October 22, 2014
In This Issue
The White House released a new resiliency-focused strategy to protect natural resources from threats posed by climate change.
The “Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda” focuses on building climate change resilience through various means including enhancing US carbon sinks such as forests, grasslands, wetlands and coastal areas. The administration announced five executive actions and 16 public-private partnerships to complement this agenda. The overall strategy is the latest effort in the administration’s Climate Action Plan.
Click here for additional information.
On Oct. 13, the Department of Defense released a 20-page report outlining the federal agency’s efforts to address climate change. The report specifies how the military will prepare for the consequences of climate change and its impacts on national security.
“Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe, “ the report notes. “In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism.”
The report outlines potential effects of climate change on military operations, efforts to integrate climate considerations into these operations and collaboration on climate adaptation strategies and research.
Click here to view the full report.
Four Republican Senators penned a letter to the Obama administration requesting the withdrawal of proposed rules intended to clarify the process of designating critical habitat for endangered and threatened species.
The Senators are concerned that the new proposals will allow federal agencies to designate critical habitat for areas not currently used by endangered species. Proponents for endangered species agree that critical habitat is the key to survival. Critical habitat provides protections for listed species by prohibiting federal agencies from permitting, funding, or carrying out actions that “adversely modify” designated areas without first consulting the federal entity that designates and monitors the habitat.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA) and Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) spearheaded the letter. Water and Wildlife Subcommittee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) and Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Ranking Member Marco Rubio (R-FL) also signed the letter.
The Senate committees have jurisdiction over the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marines Fisheries Service (NMFS), which both make critical habitat decisions related to enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. The Senators assert the proposed rules would prioritize environmental concerns over the needs of private landowners.
“As Ranking Members of the Senate committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over the ESA, we are concerned that the proposals provide the FWS and the NMFS with an unprecedented ability to designate vast swaths of land and bodies of water as critical habitat with limited justification and without stakeholder input,” the letter states.
Click here to view the full letter.
A coalition of eight environmental groups is suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate the North American wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
FWS proposed “listing” the wolverine in Feb. 2013 after federal biologists speculated that the animal’s snowpack habitat used for denning females was suffering from warming temperatures. In August, however, FWS Director Dan Ashe announced that whether climate change was affecting wolverine populations was “ambiguous” and formally withdrew the listing proposal.
Led by Earthjustice, the advocacy organizations contend that FWS did not rely on “the best available science” and did not fully analyze threats to the wolverine throughout a significant portion of its range. The groups contend that the agency is ignoring the findings of its scientists on how climate change has affected the species.
“Biologists estimate that, in total, the lower-48 wolverine population consists of no more than 300 individuals,” states the lawsuit. The best available scientific information shows that the snowy habitat required by wolverines is predicted to shrink dramatically as climate change progresses, with significant detrimental impacts on the wolverine species.”
Additional groups suing include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the Clearwater, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Rocky Mountain Wild.
A recent report from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded there is little benefit to using neonicotinoid pesticides in soybean production. Scientists have linked the insect pesticide to colony-collapse disorder in honeybees.
“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a press statement. “In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, US soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments.”
The EPA’s Biological and Economic Analysis Division conducted the peer-reviewed study.
A notice will be published in the Federal Register allowing the public to comment on the analysis.
Click here for additional information and updates.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the third edition of a report, “Climate Change Indicators in the United States.”
The report pulls together research data measurements of ocean heat, ocean acidity, sea level, length of growing season and other indicators that demonstrate that climate change is already affecting the environment and human society. The report focuses on long-term trends for environmental measurements and was peer-reviewed by independent experts.
Click here for additional information and to download the full report.
This month, a United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity team of 30 international experts led by UK scientists issued “An Updated Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity.” The report finds that ocean acidification has increased by around 26 per cent since pre-industrial times, and will continue to increase in the next 50 to 100 years, drastically affecting marine organisms and ecosystems as well as the $1 trillion annually in goods and services they provide.
“While $1 trillion may sound like a huge figure, but we need to consider the benefits derived from marine biodiversity to many major industries,” Mr. Arico said in an interview. “Ocean acidification will greatly affect food security in the coming years, as well as tourism and other industries such as the pharmaceutical industry which relies on many marine organisms.”
Click here to access the report.
A report from the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticizes the federal government for not fully implementing a recent federal law to curb ocean acidification.
“The National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology, in the Executive Office of the President, and several federal agencies have taken steps to implement the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009 (FOARAM) but have yet to complete some of the act’s requirements,” the report found.
The FOARAM law requires an interagency task force to assess the impacts of ocean acidification and identify mitigation and adaptation strategies that federal agencies can implement. The lead agencies comprising the task force are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Findings site a lack of coordination between task force agencies. It also faulted the task force for not laying out a budget estimates for its research and monitoring plan that would help federal agencies and lawmakers understand what specific amount of funding is necessary to address the issue.
The report called upon the White House to be more specific in laying out each agency’s responsibilities. GAO also suggested that establishing an independent ocean acidification program office might improve coordination between agencies. However, the interagency group has not reached a consensus on how to fund such an office.
Click here to view the GAO report.
In light of the Ebola virus’s emergence in the United States, the National Science Foundation is seeking applicants for Rapid Response Research grant proposals to conduct non-medical, non-clinical research that advances understanding of spread of Ebola.
Click here for additional information.
Establishing transit through walrus protection areas in Alaska (closes Nov. 3)
Critical habitat designation for Western population of yellow-billed cuckoo (closes Nov. 14)
National big data research and development initiative; Correction (closes Nov. 14)
Petition to down list the Arroyo Toad under the Endangered Species Act (closes Nov. 17)
Removal of the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel from Endangered Species Act (closes Nov. 24)
Sources: Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the Washington Post