Policy News from ESA's Public Affairs Office
(Formerly Science and Environmental Policy Update)
A Bi-Weekly Publication of the Ecological Society of America
 Public Affairs Office» Policy News Update »

January 24, 2005

In this issue:



A panel of Ecological Society of America member scientists held a series of dialogues with key legislative staff on Endangered Species Act (E.S.A.) reforms likely to surface in the 109th Congress.

The panel was made up of Society members Stan Temple from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, John Wiens of the Nature Conservancy, and Virginia Dale of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The scientists met with staff from the House Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which have jurisdiction over E.S.A., as well as staff for several individual members of Congress. Dialogues focused on current E.S.A. contributions to species conservation, the role of science in proposed reform legislation, and proactive, cost-effective strategies for conservation and recovery. Scientists also provided to staffers a summary document of their main scientific considerations.

In the previous Congress, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) spearheaded efforts to reform the structure of critical habitat planning and peer review under the E.S.A. He has identified E.S.A. reform as one of his top priorities for the 109th Congress as well. Key Senate leaders have also stated that they intend to work toward E.S.A. reform and have begun discussions to identify key consensus points among stakeholders.

Among those bills likely to be reintroduced in the 109th Congress are updated versions of the Endangered Species Data Quality Act from Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), and Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s (D-CA) Critical Habitat Reform Act.

Walden’s bill (H.R. 1662) would require the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to give greater weight to field-tested data in their implementation of the E.S.A. Cardoza’s proposal (H.R. 2933) would require FWS to designate critical habitat along with recovery planning instead of after listing, and would broaden the criteria for determining the economic effects of critical habitat designations.

The Society has provided comment on the E.S.A. and proposed reform legislation in the past: http://www.esa.org/pao/esaPositions/Letters/esaCommentsHR1662-10072003.php

For a copy of the Society’s summary of main discussion points, please contact Laura Lipps, Policy Analyst, at Laura@esa.org


Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) is proposing to create two new subcommittees for the 109th Congress to directly address climate change and oceans policy.

If established, the Climate Change Subcommittee would be the only such body solely focused on the contentious subject in Congress. Its creation would signal a shift in the way the committee treats the issue compared to the 108th Congress, when former Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) used the full committee platform to hold seven hearings on climate change and push his effort to establish a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Commerce Committee staff member said the reorganization would allow the full committee to focus on other issues -- such as the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act -- while giving climate change and oceans the attention they deserve at the subcommittee level.

Stevens indicated he is still unsure whether there is a link between human emissions and recent warming trends, and pledged to hold hearings "where there's some balance with regard to the information that Congress receives."

At the same time, Stevens admitted climate change has become increasingly problematic in his home state, where permafrost is melting and a wide range of ecological changes are taking place.

McCain plans to continue to push for his bill and could seek to serve on the subcommittee. McCain has brushed off questions of whether his no longer being Chairman of the panel would hinder his chances to raise the issue. "The issue is not going away," McCain said. "It's much bigger than the Commerce Committee."

In addition to the climate change panel, Stevens said he will push to revive the National Ocean Policy Study (NOPS), a group that was created in 1974 to help implement ocean policy recommendations but was disbanded in 1994 during a wave of congressional budget cuts led by the Republican majority in Congress.

A committee aide said a new NOPS would provide a forum on ocean issues and may focus on translating the 212 recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy into legislative proposals. There is already a subcommittee with jurisdiction over oceans chaired by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and it is unclear how the new subcommittee would differ in scope and whether any authority would be stripped from Snowe's panel.

The subcommittee proposals have to be ratified by the committee, and committee staff members said it is unclear how much support they now have. Stevens has also talked of adding a tenth subcommittee but has not given details.

Because of the uncertainty, there are no front-runners to chair either panel, although Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) was mentioned as a possible candidate for the climate change subcommittee.


President Bush is preparing tight budgets for a host of non-defense discretionary programs in fiscal year 2006, including those that address environment and energy matters, as part of a broader strategy aimed at cutting a record federal deficit, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has said.

Card, speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington, said fiscal discipline ranks among the top four agenda items for Bush's second term alongside reform of Social Security, the tax code and tort systems. While some mandatory spending programs will be trimmed through Bush's upcoming budget, Card indicated the focus for spending cuts would most heavily fall on government agencies in the non-defense discretionary spectrum, which includes the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, and Interior, Agriculture and Transportation departments, among others.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats alike are expecting an austere budget season. The process kicks off formally Feb. 7, when Bush will submit his budget proposal for the next fiscal year.


Addressing environmental degradation from overfishing to climate change is a prerequisite to meeting the United Nations' goals for eliminating poverty by 2015, according to a report released by a U.N.-sponsored international team.

The Millennium Project report found environmental issues at the core of global development challenges and urged a renewed emphasis on helping developing nations adopt sustainable growth practices.

The ambitious Millennium goals -- negotiated by U.N. members in 2000 -- range from reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS to halving extreme hunger. The goals also call for ensuring environmental sustainability by integrating sustainable development principles into countries' policies and programs.

The report found many countries lack strong institutions to oversee sustainable development and that environmental goals have not been integrated into development plans, despite numerous calls to do so during the past 30 years. "Most regions are not on track to halt environmental degradation, and some have even experienced dramatic declines," the report states.

Other challenges to improving the global environmental outlook that the report identifies include lack of money for environmental management in developing nations, market distortions that provide incentives for individuals or corporations to pursue unsustainable practices such as logging, and limited public awareness.

The report's author, Don Melnick, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University, said a central goal is to make people aware of the connection between the environment and their economic and personal well-being.

The report calls for major structural changes at the national, regional and international levels before the goals can be reached.

Sources: Environment & Energy Daily; Greenwire;

Send questions or comments to Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs, Nadine@esa.org or Laura Lipps, Policy Analyst, Laura@esa.org

If you received Policy News from a friend and would like to receive it directly, please email the command “sub esanews {your first and last name} to listserv@listserv.umd.edu

If you wish to unsubscribe to ESANEWS and your biweekly Policy News, send the command “signoff ESANEWS” to listserv@listserv.umd.edu

Visit our Homepage, including the SEPU Archive at: Policy News Update