ESA Policy News: November 4

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.


On Nov. 1, the Senate passed a mini omnibus (“minibus”) measure that incorporated three individual appropriations bills: Commerce Justice and Science, Transportation Housing and Urban Development as well as the Agriculture Rural Development Food and Drug Administration appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The minibus bill (H.R. 2112) passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 69-30. Sixteen Republicans joined all Democrats and Independents in supporting the measure.

Funding levels are largely unchanged from the measures approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee two months ago. The bill includes $6.7 million for the National Science Foundation, a reduction of $162 million from FY 2011. For the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the bill includes $5 billion, a $434 million increase from FY 2011. The Senate measure increases investment in NOAA research initiatives, including $161.5 million for the agency’s climate service. The House bill prohibits funding for the climate service.

For the Agricultural Research Service, the FY 2012 bill provides $1.09 billion, down from $1.133 billion in FY 2011.  The bill provides $709.8 million for research and education activities within the National Institute on Food and Agriculture, up from $698.7 million in FY 2011. The Natural Resources Conservation Service would receive $828 million for FY 2012, down from $871 million in FY 2011.

For more information on the science-related components of the appropriations measure, see the Sept. 23 edition of ESA Policy News or see the  Sept. 9 edition of ESA Policy News for more information on the agricultural research components of the measure.


On Oct. 26, the House Natural Resources Committee convened a hearing on the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy. While this was the second hearing by the committee to examine the policy, it was the first to feature testimony from key senior officials from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ).

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said the plan  places restrictions on ocean and coastal inland activities. “I have asked the administration for the specific statutory authority that allows the president, by executive order, to create regional planning bodies and require them to create regional zoning plans. So far, I have been given only a hodge-podge list of all the statutes that apply to ocean and/or coastal activities,” he said. Hastings cited the policy as a “huge new bureaucracy” that could “cost jobs and have devastating long-term economic impacts throughout the country.” Chairman Hastings asserted that the executive order creates “dozens of new policies” that create uncertainty for businesses and job creators.

“Oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes play a crucial role in the life of every American and in the economic well-being of our nation. Over half the nation lives in coastal counties and the other half often go there to play. Coastal counties generate almost 60 percent of U.S. GDP and coastal habitats provide buffers against coastal storms, preventing more than $20 billion in property losses every year and many of them also provide nursery grounds for many economically important fish and shellfish,” stated NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

“The importance of integrated approaches to ocean activities has been recognized across administrations. The [George W.] Bush administration’s U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy emphasized the need to eliminate barriers between federal agencies with ocean and coastal mandates and streamline processes to improve scientific understanding, share data and coordinate policy setting and decision-making to maximize federal resources,” continued Lubchenco. “The National Ocean Policy and the Framework for [Effective] Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning continue this integration, but equally importantly, they empower communities to shape the future of their regional ocean uses.”

The subsequent panelists included Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Randall Luthi, President of the National Ocean Industries Association and Michael Conathan Director of Ocean Policy of Center of American Progress.

View the hearing here.


On Nov. 3, the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the release of a report entitled An Assessment of Economic Contributions from Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Conservation.” The report seeks to highlight the varied economic contributions made by the agency’s  Fisheries Program.

According to the report, the USFWS’s Fisheries Program contributes $3.6 billion to the nation’s economy and supports 68,000 jobs across the country. It states that that each dollar invested in the fisheries program, combined with its partners, generates about $28 in economic contributions and value.

View the full report here.


The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has published a Request for Information to solicit input for research innovations to meet national economic challenges.

On Sept. 16, President Obama announced his administration would develop a National Bioeconomy Blueprint detailing administration-wide steps to harness biological innovations that address efforts to alleviate concerns in human society related to health, food, energy and the environment.

OSTP encourages comments submitted electronically as an attachment to an e-mail sent to by 11:59 p.m. EST on December 6, 2011. More information on the blueprint can be found here or view the actual Request for Information here.


The Climate Action Reserve has announced a new draft Rice Cultivation Project Protocol V1.0 available for public review and comment. The protocol provides a standardized approach for quantifying, monitoring, and verifying the greenhouse gas reductions from projects that avoid methane emissions to the atmosphere through changes in water and residue management in rice cultivation.

Comments are due no later than 5:00 pm PST on November 11, 2011. For more information as well as to review the draft protocol and submit comments, click here.


On November 2, the Ecological Society of America sponsored a congressional briefing entitled “Using Science to Improve Flood Management.” The briefing drew 40 attendees, including congressional staff and representatives of federal agencies, NGOs and private organizations. Featured speakers were Emily Stanley (University of Wisconsin, Madison, Center for Limnology) and Jeff Opperman (Senior Freshwater Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Field Office).

The speakers addressed the function of rivers and floodplains and the need to manage rivers as systems and for multiple benefits. Their presentations highlighted the potential for green infrastructure solutions, which would restore floodplains to help reduce risk to people and infrastructure and generate such benefits as increased fish production. The nation’s growing economic burden from flood damage as well as its aging levee infrastructure make this option a timely one, said Stanely and Opperman.


On Oct. 25, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) helped organize and co-sponsored the congressional briefing: “Mercury and Air Pollution Impacts on Ecosystems.”  Other organizations sponsoring the briefing were the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), the Great Lakes Commission, and the Northeast-Midwest Institute.

The briefing featured the findings of a recent report from BRI highlighting mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region. According to the BRI report, emissions of mercury into the air (and subsequent deposition) are now the primary source of mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region. Twenty-six percent of mercury deposition in Canada and the continental United States is from the Great Lakes region, with the highest concentrations in Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The event featured speakers Charley Driscoll (Syracuse University) and Dave Evers (BRI) and drew 30 attendees  A preprint of ESA’s new Issues in Ecology #14 on air pollution thresholds was also discussed by the speakers and made available to the audience.

View the BRI report here.


Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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