could make a real difference for ESA and the field of ecology by doing all we can to promote diversity within our profession,” said Mark Brunson, professor at Utah State University. “So as a researcher, I’m excited that now with this grant we’ll be able to get a scientifically rigorous, expert assessment of what we’re doing so we can increase our momentum toward our diversity goals.”

The professional evaluation will assess SEEDS program activities between 2002 and 2012, documenting outcomes, effectiveness of program components and identifying opportunities to strengthen the program. Among other questions, it will explore to what extent SEEDS has increased participants’ knowledge about ecology, pathways to enter the field and increased engagement within ESA and in community-based activities. Evaluators will also look at the ways in which SEEDS has influenced the many ESA members who have served as student mentors over the years.

The NSF grant will also allow ESA to initiate two new regional field trips to connect students with opportunities and researchers in their own communities.

The mission of SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented students to participate, and to lead in ecology. Focused mainly at the undergraduate level—with extension services for communities, high schools, graduate students, and international collaborations—the program envisions wide representation in the ecology field. Key activities include Undergraduate Research Fellowships, leadership development, travel awards to ESA’s Annual Meeting and a national field trip.

Jeramie Strickland, who also serves on the SEEDS Advisory Board, is an alum of the program. Now a wildlife biologist for the Fish & Wildlife Service, Strickland credits SEEDS for helping him on the path to his chosen career. “SEEDS has made significant progress in bringing diversity into ecology by providing professional development and mentoring opportunities for underserved students. Working with SEEDS helped me get my foot in the door for graduate school and with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Formative Evaluation Research Associates (FERA) is conducting the SEEDS program evaluation. FERA is a woman-owned firm with experience evaluating NSF-supported and other science education programs focused on engaging underrepresented groups.


The Ecological Society of America is the largest professional organization for ecologists and environmental scientists in the world. The Society’s 10,000 members work to advance our understanding of life on Earth, directly relevant to environmental issues such energy and food production, natural resource management, and emerging diseases. ESA works to broadly share ecological information through activities that include policy and media outreach, education and diversity initiatives and projects that link the ecological research and management communities and help integrate ecological science into decision-making.  The Society also organizes scientific conferences and publishes high-impact journals. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.