April 17, 2018
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Land degradation caused by human activities, is a significant driver of climate change and biodiversity loss according to a series of major reports approved at the sixth session of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Plenary in Medellin, Columbia, March 17-24. The reports provide assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services in four regions-the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, as well as Europe and Central Asia-encompassing the entire planet, except the poles and oceans. A fifth report addresses global land degradation.
“Through this report, the global community of experts has delivered a frank and urgent warning, with clear options to address dire environmental damage,” said Sir Robert Watson (United Kingdom), of the University of East Anglia and IPBES chair, in a statement accompanying the land degradation report.”Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment. We cannot afford to tackle any one of these three threats in isolation-they each deserve the highest policy priority and must be addressed together,” he continued. The report estimates that loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services through land degradation cost 10 percent of world gross domestic product in 2010.
“High-consumption lifestyles in the most developed economies, combined with rising consumption in developing and emerging economies” are underlying drivers of land degradation, says the report. By 2050, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of Earth’s land surface will have “escaped substantial impacts of human activity” say IPBES experts. These impacts are “amplified by continued population growth in many parts of the world,” the experts note, driving increased and unstainable expansion of agriculture, natural resource extraction and urbanization. The report points with particular concern to increasing alteration and destruction of habitats concentrated in “some of the most species-rich ecosystems on the planet,” due to the expansion of crop and grazing lands that consume one-third of the Earth’s surface.
Findings in the report note that increasing demands for food and biofuels are likely to contribute to increased use of nutrient and chemical inputs, and pesticides. The report estimates that deforestation alone accounts for 10 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions with soil and land disruption and degradation contributing up to the release of 4.4 billion tonnes of previously stored CO2 annually between 2000 and 2009.
“With negative impacts on the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction,” said Professor Robert Scholes (South Africa), of the University of Witwatersrand and an IPBES contributing expert.
“Wetlands have been particularly hard hit,” said Dr. Luca Montanarella (Italy), of the European Soil Data Center and an IPBES contributing expert. “We have seen losses of 87 percent in wetland areas since the start of the modern era- with 54 percent lost since 1900,” he added.
“In just over three decades from now, an estimated 4 billion people will live in drylands,” said Professor Scholes. “By then it is likely that land degradation, together with the closely related problems of climate change, will have forced 50-700 million people to migrate. Decreasing land productivity also makes societies more vulnerable to social instability – particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45 percent in violent conflict.”
“The greatest value of the assessment is the evidence that it provides to decision makers in Government, business, academia and even at the level of local communities,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie (France), IPBES executive secretary. “With better information, backed by the consensus of the world’s leading experts, we can all make better choices for more effective action.”
The report recommends concrete actions to avoid further agricultural expansion into critical habitats and ecosystems, such as optimizing use of existing farmlands, shifting to more plant-based diets, and reducing food loss and waste. They note examples of successful land restoration including use of salt tolerant crops; maintenance of appropriate fire regimes; restoration of traditional livestock management practices; reflooding of previously drained wetlands and river restoration; and integrated crop, livestock and forestry systems.
The report also gives particular importance to “avoidance, reduction and reversal of land degradation” in greenhouse gas mitigation. Soil’s carbon absorption and storage functions, the reports suggest, “could provide more than a third of the most cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation activities needed by 2030,” significantly helping to keep global warming below the 2°C target threshold established in the Paris Accords on climate change.
The benefits of land restoration often exceed their costs, by far, the report finds-sometimes by a factor of 10-while in regions such as Asia and Africa, inaction is “at least three times higher than the cost of action.”
“Fully deploying the toolbox of proven ways to stop and reverse land degradation is not only vital to ensure food security, reduce climate change and protect biodiversity,” said Montanarella, “It’s also economically prudent and increasingly urgent.”
Watson added, “Of the many valuable messages in the report, this ranks among the most important: implementing the right actions to combat land degradation can transform the lives of millions of people across the planet, but this will become more difficult and more costly the longer we take to act.”
IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body of 129 member states administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It was established in 2012 under the auspices of the UNEP, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The mission of IPBES is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. IPBES assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision makers. One thousand scientists, nominated by governments and organization from all over the world, contribute to the work of IPBES on a voluntary basis. Peer review of the work of IPBES helps ensure that a range of views is reflected in its work, and that the work is complete to the highest scientific standards.The Plenary is the governing body of IPBES and usually meets once a year, next scheduled for May 13-18, 2019.
The final reports of the sixth IPBES Plenary are not yet available as of this writing and will be published later this year. Unedited advance Summaries for Policymakers presenting key messages and policy options for each of the four regional reports and the land degradation report, however, are available. Attribution of content, findings and recommendations presented above are based on advance summaries, press releases and public statements by the Plenary’s leading participants.
*** Supported by the National Science Foundation, ESA’s Science Office works to increase engagement of our members with IPBES panels and task forces. To learn more, visit esa.org/ipbes.
An internal memo of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) codifies talking points used for months by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, confirming a coordinated strategy to discredit climate change science. Circulated in a leaked March 27 EPA email, entitled “Consistent Messages on Climate Adaptation,” by Joel Scheraga, senior advisor for climate adaptation, EPA Office of Policy, the memo highlights talking points “relating specifically to our adaptation work.” The memo was first publicly disclosed and reprinted by Huffington Post the next day, in “Leaked Memo: EPA Shows Workers How To Downplay Climate Change, Point 5: Suggest that humans are only responsible are in some manner.”
The memo directs EPA communications and public affairs directors to emphasize that the EPA “promotes science that helps inform states, municipalities and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies” and “works with state, local, and tribal government to improve infrastructure to protect against the consequences of climate change and natural disasters.” Following the platitudes, the memo proceeds to advance two key fallacious assertions;
“Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.
While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.”
Scheraga’s email is “literally true but carefully crafted to mislead,” said Andrew Dessler, a Texas A&M University climate scientist, in comments to The Guardian.
The Associated Press (AP) surveyed 15 leading climate scientists for comment on the key talking points.
“To say that ‘human activity impacts our changing climate ‘in some manner,’ is analogous to saying the Germans were involved in WW II ‘in some manner,'” said David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and retired U.S. Navy admiral, in an email to AP.
Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, and a co-author of a November 2017 report, Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume I, from 13 federal agencies including the EPA, criticized the Scheraga email-noting that the report finds the Earth has warmed 1.2° Fahrenheit since 1950 and that human activity accounts for between 92 and 123 percent of that change. It’s more than 100 percent on one end, because some natural forces-such as volcanoes and orbital cycle-are working to cool Earth, but are being overwhelmed by the effects of greenhouse gases, she added.
“Suggesting that there are gaps that remain in our understanding of the role of human activity and possible solutions to the problem is false equivalence at its finest,” said Kathie Dello, an Oregon State University climate scientist in the AP article. “We know it’s us and we know what we have to do about it.”
Jonathan Overpeck, dean of environmental science at the University of Michigan, and Michael Oppenheimer, of Princeton University, each described the idea of gaps in scientific knowledge as “flat out wrong” in comments to AP.
“If confronting serious risks depended on first converting risks to certainties, no one would get flu shots, there would be no attempt to reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons and businesses would fail at a high rate, having made no efforts to mitigate their risks. Mr. Pruitt is engaged in a disingenuous effort to stall measures to mitigate climate risk under the false pretext of concern about uncertainty,” said Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorologist and climate scientist, commenting on the memo in The Guardian.
Administrator Pruitt has consistently, and falsely, denied the role of CO2 as a “primary contributor” to climate change since joining EPA, noting that”humans have most flourished during times of warming trends.”
The memo leak came a week after Pruitt announced his intention to adopt an anti “secret science” policy, similar to failed congressional legislation, in EPA decision-making that would prohibit use of studies not providing online access to their underlying raw data (see ” EPA Administrator Pruitt Raises HONEST Act as Agency Initiative,” ESA Policy News, March 26). It also comes when Pruitt is under fire from senior ethics officials, congressional leadership (both Democratic and Republican), and reportedly high-level White House staff over conflicts of interest and questionable ethical and administrative decisions, such as a sweet-heart housing deal from a Washington lobbyist, questionable pay raises for political staff, first-class travel and a 24-hour security detail, and isolation from senior career EPA staff, both physically and in decision-making.
Senate Environment and Public Works Holds Hearing on Carbon Capture Bill
A bipartisan bill to boost carbon capture projects won broad praise from members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee April 11. The bill would require the Council on Environmental Quality to establish guidance on CO2 pipelines and carbon capture facilities and clarify that projects qualify under permitting reviews established by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The legislation also would set up a direct air capture technology advisory board, would provide $50 million for research on utilizing captured CO2 and calls for a $25 million prize administrated by EPA to boost direct air capture technologies.
Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, and Earthjustice slammed language that would add CO2 pipelines to a list of projects receiving limited permitting review under the FAST Act. A dozen groups including the Clean Air Task Force and Algae Biomass Organization submitted letters of support for the bill. These groups say CO2 capture technologies should have the same federal benefits as other energy sources.
Lubchenco Wins National Science Board Public Service Award
ESA Past-president Dr. Jane Lubchenco will receive the National Science Board’s 2018 Vannever Bush Award for her lifelong leadership and public service in science and technology. Lubchenco is a distinguished university professor and marine studies advisor to the president at Oregon State University and served as the U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 2009 to 2013.
Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee Dominated by Industry Officials
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s new Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee is largely composed of outdoor recreation industry officials, including officials from companies with National Park Service contracts. The outdoor recreation industry has lobbied for more input on public lands decision-making since the Obama administration. Suggested nominees from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) were rejected. The OIA represents nonmotorized recreation interests and has been critical of the Trump administration
Park Service Director Under Investigation for Misconduct
The Interior Department opened an investigation into acting National Park Service Director P. Daniel Smith after an employee reported that Smith made a “crude gesture” earlier this year in the its headquarters building. Park Service employees have complained of a culture of sexual harassment and misconduct in the agency for years, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has pledged to curb misconduct in the agency. An internal survey conducted last fall found that one in 10 Park Service employees experienced harassment.
BOEM Moves Toward Oil and Gas Leasing in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) opened a public comment period on proposed oil and gas leasing in the Beaufort Sea area in the Arctic Ocean March 30. The Federal Register notice states that the BOEM hopes to identify environmentally sensitive areas and areas important for Native Alaskan subsidence needs. Environmental and Native Alaskan groups oppose drilling in the Beaufort Sea and have challenged the Trump administration’s efforts to open the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas development in court. The public comment period is open until April 30, 2018.
Army Corps of Engineers Soliciting for Public Comment on the Pebble Mine Project in Alaska
The Army Corps of Engineers is asking for public input on the planned Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska. The agency is preparing to produce a draft environmental impact statement on the project. The fishing industry, Alaska Native groups, and environmentalists have fought the proposed open-pit copper and gold mine project since 2004, arguing that the project would devastate the area’s salmon fishery. In January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would maintain Obama-era restrictions on the proposed mine. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt later clarified that this announcement did not mean that EPA would block the mine project outright. The Army Corps of Engineers will hold seven public meetings about the project across Alaska, and interested parties can submit public comments online through June 29, 2018.
Forest Service Proposes 20-year Mining Ban near Yellowstone
The Forest Service released an environmental assessment March 29 supporting a 20-year ban on new mining projects and mining exploration activities on 30,370 acres in the Custer Gallatin National Forest near Yellowstone National Park. The Forest Service noted that allowing mining in this area would impact recreation, water and wildlife habitat. The decision would not impact existing mining activities in the area. The Department of the Interior will now review the environmental assessment. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who opposed mining in the area as the congressman from Montana, will have the final say the decision.
Former Texas State Official Named Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Susan Combs, a former Texas state senator and state comptroller, was named acting assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks in the Department of the Interior. This position oversees both the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. President Trump appointed Combs assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget at Interior last summer, but she has not been confirmed to the position. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) placed a hold on Combs’ nomination over concerns about Interior’s plan to expand offshore drilling. Combs has supported private property rights and called endangered species protections “incoming Scud missiles.”
Biological Survey Unit Safe – For Now
The Biological Survey Unit, a division of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that maintains a large collection of animal specimens and field notes at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will stay open until the end of September. USGS previously planned to shutter the division this spring for budgetary reasons. Scientific organizations have criticized the move, stating that closing the office would threaten the public’s access to valuable scientific information. The Biological Survey Unit’s annual budget is $1.6 million. A USGS representative told The Washington Post that the agency is working with the Smithsonian to develop a transition plan for the Biological Survey’s collections.
National Park Service Will Not Double Park Entrance Fees
The National Park Service and the Department of the Interior are backing away from a plan to double park entrance fees at the most popular national parks after the agency received over 100,000 overwhelmingly negative public comments about the proposal. A statement from the National Park Service said that the agency will instead increase entrance fees by five dollars at most parks that currently have fees.
National Park Service Removes Mentions of Humans’ Role in Climate Change from Report
An analysis by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that the National Park Service removed all mention of humans’ role in climate change from a scientific report on sea level rise and storm surge. The report, which still hasn’t been released the public, details the risks that sea level rise poses to national parks in coastal areas and is intended to help park managers protect resources from climate change. A career Park Service employee made many of the modifications. This analysis contradicts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s claims that the Interior Department has not engaged in scientific censorship. House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and four other Democratic members of the committee sent a letter to the Interior Inspector General requesting an investigation into the incident and the National Park Service’s scientific integrity policies. A group of five Democratic senators also sent a similar letter to the Interior Inspector General.
Court Rejects Mexican Wolf Rule
The U.S. District Court in Arizona struck down a 2015 Fish and Wildlife Service rule for managing Mexican gray wolves April 2, stating that the rule did not adequately ensure the species’ persistence in the long term. The rule capped the population of red wolves in Arizona and New Mexico at 325 individuals and prohibited wolves from entering the northern portions of the states, including Grand Canyon National Park. Judge Jennifer Zipps noted that the Fish and Wildlife Service ignored the advice of scientists who expressed concerns over the population cap and misinterpreted these same scientists’ findings to support their decision.
Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Rolling Back Protections for Threatened Species
The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed eliminating the blanket section 4(d) rule in a proposed rule submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The full text of the rule has not been released to the public. The blanket section 4(d) rule prohibits the “take” of species designated as threatened. Private property advocates have backed weakening the blanket 4(d) rule.
Louisiana Pine Snake Listed as a Threatened Species
The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Louisiana pine snake, a large snake associated with the longleaf pine ecosystem in Louisiana and Texas, as threatened April 6. The agency also proposed a section 4(d) rule. This rule would allow landowners to conduct forest management activities like forest thinning, prescribed fires and removal of invasive species without facing legal repercussions if snakes are harmed during habitat improvement activities. Comments on the proposed section 4(d) rule are due May 7, 2018.
Interior Department Reinterprets the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
The Interior Department issued a legal opinion determining that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), a 100-year-old law, only applies to intentional take – i.e., hunting and trapping — of migratory birds. Previous administrations have interpreted the MBTA as applying to incidental or accidental take of migratory birds. The federal government has prosecuted oil companies under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for incidental take of birds after major oil spills. All 10 Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee signed a letter urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reverse the administration’s decision to reinterpret the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
Pruitt Consolidates Authority for Clean Water Act Designations
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a memoMarch 30 that gives Pruitt the ultimate authority for determining whether wetlands and waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps of Engineers typically makes these “jurisdictional determinations,” but under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1989, the EPA can take responsibility for these determinations in special or particularly difficult cases. Before Pruitt’s memo, the EPA’s regional offices were responsible for taking over these cases and making final jurisdictional determinations. EPA officials downplayed the importance of the move, stating that the change was made to ensure consistency in agency decision-making. Advocacy groups like Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility warned that the move is part of Pruitt’s “Plan B” if Pruitt’s plan to rewrite the “Waters of the United States” rule falters in court.
Judge Orders the Release of Wildlife Import Records
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Macdonald ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to turn over data regarding the importation and exportation of wildlife under the Freedom of Information Act. Until 2014, data from the agency’s Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) database had been released. Beginning in 2016, the agency began to withhold a large quantity of information from the database, including the declared value, quantity, foreign importer/exporter, bill of lading number, customs document number and permit number.
Western Land Program Permanently Reauthorized
A measure to permanently reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act passed as part of the 2018 omnibus spending bill. The act allows the Bureau of Land Management to sell unneeded, isolated or scattered public lands deemed appropriate for disposal and to use the funds from those sales to purchase lands adjacent to federal lands managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the BLM. The Federal Land Transaction Act was previously authorized by Congress in 2000 but expired in 2011.
IPCC Authors Selected for Sixth Climate Report
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has invited 721 experts1 from 90 countries to participate in the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) as Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors and Review Editors. Thisallows work to start on the next comprehensive assessment of the science related to climate change. Read the IPCC Press Release: https://www.workingforest.com/selection-authors-ipcc-sixth-assessment-report/
Agencies Sign Agreement on Infrastructure Permitting
A dozen federal agencies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to streamline the environmental permitting process April 9. Under the MOU, one federal agency will take the lead on permitting under the MOU, issuing a single environmental impact statement for the entire federal government. The lead agency will be able to set timetables for other agencies, with the goal of getting the entire process down to two years. However, critics argue the agreement creates more red tape because the administration is adding bureaucracy by forging ahead with its own initiatives, instead of using existing tools to cut down permitting time. Furthermore, some view the MOU as a diversion from the fact that the Trump administration momentum on infrastructure has slowed recently.
USGS Director Confirmed
The Senate voted to confirm James Reilly, a former astronaut and a geologist, to lead the U.S. Geological Survey April 9. Reilly vowed not to let partisanship interfere with the agency’s scientific research during his confirmation hearing.
Wheeler Confirmed as Deputy EPA Administrator
The Senate voted to confirm Andrew Wheeler as deputy EPA administrator April 12. Wheeler worked for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Wheeler left the Senate in 2009 to work as a lobbyist for fossil fuel companies.
Zinke Plans to Scale Back Offshore Drilling Plan
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke assured the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday that he plans to scale back his plan to expand offshore leasing in nearly all federal waters, after massive local and state opposition. Members of both parties have criticized Zinke for his draft plan, and nearly all coastal governors, regardless of party, oppose it. Zinke responded, “States matter, local voices matter, you matter and governors matter… We are shaping our plan. This is not a rule.”
Lawmakers Push Scientific Integrity Legislation
Seventy-six Democratic members of the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), sent a letter to Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) urging Ryan to bring the Scientific Integrity Act (H.R 1358) to the house floor for a vote as soon as possible. The Scientific Integrity Act was originally introduced to the House in March 2017. The bill requires all federal agencies that conduct or fund scientific research to “create and enforce clear scientific integrity standards.”
White House Releases President’s Management Agenda
The White House Office of Management and Budget released the President’s Management Agenda March 20. The Agenda provides a framework to guide agency federal reorganization plans and empathizes information technology modernization, data accountability and transparency and developing a ’21st century’ federal workforce.
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.
Nominate Experts to EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee
The EPA is requesting nominations of scientific experts to be considered for appointment to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The panel is charged with providing outside advice, information, and recommendations to the EPA on the scientific and technical aspects of air quality criteria and National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The CASAC is made up of seven members but currently has three vacancies. These vacancies resulted from the resignation of one member following the end of her second three-year term and the removal of two other members as a result of Pruitt’s policy banning current recipients of EPA grants from serving on panels. Nominations should be submitted by April 20.
Comment on Clean Power Plan Repeal and Replacement
On Dec. 18, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an advance notice of proposed rulemaking initiating the first step toward replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP). The document asks for public comment on what a replacement rule should look like. The Clean Power Plan sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, cutting them 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In a separate but related action, the EPA had previously proposed to repeal the rule. The EPA is accepting public comments on CPP repeal until April 26.
- H.R. 5411 – Introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), this bill would amend the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 with respect to grants for certain area wide integrated pest management projects, and for other purposes.
- Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) – Also known as the Farm Bill, this bill provides for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023, and for other purposes.
- Water and Targeted Environmental Research Act of 2018 (WATER Act) (H.R. 5426)- Introduced by Rep. David Young (R-IA), this bill would amend the Food Security Act of 1985 with respect to conservation innovation grants and payments.
- Agriculture Creates Real Employment (ACRE) Act (S. 2663) – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and nine Republican colleagues, this bill eases requirements for pesticide applicators to obtain permits under the Clean Water Act; streamlines the Fish and Wildlife Service permitting process for predator control on ranches; and removes penalties for farmers who are accused of baiting migratory game birds if the farmer is following standard farming practices
NSF – Advisory Committee for Polar Programs Meeting (April 18-19)
NSF – Advisory Board for Geosciences Meetings (April 25-26)
NSF – National Science Board Meeting (May 2-3)
Opportunities for Public Comment:
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble Project
The Alaska District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intends to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to assess the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts associated with the proposed Pebble open pit mine in the wetlands, streams and Ocean near Cook Inlet. The EIS will also assess the potential effects of multiple alternatives. Public comment on the Pebble Project is available, with comments due by June 29, 2018.
- BLM – Revisions to Obama-Era Restrictions on Gas Venting and Leakage from Energy Operations on Public Lands
The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to revise a rule passed by the Obama administration that required energy companies to capture methane burned off at drilling sites due to its environmental impact. This action aims to reduce unnecessary compliance burdens Comments on the proposed revisions and on ways that the BLM can reduce the waste of gas by incentivizing the capture, reinjection, or beneficial use of the gas are requested on or before April 23, via mail or online.
- EPA – Clean Power Plan Repeal and Replacement
On Dec. 18, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an advance notice of proposed rulemaking initiating the first step toward replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP). The document asks for public comment on what a replacement rule should look like. The Clean Power Plan sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, cutting them 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In a separate but related action, the EPA had proposed to repeal the rule. The EPA is accepting public comments on CPP repeal until April 26.
- EPA-Clean Water Act Coverage of Discharges of Pollutants
Comment on whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency should offer clarification or revision of previous statements regarding the Clean Water Act, more specifically, whether pollutants that are discharged at point sources, but are then introduced to jurisdictional waters via connection to the hydrologic cycle may be subject to regulation by the Clean Water Act. Comments are due by May 21, 2018 online.
- EPA – Biological Opinion on Pesticide Effects on Threatened or Endangered Species
The EPA is seeking comment on the final Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), regarding the potential effects of chlorpyrifos, malathion, and diazinon on federally listed threatened or endangered species (listed species) and their designated critical habitats. Submit comments by May 22, 2018.
- NOAA NMFS – Petition To List Chinook Salmon in the Upper Klamath-Trinity Rivers Basin as Endangered
Comment on a petition received by the National Marine Fisheries Service to classify the Upper Klamath-Trinity Rivers (UKTR) Chinook salmon Evolutionary Significant Unit as endangered in accordance withthe Endangered Species Act. Comments are due by April 30, 2018, via online portal or mail.
- NOAA NMFS – Initiation of 5-Year Review for Threatened and Endangered Species
The National Marine Fisheries Service is initiating a 5-year review for the threatened Gulf of Maine distinct population segment (DPS), the endangered New York Bight DPS, the endangered Chesapeake Bay DPS, the endangered Carolina DPS, and the endangered South Atlantic DPS of Atlantic sturgeon. The 5-year review must be based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review. NMFS is requesting such information on the status of each DPS. Submit information by May 15, 2018.
- NRCS – Notice of Availability and Opportunity for Comment – Alabama Draft Restoration Plan (Gulf Spill Restoration)
The Alabama Trustee Implementation Group (Alabama TIG) has prepared a draft Restoration Plan II/Environmental Assessment (RP II/EA). The draft RP II/EA describes the restoration project alternatives considered by the Alabama TIG to meet the Trustee’s goals to restore and conserve habitat, to replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources, to restore water quality, and to provide for monitoring and adaptive management. Public comments on the plan can be submitted online through May 4, 2018
- USFS – Grand Mesa, Unpcompahgre and Gunnison National Forests Forest Plan Revision and Environmental Impact Statement. The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests in Colorado are revising their Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) and preparing an accompanying Environmental Impact Statement. Preliminary comments can be submitted through May 3, 2018.
- Visit this page on ESA’s blog for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment.