Policy News: September 14 2016
Sep14

Policy News: September 14 2016

Conservation: IUCN World Conservation Congress Every four years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) updates its strategic plan. NSF is inviting feedback from the ecological community on the vision, core values, strategic goals and strategic objectives in its current strategic plan. The strategic plan presents an evaluation framework to measure agency performance and describes core approaches and new methods for measuring the performance of the NSF portfolio. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded its quadrennial World Conservation Congress on Sept.10 in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Attended by more than 10,000 participants from 192 countries, the World Conservation Congress made a variety of decisions that will help guide conservation policy of governments and agencies worldwide. The congress emphasized “. . . the importance of linking spirituality, religion, culture and conservation, and the need to implement nature-based solutions-actions that protect and manage ecosystems, while effectively addressing societal challenges, such as food and water security, climate change, disaster risk reduction, human health and economic well-being.” The congress also created a new category of IUCN membership for indigenous peoples’ organizations. Resolutions protecting primary forest landscapes and seascapes were adopted that address their importance for biodiversity conservation and the cultures of indigenous peoples and marginalized communities. Furthering the emphasis on large, landscape-level protections, IUCN members agreed to put “all land and seascapes classified under any of IUCN’s categories of protected areas off limits for damaging industrial activities.” Previously, only UN-designated World Heritage Sites have been accorded this status. The congress also adopted resolutions on the topic of “biodiversity offsets” and “natural capital.” Biodiversity offsets are seen as a last resort measure to avoid biodiversity loss. IUCN members agreed to develop a definition of natural capital to guide emerging business and financial decision-making models in accounting for ecological, ethical and social justice issues. The congress made other notable resolutions: Downgrading Giant Pandas from endangered to vulnerable, having recovered to an estimated 2,060 in the wild in 2015 from 1,596 in 2004 Calling for the elimination of domestic ivory markets which enable the “laundering” of ivory Ending hunting of captive-bred lions Adopting reports related to climate change, particularly one that finds the oceans have absorbed up to 93 percent of human-created warming since 1970 The 1,300 IUCN members include 217 state and government agencies, 1,066 non-governmental organizations, and networks of over 16,000 experts worldwide from more than 160 countries. It elected leadership for the next four years, including the re-election of Zhang Xinsheng for a second term as president. The IUCN website includes a complete listing of all 106 motions approved during the World Conservation Congress. Climate Change: China and U.S. Sign Paris Agreement On the...

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Science Debate and US Presidential Candidates
Aug26

Science Debate and US Presidential Candidates

ESA joined 56 of America’s leading nonpartisan organizations in posing 20 questions on current science issues to the Presidential candidates.

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Policy News: August 24, 2016
Aug24

Policy News: August 24, 2016

NSF Strategic Plan Requesting input from the ecological community USGS Climate Change Ecosystems in the Southeastern U.S. Are Vulnerable to Climate Change EPA Climate Change Clean Power Plan Appeal Ordered for En Banc U.S. Court of Appeals Hearing, September 27 NOAA Data Tools U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office Releases New Data Integration and Visualization Tools Federal Register Notices SOURCES: ClimateWire, E&ENews, EnergyWire and Greenwire, U.S. Geological Survey; Department of the Interior; Southwest Climate Science Center; The National Law Journal; The National Science Foundation; The Hill; Integrated Ocean Observing System. NSF: Strategic Plan Requesting input from the ecological community Every four years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) updates its strategic plan. NSF is inviting feedback from the ecological community on the vision, core values, strategic goals and strategic objectives in its current strategic plan. The strategic plan presents an evaluation framework to measure agency performance and describes core approaches and new methods for measuring the performance of the NSF portfolio. NSF’s research and education activities underpin the nation’s innovation enterprise, which depends directly on fundamental research. The agency is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported fundamental research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. Its Biological Sciences Directorate provides 68 percent of federal support for non-medical fundamental ecological and biological research. Comments may be submitted online and are due before September 27th, 2016. Any questions may be sent to strategicplan@nsf.gov. USGS: Climate Change Ecosystems in the Southeastern U.S. Are Vulnerable to Climate Change At least several southeastern U.S. ecosystems are at-risk and highly vulnerable to the impacts of present and future climate change, according to two new research reports conducted by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Southeast Climate Science Center scientists. At-risk ecosystems occur in states ranging from Texas to Florida, Virginia to Georgia as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They include Caribbean coastal mangrove, Edwards Plateau limestone shrubland, karst-depression wetlands, Nashville Basin limestone glade and woodland, southern Appalachian balds and southern loess bluff forest.Researchers used the existing scientific literature and, in some cases, geospatial analysis to determine each ecosystem’s sensitivity to changes in climate, its exposure level to those changes and its capacity to adapt. All ecosystems identified as highly vulnerable support a variety of rare and geographically restricted plants and animals, including numerous federally endangered or threatened species. Because most of these at-risk ecosystems are geographically isolated and have unique geological characteristics, the authors noted that it may be difficult for species to escape or adapt to the effects of climate change.“From the mountains to the coast, the southeastern U.S. contains ecosystems that harbor incredible biodiversity,” said Jennifer Costanza, lead...

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ESA Policy News: July 27, 2016
Jul28

ESA Policy News: July 27, 2016

Zika funding fails, Democrats cite controversial amendments Politics undermine latest effort at funding response to Zika outbreak. Appropriations break down, omnibus or continuing resolution likely Failure to enact any appropriations measures through regular order prompts focus on stop-gaps. UN Green Climate Funding in doubt Senate removes ban on Green Climate Funding; House rejects similar effort. Canada moves toward national carbon price Carbon pricing likely by year-end, works toward “Three Amigos” clean energy targets. House passes Interior-EPA funding bill, first in seven years House passes Interior-EPA appropriations bill, includes policy rider blocking EPA regulations. Federal Register Opportunities SOURCES: Bloomberg.com, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ClimateWire, Defense News, E&E Publishing’s Greenwire, Environment & Energy Daily and E&E News PM, The Hill, The New York Times, Toronto Sun, Politico, Time, Washington Post, Washington Times Zika funding fails, Democrats cite controversial amendments Zika funding remains at an impasse as Congress adjourned for summer recess. On Thursday, July 14 Senate Democrats refused, for the second time, to accept Republican-backed $1.1 billion Zika funding provisions in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill (H.R.2577) that includes controversial amendments added in conference. The Senate Democrats, many previously supporting the bill, are objecting to House-added riders that prohibit funds to Planned Parenthood and other contraception providers; cut $540 million from the Affordable Care Act; cut $500 million in veterans’ funding; and reverse a ban on using federal funds to fly Confederate flags in military cemeteries. The bill would also suspend Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on pesticide spraying under the Clean Water Act and contradict court rulings protecting waterways. Originally introduced as the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 and later renamed the Zika Vector Control Act, H.R.897, now incorporated into H.R.2577, would prohibit the EPA and state agencies from requiring a permit under the Clean Water Act for discharge into navigable waterways of pesticides otherwise authorized for sale. Democratic leaders and the White House characterize the Zika Vector Control Act as part of an ongoing effort to weaken environmental protections and undermine EPA’s authority. The White House notes that current regulations were “explicitly crafted to allow immediate responses to declared pest emergencies” and that “Federal and State agencies already have authority under the Pesticide General Permit to apply mosquitocides as needed to respond to Zika virus concerns and do not require any additional authorization under the Permit.” The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill is the only appropriations measure to have progressed through a conference report after passing both houses. Failure of the conference report is widely seen as ending any prospect for passing appropriations bills in this Congress. Democratic leaders are concerned that Republicans...

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ESA Policy News: June 29, 2016
Jun29

ESA Policy News: June 29, 2016

“ESA in a partnership with 30 leading nonpartisan scientific societies reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change…”

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A  GSPA winner’s close encounter with an Alaska senator and a fish called ‘Walter’ while advocating for NSF
Jun14

A GSPA winner’s close encounter with an Alaska senator and a fish called ‘Walter’ while advocating for NSF

A guest commentary by Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award recipient Walking through the door into Senator Lisa Murkowski’s fourth floor office in the Hart Senate Building feels like stepping from the halls of the nation’s capital into a home in Alaska. The walls and shelves are covered in photos of arctic landscapes, Alaska Native artwork, and other mementos of my home state. Indeed, walking around the reception area felt a lot like pacing the living room of my parents’ house back in suburban Anchorage. There were five of us there on the afternoon of April 28th. We constituted the California and Alaska contingent of the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day. The event is organized annually to give biologists and ecologists from around the country a chance to interact with Congress on the ever-pressing issue of National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. ESA sponsored my participation through a Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA), along with Brian Kastl of University of California, Santa Barbara and four other awardees representing different states. Though we had been expecting to meet with Senator Murkowski’s legislative aide, as we were ushered into a conference room we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the senator herself would be dropping in for the second half of the meeting. Because of a last minute conflict with a vote in the Capitol Building, this meant that Sen. Murkowski would be our only in person meeting with a member of Congress that day. The goal of BESC’s Congressional Visits Day is twofold. First, we were there to put a human face on NSF funding–too often federally funded research gets caricatured and lambasted by politicians whose mental image of a scientist is likely something along the lines of a Revenge of the Nerds protagonist in a lab coat. Having a collection of business-attired biologists with a polished pitch on how their federally funded research achieves real world impacts leaves a lasting impression. Second, and more concretely, we were there to ask for $8 billion in funding for NSF for fiscal year 2017. If that seems like a lot to you, consider the following three facts: (1) $8 billion is $2.44 billion less than the cost of a single Ford-class aircraft carrier, (2) proposal funding rates at NSF have fallen over the last decade by a third, and (3) the NSF would need an additional $4 billion to fund all proposals deemed meritorious (average review of ‘very good’ or higher). The meeting with Sen. Murkowski’s staff started off in what by that point felt like a familiar routine. We went around our table introducing ourselves,...

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ESA Policy News June 1: House energy bill restricts climate research, FY 2017 Interior bill cuts conservation funding, science committee convenes Zika hearing
Jun01

ESA Policy News June 1: House energy bill restricts climate research, FY 2017 Interior bill cuts conservation funding, science committee convenes Zika hearing

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  ENERGY: HOUSE PASSES BILL THAT RESTRICTS CLIMATE, ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH On May 25, the House passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The bill passed by a vote of 241-178. Eight Democrats joined all but six Republicans in supporting the measure. S. 2012 passed the Senate April 20, 2016 by a strong bipartisan vote of 85-12. The House used “an amendment in the nature of a substitute” to replace the Senate-passed text with the language of a more partisan House energy bill, H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. The White House released a statement threatening to veto H.R. 8 in Nov. 2015, stating it would undercut efforts to increase the nation’s energy efficiency. The House language includes a number of restrictions on scientific research, particularly related to the Department of Energy Office of Science’s Biological and Environment Research (BER) program. The House legislation would authorize funding for BER 9.7 percent ($59 million) below the FY 2016 appropriated level. The legislation would also prevent BER from carrying out climate science research that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifies as “overlapping or duplicative.” Further, the legislation would also require BER to “prioritize fundamental research on biological systems and genomics science” over “climate and environmental research.”   ESA submitted a letter to the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee requesting that the cuts and restrictions to scientific research included in the House bill not be included in legislation negotiated between the two chambers. Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 8. APPROPRIATIONS: FY 2017 INTERIOR BILL CUTS FUNDING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENTITIES On May 24, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. As in recent years, the bill includes several provisions that would prohibit funding for Obama administration environmental regulatory initiatives. The bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion – fully funding the 10-year average for federal agency wildland fire suppression costs. The committee report outlining funding for wildfire specific accounts between the Department of Interior and US Forest Service has yet to be released. Of the $5.3 billion appropriated for the US Forest Service, $2.9 billion is targeted towards wildland fire suppression and prevention activities. EPA would receive $7.98 billion, $164 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level. Policy riders to prohibit the agency from implementing new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, methane, mining and navigable...

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ESA Policy News May 18: Senate considers COMPETES reauthorization, House CJS bill would reduce NSF funding
May18

ESA Policy News May 18: Senate considers COMPETES reauthorization, House CJS bill would reduce NSF funding

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  RESEARCH: SENATE COMMITTEE CONTINUES DELIBERATION OF AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION On May 11, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee convened a hearing entitled “Leveraging the US Science and Technology Enterprise.” The hearing is part of the committee’s ongoing efforts to solicit input from the scientific community as it drafts legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. In his opening statement, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) praised the work of committee members Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in their bipartisan efforts to solicit input from and convene roundtables allowing members of the scientific community to weigh in on the Senate’s efforts to reauthorize the bill. “Common themes arising from the roundtables included support for continued investment by the federal government in basic research, as well as encouragement of wider participation in STEM subjects; stronger partnerships among government, the private sector, and academia that could better leverage discoveries emerging from our research universities to drive innovation; and the importance of minimizing barriers and improving incentives for universities and the private sector to better maximize the scientific and economic return on limited federal research resources,” said Thune. Witnesses testifying included  Kelvin Droegemeier, vice chairman, National Science Board; Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president for research, Microsoft Corp.; Robert Atkinson, president, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; and David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering. Click here to view the hearing. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL REDUCES NSF, SCIENCE FUNDING On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee released its Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. In total, the bill includes $56 billion in discretionary spending, a $279 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.4 billion in FY 2017, a $57 million decrease over FY 2016. Research and Related Activities is increased by $46 million targeted to programs that foster innovation and US economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience and STEM education. Reductions are made in equipment and construction costs. Unlike the Senate CJS appropriations bill, there is no increased funding allocated towards the construction of Regional Class Research Vessels, setting up a potential showdown if the two chambers negotiate a final bill this fall. Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.6 billion, a $185 million decrease National Aeronautics and Space Administration:$19.5 billion, a $223 million increase National Institute of...

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