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 gro.asenull@aruaL
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
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;