Policy News from ESA’s Public Affairs Office

A Bi-Weekly Publication of the Ecological Society of America

  • CLIMATE: BILL FORCING U.S. PARTICIPATION IN CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS CLEARS HOUSE PANEL
  • CLIMATE: U.S. ACCUSED OF STALLING PROGRESS ON RAINFOREST PLAN
  • AGRICULTURE: HARKIN TARGETS BIG CHANGES TO CONSERVATION PROGRAMS
  • AGRICULTURE: POLLINATOR PROTECTION ACT INTRODUCED IN SENATE
  • ENDANGERED SPECIES: HOUSE LAWMAKERS ASK INTERIOR TO HALT ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT REWRITE
  • ENDANGERED SPECIES: FWS BUREAUCRATS ORDERED SCIENTISTS TO BACK DELISTING OF ARIZONA EAGLE

CLIMATE: BILL FORCING U.S. PARTICIPATION IN CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS CLEARS HOUSE PANEL

The Bush Administration would be required to participate this year in international global climate change negotiations aimed at setting binding targets to limit heat-trapping emissions under legislation approved May 23 by a near party-line 29-16 majority in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Chairman Tom Lantos’ (D-CA) bill , H.R. 2420, calls on Bush to work “more actively and constructively” through the United Nations on a future climate treaty that can go into effect upon the 2012 expiration of the Kyoto Protocol.

It orders the U.S. to send a high level delegation — headed by the Secretary of State — to the next major U.N. global climate change conference scheduled this December in Bali , Indonesia .

The bill also orders Bush to work on an international climate agreement that requires “binding mitigation commitments from all major emitting countries based on their level of development.”

The legislation does not give a specific numerical target for emission cuts but instead urges U.S. diplomats “to seek international consensus” on a target stabilization rate for greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that reflect the recent recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Lantos’ bill also sets up a State Department Office on Global Climate Change headed by a presidential-appointed ambassador who must be Senate confirmed. And it puts an emphasis on exporting new U.S. energy technologies to emerging economies, namely China and India , through trade missions and several new offices.

The White House quickly signaled opposition to the measure and defended its efforts on climate change.

Visit this site to view the bill: http://www.eenews.net/features/documents/2007/05/23/document_gw_01.pdf

CLIMATE: U.S. ACCUSED OF STALLING PROGRESS ON RAINFOREST PLAN

U.S. officials are blocking progress on a proposal from rainforested countries seeking the start of a new program to combat global climate change, according to environmentalists tracking United Nations talks in Bonn , Germany .

Papua New Guinea , Costa Rica , and Brazil , along with the European Union, suggested the launch of a “national baseline” measurement system to allow countries with rainforests to determine whether deforestation is speeding up or slowing down. The measurements could later be used to start up a payment program for countries that do not clear carbon-absorbing trees.

But Bush Administration officials attending the two-week conference resisted the measurement plan, saying further study would be needed before it could gain U.S. approval.

Steve Schwartzman, Director of International Programs at Environmental Defense commented, “It’s scandalous that the United States has said we’re not going to be a party to the Kyoto Protocol because it doesn’t do anything to reduce emissions from big developing countries, and then when Brazil comes forward with a proposal, the U.S. says, ‘No, I think we need another workshop.’”

The top U.S. climate negotiator, Harlan Watson, said that the rainforested countries are free to advance their proposal, but they should do it under the existing Kyoto Protocol system and not during the debate on a follow-up treaty that would go into effect once Kyoto expires in 2012.

AGRICULTURE: HARKIN TARGETS BIG CHANGES TO CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) is planning a dramatic reorganization of conservation programs in the next Farm Bill and wants to pump $6 billion more into conservation spending.

Harkin’s Farm Bill proposal would consolidate the Agriculture Department’s largest working lands programs into one new initiative called the Conservation Stewardship Incentives Program. Its annual budget would be twice that of the entire Fish and Wildlife Service. The Agriculture Chairman would put another $3 billion into the other conservation programs. The money would come from the “reserve fund” given to the Farm Bill in the 2008 budget resolution, which requires offsets.

Harkin does not have those offsets in hand yet and is basically going to “buy now, pay later,” with the hopes that his colleagues will be so impressed with the conservation spending, they will help him come up with the offsets.

Meanwhile, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) said he would restore controversial cuts he made to the Conservation Security Program in his Farm Bill proposal, bringing it up to baseline levels.

Peterson appears to have backed away from some of the hard budget lines he drew before the conservation and energy markups earlier this week, when he had told members they could not tap any more of the reserve funds to try to boost funding for favorite programs.

But after a meeting with House leadership, Peterson said that he is feeling more confident about being able to find offsets for funding and would let subcommittees tap more money in the reserve.

AGRICULTURE: POLLINATOR PROTECTION ACT INTRODUCED IN SENATE

A group of 29 senators introduced a bill May 24 that would open all Farm Bill conservation programs to habitat protection for bees and other pollinators.

The “Pollinator Protection Act” does not create new Farm Bill programs or change their funding. Rather, it directs the USDA offices that dole out conservation funds to help producers develop habitat or farming practices that could benefit pollinators.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and roughly half of the Agriculture Committee members have signed on as cosponsors.

Note: The Ecological Society of America signed a group statement of support for the Pollinator Protection Act, along with many other organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, and National Audubon Society.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: HOUSE LAWMAKERS ASK INTERIOR TO HALT ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT REWRITE

A group of House lawmakers asked the Bush Administration to stop its rewrite of Endangered Species Act ( ESA ) regulations.

Seventy-six members, most of them Democrats, told Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in a letter to “reconsider any attempts” to change the law until he seeks the advice of congressional committees with ESA jurisdiction.

The Administration can move forward with its regulations without congressional approval, but Congress could put future work on the regulations on hold by blocking funding.

Interior has been under fire since draft regulatory changes became public in March. That draft would scale back federal power to list species or prevent disruptive activities in their habitat.

Fish and Wildlife Service Chief Dale Hall said the Agency has thrown out those proposals and is drafting new regulations. Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Jim Moran (D-VA), and Christopher Shays (R-CT) were the lead authors of the letter, which is signed by half the Democrats on the Interior Appropriations panel.

Hinchey also sent a letter to Interior Appropriations Committee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA) asking him to include language in the spending bill that would limit the Administration’s ability to overhaul the ESA.

Visit this site to view the letter to Secretary Kempthorne: www.eenews.net/features/documents/2007/05/16/document_gw_01.pdf

ENDANGERED SPECIES: FWS BUREAUCRATS ORDERED SCIENTISTS TO BACK DELISTING OF ARIZONA EAGLE

High-ranking Fish and Wildlife Service officials in Washington , D.C. ordered the agency’s field biologists to overlook some scientific information and back the removal of Arizona ’s bald eagles from the endangered species list, according to Interior Department documents obtained and released May 18 by the Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group.

Biologists argued against delisting the eagle but were told by agency supervisors to seek only information that would back removing the bird from the list, according to department meeting notes. The group, which filed a lawsuit to maintain the eagle’s listing, obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Agency notes suggest the FWS decision came as a “policy call” from higher-ranking officials in the regional office and Washington . Some biologists’ initial reactions were to keep the eagles on the list as a distinct population segment (DPS). The delisting is expected to occur next month.


Sources: Energy and Environment Daily and Greenwire

Send questions or comments to Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs, mailto:Nadine@esa.orgor Colleen Fahey, Policy Analyst, mailto:Colleen@esa.org

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Author: Christine Buckley

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1 Comment

  1. Certainly the most important environmental “Policy News” from Washington this week is the attempt by the Senate and President Bush pass an immigration bill that will massively increase the U.S. population growth rate.

    Even if ESA is afraid to take a position on that bill, it should be aggressively publicizing to the ESA membership what its longterm demographic and environmental consequences are likely to be.

    Let’s open our eyes and smell the coffee. For example, we should all be for the “Arizona Eagle” , but if the U.S. population is going to go to 1 billion or even 0.5 billion, the current bickering over the eagle will be pretty irrelevant to its future.

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