ESA Policy News June 17: Congress advances bills funding NSF, Interior appropriations, Captive chimpanzees get endangered species protections
Jun17

ESA Policy News June 17: Congress advances bills funding NSF, Interior appropriations, Captive chimpanzees get endangered species protections

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE CJS BILLS ADVANCE Over the past few weeks, the House and Senate have moved their Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bills, which include funding for key science agencies. The House FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill reached a floor vote and passed June 3 by a vote of 242–183. Twelve Democrats joined all but ten Republicans in voting for the bill. The House bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion in FY 2016, a $50 million increase over FY 2015, but $300 million less than the president’s request for the agency. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. NASA science programs would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level. The accompanying committee report language on the House bill states “The Committee directs NSF to ensure that Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; and Biological Sciences comprise no less than 70 percent of the funding within Research and Related Activities.”  This would result in sharp cuts to the NSF directorates that fund social and geosciences. In addition to objecting to the funding levels for NSF and other federal agencies, the White House Statement of Administration policy also expressed concern with language in the committee report for the bill that targets geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences. The Ecological Society of America recently joined with other scientific societies in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee reiterating concern with efforts to legislatively direct funding to NSF by directorate. While the Senate FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill does not include accompanying committee report language directing NSF funding by directorate, House and Senate leaders will need to negotiate a final conference report compromise bill that resolves differences between the House and Senate CJS bills this fall. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its CJS bill June 11 by a heavily bipartisan vote of 27–3, although it has yet to be considered on the Senate floor. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) opposed the bill. In the Senate bill, NSF would receive $7.3 billion in FY 2016, comparable to the FY 2015 enacted level. NOAA funding in the Senate bill would be funded at $5.4 billion, also similar to the FY 2015 enacted level. NASA would receive a $279 million increase over...

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Baron on earth stewardship and promoting a sustainable society
Jun16

Baron on earth stewardship and promoting a sustainable society

A key component of advancing earth stewardship involves communicating ecological science to stakeholders outside the ecological community. Continued outreach to policymakers at all levels of government is critical for sustaining investment and resources for all fields of science as well as building relationships that foster collaboration. Yet, now more than ever, success in the advancement of earth stewardship efforts necessitates engaging the ecological community with a diverse array of stakeholders who, in addition to policymakers, can include city planners, landowners, religious leaders and businesses. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, ESA past president Jill Baron reflects on her work to advance the Earth Stewardship Initiative, which she carried forward from former Presidents Mary Power, Terry Chapin, Steward Pickett and Scott Collins. She also discusses her work as an ecosystem ecologist with the United States Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center and her history of involvement with the Ecological Society of America. Baron also reflected on her 2014 annual meeting special session on engaging with business and industry to promote earth stewardship. Perhaps surprising to some, the business community has long been working on climate resiliency efforts that lower the cost of insurance, save energy, promote green infrastructure and other efforts that decrease their carbon footprint and help local economies adapt to climate change. Baron stresses the importance of ecologists practicing their science by reaching out to communities in need of environmental science knowledge and encourages young scientists to pursue careers in the corporate world, particularly in light of declining opportunities in academia and government. “There are great ecology students coming out of the pipeline, but only a fixed number of academic positions, and a dwindling number of federal service positions like my own. There is, however, a growing need for people with ecological background to inform and work on sustainability issues with corporations.  ESA can help show ecologists the many career opportunities that will make a difference, not just in the corporate world, but for the products they provide to society, and ESA can also show corporations there’s a need for this kind of knowledge as they move towards sustainability.” “We have in this country wonderful environmental regulations and those are incredibly important to maintain and strengthen, but in order to actually move sustainability activities forward, we must increasingly engage with the businesses that provide the products of daily life, not just...

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ESA Policy News June 3: America COMPETES narrowly passes, Clean Water Rule finalized, Sage grouse protection plan released
Jun03

ESA Policy News June 3: America COMPETES narrowly passes, Clean Water Rule finalized, Sage grouse protection plan released

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  RESEARCH: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION NARROWLY PASSES HOUSE On May 20, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, by a vote of 217-205. No Democrats supported the bill and 23 Republicans broke with party leaders in voting against it. Sponsored by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill authorizes small increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Within the aforementioned federal agencies, it cuts funding for biological and environmental research at DOE as well as geoscience and social science research at NSF. A total of 12 amendments were voted on. The Ecological Society of America joined with other scientific societies in sending correspondence to Congress opposing the bill. ESA members relayed concerns to congressional offices in person during the 2015 Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition congressional visits last month. The Society co-organizes the congressional visits day with the American Institute of Biological Sciences. While a comprehensive Senate bill has yet to be introduced, early efforts suggest Senate legislation will be comparatively more bipartisan. A Senate bill introduced May 20 to reauthorize funding for DOE research would increase the agency’s Office of Science funding from $5.3 billion in FY 2016 to $6.2 billion in FY 2020 and does not include cuts to environmental research as H.R. 1806 does. The bill (S. 1398) was introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE). For additional information on the America COMPETES Reauthorization, see the May 20 edition of ESA Policy News. WATER: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FINALIZES CLEAN WATER RULE On May 27, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Clean Water Rule, clarifying jurisdiction over streams and wetlands of the United States. Supreme Court rulings over the past decade, including Solid Waste Agency of North Cook County (SWANCC) v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (2001) and Rapanos v. United States (2006) called into question what “navigable waters” as defined under the Clean Water Act can be regulated by the federal government. The new rule clarifies that streams and wetlands that can carry pollution into larger waterways also fall under jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The rule includes exclusions for groundwater, artificial lakes and ponds, puddles and water-filled depressions from construction and grass swales. The rule will only apply to ditches that function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. Administration officials emphasize that the rule only protects...

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ESA Policy News April 29: Scientific societies weigh in on America COMPETES reauthorization, relay support for federal participation at conferences, oppose ‘climate riders’
Apr29

ESA Policy News April 29: Scientific societies weigh in on America COMPETES reauthorization, relay support for federal participation at conferences, oppose ‘climate riders’

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION On April 22, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. The bill passed by a party-line vote of 19-16. H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Collectively, this bill authorizes a five percent increase for these agencies through Fiscal Year 2017. However, a large number of controversial provisions in the bill drew critique from committee Democrats and the scientific community, which opposed the bill. The bill boosts funding for DOE fusion and the NSF directorates with jurisdiction over the biological sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, computer science and engineering at the cost of sharp cuts to NSF geosciences, social and behavioral directorates and DOE renewable energy and environmental research. DOE Office of Science is flat-funded as are DOE high energy and nuclear physics, DOE advanced computing and DOE basic energy sciences. While the bill somewhat softens transparency and accountability requirement language from past bills, it expands oversight and legislative authority in others. Foremost of concern was that the bill authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation by directorate, which Congress hasn’t done since Fiscal Year 1999, when the agency’s pot of money was significantly smaller and in a period where the agency was arguably under less contentious political scrutiny. The Ecological Society of America was among professional organizations in the scientific, education and conservation community writing in opposition to the bill. ESA also signed onto a joint letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding opposing the bill. Click here to view the mark-up. Click here to view the statement from Chairman Smith and Chairman Thune. Click here to view the ESA letter. Click here to view the CNSF letter. Click here to view Democratic amendments and additional letters from professional organizations opposing H.R. 1806. Click here for a summary of H.R. 1898, the Democratic alternative America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. HOUSE: SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILL On April 22, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed its spending bill for the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill (H.R. 2028) includes $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau...

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ESA Policy News April 1: House, Senate pass FY 2016 budgets, Obama orders federal agencies to cut carbon emissions, NSF releases public access policy
Apr01

ESA Policy News April 1: House, Senate pass FY 2016 budgets, Obama orders federal agencies to cut carbon emissions, NSF releases public access policy

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  BUDGET: HOUSE AND SENATE FY 2016 BUDGET PROPOSALS ADVANCE IN CONGRESS In late March, the House and Senate Budget Committees released their respective budgets for Fiscal Year 2016 that begins Sept. 30. The House passed its FY 2016 budget (H.Con.Res. 27) March 25 by a vote of 228–199. All Democrats opposed the House budget as did 17 Republicans. The Senate budget (S.Con.Res. 11) passed its budget March 27 by a vote of 52–46, also along largely partisan lines. Sens. Rand Paul (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) joined all Democrats in voting against the Senate budget. In contrast to the president’s annual proposed budget, House and Senate budgets do not outline spending levels for specific federal agencies and programs. The budgets are nonbinding resolutions that set general polices intended to provide direction to House and Senate appropriators. Leaders of the House and Senate Budget Committees hope to reconcile their budgets by mid-April. As concurrent resolutions simply express the intent of Congress, they are not sent to the president. With Republicans in control of both chambers, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets are fairly similar. Unlike the president’s FY 2016 proposed budget, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets would seek to balance the budget in ten years. This deficit reduction would be achieved largely through repealing the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid, Pell grants and the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program that provides food stamps. The president’s proposal would not balance the budget in ten years, but would keep the deficit from substantially increasing. The House and Senate budgets also differ from the president’s proposal because they adhere to the annual automatic sequestration cuts for all federal discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112–25). Both budgets would provide defense discretionary spending with $523 billion and non-defense discretionary with $493 billion in FY 2016. Given that Congressional Democrats and the White House object to many of the policy prescriptions included in the two budgets, it is unlikely that the final FY 2016 appropriations bills will be signed into law without some concessions to Democrats on discretionary spending levels. Click here for additional information on the House budget. Click here for additional information on the Senate budget. Click here for a White House analysis comparing the congressional budgets with the president’s proposal. WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT ORDERS REDUCTION IN FEDERAL AGENCY EMISSIONS On March 19, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) output by 40 percent by 2025 compared with 2008 levels. The CO2...

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ESA Policy News March 4: Science committee reviews NSF budget request, Mikulski to retire, NSF report highlights participation in science among underrepresented groups
Mar04

ESA Policy News March 4: Science committee reviews NSF budget request, Mikulski to retire, NSF report highlights participation in science among underrepresented groups

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NSF FY 2016 BUDGET REQUEST During a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on the president’s FY 2016 budget request, Republicans questioned National Science Foundation (NSF) priorities. “Why does the administration increase funding for the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Science Directorate by over seven percent while proposing an average of less than four percent for the Biology, Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematical and Physical science directorates,” asked Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). NSF Director France Córdova defended the importance of social and behavioral science programs by stating that the additional funding was for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, which participates in compiling the National Science Board’s Indicators report that chronicles US participation in science and engineering education and related fields of work. Chairman Smith did praise NSF for its efforts to increase transparency and accountability within the agency. Click here for additional information on the hearing. SENATE: SENIOR APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE DEMOCRAT MIKULSKI TO RETIRE Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the longest-serving woman in Congress, announced her retirement at the end of 2016 when her current term expires. Sen. Mikulski serves as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is also ranking member of the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Upon the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) in Dec. 2012, she became the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, a role she held until Republicans took control of the Senate after the 2014 mid-term election. Click here to read her official statement. NSF: NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTS PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN, MINORITIES, DISABLED IN SCIENCE The National Science Foundation has released its 2015 “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering” report. Women, persons with disabilities, and three racial and ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—are considered underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E). Although Asians are also a minority group, they are considered to be overrepresented among S&E degree recipients and employed scientists and engineers. Click here for the report. WATER: ESA CALLS FOR SCIENTIFIC CONSULTATION OVER LAKE NICARAGUAN CANAL PROJECT On Feb. 23, the Ecological Society of America sent a letter to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to request an open dialogue with scientific experts on the potential environmental ramifications of constructing a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean through Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America and the second largest tropical lake...

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ESA Policy News January 15: Congressional action on Keystone, Boxer retires, House, Senate committees take shape

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  KEYSTONE: CONGRESS MOVES ON PIPELINE BILLS, STATE COURT UPHOLDS PROJECT On Jan. 9, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would approve construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. The bill passed by a vote of 266-153, over 20 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Twenty-eight Democrats voted with all Republicans to support the bill. Approval of the pipeline has been held up for years due to route alterations and court litigation. The most recent judicial hurdle was overcome when the Nebraska Supreme Court last week upheld a 2012 law granting the Nebraska governor permitting authority for the pipeline. The court decision was announced just hours before the House voted. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, stating Congress’s move to legislatively approve the pipeline “conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on US national interests (including serious security, safety, environmental, and other ramifications).” Meanwhile, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked-up and approved its own Keystone pipeline bill (S. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act) on Jan. 8 by a vote of 13-9. The bill is being debated on the Senate floor this week. At least 60 Senators have committed to voting for the bill, making it likely Obama will have to exercise his first veto in several years. Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 3. SENATE: CLIMATE CHANGE CHAMPION BARBARA BOXER TO RETIRE IN 2016 Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for the past eight years, announced she will retire when her term expires at the end of the 114th session of Congress. Sen. Boxer has long been an advocate of women’s rights and addressing global climate change. She has been a staunch proponent of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan and defender of its efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. During her tenure as chair, she held numerous hearings on climate change featuring testimony from Ph.D. climate science experts. Along with Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), she serves as co-chair of the Senate Climate Change Clearinghouse. She is also a member of the Senate Oceans Caucus. Click here to view Senator Boxer’s retirement announcement. SENATE: DEMOCRATS NAME APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE RANKING MEMBERS Democrats announced their picks to serve in the top positions on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, which has the authority...

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Monitoring air quality in national parks
Dec19

Monitoring air quality in national parks

The National Park Service (NPS) Geographic Information System (GIS) provides technological data used for the agency coordinate satellite imagery and other cartography data critical in monitoring the natural resources in various park units. Its use began in 1995. Over 250 NPS units utilize GIS technologies. Natural resource managers use GIS studies to understand the effects visitors have on national parks GIS data at NPS is managed by the GIS Coordinator of the Natural Resource Information Division. During the most recent Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2014 Graduate Student Policy Award winner Andrew Bingham discussed his GIS work with the NPS Air Resources Division, which works to prevent air pollution from damaging park resources and ecosystem services. Key air quality indicators monitored by the Air Resources Division include visibility, ozone and sulfur, nitrogen and mercury deposition. Tracking these indicators is important for promoting the sustainability of park ecosystems and providing a safe and quality experience for park visitors. Unfortunately, NPS reports that “a large proportion of parks warrant significant concern for visibility, ozone, and deposition. Very few parks have air quality that is considered to be in good condition for these indicators.” Nonetheless, a recent report from the Air Resources Division was conditionally optimistic about the future of national park air quality. The report found that “air quality in parks is expected to improve as states and tribes implement programs to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas.” Findings in the report stress that further monitoring is needed to assess impacts on parks from oil and gas development and non-regulated sources, such as...

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