ESA Policy News: December 9

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. CONGRESS: ENVIRONMENTAL RIDERS LOOM FOR MUST-PASS MEASURES Before the first session of the 112th Congress adjourns at the end of next week (or weekend), it will take up a short, but important list of measures to keep the government funded and extend the existing payroll tax cut. Each of these bills could potentially include environmental policy riders to overturn or scale back Obama administration efforts. Congressional Republican leaders appear set on taking up a comprehensive measure that ties a year-long extension of President Obama’s payroll tax cut to the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Earlier this fall, the Obama administration announced it would postpone review of the pipeline project until after 2012 and the president has personally stated he would veto an effort to politicize the payroll tax extension. However, some Members have voiced concern that the president may end up taking back that statement, particularly as the bill also includes an extension of unemployment insurance. Entitled the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, the 396-page measure is sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). Congressional leaders also have to deal with the remaining appropriations measures, which must be acted on by the end of next week to maintain government funding of several agencies. The House Interior Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2012 is a virtual Christmas tree “ornamented” with policy riders to restrict various Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Provisions incorporated into the House measure include efforts to restrict EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule, curbs on toxic emissions from power plants, industrial boiler regulations, a proposed change in the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act, Interior’s withdrawal of acreage surrounding the Grand Canyon from uranium mining and efforts to restrict mountain-top removal mining. Senior Congressional Democrats have already conceded they may need to relent on a few environmental riders in order to pass a bill. Those concerned about the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline or any of the aforementioned environmental policy riders are encouraged to contact their Members and Senators. For additional information on the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, click here. To contact your Member of Congress, click here. To contact your Senator, click here. ENDANGERED SPECIES: COMMITTEE EXAMINES LITIGATION, EFFICACY SURROUNDING E.S.A. On Dec. 6, the House Natural Resources Committee convened for a hearing examining the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act. Committee Republican majority members took the opportunity to call for reform of the legislation....

Read More

Living in a city within a park

A satellite view of Baltimore, Maryland, would show plenty of abandoned buildings and parking lots, with parks—such as Patterson and Gwynns Falls parks—scattered throughout. However, while there is an abundance of concrete and asphalt within the city limits, Baltimore is not a city in isolation. Like Washington, D.C. and other nearby urban areas, Baltimore lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Read More

ESA Policy News: October 29

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

Read More

Pittsburgh bioblitz: biological inventory of an urban high school’s oasis

Just down the street from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh—where the Ecological Society of America (ESA) is holding its 95th Annual Meeting this week—is a vacant lot adopted by the City Charter High School. Last Sunday, ESA ecologists and students visited the lot which is being restored by the 10th graders of the City Charter High School in coordination with the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

Read More

From the Community: Biodiversity in urban, isolated, marine and ancient settings

Millions of microbes found buried under the seafloor, fossils reveal the life of giant cockroaches and marine invertebrate struggles, a rare bird haven is explored in Colombia and urban ecologists address pollination in Harlem. Here’s the latest ecological news for the second week in April.

Read More

From the Community: February edition

Fruit fly behavior mapped, resilience theory in an urban setting, changing the universe’s birthdate and genetic diversity in an all-female species. Here are extra news stories and studies on ecological science for the month of February.

Read More

Food for fish dwindling on developed lakes

A pulse of midges swarms over Lake Malawi in Africa. Photo credit: The Daily Mail. Freshwater fish often rely on terrestrial insects as a portion of their food supply. In lakes, the size and shape of the lake can determine how much the fish rely on terrestrial insects for food. But with humans’ love of lakefront property, the resulting development of lakeshores could have an impact on these insect subsidies. Tessa Francis, a post-doctoral researcher at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asked this question in her talk yesterday at the ESA Annual Meeting. She identified fish stomach contents over the course of a year in four Pacific Northwest lakes, surveyed fish in Pacific Northwest lakes — 28 of them — and compiled published data on fish populations in lakes across North America. Francis found that at undeveloped lakes, insect outbreaks often happen in pulses, where insects emerge over a short time period. She remembers pulses of millions of flying ants at one undeveloped lake in British Columbia during the spring of her study season, but only days later the ants had all but disappeared. In highly developed areas, however, these insect pulses vanish. This disparity was apparent in fish food availability: In the undeveloped lakes, terrestrial insects comprised up to 100 percent of the diet of fish in undeveloped lakes, in contrast to a maximum of 2 percent in developed lakes. What’s more, Francis’ large-scale assessment of published data also showed this pattern at the regional and national scale. This difference in food subsidy translates into fish behavior and nutrition. Francis found that trout in developed lakes had a 50 percent lower daily intake of energy. Lower energy intake can slow growth and compromise fish reproduction, she says, which will ultimately lead to population declines. But she emphasizes that even a small amount of shoreline vegetation can serve as insect habitat. “Our shorelines need to remain as intact as possible, with a mix of trees and shrubs,” she says. “But we may not need a dense, native forest. There likely are designs that are compatible with both lakeshore development and sustaining lake food...

Read More

Wildfire prevention’s misguided focus

In 2001, the National Fire Plan was enacted by Congress, providing funding and support for local and regional governments to prepare for and mitigate wildfires. Now, a study led by Tania Schoennagel of the University of Colorado has attempted to assess the major results of the NFP in the Western United States around urban areas. Surprisingly, her results show that although the NFP was meant to invest heavily in urban areas, the overwhelming majority of treated areas are not along the wildland-urban interface (WUI) despite the fact that efforts in the WUI should have the greatest potential to reduce fire risk in human communities.  Her results, which spanned the years 2004-2008 and included 44,000 management areas, show that three percent of the area treated was within the WUI, with another eight percent in an additional 2.5-km buffer around the WUI.  In addition, the results showed that only 17 percent of this buffered WUI is under federal ownership. The reach of the NFP extended only to public, not private lands, so even if all public areas were assessed and managed under the NFP, its impact could be small. The authors suggest that for the NFP to be more effective, greater priority must be given to locating management areas in and near the WUI.  The hurdle, they admit, is figuring out how to shift management emphasis from public to private lands. Read more in the AP story. Schoennagel, T., Nelson, C., Theobald, D., Carnwath, G., & Chapman, T. (2009). Implementation of National Fire Plan treatments near the wildland-urban interface in the western United States Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI:...

Read More