July 10, 2017

Trump Administration Review of National Monument Designations Rapidly Continues

Submit Comments on National Monument Review

On June 29, the Ecological Society of America sent an action alert encouraging members to submit comments to the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the administration’s review of national monuments, marine national monuments, and national marine sanctuaries. Public comments on the national monument review are due to the Department of the Interior by July 10, 2017, at 11:59 PM EST.

ESA joined with the American Association for the Advancement of Science to submit joint comments in support of existing protections for national monuments and marine national monuments listed for review. The comments referenced examples of the ecological or scientific significance of particular monuments.

Trump Administration Review of National Monument Designations Rapidly Continues

President Trump’s executive order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act, April 26, set a sweeping agenda with a foreshortened timeline. Executive Order 13792 directs the Secretary of the Interior to review “National Monuments designated or expanded since 1996” to the present, that are larger than 100,000 acres or by special determination of the Secretary.

The order, while broad, targets by name the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM), created by President Obama on December 28, 2016, for an expedited 45-day interim report and recommended actions. Interior Secretary Zinke delivered that Interim Report Pursuant to Executive Order 13792 to the president on Saturday, June 10.

The report summarizes that appropriate “multiple-use management is hindered or prohibited” by BENM’s designation and recommends the inclusion of timber harvest, mining and grazing, as well as recreation and “traditional activities such as gathering of medicinal herbs and plant, hunting, fishing, and wood-gathering.” The report also recommends that “the existing boundary of the BENM be modified,” that “Congress authorize tribal co-management of designated cultural areas,” and that they “designate selected areas as national conservation or recreation areas,” and finally that Congress clarify the “intent of the management practices of wilderness or [wilderness study areas] within a national monument.”

In comments released June 12, Secretary Zinke confirmed that he recommends the boundaries of Bears Ears be “right-sized,” reducing its acreage significantly, and that the monument be managed as separate areas with some “designated cultural resources” to be “co-managed by the Tribal nations.” He did not, however, mention the size of these changes nor the specific areas that could be left out.

Public Comment Opportunities

In its Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment on the review of certain National Monuments, the Department of the Interior lists 22 National Monuments and 5 Marine National Monuments that are being reviewed. All sites are in the American West and Pacific, except for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on the edge of the Georges Banks in the Atlantic Ocean. The public comment notice, announced May 11, originally set a closing date of May 26 for comments on Bears Ears. However, the formal public comment period for Bears Ears was extended to close with the overall comment period on July 10th, 11:59pm EST. As of July 7, more than 1.1 million comments have been received.

President Trump’s April 28 Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy also directs the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with other agencies,  to conduct a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries, and of all designations and expansions of Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906, designated or expanded since 2007, and to submit a report within 180 days. Five Marine National Monuments and six National Marine Sanctuaries could see revised boundaries or expanded oil and gas drilling. The sites under review include the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (HI), Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (AS), Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (CA), and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MI). Public comment on the review of marine national monuments and sanctuaries will be accepted until July 26. Approximately 5,000 comments have been submitted as of July 7.

Background: Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was enacted during the Theodore Roosevelt administration to stop the looting, desecration, and destruction of Native American heritage sites in the Southwest. Devils Tower National Monument was the first designated by President Theodore Roosevelt, with 170 more sites designated in subsequent administrations. Many National Parks, such as Acadia (ME), Bryce Canyon (UT), Grand Canyon (AZ), Grand Teton (WY), Zion (UT), Olympic (WA), and others, were first created as National Monuments and were later established as National Parks by Congress. President Obama designated 34 National Monuments, the most of any president.

Congress Responds

The congressional response is largely divided along partisan lines. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats, released a July 6 letter asking that the 100,000-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, spanning Northern California and southern Oregon, be spared any changes. An earlier letter from the senators noted the “extensive public process” preceding the monument’s expansion last year.

In June 12 testimony before the Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Secretary Zinke refused to assure Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-NM) that he would not recommend changes to either the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks or Río Grande del Norte monuments in New Mexico. In a previous June 20 Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Zinke had told Sen. Cory Gardner (D-CO) that Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is “not on our priority review list.”

Secretary Zinke is scheduled to travel to Oregon and New Mexico in the next month.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who serves on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, pressed Zinke, saying, “When it comes to the Department of the Interior’s status review of the Bears Ears National Monument, you said that tribes are ‘very happy’ with your recommendation to reduce the boundaries of the monument, but this isn’t really the case.” Franken pointed to criticism of the process and recommendations, characterized as a “slap in the face” by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni tribes) that championed the creation of the monument. Secretary Zinke disagreed, pointing to San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally, a member of the Navajo tribe, who opposes the Bears Ears designation.

The League of Conservation Voters launched a digital ad campaign targeting Western Republican Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Jim Risch (R-ID), who support Interior’s monument review and represent states with at least one monument under review.

Public Support for Monuments

Public opinion across the country is overwhelmingly in favor of the current protections for National Monuments. Even in staunchly Republican Utah, 64% of voters favor the current configuration of the Bears Ears monument, according to a May poll by Public Opinion Strategies. California lawmakers and local leaders near Giant Sequoia National Monument, home to the world’s largest trees, are showing divided opinions with concerns centering on timber management and fire hazards. “This is a health and safety issue for us,” said Eric Coyne, deputy county administrator for Tulare County in an interview with the San Francisco Tribune. “We need the flexibility to do responsible tree mitigation.”

Legal Authority Uncertain

It is unclear if the Antiquities Act provides the means for a president to undo existing monument designations. Legal challenges to existing designations have been unsuccessful. For instance, President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to revoke the Castle-Pinckney National Monument designation in South Carolina. However, Attorney General Homer Cummings wrote in a 1938 precedent-setting opinion, “The statute does not in terms authorize the president to abolish national monuments, and no other statute containing such authority has been suggested.” George W. Bush’s Justice Department defended cases against Clinton-era monuments by citing Cummings’s opinion.

A May 25 letter to Secretary Zinke signed by 71 law professors cites the opinion George W. Bush’s Solicitor General Paul Clement presented to the Supreme Court in Alaska v. United States, 545 US 75 – 2005: “Congress intended that national monuments would be permanent; they can be abolished only by an act of Congress.”

Zygmunt Plater, a professor at the Boston College Law School, commented on the April 26 executive order by saying, “Based on 50 years of consistent judicial respect for the attorney general’s opinion, it’s pretty clear that this is a one-way street. The president can designate, but only Congress can de-designate. It will require an act of Congress to make it a two-way street, and I don’t think they’re going to do that.”

Public comment periods for the review of national monuments will close on July 10 at 11:59pm EST and for marine monuments and sanctuaries on July 26. Interior and Commerce will each release their reports in August. Legislation, lawsuits, and public support of national monuments will greatly complicate implementing any final recommendations arising from those reviews.

Waters of the United States, EPA Proposal to Rescind and Recodify

The president’s February 28 executive order, Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule, directed federal agencies to revise the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule that seeks to clarify areas protected under the Clean Water Act. In 2015, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, then Oklahoma attorney general, called the rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen,” while leading a multi-state suit against the rule.

The EPA is revising the rule in a two-step process of repeal and replacement. On June 27, EPA Administrator Pruitt signed a proposed rule for recodification of pre-existing rules defining the Waters of The U.S. Rule (WOTUS), also known as the Clean Water Rule. This first step proposes to rescind and recodify the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ in the Code of Federal Regulations in accordance with the regulations that existed before the 2015 Clean Water Rule. In a second step, EPA will propose a new rule that would redefine protected waters. This rule would be supported by late-Justice Scalia’s 2006 opinion in Rapanos v. United States that federal protection only extends to “relatively permanent” waters and wetlands with a continuous surface connection to larger rivers and streams.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) released a statement praising the proposed rule for WOTUS repeal. “The WOTUS rule would have put backyard ponds, puddles, and prairie pot holes under Washington’s control. …I applaud the Trump administration for working to remove this indefensible regulation. I will continue to work closely with the administration as it seeks commonsense ways to keep America’s water clean and safe.”

Many ecologists and policy analysts suggest that repealing the rule will not help resolve confusion under the Clean Water Act. The Ecological Society of America and six other scientific organizations, in a March 1 letter to President Trumpcongressional leaders, and Administrator Pruitt, expressed support for the 2015 Clean Water Rule and endorsed an amicus brief filed by wetland and aquatic scientists in support of the rule.

Appropriations Markups, Spending Bills Advance

As Congress proceeds with the appropriations process for FY 2018, several House Appropriations subcommittees have begun advancing their spending bills for the next fiscal year. Subcommittees have so far held markups on FY 2018 appropriations bills for Commerce, Justice, and Science; Agriculture; Energy and Water; Defense; Financial Services; and the Legislative Branch. Of these, the full Appropriations Committee has approved the Legislative Branch and Defense bills, and subcommittees have advanced the others.

Congress is tasked with developing and passing the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government. After holding hearings on the budgets of the agencies under their jurisdiction, subcommittees draft the appropriations bills that are then marked up and reported to the full committee. Normally, prior to the release of these appropriations bills, Congress agrees on a budget resolution that sets total new budget authority and outlay levels and allocates federal spending. House appropriators currently have yet to reach consensus on a budget resolution for FY 2018. They have, however, announced topline funding for nondefense spending at $511 billion. It is this number that subcommittees are using as they work on their appropriations bills.

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies held the markup of the Energy and Water appropriations bill on June 28. The bill rejected the $900 million cut that the president’s budget proposed to the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, maintaining funding at FY 2017 levels of $5.4 billion. However, it cuts energy efficiency and renewable energy spending, while increasing funding for fossil fuel research and development. In addition, it would eliminate DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), which had been targeted for elimination in the president’s budget. The bill also includes language authorizing the EPA Administrator to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. rule. The subcommittee approved the bill by voice vote without amendments.

The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), characterized the bill as a reflection of “difficult choices in order to prioritize the most critical federal programs.” The subcommittee ranking member, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), warned that the bill shortchanges renewable energy, science, and renewable energy and efficiency, with the cuts to clean energy representing a “serious backtrack.” In the Senate, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, sharply rejected the president’s FY 2018 budget request at a June 21 hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. It therefore seems unlikely that the Senate bill will include similar cuts to DOE.

The Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies also held their appropriations bill markup on June 28. The agriculture spending bill largely rejects the cuts proposed in the president’s budget. It provides $2.8 billion for agricultural research through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and it rejects the proposed closure of 17 research facilities.

Of the $2.8 billion amount, ARS would receive $1.1 billion for salaries and expenses, $37 million less than the FY 2017 amount but $139 million above the president’s request. NIFA would receive $830 million for research and education programs, a decrease of $19 million from FY 2017 funding but an increase of nearly $61 million compared to the president’s budget. The bill also provides $904 million for conservation programs to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners conserve and protect their land. The subcommittee approved the bill without amendments.

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies held the markup of their appropriations bill on June 29 and approved it by voice vote. The bill funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.3 billion, $133 million below FY 2017 enacted funding but $600 million above the president’s request. The $133 million cut would be to the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction for a research vessel, not a cut to research or education funds. Research and Related Activities within NSF would be funded at the current level of $6 billion, rejecting the steep cuts to this account proposed by the president’s budget. Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) justified this preserved funding, explaining that “funding basic science research is critical to our nation.”

Climate and earth science research, however, faces considerable cuts in the bill. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $4.97 billion in FY 2018, $710 million below FY 2017 but $195 million above the amount requested in the president’s budget. This $4.97 billion represents a 19 percent cut from FY 2017 levels. Funding would prioritize the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration.

NASA’s Earth Sciences program would be cut by $217 million below FY 2017 funding and $50 million less than what the administration requested. The agency as a whole, however, would receive an increase in funding of $219 million to $19.9 billion for FY 2018.

These cuts to funding for important research programs are a reduction that subcommittee Ranking Member José Serrano (D-NY) claims “jeopardizes our ability to improve our scientific understanding of our planet and its changes.”

These bills approved by the subcommittees will next be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee.

View ESA testimony on FY 2018 appropriations for relevant federal agencies on the ESA Correspondence to Policymakers page.

Quick Reads

Invasive Asian Carp Discovered Past Electric Barriers

An invasive Asian carp was found in the Calumet River below the O’Brien Lock and Dam, only nine miles from Lake Michigan and past electric barriers intended to stop invasive species from entering the Great Lakes. Following this discovery, officials will conduct intensive sampling to determine whether the fish are reproducing closer to Lake Michigan.

Keeping Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes is an ongoing effort and a priority for the region. Lawmakers representing Great Lakes states introduced bipartisan legislation, the Stop the Asian Carp Now Act (S.1398 and H.R.2983), to require the administration to release a report on Asian carp control. The Army Corps of Engineers report, called the “Brandon road study,” was supposed to be released in February but was delayed.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the program that funds activities to combat Asian carp, was targeted for elimination in the president’s budget request for FY 2018.

EPA Pressured Scientist to Alter Congressional Testimony

According to email records, EPA’s chief of staff Ryan Jackson pressured the chair of the agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors to alter her testimony before appearing in front of a congressional committee. Dr. Deborah Swackhamer, board chair, testified at a hearing of the House Science Committee on May 23, two weeks after the EPA announced it would not be renewing the terms of several members of the scientific board. The chief of staff pushed Swackhamer to change her testimony related to these dismissals. Swackhamer, however, did not alter her prepared testimony.

Following the revelation of the EPA official’s emails to Swackhamer, minority members of the House Science Committee sent a letter to the EPA Inspector General requesting a thorough investigation of Jackson’s actions. In a separate letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, they expressed their concern with the possible interference with Swackhamer’s testimony.

Fish and Wildlife Service to Delist Yellowstone Grizzly

In a June 30 Federal Register notice, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will be removing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears from the endangered species list, effective July 31. Yellowstone grizzlies were listed in 1975. Since then, the population has increased from 136 to 700 bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem. With the delisting, management of the species would pass to Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, the three states within the area. Following the decision, environmental groups and Native American tribes filed a notice of intent to sue the agency in separate lawsuits challenging the delisting.

Federal Appeals Court Rejects EPA Delay of Methane Rule

On July 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the EPA’s decision to delay a rule restricting methane emissions from new oil and gas operations. This Obama-era methane rule was issued in 2016 to halt methane leaks and reduce emissions. After EPA Administrator Pruitt delayed the rule in June, several environmental groups filed a lawsuit in response. The appeals court agreed with these groups that EPA lacked the authority under the Clean Air Act to delay the rule.

Administration Considering “Red Team-Blue Team” to Debate Climate Science

The Trump administration is interested in launching a “red team-blue team” exercise to challenge climate science. While there are not yet formal plans for such an exercise, the administration, led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, is interested in using such an effort to subject climate science to scrutiny and critique. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is also in favor of this idea, and the exercise would take place across agencies. While it is unlikely that this “red team-blue team” approach would sway mainstream climate science or legal precedents on greenhouse gas regulation, it would create a public spectacle that might raise the public’s uncertainty related to climate change.

On June 22, Energy Secretary Rick Perry appeared at a budget hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee where Sen. Al Franken grilled Perry on his suggestion of a “Red Team-Blue Team” to debate climate science at the Department of Energy. Franken explained that scientific theories are regularly examined and debated by scientists. He also noted that a few years ago, the billionaire Koch brothers had brought a “red team” together to debate climate science. Dr. Richard Muller, head of the “red team” group and a climate skeptic, changed his mind, as he wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.”

Muller found that “global warming was real,” “prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct,” and “it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

Last summer, ESA and other scientific societies sent a letter to Congress reminding them of the consensus scientific view of climate change. ESA is an active member of the Climate Science Working Group.

Zinke Signs Order to Streamline Onshore Leasing Permits

On July 6, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed a secretarial order to streamline the process for federal onshore oil and gas leasing permits and to ensure that leasing sales occur quarterly. The order directs the Bureau of Land Management to conduct quarterly lease sales, reduce the permitting backlog, and identify ways to improve the onshore leasing program and to increase exploration and development of federal oil and gas reserves and solid mineral resources. BLM’s permit review process, required by statute to be completed within 30 days, averaged 257 days in FY 2016. The order addresses this delay and the resulting backlog while supporting the president’s goal of American “energy dominance.”

Get Involved

Nominate Experts for Report on Biotechnology to Address Forest Health

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have announced a new study on the potential for biotechnology to address forest health. The director of the study is seeking nominations for experts to serve on the committee that will write a report in response to the study’s statement of task. Read the full statement of task and nominate experts here. Nominations are being accepted through July.

Input Requested from the Land Imaging Community

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is requesting information from the land imaging community for user requirements for future Landsat systems. To respond to the RFI, go to www.fedconnect.net, click on “Search Public Opportunities Only”, then choose search by “Reference Number” which is G17PS00634. Click on the right side of the screen to view RFI document.

Comment on National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is leading a review of Marine National Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries in accordance with the president’s executive order implementing an America-first offshore energy strategy. Five Marine National Monuments and six National Marine Sanctuaries are being reviewed and could be reduced in size and opened to oil and gas exploration. NOAA is accepting public comments until July 26. Submit comments online here.

EPA Seeking Scientific Experts

The EPA is seeking nominations for scientific experts to serve on the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the Science Advisory Board (SAB), and six SAB committees, including the Ecological Processes and Effects Committee. The CASAC provides advice and recommendations to the EPA on the scientific and technical aspects of air quality criteria and National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The SAB provides independent scientific and technical peer review, advice, consultation, and recommendations on the scientific bases for EPA’s actions and programs. Nominations must be submitted by July 27. While the SAB has been the subject of recent controversy, it is still important for ecologists to serve.

Review IPBES Assessments

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is seeking experts and scientists to conduct external reviews of regional assessments, a land degradation and restoration assessment, and a global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The regional assessments cover biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific. The review period for the regional and land degradation and restoration assessments is open now. More information on how to participate can be found here. The review period for the global assessment opened on June 15 and lasts until August 15. Read more here.

Comment on BLM Land-Use Planning

Since the Bureau of Land Management’s land-use planning rule known as Planning 2.0 was overturned with the Congressional Review Act earlier this year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has directed the agency to begin the process for a possible new rulemaking. In accordance with this direction, the BLM is asking for public input on land-use planning and environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. Submit feedback through the “BLM Streamlining Planning & NEPA – Input Form.”

Provide Input on DOI Regulations

The Department of the Interior is seeking public comments on regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification. The president’s February executive order on reducing regulatory burdens directed federal agencies to address outdated or unnecessary policies. DOI is seeking input from the public on policies of Interior agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. Submit comments online or by mail.

Apply for an OSTP Internship

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is accepting applications for the OSTP Internship Program. OSTP offers both policy internships and legal internships. Read more on the White House website.

Recommend Members for NSF Directorate and Office Advisory Committees

The National Science Foundation is requesting recommendations for membership on its scientific and technical federal advisory committees, including the Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences. These external advisory committees provide advice on program management, discuss current issues, and review and provide advice on the impact of policies, programs, and activities of the directorate or office of NSF.

Congressional Updates

Senate Hearing on Marine Sanctuaries

On June 27, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing titled “Marine Sanctuaries: Fisheries, Access, the Environment, and Maritime Heritage.” Led by Chairman Dan Sullivan (R-AK), the hearing examined marine sanctuary designation and management, including the establishment process, consideration of local communities, and economic contributions of sanctuaries. Marine sanctuaries are currently under review in accordance with the president’s April executive order implementing an America-first offshore energy strategy.

Senators Ask GAO to Investigate Independence of EPA Advisory Committees

On July 6, ten Senate Democrats sent a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro asking the Government Accountability Office, the government watchdog, to investigate the independence of EPA’s advisory committees. Led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the letter is in response to recent actions by EPA Administrator Pruitt that raise concern over whether the advisory panels remain balanced and protected from industry influence. GAO last probed EPA’s process for selecting federal advisory committee members in 2001.

Legislative Updates

Bipartisan Energy Legislation Reintroduced

On June 29, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced a revised version of their energy bill that passed the Senate last Congress but stalled in the House. This bipartisan bill, the “Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017” (S.1460), covers a wide range of topics, including energy efficiency, cybersecurity, infrastructure, research, natural gas exports, and public lands. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took procedural moves to skip the committee process and bring the 891-page legislation directly to the Senate floor. Although timing of a floor debate is still undetermined, Sen. Murkowski hopes the Senate can pass the legislation before the August recess.

Senators Introduce Wildlife Bill

On June 29, a bipartisan group of senators led by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced the “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act” (S.1514). This legislation would reauthorize or establish several federal wildlife conservation programs, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Chesapeake Bay Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and others. However, it would also prohibit judicial review of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s de-listing of the gray wolf in Wyoming and would mandate the reissuance of the final rule de-listing the wolf in the western Great Lakes region, while also prohibiting judicial review. These provisions, along with others, are meant as protections for sportsmen to provide regulatory clarity for hunting on public lands.

Other Legislation Introduced

  • Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act (S.1429). Introduced June 26 by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), this bill would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program.
  • S.1436. Introduced June 26 by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), this bill would conserve fish and aquatic communities in the United States through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation, improve the quality of life for the people of the United States, and enhance fish and wildlife-dependent recreation.
  • S.1474. Introduced June 29 by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), this bill would prohibit the use of fiscal year 2018 funds for the closure, consolidation, or elimination of certain offices of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • S.1512 and H.R.3117. Introduced June 29 by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) in the Senate and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) in the House, this bill would prohibit the secretary of Energy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the secretary of the Interior, and the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality from considering the social cost of carbon, the social cost of methane, or the social cost of nitrous oxide, in taking any action.
  • H.R.3119. Introduced June 29 by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), this bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to local educational agencies to encourage girls and underrepresented minorities to pursue studies and careers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
  • H.R.3131. Introduced June 29 by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), this bill would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to conform citizen suits under that act with other existing law.
  • H.R.3133. Introduced June 29 by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), this bill would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to reduce unnecessary permitting delays by clarifying associated procedures to increase economic development and support coastal restoration programs.
  • H.R.3156. Introduced June 29 by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), this bill would establish the Water Science Centers within the United States Geological Survey.

From the Federal Register

Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment:

  • NOAA Proposed Incidental Marine Mammal Harassment and Take Authorizations
    NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has extended the public comment period for five proposed incidental harassment authorizations to incidentally take marine mammals during geophysical survey activity in the Atlantic Ocean. The proposals come from ocean seismic survey companies seeking authorization to use seismic airguns for oil and gas exploration off the East Coast. Comments relevant to affected marine mammal species are now due by July 21.
  • NOAA NMFS Marine Mammal Scientific Review Groups Nominations
    The National Marine Fisheries Service is requesting nominations for new members on the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific Scientific Review Groups. These independent regional scientific review groups provide advice on marine mammal science and management issues. Submit nominations by July 24.
  • USFWS Draft Texas Multi-Species Recovery Plan
    The Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking review and public comments on the draft Texas Coastal Bend Shortgrass Prairie Multi-Species Recovery Plan that includes the slender rush-pea and South Texas ambrosia, two species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Submit comments by July 31.
  • NOAA NMFS Five-Year Review for North Pacific Right Whale
    The National Marine Fisheries Service is initiating a 5-year review of the North Pacific right whale, listed under the Endangered Species Act. The review takes into account the best scientific and commercial data available. NMFS is requesting information on the whales that has become available since 2012 by July 31.
  • USFWS Five-Year Reviews of 23 Species under the Endangered Species Act
    The Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating five-year status reviews of 23 threatened or endangered species of southeastern wildlife and plants (list in Federal Register notice). The agency is requesting information that has become available in the last five years by August 29.
  • USFWS Mexican Wolf Draft Recovery Plan, First Revision
    The Fish and Wildlife Service released proposed updates to its recovery plan for the endangered Mexican wolf. This revision updates a recovery plan that was completed in 1982 and includes specific recovery criteria to be met in order to remove the species from the endangered list. The agency is requesting public comments on the revised plan by August 29 and is also accepting any new information on the Mexican wolf’s status to inform finalization of the recovery plan.