ESA Policy News November 25: Scientific Societies defend NOAA, Apply for 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award
Nov25

ESA Policy News November 25: Scientific Societies defend NOAA, Apply for 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: ESA JOINS OTHER SOCIETIES IN DEFENDING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ESA and six other leading science societies sent a letter to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) concerning his ongoing inquiries into the climate-change research of Thomas Karl and colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At issue is the nearly unprecedented nature of the congressional inquiry into the study. Karl and NOAA colleagues used updated and corrected global surface temperature data to dispute the existence of a recent pause in global warming.  Since its publication, Chairman Smith and NOAA have been embroiled in a very public dispute related to a subpoena he sent to NOAA demanding the release of internal communications between NOAA scientists about the climate study. Smith is among those House members who are skeptical of the scientific evidence on climate change. The chairman believes it is possible that NOAA scientists manipulated data to advance the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. In the Nov. 24 letter to Chairman Smith, the science societies expressed concern that politically-motivated inquiries could hinder the ability of government researchers to fulfill their agencies’ scientific missions and constrain federal agencies’ capacity to attract quality scientific talent. “Scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for providing scientific results that some may see as politically controversial,” stated the letter. “Science cannot thrive when policymakers—regardless of party affiliation— use policy disagreements as a pretext to attack scientific conclusions without public evidence.” Click here to view the scientific societies letter. Click here to view Administrator Sullivan’s letter to Chairman Smith. Click here to view Ranking Member Johnson’s letter to Chairman Smith. Click here to view Chairman Smith’s response to the Johnson letter. APPROPRIATIONS: ESA REQUESTS ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH FUNDING INCREASE FOR FY 2016 On Nov. 20, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators requesting a 5.2 percent discretionary spending increase for federal agencies that fund scientific research. The letter notes the role the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the US Geological Survey and other agencies play in supporting ecological research. It also calls upon appropriations leaders not to include riders that would hinder the ability of federal agencies to make policy decisions informed by scientific research. “The Society hopes that Congress can reach a bipartisan appropriations agreement that is free of provisions that would circumvent environmental assessments, impede climate change research or make determinations for endangered species listings that bypass the collaborative process involving researchers, state and local resource...

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Programs that promote diversity in science education
Oct30

Programs that promote diversity in science education

The White House recently released a fact sheet as part of its efforts to promote Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics). The fact sheet focuses largely on how implicit bias (unconscious or unintentional assumptions that influence perceptions and judgements of others) can hinder participation among women and other underrepresented demographic groups in STEM-related fields. This finding reinforces the need for programs and initiatives that help promote careers in science for traditionally underrepresented groups. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2015 Ecological Society of America (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award winner Natalie Hambalek, a first generation college student, highlights some of the science education programs available to underprivileged and underrepresented minorities. She also discusses her work to promote careers in science for young women as Co-President of Graduate Women in Science at Oregon State University. “When young students are asked to draw scientists, they draw and Einstein-looking man, usually with big glasses, frazzled hair, a lab coat and a chemistry flask. I think there’s this common notion that science isn’t accessible because of the use of a lot of technical jargon. So I wanted to help in changing this stigma, particularly engaging young girls in science activities,” stated Hambalek. “Because women are traditionally underrepresented in many STEM fields, I think it’s really important to assist in normalizing women in science,” she continued. She also cites three programs she participated in that help promote educational opportunity and career growth in STEM fields: The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program is a program specifically targeted to racial and ethnic groups traditionally underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Funded through the National Science Foundation, the program helps colleges and universities in their efforts to increase the number of student who obtain STEM-related degrees among these underrepresented groups. The Ronald E. McNair scholarship is a federal TRIO program funded by the US Department of Education. The program funds 151 institutions throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The McNair program is geared towards individuals with demonstrated strong academic potential who are either first-generation college students with financial need or members of a demographic that has been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. Sponsored through the Aspen Institute, the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fellowship for Minority Students offers graduate students and undergraduate students from underrepresented communities of color the opportunity to work within the Aspen Institute, a non-profit research think tank. The program promotes collaboration between grant-making entities, non-profit groups, social enterprises and public-private partnerships towards addressing various policy issues facing society. Within ESA, Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) has worked...

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ESA Policy News October 28: President, Congress reach two-year budget deal, Ryan nominated House speaker, Canada elects Trudeau prime minister
Oct28

ESA Policy News October 28: President, Congress reach two-year budget deal, Ryan nominated House speaker, Canada elects Trudeau prime minister

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  BUDGET: WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS REACH TWO-YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT The White House and Congressional leaders have finalized a budget deal that raises the debt limit and sets spending levels for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill passed the House Oct. 28 by a vote of 266-167. All voting Democrats were joined by 79 Republicans in support of the measure. All 167 opposing votes came from Republicans. Dubbed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015,” the deal would extend the debt ceiling until March 5, 2017. Similar to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), it would provide relief for sequestration—automatic spending cuts to discretionary spending programs that are set to go into effect next year. The bill would increase overall discretionary spending by $80 billion over the next two years, equally divided between defense and nondefense discretionary programs. The discretionary spending increases would provide an additional $50 billion above the sequestration spending caps for discretionary programs in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017. It also includes an additional $32 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations for defense and non-defense security programs for the next two fiscal years. In September, the Ecological Society of America joined 2,500 national, state and local organizations in signing a letter to Members of Congress requesting they replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. Click here to view the letter. HOUSE: RYAN SELECTED TO BE NEW SPEAKER NOMIMEE Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was selected by House Republicans today as their nominee for speaker of the House. This will be followed by a formal vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives on Oct. 29. Boehner will resign from the House on Oct. 30. Ryan’s agreement to be speaker rested upon his colleagues assurance of the necessary 218 Republican votes needed to win, which he secured at the close of last week when a majority of the far-right House Freedom Caucus indicated their support. WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ADDS 68 BUSINESSES TO CLIMATE PLEDGE On October 19, the White House announced that 68 additional companies have signed its “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” joining 13 others who first signed the pledge in June. In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” they voiced support for a strong outcome in the upcoming Paris climate negotiations by pledging to reduce their carbon emissions and improve sustainability. Collectively, the 81 companies “have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have...

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ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill
Oct14

ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: MCCARTHY DROPS OUT OF SPEAKERSHIP RACE On Oct. 8, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropped his bid to succeed John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. With no clear successor in place, Boehner postponed the speakership election until further notice. McCarthy had undergone criticism for statements that linked the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi with an effort to damage 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also announced his intent to run against McCarthy for speaker. The House Freedom Caucus, which consists of over 40 far-right conservatives, had also endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) for speaker. Collectively, these alternative candidates raised doubt on whether McCarthy could easily secure the 218 majority votes necessary to win among the 247 member House Republican conference. Much of the media speculation for alternative candidates for speaker has centered on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who currently chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most sought-after committees in the House. To date, Ryan has declined interest in the role. Other House members reportedly mulling a run include Michael Conaway (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX)  and Lynn Westermoreland (R-CA). INVASIVE SPECIES: COURT RULES FOR STRONGER BALLAST WATER REGULATIONS In a 3-0 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with environmental groups who contended that  existing  US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations did not go far enough to reduce the spread of invasive species through cargo ship ballast water. Environmental groups sued EPA in 2008 seeking stronger regulations related to the spread of aquatic invasive species through cargo transport vessels. While EPA eventually finalized ballast water rules in March 2013, the groups argued that the standards did not sufficiently protect waterways from future species invasions. As a result of the ruling, the agency will reconsider its technology decisions and its exemption for certain older vessels. The existing standards will remain in place until the agency can finalize stricter regulations. Click here to view the full ruling. EPA: COURT STAYS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WATER RULE On Oct. 9, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an order granting the request of eighteen states to place a nationwide stay on the Obama administration’s rule clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction over US waterways. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers had finalized the rule in May. In a 2-1 ruling the court decided that the rule,...

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ESA Policy News September 30: Pope preaches to Congress on climate, Speaker Boehner to resign, Science committee examines NEON
Sep30

ESA Policy News September 30: Pope preaches to Congress on climate, Speaker Boehner to resign, Science committee examines NEON

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. CONGRESS: POPE CALLS ON LAWMAKERS TO AVERT ‘ENVIRONMENTAL DETERIORATION’ On Sept. 24, Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of the United States Congress, advocating for compassion and equal opportunity for the underprivileged. He also urged Congress to take action to protect the earth and touched on the value of scientific discovery. While Pope Francis did not explicitly utter the phrase climate change, he stated that protecting the earth should be one of the many ways in which human society works to advance the common good. “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all,” said Francis. Highlighting the value of scientific research, Pope Francis stated “America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead” towards combating poverty and protecting nature. Click here to read the text of the pope’s speech. Click here to read the text of the pope’s White House speech. HOUSE: SPEAKER BOEHNER TO RESIGN IN OCTOBER House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced last week that he will resign from Congress effective Oct. 30. The announcement came a day after Pope Francis made history as the first pope to speak before a joint session of Congress. Boehner was instrumental in arranging his invitation. It also came amid growing unrest among the House Republican conference with Speaker Boehner. One lawmaker, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), had introduced a resolution in July that called for Boehner’s resignation as speaker. The party is also strategizing over how to continue funding the government throughout FY 2016. Prior to Boehner’s resignation, far-right conservatives had been pushing party leaders to include language prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood in any continuing resolution to fund the government beyond tonight’s deadline, when FY 2015 funding expires. The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto any legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. The Senate recently passed a clean continuing resolution by a vote of 78-20 that will extend government funding at existing levels through Dec. 11. The House is expected to approve the bill before today’s midnight deadline, allowing the government to remain open. Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the leading contender to succeed Boehner. The next speaker will likely be under political pressure to adopt a more confrontational approach to dealing with the White House and Congressional Democrats. The House Republican leadership elections are scheduled for Oct. 8. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE DELVES INTO NEON DESCOPE PLAN On Sept. 18, the...

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ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award
Sep16

ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: ESA JOINS ORGANIZATIONAL LETTER REQUESTING SEQUESTRATION RELIEF The Ecological Society of America was among 2,500 national, state and local organizations that signed a letter to Members of Congress requesting that they work to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter comes as Congress debates how to continue funding federal agencies beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006, have put forward Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills that have adhered to the spending constraints set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25). In Dec. 2013, the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in that year were able to work out a short-term deficit reduction agreement that provided spending increases for overall discretionary spending and prevented sequestration from taking effect in FY 2014 and 2015. Congress will need to enact a new deficit reduction agreement for FY 2016 and beyond in order to raise the caps on spending above those set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Click here to view the organizational letter. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: ECOLOGICAL SOCIETIES URGE CLIMATE ACTION AT PARIS CONFERENCE The Ecological Society of America joined with a dozen ecological societies in issuing a joint statement requesting that the countries meeting at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Paris take decisive steps to deter the effects of global climate change. “Given that an important cause of these changes is the impact of people on the climate, the Presidents urge the Parties meeting in Paris in December during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, to take the decisive steps urgently needed to prevent a 2°C rise in average global temperatures as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” reads the statement. “This is very likely the last decade when it will be possible to achieve this together and to establish a global legacy of a healthy planet for generations to come.” Click here to view the full statement. WILDFIRES: AGENCY HEADS URGE CONGRESS TO REALLOCATE SUPPRESSION EXPENSES The Secretaries for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Interior (DOI), and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress this week requesting that lawmakers fix the way wildfire expenses are allocated on order for the agencies to better invest in forest and rangeland restoration efforts....

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Hardening shorelines, polar lessons, and legal divides in the Aug 2015 ESA Frontiers
Aug05

Hardening shorelines, polar lessons, and legal divides in the Aug 2015 ESA Frontiers

Highlights from the August 2015 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment   Armored in concrete, hardened shorelines lose the soft protections of coastal wetlands As we expand our coastal cities and armor the coast against the ravages of the sea, we lose the resiliency of the coastlines’ natural defenses. Rachel Gittman and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, NOAA, and the US Coast Guard report in the August issue of ESA Frontiers that sea walls, bulkheads, breakwaters, and the like put in place to protect coastal communities harden 14 percent (22,842 km) of the tidal shoreline of the United States. But this conservative 14 percent hides a concentration of coastal development along soft marshy estuaries, lagoons, and tidal rivers; remote rocky coasts are less likely to be bolstered with artificial structures. Gittman and coauthors Danielle Keller and Joel Fodrie will present research related to this report on shoreline habitat, hardening, and the ecosystem services trade-offs of different shoreline conditions at the upcoming 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Md. on August 9-14. Rachel K. Gittman, OOS 77-5 The living shoreline approach as an alternative to shoreline hardening: Implications for the ecology and ecosystem service delivery of salt marshes. Thursday, August 13, 2015: 2:50 PM, room 329, Baltimore Convention Center Danielle A. Keller, COS 7-9 Landscape setting affects the structure and function of oyster reefs. Monday, August 10, 2015: 4:20 PM, room 321, Baltimore Convention Center F. Joel Fodrie. COS 7-7 Landscape context effects the ecosystem-service delivery of temperate biogenic reefs. Monday, August 10, 2015: 3:40 PM, room 321, Baltimore Convention Center The ecological vibrancy of wetland habitats is valued by birders, hunters, recreational anglers, and commercial fisheries managers. Coastal wetlands succor birds, fish, and crustaceans, filter outflowing pollution, and naturally buffer the coast against storm surge and erosion. But natural dunes and salt marshes also absorb the energy of storms. Examples of natural dunes and salt marshes emerging from severe storms with little to no damage, while nearby bulkheads took a battering, suggest that storm surge protection and habitat protection need not be at odds. Nearly a third of the shoreline in the contiguous United States could be hardened by the end of the twenty-first century if the rate of shoreline hardening observed over the last century continues. On sheltered coasts, fortification of shorelines correlates more strongly with high housing density and GDP than with wave height or frequent storms. The authors project that growing populations will direct most new hardening to the US’ south Atlantic and Gulf coasts, which encompass greater that 50 percent of the remaining salt marshes and 100...

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ESA Policy News July 29: White House teams with businesses to advance climate pledge, agriculture spending bills advance, ESA responds to Senate COMPETES comment request
Jul29

ESA Policy News July 29: White House teams with businesses to advance climate pledge, agriculture spending bills advance, ESA responds to Senate COMPETES comment request

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  WHITE HOUSE: COMPANIES UNITE WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA ON CLIMATE PLEDGE Thirteen of the largest companies in the United States are joining the Obama administration in the American Business Act on Climate Pledge: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. The companies making pledges represent more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014 and a combined market capitalization of at least $2.5 trillion. In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” the businesses 1) voice their support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations 2) pledge to reduce their carbon emissions and take other actions that improve sustainability and address climate change 3) set an example that will pave the way for a second round of pledges from additional companies this fall. Click here for additional information. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE MOVE FY 2016 AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILLS Over the past several weeks, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bills for FY 2016. The bills provide funding for most US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. Overall FY 2016 funding in both bills is lower than the enacted FY 2015 spending level to comply with sequestration funding levels. However, the Senate bill does increase funding for most agricultural research programs. Though the White House has yet to issue a veto threat of either bill, it did submit a letter of concern on the House bill. Below are summaries of funding for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2015 enacted funding: Agricultural Research Service House: $1.12 billion; $10.17 million less than FY 2015. Senate: $1.14 billion; a $4.2 million increase over FY 2015. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service House: $870.95 million; $370,000 less than FY 2015. Senate: $876.47 million; a $5.15 million increase over FY 2015. Natural Resources Conservation Service House: $832.93 million; $13.5 million less than FY 2015. Senate: $855.21 million; an $8.78 million increase over FY 2015. Agriculture and Food Research Initiative House: $335 million; a $10 million increase over FY 2015. Senate: $325 million; level with FY 2015. Click here to view the White House letter of the House Agriculture FY 2016 spending bill. INTERIOR: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PERMITS OIL DRILLING IN ARCTIC On July 22, the Obama administration granted Shell conditional approval to conduct limited exploratory drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska in Arctic waters. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)...

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