Policy News: June 17

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

HOUSE: AG APPROPRIATIONS BILL CUTS CONSERVATION, RESEARCH INITIATIVES

On June 16, the House passed H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. Sponsored by House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA), the bill cuts $2.7 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) FY 2011 budget and is $5 billion below the president’s FY 2012 budget request. Additionally, the House also adopted a several amendments that would affect funding for conservation and research programs at USDA.

CLIMATE SCIENCE: FORMER CONGRESSMAN TO LAUNCH CONSERVATIVE CLIMATE COALITION

Former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) is planning to launch a new conservative coalition this fall consisting of fellow Republicans who believe that human activities are contributing to climate change and that action needs to be taken.

Inglis, a former ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee, lost his seat in a 2010 primary, partially due to his  stance on issues such climate change. Inglis argued that his party should embrace what the consensus view of scientists, that human-made greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change.

Inglis favors what he calls “free enterprise” policies to address climate change and voted against the 2009 House-Democratic cap-and-trade bill. He said the new group would look for ways to stimulate a private-sector response to the problem.

INTERIOR: SALAZAR REQUESTS CONGRESS IDENTIFY WILDERNESS PROTECTION AREAS

On June 10, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a letter to Members of Congress asking for their input in identifying public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would be eligible for permanent wilderness protection under the Wilderness Act.

“Both Democratic and Republican Members of Congress support providing permanent protection for some BLM lands under the Wilderness Act.  In this current session of Congress, several Members have already introduced legislation to create new areas of Wilderness,” said Salazar in the letter. “I believe these bills – and others that have been introduced with strong local support – provide a foundation from which we can build a strong, bipartisan wilderness agenda in this Congress,” he continued.

Secretary Salazar’s letter also asks Members for input to inform Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes’s efforts to develop recommendations for how BLM should manage the millions of acres of public land that are not protected under the Wilderness Act, but that have wilderness characteristics.

WATER: SPORTSMEN, CONSERVATIONISTS OPPOSE CLEAN WATER ACT PROVISION

On June 13, fifteen major national hunter and angler  and conservation groups urged House Appropriations Committee Members to drop a provision from the draft Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Act that would block funding for a new policy intended to expand federal protection of streams and wetlands.

On April 27, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released draft guidance to clarify waters under the federal protection of the Clean Water Act. For additional information, see the May 6 edition of ESA policy news at: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2011/05062011.php

FISHERIES: NOAA RELEASES NEW FISH-FARMING POLICY

On June 9, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a marine aquaculture policy in an effort to develop an offshore fish-farming industry.

Most U.S. fish farming now occurs in near-shore coastal waters or inland farms. Offshore aquaculture occurs only outside of U.S. waters. According to NOAA, the United States imports about 84 percent of the seafood Americans consume, half of which is grown in foreign fish farms.

The Obama administration hopes to encourage development of a marine aquaculture industry will create jobs in coastal communities as well as address the nation’s $9 billion seafood trade deficit. However, concerned environmentalists cite concerns about the potential ill-effects of genetically altered fish escaping farms and breeding with wild populations, diseases that farmed fish could spread into wild fisheries, and the strain that offshore farms could put on the base of the oceanic food web.

The Gulf of Mexico would likely be first in line to see fish farming. In 2009, the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council approved an aquaculture plan. However, the policy was put on hold after environmental groups and Congressional leaders expressed concerns. Critics maintained that the law currently governing wild fisheries, the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Act, was not sufficient to regulate offshore fish-farming. After the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Council approved its aquaculture plan in 2009, then-House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) sent a letter expressing concerns.

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES: ADMINISTRATION SEEKS INPUT ON CLIMATE PLANS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other partners are seeking public comments on a draft “National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaption Strategy.” The plan seeks to provide natural resources professionals with guidance about what actions will be most successful in promoting natural resource adaption to climate change. The plan would also seek to foster collaboration between all levels of government, conservationists and private landowners. The deadline for comments is July 1.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality is also seeking public comments on a draft plan entitled “National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate.” The plan seeks to unite government agencies and citizen stakeholders in working to address climate change to effectively manage freshwater resources for the benefit of human health and aquatic ecosystems. The deadline for comments is July 15.

To view the FWS/NOAA draft plan and submit comments, see: http://www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/

SOCIAL MEDIA: ESA PUBLISHES NEW FACEBOOK PAGE

On Tuesday, June 14, the Ecological Society of America launched its new facebook page. The new page will serve as a forum on science, education and policy activities of the Society and the ecological community and serve as an additional social media forum for members to communicate ideas with one another.

Among its features, the new page includes photo albums of ESA policy and other activities, including congressional briefings and meetings to Member offices, exhibitions and much more.  ESA facebook fans can add photos and start a discussion.   Additionally, @ESA_org on Twitter and EcoTone blog posts will be linked to the new page as well.

To “Like” the new ESA facebook page, click on the following link: http://www.facebook.com/esa.org

 

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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