November 22, 2013

 

In this Issue

SCIENCE: SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE NSF

 

On Nov. 13, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research considered the Frontiers in Innovation Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, draft legislation to reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education programs.

Committee Democrats were concerned about provisions of the bill that would supersede NSF’s existing merit review process. Chief among Democrats’ concerns was Section 104 of the bill, which requires the NSF director to provide a written justification for each grant verifying that it meets certain requirements, including furthering “the national interest,” being “worthy of federal funding,” furthering economic competitiveness and advancing the health and welfare of the general public. The requirements are similar to those laid out in a previous draft bill authored by science committee Republicans, the High Quality Research Act, which was opposed by the scientific community. The Ecological Society of America joined the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in sending a letter to the science committee expressing concerns with such efforts earlier this year. 

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-LA) states that the language is necessary to ensure accountability to the American taxpayer over federal funding decisions. “They [government employees] should explain why grants that receive taxpayer funding are important research that has the potential to benefit the national interest. It’s not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money,” asserted Smith. “Enhanced transparency and accountability isn’t a burden; it will ultimately make NSF’s grant award process more effective.”

Research Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) noted the importance of funding for behavior research, which has also been targeted by conservatives. “Social and behavioral sciences have played a critical role in strengthening our response to disasters, improving public health, strengthening our legal system, and optimizing the use of federal resources,” said Lipinski. “I believe any reauthorization of NSF should provide sustainable funding to all scientific disciplines and not impose any unique restrictions or conditions on any specific type of research.”

There was also concern regarding the bill’s lack of provisions to promote women and minority participation in STEM education fields. Alternative legislation sponsored by House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) includes such a provision. Her bill also functions as a comprehensive reauthorization for all federal science agencies in stark contrast to the piecemeal multiple bill approach taken by House Republicans.

The Republican bill also includes a provision to require public posting of the written justification used to award a grant before it is awarded. Testifying witness Vice President for Research at Purdue University Richard Buckius stated this provision would “severely compromise the process and add tremendous administrative burden.”

The draft is the second bill House Republicans have put forward to reauthorize the AMERICA COMPETES Act. Several weeks ago, the committee considered a bill to reauthorize Department of Energy science initiatives. For additional information, see the Nov. 11 edition of ESA Policy News.

To view the CNSF letter to Chairman Smith, click here. For more information on the hearing, click here.

SENATE: COMMITTEE APPROVES SCIENCE AGENCY NOMINEES AHEAD OF RULE CHANGE

On Nov. 12, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved several of President Obama’s choices to lead key positions at the administration’s science agencies.

The committee approved Kathryn Sullivan for the position of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Jo Handelsman to be Associate Director for Science for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Robert Simon for Associate Director for Environment and Energy for OSTP. Sullivan has previously served as NOAA’s chief scientist and assistant secretary for observation and predictions. If approved by the full Senate, Sullivan would succeed Jane Lubchenco, a former president of the Ecological Society of America.

The upcoming Senate floor confirmation votes for the nominees were made easier this week when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held a procedural vote to allow most presidential appointments to be approved by a simple majority vote. The rule change effectively denies the Senate minority party the power to filibuster such nominees. The rule change does not apply to legislation or US Supreme Court nominees.

The rule change is often referred to as the “nuclear option” in the media, due to its unprecedented restrictions on the power of the Senate minority party. The move was prompted by Senate Republicans’ recent attempts to hold up three of President Obama’s nominees to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for partisan purposes. The change comes as Senate Republicans have sought to hold up a historically large number of President Obama’s nominees.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned that Reid may regret invoking the option, arguing that it could lead to the eventual elimination of the power of the Senate minority to filibuster. The rule change also sets a new precedent for Senate Republicans to implement similar limits on the minority’s power, should they take the majority in the future.

HOUSE: ENVIRONMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEES SHUFFLE LEADERSHIP

The recent death of House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman Bill Young (R-FL) spurred a slight reorganization of chairmanships at the subcommittee level, including two committees that oversee funding for several key energy and environmental federal agencies.

Former Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will now chair the Defense Subcommittee in Young’s place. Former Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) will now head the Energy and Water Subcommittee. Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) will take Simpson’s former spot as chairman of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee.

The Interior and Environment Subcommittee has primary jurisdiction over funding the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality and the US Forest Service. The Energy and Water Subcommittee funds the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Reclamation, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

One of the first major tasks for the new subcommittee chairmen will potentially be to outline spending levels of the agencies under their jurisdiction for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, which began Oct. 1. The existing continuing resolution runs out Jan. 15, 2014. The spending levels set in a new appropriations bill will in part depend on the details of a budget agreement between House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and to what degree such an agreement nullifies the existing sequestration cuts, which have carried over from FY 2013. The two chairs have until Dec. 13 to produce a budget deal.

FWS: NEW REPORT DOCUMENTS CONTINUED COASTAL WETLAND LOSS

On Nov. 21, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report concluding the United States is now losing over 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands per year, up from 60,000 in a prior study.

Coastal areas around the Gulf of Mexico accounted for 71 percent of the wetland loss. The study attributed wetland loss predominantly to losses of saltwater wetlands in the Gulf due to coastal storms in combination with freshwater forested wetland loss due to urban renewal development. The report concludes that rising ocean levels are also affecting coastal wetland loss.

According to the report, coastal wetlands provide a home to 75 percent of the nation’s waterfowl and other migratory birds. Also, over half of all fish caught for commercial and recreational purposes depend on coastal wetlands at some point in their lives.

The data used in this report will be used in the development of policies and initiatives to promote environmental stewardship of coastal resources such as the National Ocean Policy. View the full report here.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: APPLY FOR 2014 ESA GRADUATE STUDENT POLICY AWARD

ESA invites applications for its 2014 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). This award, offered annually to up to three winners, provides graduate students hands-on science policy experience in Washington, DC including interacting with congressional decision-makers, federal agency officials, and others engaged in science and public policy. 

ESA covers travel and lodging expenses associated with this event for GSPA recipients. The two-day event will occur April 9 and 10, 2014. The application deadline is Monday, January 6. For more information, click here.

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 3533, the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act – Introduced Nov. 19 by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the bill would allow states to opt-out of regulation under the Endangered Species Act. The bill also requires approval of a congressional joint resolution for the addition of new federally protected species. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Considered by House Committee

On Nov. 21, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on several bills related to the federal government shutdown, including the following:

H.R. 3286, the Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act – Introduced by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), the bill would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to reimburse states that opened national parks during the Oct. 2014 federal government shutdown. The bill has 26 bipartisan cosponsors. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 1572) that also has bipartisan support. 

H.R. 3311, the Providing Access and Retain Continuity Act – Introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), the bill would automatically reimburse states if they operate parks during a shutdown. The bill would also call on the Secretary of Interior to preemptively work with states to ensure they can ably take over park operations in the event of a federal government shutdown. The bill’s 17 cosponsors are all Republicans.

H.R. 3294, the State-Run Federal Lands Act – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the bill would authorize a state to petition the federal government to enter in agreement to allow state control of federal lands managed by the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service.

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 2824, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act – Introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), the bill would prevent the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) Office of Surface Mining from implementing a stream protection rule intended to protect water and wildlife from detrimental effects of mountaintop removal mining projects in the Appalachian region. The House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill Nov. 14 by vote of 24-14.

Passed House

H.R. 1965, the Federal Jobs and Land Security Act – Introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the bill would set deadlines for the Bureau of Land Management to make leasing and permitting decisions for oil and gas development on federal lands. The bill sets a 60 day limit for review of such permits. The bill passed the House Nov. 20 by a vote of 228-192.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (veto threat) against the bill. Among its concerns, the administration noted the bill would “direct that federal lands be managed for the primary purpose of energy development rather than for thoughtfully balanced multiple uses.” View the full statement here.

H.R. 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote Energy Security Act – Introduced by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), the bill would prohibit DOI from enforcing federal hydraulic fracturing standards if states currently have their own guidance governing the practice. The bill passed Nov. 20 by a vote for 235-187 with 12 Democrats joining all but two Republicans in voting yes.

The White House issued a veto threat against the bill, asserting the president would veto the measure, noting the bill would “require [the Bureau of Land Management] to defer to existing state regulations on hydraulic fracturing on Federal lands, regardless of the quality or comprehensiveness of the State regulations – thereby preventing consistent environmental protections.” View the full White House statement here.

H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), the bill would expedite approval of natural gas permits through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The legislation sets a deadline of one year for FERC to reach a decision on whether to approve new gas pipeline applications. Failure of the agency to meet the review deadlines outlined in the bill will result in a permit being automatically deemed approved. The House passed the bill Nov. 21 by a vote of 252-165 with 26 Democrats joining Republicans in support of the bill.

The White House issued a veto threat against the bill, asserting “the bill’s requirements could force agencies to make decisions based on incomplete information or information that may not be available within the stringent deadlines.” View the full statement here.


 Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, ClimateWire, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House

August 3-4, 2013

Minutes of the ESA Governing Board,
August 3-4, 2013
Minneapolis, MN

Members Present
Scott Collins               President
Steward Pickett          Past-President
Jill Baron                    President-Elect
Leslie Real                 VP for Finance
Sharon Collinge         VP for Public Affairs
Deborah Goldberg     VP for Science
Julie Reynolds            VP for Education and Human Resources
Charles Canham        Secretary
Mimi Lam                   Member-at-Large
Stephen Jackson       Member-at-Large
Michelle Mack            Member at Large 

Staff Present
Katherine McCarter    Executive Director
Elizabeth Biggs           Chief Financial Officer
Nadine Lymn              Director, Public Affairs
Cliff Duke                   Director, Science
Michelle Horton          Director, Administration and Meetings
Teresa Mourad           Director, Education and Diversity
David Baldwin           Managing Editor
Sue Silver                   Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers
David Gooding           Asst. Managing Editor

Guests – Saturday, August 3
Joey Bernhardt            Chair, Student Section                  
Valerie Eviner             VP-Elect for Science
Carmen Cid                 Member-at-Large Elect                                              

Guests – Sunday, August 4
Valerie Eviner             VP-Elect for Science
Carmen Cid                Member-at-Large Elect                                          
David Inouye              Incoming President-Elect
Don Strong                 Editor-in-Chief, Ecology
Aaron Ellison              Editor-in-Chief, Ecological Monographs
Brian Inouye               Associate Editor-in-Chief, Ecological Applications
Debra Peters              Meeting Program Chair, and Editor-in-Chief, Ecosphere
David Schimel             Editor-in-Chief, Ecological Applications
Edward Johnson         Editor –in –Chief, ESA Bulletin
Nancy Huntly             Centennial Committee

9:05 am, August 3, 2013:  meeting called to order by President Scott Collins 

I. Roll Call and Agenda

 A. Adopt Agenda

Deborah Goldberg moved and Stephen Jackson seconded adopting the agenda.  All aye.

B. Ratification of Votes taken since May Meeting 

1. Minutes, May

            Stephen Jackson moved and Sharon Collinge seconded ratification of the e-mail vote to approve the minutes of the May 2013 meeting.   All aye.

II. Reports

A. Report of the President

            President Collins summarized the fine-tuning of the functioning of the Society in the past year by staff and the Governing Board, including adopting recommendations from the Committee for a New Generation, and keeping the society responsive to members.  He also reviewed the status of a number of larger issues, including open access for journals and the structure of the annual meeting.  Centennial planning proceeds apace.  Other major activities in the past year include initiation of the ESA Fellows program, and expansion of the Professional Certification program.

B. Report of the Executive Director and Staff

            Executive Director Katherine McCarter summarized the report from the staff.  She provided an update on the status of the formation of the joint ESA/ESC journal, including the search for a managing editor. 

Nadine Lymn reported on press coverage of the annual meeting.  There will be a celebration Monday, Aug. 5, of 30 years of the Public Affairs program.  There will be an inaugural science café at this year’s annual meeting.  Teresa Mourad reminded members of the diversity program celebration Wednesday Aug. 7. 

Michelle Horton summarized the status of the meeting.  There were approximately 3000 registrants, and another 200-300 walk-in registrants are expected.  These numbers are in line with expectations and the budget for the meeting. 

Cliff Duke reviewed activities in the science program, including the ongoing and energetic efforts of the Vegetation Classification panel.   A number of volumes in the Issues in Ecology series will be released soon, including one on citizen science and one on threatened and endangered species management.  Both of these are supported by workshops funded by the U.S. Forest Service. 

David Baldwin summarized opportunities for future changes in production of the subscription journals.  Ecosphere is now 3 years old, but there is still no formal word from Thompson-Reuters on when it will be indexed.  The Bulletin is gearing up for the Centennial celebration (and its own centennial). 

Sue Silver highlighted activities at Frontiers, including the relatively unsuccessful launch of a digital edition.  This fall will see the first online-only special feature, on prescribed burning in fire-prone landscapes.  They will publicize the issue vigorously.  The August issue contains the first installment of the eco-literacy section. 

Liz Biggs gave a brief history of ESA finances since both she and Katherine arrived in 1997, when it had a negative net asset balance of ~ $800,000.  In the past 15 years, in part because of gradual increases in subscription rates, the Society has gone to a positive net asset balance of $2.6M.  She feels that era of asset growth is ending, in large part because of constraints on subscription revenue.  We should expect that budgets going forward will be much tighter.

C. Financial Update

1. Fourth Quarter Financials

Katherine McCarter and Liz Biggs summarized the fourth quarter financial report.  For the year, revenue exceeded expenses by $52,493 in a budget of $6.5M.  While this is positive, this is a smaller balance than in previous years, and is only this large because of a very successful annual meeting in Portland in 2012.  Membership dues were close to (but slightly under) budget, but again this was buoyed by Portland.  Subscription revenue came in $162,779 under budget, offset partly by a reduction in printing expenses of $98,959.  Individual subscriptions represent a very small faction of total subscription revenue, and continue to decline as expected.  Manuscript charges were also under budget, in part because of lower than expected revenue from Ecosphere.  There was extensive discussion of the challenges of maintaining revenue and minimizing expenses associated with the publications.  There was also discussion of the need to maintain excitement about the meetings, including the need to accommodate evolution in modes of communication.                  

2. Investments

VP for Finance Les Real commended Liz and Katherine for their management of the Society’s finances.  The Society’s two investment accounts are doing well at ~ 5-7% annual return in conservatively invested portfolios. 

III. Discussion/Action Items

A. FY 2013-2014 ESA Budget

1. Approve Budget for Council Meeting

            A draft budget was discussed and approved at the May 2013 Governing Board meeting.  Sharon Collinge moved and Mimi Lam seconded recommending the adoption of the budget by the Council at their annual meeting on Aug. 4, 2013.

2. New Membership Category

            New membership categories were discussed at the May 2013 Governing Board meeting.  In response to that discussion, staff were asked to propose new membership categories at the upper income levels.   Deborah Goldberg moved and Julie Reynolds seconded recommending that the Council adopt the new membership categories.  All aye.

3. Board Strategic Initiatives

            Board members discussed a number of suggestions for use of Board strategic initiative funds.  The main proposals were to add three additional Graduate Student Policy Awards ($1000 each) and to provide funding for the SEEDS leadership program.  There was discussion of whether either of these really met the definition of “strategic initiatives”.  Additional support for the Graduate Student Policy Awards is expected to be available from the previous monies raised for AAAS Congressional Fellows, so the proposal to use board strategic initiative funds for that purpose was withdrawn. 

            No decision to allocate funds was made.  Julie Reynolds would like to develop a proposal for future consideration in the area of the sustainability of SEEDS funding.

4. Long Range Planning Grant Subcommittee

            Members-at-Large have traditionally reviewed applications from sections, chapters, and committees for Long Range Planning Grants.   The board agreed that this practice should continue.

5. Discussion of Council Presentation

            The board discussed the importance of updating the Council on the long-term challenges in Society finances, particularly the issues of declining library subscriptions and new, more cost-effective models for publications.

B. Impacts of Open Access Mandates

            ESA’s subscription journals are already “green” open access (and have been for many years), and Ecosphere is “gold” open access.  There is still uncertainty about what sort of federal mandates might be coming, and what impact these would have on institutional subscriptions and society finances.  Even a 10% decline in subscriptions would have a dramatic impact on the Society’s budget.

C. Yearly Policy Priorities Recommendations

            Each year the Public Affairs office reviews public policy priorities for the coming year, and asks the Governing Board to formally adopt those priorities.  Priority areas for the coming year are (1) energy and climate, (2) water quality and quantity, (3) disasters affecting ecosystems, (4) STEM education, (5) endangered species, (6) urban ecosystems, and (7) federal investment in research agencies. 

D. Fundraising

There was lots of enthusiasm for the plan outlined by Charles Canham to involve the Governing Board in building the donor base for the Society through personal contact.   Further discussion included suggestions for matching funds specifically for student donations.  Teresa Mourad volunteered to be staff liason for SEEDS donations.

E. Earth Stewardship Application Ecological Action Plan: Designed Ecological Transect

            Jill Baron reviewed a proposal for a series of activities to incorporate ecological science into landscape and urban design, using earth stewardship as a framework, in concert with the 2014 ESA meetings in Sacramento and Baltimore.  Alex Felson at Yale University is the lead on the proposal with Jill Baron, assisted by an advisory committee of Steward Pickett, Sharon Collinge, Mary Cadenasso, Joe Brown, and Fritz Steiner. 

F. Awards – Distinguished Service Award

            The bylaws establishing the Distinguished Service Citation do not specify whether the recipient must be an ESA member, although the citation with the first award in 1975 mentions that the award is to honor “members”.  There was discussion of whether the award committee should be given explicit guidance on whether the recipient should be an ESA member.  The Governing Board recommends establishing a separate committee charged with making recommendations for this award (rather than combined with the Eminent Ecologist award), and that the committee should have a preference for nominations of ESA members.

G. Congressional Fellow/Policy Fellows

            In past years there has been an option for donations as a part of membership dues to support a AAAS Congressional Fellow.  The option raises relatively little money, and the costs of a AAAS Congressional Fellow are very high.  There is a proposal to change the donations to support Graduate Student Policy Fellowships (~ $1000, versus $100,000 per AAAS Fellow).  Deborah Goldberg moved and Sharon Collinge seconded changing the donation option to support Graduate Student Policy Fellowships.  All aye.  Prior donors will be notified of this change and will be able to request a refund if they desire.

H. Developing Country Awards and Shreve Award

            Jessica Gurevitch, chair of the Grants and Fellowships Committee, has recommended changes to the use of funds collected from the “Support for Developing Countries” option on the membership form.  Specifically, the committee recommends that the Grants for Membership include a free year of membership, a subscription to one journal, and travel funds.  The committee provided several alternate suggestions regarding the Grants for Libraries, and has requested feedback from the Governing Board. 

            Funds have been accumulating in these accounts for a number of years, with very low rates of annual contributions, and few if any applications for use of the funds.  The goals of this program overlap very closely with the Whittaker travel awards, and there was a proposal to merge the funds raised for “grants for membership” with the Whittaker travel awards, while ensuring that funds from the developing country membership pool used for awards under the Whittaker program go to an applicant from a developing country. The corpus of the funds for developing country libraries will remain intact, while interest from the corpus will be used to support Whittaker travel awards.  Deborah Goldberg suggested that the funds be viewed as an award rather than as research support, given the very small amount of funds involved. 

            Deborah Goldberg moved and Steve Jackson seconded a proposal to remove the developing country check-off donations from the membership form.  All aye. 

            Deborah Goldberg moved and Les Real seconded the recommendation from the committee to award the Shreve Award to Anny Chung from the University of New Mexico.  All aye.

I. Update on Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

            Teresa Mourad provided an update on ESA activities related to the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education Summit organized by NSF and AAAS in 2009.  Later this month she will be attending a conference organized to review progress toward the goals of the original summit.   There was discussion of the role of professional science societies in changes in undergraduate general biology education.

J. Long Range Planning Grant – review Guidelines

            At the May 2013 meeting, a request was made to review the guidelines used in awarding Long Range Planning Grants.  Katherine McCarter contacted former Members-at-Large for their opinions on these guidelines.  There was discussion of whether travel grants really fall within the purview of either “long range” or “planning” grants.  But these funds are the primary source of monies used by sections and chapters for building capacity.  The current cap of $2500 on proposals may be limiting the ambitiousness of the activities.  Julie Reynolds proposed that we revise the guidelines to emphasize strategic activities and raise the cap on the maximum amount of the proposal.  Steve Jackson will work with the other members-at-large to revise the current guidelines.

K. Ecology for a New Generation

            Teresa Mourad reminded the board that the final report of the Ecology for a New Generation Committee was presented at the May 2012 meeting.  The board encourages ESA staff, sections, and chairs to review the report and implement the recommendations as appropriate.

L. Earth Stewardship Business Communications

            Jill Baron gave an update on recent efforts to train ecologists in effective communication with business leaders on the topic of sustainability. She specifically noted a “trial” training that will take place in London (for selected ESA members attending INTECOL2013) and will be hosted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers London.

M. Bulletin Request

            Bulletin Editor-in-Chief Ed Johnson has requested input from the Governing Board on names of individuals who should be solicited for contributions on papers which have had particular influence on their ideas and approaches to ecology.  Members are asked to send names to Scott Collins who will collate the names and forward them to Ed Johnson

N. Executive Session (Governing Board Members only)

            The Governing Board met in Executive Session at 5:25, and adjourned at 6:00 pm.

Meeting called to order at 9:00, Sunday, August 04, 2013

III. Discussion/Action Items

N. 2013 Annual Meeting

            Debra Peters gave an update on the 2013 Annual Meeting.  New features include the Ignite sessions.  More Ignite sessions than expected were proposed.  There was extensive discussion of use of Internet access, social media and Twitter use during the meeting.

O. Centennial

            Nancy Huntly gave an update on efforts of the Centennial Implementation Committee.  They will be meeting this week, and are looking for input on the theme and logo for the meeting (in coordination with the meeting committee).  They are also interested in suggestions for symposia and special sessions.  2015 will be the year of the MacArthur Award plenary.  They think an additional science plenary should be planned.  The Committee hopes to have most of the Past Presidents attend the meeting, and there was a request that the Governing Board consider ways to encourage their attendance.  Les Real and Charlie Canham will explore fundraising opportunities to support their attendance, particularly for retired past presidents. 

P. Publications Meetings  

1. Ecology                                         

            Editor-in-Chief Don Strong summarized his report.  Current acceptance rate is running approximately 21%.   The editorial board is quite large (~125 members), with a relatively low turnover rate.   The work load varies enormously among the editorial board.

2. Ecological Monographs

            Editor-in-Chief Aaron Ellison gave an update on Ecological Monographs.  Submissions in the past year ran ~136, and published 26 articles.  Roughly half of submissions are not sent out for review, and overall acceptance rate is approximately 20%.

3. Ecological Applications

            Editor-in-Chief Dave Schimel reported on the year in Ecological Applications.  Submissions are up slightly this year.  There have been no major changes in procedures and processes in the past year.  A social scientist has been appointed as an assigning editor.  Many of the papers handled by that editor examine economic and ecological tradeoffs in conservation.  A number of papers have been commissioned as part of the Centennial celebration.  The editorial board also spent time discussing the issue of data availability and requirements for publicly posting data.  Data availability is seen as increasingly important for papers with policy and decision-making implications. 

4. Ecosphere

            Debra Peters, Editor-in-Chief of Ecosphere reported on the status of that journal.  The editorial board has reached 50, with a goal of 70-80.   There have been close to 400 submissions during the past year, with 144 papers published in the past year.  Time to first decision from initial submission is roughly 50 days.  Weekly content alerts are now being generated by Allen Press.  Two virtual special feature issues have been generated (published separately and linked by keywords).  They are pursuing a set of 6-10 papers as part of the Centennial celebration.

5. Frontiers

            Sue Silver, Editor-in-Chief summarized the year in Frontiers.  The submission rate continues to increase, although as many of 70% are returned without review because they do not fit the goals and format of the journal. 

6. Bulletin

            Ed Johnson, Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin summarized activities at the Bulletin, which is the Society’s oldest journal.  There are a number of efforts related to the Cenntennial celebration, including collating all of the Society’s Resolution of Respect.

Meeting adjourned at 12:00 pm, August 4, 2013

November 11, 2013

In this Issue

WHITE HOUSE: NEW EXECUTIVE ORDER BUILDS ON CLIMATE ACTION PLAN

On Nov. 1, President Obama issued a new broad Executive Order, instructing federal agencies to help states strengthen their ability to cope with increasingly intense storms, severe droughts, wildfires and other various effects of climate change.

The Executive Order establishes a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the administration on how the federal government can respond to state and local concerns across the country on how to increase climate change preparedness. The task force will be comprised of governors, mayors, tribal leaders and other officials from across the country. The Executive Order instructs federal agencies to improve dissemination of tools to address climate change and help local communities to construct natural disaster-resilient infrastructure and natural resource and ecosystem resiliency.

The order also establishes a Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, involving 20 federal offices that will be charged with implementing the Executive Order. The council will be co-chaired by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

View the full Executive Order here.

A special issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment assesses the impacts of climate change on people and ecosystems this November, and includes an article on preparing for future environmental flux. To view the special issue, click here.

SCIENCE: LAWMAKERS REVIEW LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE AMERICA COMPETES ACT

On Oct. 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened a hearing to consider a draft bill to partially reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, legislation to increase US federal investment in scientific research and innovation. However, there was debate among committee members over whether funding authorized in the bill was sufficient.

The Enabling Innovation for Science, Technology, and Energy in America (EINSTEIN) Act, the draft bill under consideration, would set science priorities for the Department of Energy (DOE). “The discussion draft requires the Department of Energy to coordinate with other federal agencies to streamline workplace regulations. This reduces burdensome red tape and provides the National Labs flexibility to more effectively and efficiently execute the Department’s mission,” stated House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Committee Democrats, however, expressed concerns with how the bill funds the DOE Office of Science.  “At first glance, one might think that the Majority’s bill actually increases funding for the Office, but a closer look reveals that they are actually cutting funding – the rate of inflation for research is about three percent, but the bill only provides year-to-year increases of one to 1.7 percent, in effect cutting the Office’s budget,” asserted Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Eric Swalwell (D-CA). Democrats also criticized the bill for prioritizing biological systems and genomics sciences research over climate science and environmental research.

The original America COMPETES Act was last reauthorized in 2010. That reauthorization expired Sept. 30. In addition to DOE’s Office of Science, the original bill contained authorizations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology and DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Republicans are expected to introduce legislation to reauthorize NSF and other aspects of the original bill in separate legislation, which falls in line with the piecemeal approach House Republicans have taken in tackling other issues such as education and immigration.

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has put forward alternative draft legislation that would fully reauthorize all the science agencies under the original America COMPETES Act. Entitled, the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2013, the bill includes provisions to reauthorize the Research Innovation Program and provide grants and other methods to boost participation in Science Technology Mathematics and Engineering participation among women and minorities.

While the Senate has yet to introduce its version of the America COMPETES Act reauthorization, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held its first hearing on the measure this week. Senate Democrats are expected to take a comprehensive approach to reauthorizing the measure in line with their House counterparts.

The Senate legislation stands a good chance of garnering bipartisan support. Testifying at the hearing, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who worked on the 2007 bill, called for doubling authorization funding over the original bill. Sen. Alexander asserted that if the US’s investment in scientific research as a percentage of Growth Domestic Product was on par with China, US investment in scientific research would be “four times” what it is now. Sen. Alexander called on lawmakers to tackle the reauthorization with the bipartisan enthusiasm that moved the original America COMPETES, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent and the House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 367-57.  

View the full House America COMPETES hearing here.

View the Senate America COMPETES hearing here.

WILDFIRES: SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS FOREST SERVICE FUNDING SHORTFALLS

On Nov. 5, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources held a hearing examining how existing federal funding constraints can increase the risk of wildfires.

In his opening statement, Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairman Michael Bennet (D-CO) noted that expenses for wildfire fighting have “quadrupled” in recent years at the expense of other US Forest Service (USFS) programs such as trail maintenance and timber contracting. The now routine borrowing from other accounts has happened “for the seventh time over the last twelve years,” according to Chairman Bennett.  He also discussed the various negative effects of wildfires including damage to land and water infrastructure, soil erosion, mudslides and flash floods with many of these effects occurring residually a year after the original wildfire. Chairman Bennett emphasized the importance of preemptive mitigation of wildfires, asserting that a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that for every dollar the federal government invested in wildfire mitigation and prevention saves over five dollars in future costs of suppressing wildfire outbreaks.

Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) noted that Congress’ tendency to implement repeated short-term continuing resolutions (CR) as well as omnibus spending measures as opposed to stand alone long-term bills has made it difficult to plan comprehensive long-term strategies for managing wildfires. He also called on measuring the effectiveness of USFS programs in light of the current fiscal constraints. (In contrast to stand-alone appropriations, omnibus spending measures and CRs tend not to provide the degree of specific direction that stand alone bills do).  

USFS Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard noted the impact of climate change on the intensity of wildfires as well as the length of wildfire season. In response to concerns from Ranking Member Boozman on the time spent on National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, Hubbard stated that the litigation caused by court challenges to NEPA are greater than any problems in implementing the law. Hubbard asserted that USFS is working to address concerns with NEPA before the litigation process starts in an effort to reduce this burden.

The hearing’s panelists included Chris Topik with The Nature Conservancy who touted his organization’s work on controlled burns and seconded Chairman Bennett’s earlier remarks regarding the need to increase funding for hazardous fuel reduction programs and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. Topik also called for the establishment of a separate “wildland fire suppression disaster prevention fund.” He also touted the importance of nonfederal partnerships to collaborate in fire suppression efforts.    

For more information on the hearing, click here.

AGRICULTURE: CONFEREES NEGOTIATE FARM BILL COMPROMISE

This week, House and Senate conferees resumed negotiations for a finalized farm bill reauthorization. According to lead negotiators, a finalized conference report is expected by Thanksgiving of this year.

The conference committee consists of 41 Republican and Democrat members, most of whom currently serve on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. The negotiations are led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN).

How the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) is funded is expected to be highly contentious due to the extreme chasm that separates the House and Senate farm bills on the issue. The Senate bill cuts food stamps by $4 billion while that House bill would cut food stamps by $39 billion. The House bill also places work requirements on food stamp recipients that the Senate bill does not.

A provision in the Senate bill that would require farmers to meet conservation requirements in order to qualify for federal subsidies for crop insurance is also among the issues of contention. While Chairwoman Stabenow strongly supports the language, Chairman Lucas views it as an unnecessary regulatory burden for farmers. A large number of conservation groups have been pushing conferees to retain the conservation provisions. Environmental groups argue that the conservation requirements are particularly important to include as both the House and Senate bills eliminate the farm bill’s direct payment program, which had conservation requirements.

The Ecological Society of America recently joined over 275 organizations in sending a letter to farm bill conferees requesting support for the conservation compliance provisions as well as the sodsaver provision, which limits crop insurance, disaster payments and other federal benefits for newly broken land. In touting the sodsaver provision’s importance in preserving native grasslands, the letter states that “Most of the land that is being converted from native ecosystems to cropland is marginal, highly erodible, or prone to flooding. Bringing this marginally productive land into crop production provides little benefit to taxpayers, increases long-term costs due to erosion and nutrient loss, and ultimately leads to reduced water quality, less capacity to reduce flooding and the loss of valuable wildlife habitat.”

A finalized conference report would need to pass the Republican-controlled House, the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed by the president. In the event the president vetoes the measure, two-thirds of the House and Senate would be needed to override the veto. While leaders are not anticipating reaching an agreement that the president would oppose, the last farm bill reauthorization from 2008 was enacted through Congress overriding a presidential veto.

To view the farm bill organizational letter, click here.

FORESTS: ESA SENDS LETTER TO CONGRESS ON EFFORTS TO LIMIT ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

On October 29, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) penned a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee in response to an increasing number of legislative proposals that would limit National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews.

The letter outlines the important role NEPA plays in ensuring federal environmental policy decisions are informed by public input, including commentary from the scientific community. “Since its enactment in 1970, NEPA the law has played a critical role in providing an important channel of communication for the general public to inform federal agency decision-making,” the letter notes. “Through NEPA, public knowledge of environmental risks are improved as are federal agencies’ ability to make policy decisions informed by the local communities who would be most affected by a suggested proposal.”

The letter comes as the Natural Resources Committee has been moving on legislation that would ease forest harvesting capability at the expense of the NEPA review process. In September, the House passed H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, which would exempt certain logging projects from review under NEPA as well as the Endangered Species Act. H.R. 3188, the Yosemite Rim Fire Emergency Salvage Act, would exempt timber harvests after forest fires from environmental review requirements in the aforementioned laws. The House Natural Resources Committee has held hearings on the latter bill.

Both bills are unlikely gain traction in the Democratic-controlled Senate. ESA’s letter cites a guidance memorandum released by the Council on Environmental Quality as a partial starting point for policymakers to improve implementation of NEPA. “Instead of pushing legislation to curtail NEPA, we request that Members of Congress work in a bipartisan manner to improve the law’s functionality,” asserts the letter.

View the letter here.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: SOCIETIES URGE PRESERVATION OF US BIOSPHERE RESERVES

In a joint letter to federal biosphere reserve administrators on October 29, the Ecological Society of America, the George Wright Society, and Organization of Biological Field Stations requested that administrators complete the paperwork required to allow the United States to continue its participation in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

The United States, which has the world’s largest number of biosphere reserves, has been tardy in carrying out its periodic review requirements and delivering them to the US State Department. Biosphere reserves that fail to submit these review requirements before the end of calendar year 2013 will be delisted by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, which oversees the program. The joint letter emphasizes the biosphere reserves’ importance in fostering collaborations across various sector of the general public in the advancement of ecological research.

“Biosphere reserves provide a cooperative framework for facilitating and sustaining a multitude of activities in ecological research, conservation, and education that, when integrated, further our understanding of natural reserves and the landscapes containing them while maintaining vital ecosystem services for economic and recreational use by human communities,” states the letter. “Such services benefit federal, state and local natural resource educators and managers, private landowners, and the scientific community.”

View the full letter here.

FWS: NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES GENERATE BILLIONS IN REVENUE

On Nov 5, the US Fish and Wildlife Service released a report documenting the economic contribution of national wildlife refuges.

The report concludes that in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges contributed $2.4 billion to the economy and supported over 35,000 jobs. According to the report, 75 percent of this money comes from “non-consumptive” recreational activities such as picnicking, hiking and photography. The remaining economic activity is generated through “consumptive uses” such as hunting, trapping and fishing.

The report, entitled Banking on Nature, finds that these refuges generated an average of $4.87 in economic output for every $1 appropriated in FY 2011. It also notes that spending by wildlife refuge visitors generates $343 million in federal, state, county and local tax revenue. 

Encompassing over 150 million acres of land, the National Wildlife Refuge System is the nation’s largest network of lands dedicated to wildlife preservation. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who touted the report during a visit to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, hopes the report will encourage lawmakers to invest in federal conservation initiatives. 

View the full report here.

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 3316, the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act – Introduced by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), the bill would require posting of grant applications and peer reviewers on a public website. The bill, introduced during the previous Congress, has received concern from the scientific research community. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the bill Oct. 29 by a vote of 19-15.

The GRANT Act, which was also introduced in the previous Congress, has been opposed by scientific societies. To view the Coalition for National Science Funding organizational letter on the GRANT Act, click here.

Passed House

H.R. 2640, the Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act – Introduced by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the bill would allow new hydropower development in Prinevielle, Oregon. The bill passed the House Oct. 29 by a voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Introduced in Senate

S. 1650, to exempt certain Alaska Native articles from prohibitions against sale of items containing non-edible migratory bird parts – Introduced Nov. 5 by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill would exempt the prohibition of sale of migratory bird parts that are used in some traditional and customary handicrafts made by Alaska Natives. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 3109) has been introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

S. 1641, the West Virginia National Heritage Area Act of 2013 – Introduced Nov. 4 by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) the bill would fund National Park Service assistance for the Wheeling National Heritage Area and the National Coal Heritage Area. It would also designate the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area in West Virginia and part of Maryland as a National Heritage Area. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


 Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, ClimateWire, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the National Wildlife Federation, POLITICO, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Post, the White House

Special issue of ESA Frontiers assesses the impacts of climate change on people and ecosystems, and strategies for adaptation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, 4 November, 2013
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

Mangrove islands like these along the upper Lostman’s River in Everglades National Park protect coastlines from stormy waves, storm surge, and erosion – expected to increasingly threaten coastal cities and townships as sea levels rise. Investments in “soft” engineering protections against storm damage, like wetlands and oyster reef restoration, can be cheaper in the long run than seawalls, breakwaters, and groins, and offer benefits for wildlife, fisheries,  and recreation. Credit, Paul Nelson, USGS.

Mangrove islands like these along the upper Lostman’s River in Everglades National Park protect coastlines from stormy waves, storm surge, and erosion – expected to increasingly threaten coastal cities and townships as sea levels rise. Investments in “soft” engineering protections against storm damage, like wetlands and oyster reef restoration, can be cheaper in the long run than seawalls, breakwaters, and groins, and offer benefits for wildlife, fisheries, and recreation. Credit, Paul Nelson, USGS.

President Obama marked the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy with an executive order last Friday “preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change.”

The coming century will bring many changes for natural systems and for the human societies that depend on them, as changing climate conditions ripple outward to changing rainfall patterns, soil nutrient cycles, species ranges, seasonal timing, and a multitude of other interconnected factors. Many of these changes have already begun. Preparing for a future of unpredictable change will require, as the President suggests, the coordinated action of people across all sectors of society, as well as good information from the research community.

The November 2013 issue of the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment is devoted to an assessment of climate change effects on ecosystems, and the consequences for people.

The Special Issue tackles five major topics of concern:

Biodiversity

Ecologists have predicted that species will move out of their historic ranges as climate changes and their old territories become inhospitable. This is already occurring. Past predictions that species would seek out historic temperature conditions by moving up latitudes, uphill, or into deeper waters have turned out to be too simple, as species movements have proven to be idiosyncratic.  Because some species can move and cope with change more easily than others, relationships between species are changing, sometimes in ways that threaten viability, as interdependent species are separated in time and space.

Ecosystem functionality

Living things have powerful influences on the lands and waters they occupy. As existing ecosystems unravel, we are seeing the chemistry and hydrology of the physical environment change, with further feedback effects on the ecosystem.  Ecosystem changes, in turn, feed back to climate.

Ecosystem Services

Impacts on natural systems have direct consequences for crop and seafood production, water quality and availability, storm damage, and fire intensity. Working with rather than against, ecosystems may help society to adapt to changes, like sea-level rise and storm surge, that threaten lives and property.

Combined effects of climate and other pressures

Species will be hard pressed to adapt to rapidly changing physical conditions without room to move. Ecosystems are already stressed by habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, and natural resource extraction.

Preparation for change

Adaptation efforts may need to think beyond the preservation of current or historic natural communities. Existing relationships between species and the landscapes they inhabit will inevitably change. We may need to consider managing the changing landscapes to maintain biodiversity and the functional attributes of ecosystems, rather than specific species.

 

“The impacts that climate change has had and will have on people are interwoven with the impacts on ecosystems. I think that we instinctively know that. In this assessment, we try to draw that connection,” said guest editor Nancy Grimm, a professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.

To produce this Special Issue of ESA’s Frontiers, a diverse group of over 50 ecological scientists and other stakeholders condensed and illustrated the work they had done for a technical input report on biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services for the US National Climate Assessment. The Assessment is due to be released in 2014.

The collection is aimed at both ecologists and practitioners. The authors hope to demonstrate the potential for researchers to collaborate with practitioners in identifying “policy relevant questions”—information that practitioners need to make science-based decisions about management of natural resources. Grimm would like to see more academic researchers designing “policy-relevant questions” into their research programs, so that research projects may address the data needs of managers while tackling basic science questions.

The authors designed the collection of reports to demonstrate the interrelationships of human and ecosystem productivity, as well as the interrelationships of species, climate, and landscape. By properly managing ecosystems, they say, we are also managing their potential to harm or help society. The variability of the natural world demands equal creativity and flexibility in considering a range of complementary solutions to environmental problems.

 

Special Issue: Impacts of climate change on biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(9) November, 2013

 

Contents:

  • Evaluating climate impacts on people and ecosystems
    NB Grimm and KL Jacobs 455
  • Climate-change impacts on ecological systems: introduction to a US assessment
    NB Grimm, MD Staudinger, A Staudt, SL Carter, FS Chapin III, P Kareiva, M Ruckelshaus, and BA Stein 456
  • Biodiversity in a changing climate: a synthesis of current and projected trends in the US
    MD Staudinger, SL Carter, MS Cross, NS Dubois, JE Duffy, C Enquist, R Griffis, JJ Hellmann, JJ Lawler, J O’Leary, SA Morrison, L Sneddon, BA Stein, LM Thompson, and W Turner 465
  • The impacts of climate change on ecosystem structure and function
    NB Grimm, FS Chapin III, B Bierwagen, P Gonzalez, PM Groffman, Y Luo, F Melton, K Nadelhoffer, A Pairis, PA Raymond, J Schimel, and CE Williamson 474
  • Climate change’s impact on key ecosystem services and the human well-being they support in the US
    EJ Nelson, P Kareiva, M Ruckelshaus, K Arkema, G Geller, E Girvetz, D Goodrich, V Matzek, M Pinsky, W Reid, M Saunders, D Semmens, and H Tallis 483
  • The added complications of climate change: understanding and managing biodiversity and ecosystems
    A Staudt, AK Leidner, J Howard, KA Brauman, JS Dukes, LJ Hansen, C Paukert, J Sabo, and LA Solórzano 494
  • Preparing for and managing change: climate adaptation for biodiversity and ecosystems
    BA Stein, A Staudt, MS Cross, NS Dubois, C Enquist, R Griffis, LJ Hansen, JJ Hellmann, JJ Lawler, EJ Nelson, and A Pairis 502

 

 

This open access Special Issue was generously funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the US Geological Survey, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

 


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.

Journalists and public information officers can gain access to full texts of all ESA publications by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

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