ESA Policy News July 15: Flag debate stifles Interior funding bill, Senate seeks science community input for new COMPETES bill, Obama designates new monuments
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ESA Policy News July 15: Flag debate stifles Interior funding bill, Senate seeks science community input for new COMPETES bill, Obama designates new monuments

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: BILL FUNDING INTERIOR, EPA STALLS IN HOUSE On July 9, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pulled the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill over a contentious amendment related to the confederate flag. The appropriations bill funds the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Forest Service and most of the US Department of Interior. Sub-agencies within Interior funded by the bill include the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey and the National Park Service (NPS). Earlier in the week, Democrats successfully attached several amendments to the bill banning display and sale of the confederate flag on NPS grounds for all purposes except historical usage. Spurred by concerns from southern Republicans over the added language related to the confederate flag, Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) offered an amendment that would undo the aforementioned amendments, allowing the display of the confederate flag at NPS cemeteries and codifying existing law regarding sale of the confederate flag at NPS gift shops. Rather than have his Republican conference go on record with a vote on a contentious issue, Speaker Boehner elected to pull the entire bill. With most Democrats expected to oppose the bill and a significant number of Republicans opposed to the adopted confederate flag amendments, the bill likely no longer had the majority votes necessary to pass the House. STEM: HOUSE, SENATE ADVANCE EDUCATION REAUTHORIZATION BILLS This past week, two comprehensive measures to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) moved through the House and Senate. The last ESEA reauthorization signed into law was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110).  That reauthorization expired in 2007, and to date, Congress has been unable to reach a consensus approach to renewing the law. House Republicans have put forward H.R. 5, the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act, which would reauthorize federal education programs through FY 2021.  The House reauthorization bill flat-funds educational programs at existing FY 2015 levels. Many educational organizations oppose the bill. The White House also released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto H.R. 5, then titled the Student Success Act. Meanwhile, the Senate began consideration of its ESEA reauthorization bill, S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The White House released a statement urging changes to certain provisions of the bill, but stopped short of declaring the president would veto it....

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Jewell would bring multifaceted credentials to Interior Dept.

By Terence Houston, ESA science policy analyst President Obama’s second-term pick for Secretary of Interior sparked tempered optimism from both sides of the aisle this week. With a strong background in both conservation and the business industry, it is hoped that nominee Sally Jewell will be able to bridge the divide between constituencies that prioritize environmental stewardship with those that prioritize energy development. The Department of Interior encompasses a diverse set of bureaus including the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Geological Survey. In addition to overseeing public lands, the new Interior Secretary is expected to be entrenched in policymaking regarding contentious issues involving mineral development, oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing over the course of President Obama’s second term. Jewell is unconventional in the sense that she lacks the political background of many of her predecessors.  However, what she lacks in direct policymaking is made up for with a unique combination of high level professional industry savvy and a personal passion for the outdoors. Her business background includes two decades in corporate banking, having worked for Rainer Bank, Security Pacific, WestOne Bank and Washington Mutual from  1981-2000. She also spent time as an engineer for Exxon Mobile (1978-81). In 2005, she became CEO of  Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) after having been its chief operating officer since 2000. She also serves on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). Jewell bikes to work every day and is an avid hiker, having once led a group of women to the top of Mt. Rainer, Washington.. She’s also spent a month climbing the mountains of Antarctica. Her outdoor exercise portfolio stands to make her the fittest high-profile member of the executive branch. (Lookout, Michelle Obama!) Jewell  has contributed to the Outdoor Industry Association’s Political Action Committee, which has supported environmentally-friendly Democrats and Republicans, including Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Mike Simpson (R-ID), who notably serves as Chairman of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which drafts the annual bill to fund the agency she would oversee. Past personal donations include President Obama’s re-election campaign, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) (her two Senators), Mark Udall (D-CO), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will hold her confirmation hearing. Immediate reactions from key Senate leaders suggest Jewell will get a fair confirmation hearing. “Sally Jewell is an inspired choice to lead the Interior Department. Her experience leading a nearly $2 billion outdoor recreation company, combined with her years...

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ESA Policy News: October 26

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: REPORT FINDS SPENDING CUTS POSE THREATS TO PUBLIC SAFETY, CONSERVATION EFFORTS ON PUBLIC LANDS A recent report from several conservation organizations concludes that the automatic spending cuts, set to take place in January 2013 under the Budget Control Act, would adversely impact efforts to protect public health and safety in public parks, forests and natural recreational areas. For National Parks, the study concludes that budget sequestration would force a loss of park rangers, jeopardizing public safety for park visitors and hindering the promptness of emergency response personnel. The cuts could also spur increases in vandalism and looting in public parks and impede efforts to monitor endangered species. For the  Forest Service, the cuts would decrease the agency’s ability to respond to wildfires. Inadequate campground maintenance would also lead to park trail closures, increasingly unkempt bathroom facilities, halted restoration projects and unprocessed recreational permits. All of this would adversely impact revenue brought in from tourism. The automatic cuts would also hinder the agency’s ability to manage  invasive species. The report was led by the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Parks Conservation Association and Defenders of Wildlife. View the full report here. ENDANGERED SPECIES: INTERIOR VACATES CRITICAL HABITAT DESIGNATION FOR SEABIRD Department of Interior officials have agreed to vacate nearly four million acres of critical habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet until 2018 as part of a settlement agreement with the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), a prominent timber industry advocate. The designation would have included parts of California, Oregon and Washington states. The agreement must be approved by the US District Court for the District of Columbia before it is final. According to court documents, defendants agreed that vacating critical habitat would not significantly impair conservation efforts for the species. Conservation groups, however, differ with this opinion. According to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), marbled murrelets have been declining by roughly four percent per year since 2002. This decline is mainly attributed to continued habitat loss due to logging, particularly on state and private lands. On Oct. 24, CBD joined with several environmental groups in sending a letter to the Obama administration requesting that it withdraw from the agreement before it becomes final. To view the CBD letter, click here. For more information on federal conservation efforts for the marbled murrelet, click here. GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: SCIENCE EXEMPTION SOUGHT FOR TRAVEL BAN LEGISLATION A legislative effort to curb participation of  federal employees at national conferences has spurred an effort from several organizations to seek an exemption...

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Fed announces new summer job program for youth

 As part of a federal government initiative to create summer jobs for youth, the Department of Interior (DOI) recently announced a new competitive grant initiative to hire 20,000 young adults, ages 15-25 for summer jobs on public lands. In an attempt to expand work opportunities for young people, federal agencies have joined together in implementing Summer+, a program that calls for businesses, non-profits and government to work towards providing employment opportunities for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012. The new environmental initiative is coordinated primarily through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) with support from the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Agriculture and the Council for Environmental Quality. It would seek to expand youth employment opportunities in national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The competitive grant is funded at a total of $1.4 million from NFWF, federal agencies and private partners through the America’s Great Outdoors: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists initiative. It currently includes 17 projects across 15 states. Projects involve mentorship, plant and animal invasive species management, federally protected species monitoring and various research and ecosystem restoration activities. The Summer+ proposal was first announced in January and was originally included as a component of President Obama’s American Jobs Act. View the official announcement here or click here for information on how to get involved. Photo Credit: Council of Environmental...

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ESA Policy News: May 18

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL CUTS NOAA, RESEARCH INITIATIVES On May 10, the House passed H.R. 5326, the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among other agencies. The bill passed by a vote of 247-163 with 23 Democrats joining all but eight Republicans in supporting the measure. Democrats supporting the measure included House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) and House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA). In total, the bill provides $51.1 billion in funding for FY 2013, $1.6 billion below FY 2012 and $731 million below the president’s FY 2013 budget request. The White House has released a statement of administration policy declaring that President Obama will veto the bill, if it is presented to him in its current form. The administration asserts that the bill’s overall funding level violates those set by the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25), agreed to in August of last year, and says  that the cuts included in the bill will be a detriment in furthering “economic growth, security, and global competitiveness” for the nation. While applauding the funding for the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as the $7.3 billion funding level for NSF, the White House says that significant funding cuts to NOAA would adversely affect the agency’s ability to implement the nation’s fisheries and oceans stewardship programs. The House bill must be reconciled with the Senate CJS bill approved in committee last month.  For additional background on the House and Senate CJS appropriations bills, see the April 20 edition of ESA Policy News. To view the full White House statement of administration policy on the House CJS appropriations bill, click here. HOUSE: SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDERS POTENTIAL OF OIL SHALE DEVELOPMENT On May 10, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “American Jobs and the Economy through Expanded Energy Production:  Challenges and Opportunities of Unconventional Resources Technology.” “The amount of energy under own soil is striking.  With continued technological advances and the right policies to enable access to these resources, America could become the global leader in energy production for the next generation and beyond,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). “The Green River Basin, located in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, may contain up to three trillion barrels of oil, more potential oil than the rest of the world’s current oil reserves...

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A science poster session for Congress

Last week, several hundred congressional staff and several Members of Congress mingled with over 30 scientists during an evening reception on Capitol Hill. While nibbling on finger food and sipping libations, policymakers and researchers chatted about the wide range of research and education projects supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The event was the 17th Annual Exhibition and Reception of the Coalition for National Science Funding, an alliance of over 120 organizations focused on the future of U.S. science, mathematics and engineering. Sharon Collinge, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder—sponsored by the Ecological Society of America—showcased her work on restoring vernal pool plant communities on California’s Travis Air Force Base. Collinge explained to interested visitors who stopped by her poster exhibit that her long-term ecological research demonstrates the difficulties in restoring a system, in this case imperiled plant communities.  She said that one problem is that invasive species can take root and may outcompete native vernal plant communities.  Collinge’s project is of interest to the Department of Defense (DOD) because DOD owns vast acreages of public land and is charged with managing its natural resources holistically through integrated natural resources management plans. Collinge involves 6th graders in her research project, something that delighted Representative Fattah’s (D-PA) Chief of Staff, Maisha Leek.   She enthusiastically recalled a time in elementary school in Philadelphia in which she too was involved in a captivating hands-on outdoor project.  Many other attendees stopped to talk with Collinge about her work, including NSF staff, other exhibitors and staff from the offices of Collinge’s Colorado senators. Collinge’s exhibit was one of 35 at the evening event and reflected the wide breadth of NSF support.  Among the many exhibit topics were: –          Innovations for future computers –          Weather research –          Deepwater Horizon oil spill –          Mathematics and the melting polar ice caps –          Engaging the public in science, technology, engineering and mathematics –          Conversion of biomass carbon to liquid fuel –          Mentoring the next generation of behavioral neuroscientists Collinge and other participants had preceded the exhibition with visits to their respective congressional delegations.  Visiting with the offices of her representative and senators, Collinge talked about the important role NSF plays in her state, where state support of research is fairly weak.   Colorado does very well competing for NSF grants, ranking 5th in the funds it receives from the agency. Well past the scheduled end of the reception, exhibitors and attendees were still talking.  It was only when the tablecloths were removed from exhibit tables and the candles blown out that folks took their cue that it was time to say goodnight. Photo credits: ESA...

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ESA Policy News: December 22

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

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