April 23, 2018

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2018 Graduate Student Award Policy Hill Day

Ten Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) recipients traveled to Washington, DC April 10 and 11 to learn about the legislative and budget process and to meet with their Members of Congress. They arrived in DC just as the famous cherry blossoms were in full bloom. This year’s award recipients are Aaron W. Baumgardner (California State University, Bakersfield), Stephen R. Elser (Arizona State University), Ann Marie Gawel (Iowa State University), Emily E. Graves (University of California, Davis), Chelsea L. Merriman (Boise State University), Steffanie M. Munguía (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey), Vera W. Pfeiffer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Johnny J. Quispe (Rutgers University), Urooj S. Raja (University of Colorado Boulder), and Jenna M. Sullivan (Oregon State University).

After a day of training April 10, the students stormed the Hill April 11 and met with over 30 congressional offices to request $8.45 billion in federal funding for the National Science Foundation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. Congress is in the beginning stages of developing the FY19 federal budget, so these visits were timely. The students highlighted during the meetings how federal investments in the ecological sciences benefit the communities that the lawmakers represent. It was a particularly busy day on the Hill April 11 due to press and protesters on the Hill to see Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And, the cherry on the cake, was that House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he would not seek reelection on that same day. Electricity seemed to crackle through the air as staffers nervously checked their phones and Twitter accounts for any other breaking news. As one staffer put it, “You know you are in for a busy day when four news cycles have passed by 10:00 am.”  The students got to see the Washington fishbowl up close and in action.

After brief introductions April 10 in the ESA office, the group headed out and navigated the DC Metro subway system to hear a keynote from Tobin Smith, vice president for policy at the American Association of Universities. Smith drew from his career working on Capitol Hill and in science policy to give the students context on how Capitol Hill works and how the federal government funds scientific research using the popular analogy of comparing the political process to a sausage factory.

Later that morning, the graduate students heard from ESA members working in policy-related positions in Washington, DC about career options for ecologists. Speakers included Brittany West Marsden (integration analyst, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and GSPA alumni), Alexis Erwin (senior environmental advisor, U.S. Agency for International Development and GSPA alumni), ESA President Rich Pouyat (retired, U.S. Forest Service) and Susan Norton (research ecologist, Environmental Protection Agency). Pouyat shared his experience of catching “Potomac Fever” while working as AAAS Fellow on the Hill and getting hooked on working in policy. ESA Executive Director Catherine O’Riordan also joined the group and provided perspective on science policy careers in nonprofits. In the afternoon, GSPA participants received further training from staff on the federal budget and how to effectively communicate with Congress.

During the Hill meetings, the GSPA participants shared personal stories of how federal funding makes their research possible, emphasized the importance of federal funding for their institutions, and described how federal investments in scientific research benefit the Members of Congress’ districts. Students lucked-out this year and met, or snapped pictures, with Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam). Congressional offices were mostly supportive of science funding, and the participants’ messages were well-received. We look forward to seeing how the GSPA experience shapes their future career choices.

See pictures from the GSPA Days on Flickr here.

Farm Bill Advances

The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2), also known as the Farm Bill, was introduced in the House of Representatives April 12 by Representative Michael Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Typically attracting some measure of bi-partisan support, this year’s Farm Bill advanced out of committee April 18 by a party-line vote of 26-20.

Partisan division over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could derail the entire bill, forcing the continuation of the 2014 Farm Bill that is set to expire September 30, according to Representative Jim Costa (D-CA), ranking member on the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. The 2018 Farm Bill would mandate more stringent work requirements for those receiving aid from SNAP, which represents approximately 80 percent of spending authorizations under the Farm Bill and is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. The proposed new work requirements could remove 2 million Americans from the program.

Environmental issues of concern in the Farm Bill include a proposal that would double the acreage for forest-thinning projects receiving a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) categorical exclusion from 3,000 acres to 6,000 acres. The forest thinning provisions would enable the Agriculture Department, which manages national forests, to bypass consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service if the Agriculture secretary “determines that such forest management activity is not likely to adversely effect ” species and habitats protected by the Endangered Species Act.  It would also limit any requested consultations to 90 days.

The Conservation Reserve Program, which pays enrolled farmers a yearly rent to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and to plant beneficial species, would increase maximum enrollments from 24 million acres to 30 million, but come with lower payments, discouraging participation. Senate Agriculture Chairman Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) said, “There’s a lot of support for increasing that (the CRP acreage cap), and there’s some pushback,” in comments appearing in Agri-Pulse. “It’s very expensive,” he added. Grain companies are opposed to expanded set-asides and reduced crop production worries farm communities.

The Conservation Stewardship Program, the largest conservation program in the U.S., which provides agricultural and forest producers for “operations-level” conservation impacts, would be eliminated, with some functions being folded into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Representative Marsha Fudge (D-OH) objects because the two programs have different objectives and should remain distinct programs.

Senate Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee sent an April 16 letter to Senate Agriculture leadership warning that “polarizing and controversial environment policy riders … will unduly harm efficiency and expeditious consideration and approval of the Farm Bill by the full Senate.” 

Ballast Discharge Bill Fails

A series of complex legislative maneuvers by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to advance the “Coast Guard Authorization Act” (S.1129) which incorporates controversial ballast water provisions from “Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge Act” (S.168), also known as VIDA, by attaching it to S.140, a bill to amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act (WMAT Act). 

It is a common tactic to attach unrelated legislation into a larger bill that may be easier to pass. However, the effort failed April 19 by a split vote of 56-42 when three co-sponsors of VIDA, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chris Coons (D-DE), voted no. Sean Coit, speaking for Sen. Coons, said that the senator “remains supportive of the policies outlined in VIDA and voted no to let his colleagues [from the Great Lakes region] continue negotiations.”

Some lawmakers from the Great Lakes states contend that the VIDA discharge language would exempt commercial shipping from provisions of the Clean Water Act, in particular leaving those waters vulnerable to aquatic invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, costing industry and communities millions of dollars annually.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), commented on the Senate floor, said, “It exempts ships in the Great Lakes from meeting the best available control standards required everywhere else.” Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), also speaking on the floor, said, “Zebra mussels were only in the lower Great Lakes, and then they moved all the way up to Lake Superior because of these vessels, so it does make a difference having those standards.”

Stabenow and Durbin are both concerned that the VIDA provisions could prevent states from regulating pollutant chemicals in ballast discharges.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tweeted, “This legislation is dangerous, destructive and detrimental to all of us who rely on the Great Lakes for our drinking water, our economy and our way of life.”

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) strongly opposes VIDA’s ballast language, though he said “I think … there is a way to find some middle ground there,” in comments also quoted in the same E&E Daily article.

A motion to reconsider S.140, by Majority Leader McConnell, which would return it to the Senate floor, is pending, but timing is uncertain.

Quick Reads

Mick Mulvaney Proceeding With Vast Federal Budget Cuts 

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has stated that the White House budget plan’s deep spending cuts will be moving forward and may even be split across multiple proposals. He outlined a vague plan at a House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to introduce proposals “a month from now [and] some later on in the fall.” Mulvaney did not specify what areas would be targeted for budget cuts. There is fear that these remarks could point to an attempt to reverse crucial spending increases for fiscal year 2018 that Congress approved in a bipartisan deal earlier this year.

Under a 1974 budget law, the president has the authority to propose budget rescission to Congress, but Congress must approve these recessions for them to go into effect. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated he would not approve of rolling back the recent omnibus spending measure.

Trump Picks News Energy & Climate Adviser

President Trump selected Wells Griffith to oversee international energy and climate strategy at the White House National Economic Council. Griffith worked on Trump’s presidential campaign and served on the administration’s transition team. For the past year, he served as the principal deputy acting secretary for international affairs at the Department of Energy, which was his first professional experience in the energy and environmental field. Colleagues describe Griffith as loyal to Trump, a good listener and a quick learner. Landon Derentz, a career civil servant from the State Department who previously worked at Energy, will join Griffith at the National Economic Council. While at State, Derentz worked on global energy markets and liquefied natural gas issues. Both Griffith and Darentz appointments are on a temporary three months, but their positions may become permanent.

New Jersey Legislature Approves Offshore Drilling Ban

The New Jersey State Legislature voted to approve a measure to ban offshore drilling in state waters. The bill also requires the federal government to coordinate with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection before allowing development in federal waters adjacent to state waters and bans oil and gas pipelines in New Jersey waters. Lawmakers passed the bill in direct response to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plan to open federal waters to offshore drilling.

District Court Strikes down Climate Analysis in BLM Leasing Plans

The U.S. District Court in Montana ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not adequately account for climate change in developing its resource management plans for the Power River Basin area in Wyoming and Montana. The court ruling forces the BLM to revise some of its National Environmental Policy Act reviews. Under the ruling, BLM is required to calculate greenhouse gas emissions resulting from oil, gas and coal development allowed in the management plans.

Forest Service Revises Public Comment Process

The Forest Service (FS) announced March 30 that the agency will revise how and when it will ask the public to comment. A final rule published in the Federal Register explains that, under current regulations, the FS only asks for public comment for directives published in the Forest Service Manual. Directives in the Forest Service manual give staff guidance on topics like livestock grazing permits and habitat management. Guidance in the Forest Service handbook compliments these directives and provides more detailed instructions to staff. The new rule will require the Forest Service to open most guidance and directives published in both the Forest Service handbook and the Forest Service Manual for public comment. The FS will also allow the public to submit comments on these directives through the internet. Comments on this rule can be submitted online through May 29, 2018.

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 Lists Yellow Lance Freshwater Mussels as Threatened

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed yellow lance freshwater mussel as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in April. The yellow lance is native to Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Threats to yellow lance mussels include invasive species, dams, agricultural activities and urban development in its range. The yellow lance was first listed as an Endangered Species Act candidate species in 1991, but the Fish and Wildlife Service did not list the species. In 2011, the agency admitted that “listing may be warranted” for the species and lawsuits from the Center for Biological Diversity forced the agency to make a final decision.

Kirtland’s Warbler Removed from Endangered Species List

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the Kirtland’s warbler from the threatened and endangered species list April 12. The birds have experienced a dramatic recovery — more than 2,300 singing male Kirtland’s warblers were counted in a 2015 census, about 10 times more than were recorded in the 1980s. Kirtland’s warblers have been considered endangered since before the passing of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Comments on the proposed rule are due July 11, 2018.

NOAA Publishes List of Foreign Fisheries

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has finalized its first ‘List of Foreign Fisheries‘. This list, required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, describes the risks that commercial fisheries in 135 countries pose to marine mammals. Now, these fisheries have until 2022 to prove their operations do not pose a significant risk to marine mammals or use equivalent methods to similar fisheries in the U.S. to continue to export fish and fish products into the U.S.

Mixed Court Rulings on Dams and Impacts to Fish

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled April 2 the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation must allow more water to flow over dams in the Columbia River Basin to allow threatened salmon species to migrate in the spring. This ruling is the fourth time that courts have required federal dam managers to increase water flows in the Columbia and Snake Rivers to protect fish species. The same week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled to allow construction to begin on a dam project on the Yellowstone River in Montana, despite claims from the Defenders of Wildlife that the dam would harm endangered pallid sturgeons.

Funding for International Climate Programs

The fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending bill provides 3 million dollars for the State Department to pay dues to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The U.S. usually contributes 10 million annually, but the State Department has not provided any funding for the organizations since Trump was inaugurated. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) negotiated the increase of a line item from seven to ten million in funding for “U.N. Environment Programs.” It’s unlikely that the State Department will transfer these funds to the U.N. until a permanent secretary of state is in place. If confirmed, Secretary of State Nominee Mike Pompeo may block transferring these funds to U.N. climate change programs.

The Bureau of Land Management Headquarters May Move West

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told a crowd of Colorado officials that the Bureau of Land Management headquarters will be moving out of Washington, D.C. The agency’s new headquarters will be closer to federal lands managed by the agency. Bernhardt made the announcement at an event at Colorado Mesa University, sparking speculation that the agency’s new headquarters may be in Colorado. Both Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bills to move the BLM headquarters to a Western state. The move will be a part of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s larger effort to reorganize the Interior Department. Zinke’s reorganization plan is unpopular with Congress. The 2018 omnibus spending bill included a provision that prohibited federal agencies from making major reorganization plans without consulting Congress.

Preble’s Jumping Mouse Retains Endangered Species Protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a petition to remove the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse from the federal endangered species list April 16. The petition, filed by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of some Western ranching and home-building organizations, primarily argued that the mouse is not a distinct subspecies and when it is considered part of a larger species it is no longer threatened. The agency countered that this argument did not provide sufficient new information that would support a taxonomic revision of the Preble’s mouse.

Florida Youth Sue Governor Rick Scott Over Climate Change

A group of eight Florida residents between the ages of 10 and 20  suedGovernor Rick Scott (R-FL) for ignoring the climate threat and called for a science-based “Climate Recovery Plan.” The organization sponsoring the lawsuit, The Children’s Trust, argues that Florida has violated the public trust by failing to protect certain essential natural resources. A representative for Governor Scott stated that the governor signed an environmental protection budget last month, demonstrating his commitment to environmental issues despite his record of questioning climate change and supporting President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement. In related news, the Juliana vs United States case, in which the Children’s Trust sued the federal government for failing to act on climate change on behalf of 21 young people, will be heard by a federal judge in October 2018.

Bridenstine Confirmed as NASA Administrator

The Senate voted to confirmed Trump nominee Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator on April 21. The vote fell on sharp party lines – 50 Democrats voted for Bridenstine while 47 Democrats and two independents voted against Bridenstine’s confirmation. Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) opposed the nomination citing Bridenstine’s denial of climate change science and his lack of scientific credentials. Until his confirmation as NASA Administrator, Bridenstine served in the House of Representatives as a congressman from Oklahoma. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) previously expressed concerns about Bridenstine’s nomination, but he ultimately voted to confirm.

Trump’s Top Energy Advisor leaves the White House        

Mike Catanzaro, President Trump’s top energy and environmental adviser, is leaving the White House. Cantanzaro has been the chief White House staffer on domestic energy and environmental policy since February 2017 and is expected to step down the week of April 23 to rejoin the lobbying firm he worked for before joining the administration. During his time at the White House, he was instrumental in crafting Trump’s energy policies and rolling back Obama administration environmental rules including the Clean Power Plan and Obama’s signature water rule. The lobbying firm, CGCN, said in a statement that Catanzaro will follow all applicable ethics requirement. Catanzaro will be replaced by Francis Brooke, a policy adviser for Vice President Mike Pence.

Lesser Long-Nosed Bat Removed from Endangered Species List

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced April 17 that the lesser long-nosed bat will be removed from the list of endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The bat was listed in 1988 when its population was dangerously close to potential extinction. Today, it has a population estimated to be upward of 200,000. The lesser long-nosed bat is known for pollinating Mexican agave plants which are used for tequila production. Conservation groups largely applauded the decision and the species’ successful recovery.

Trump Administration Defends Atlantic Marine National Monument

The Trump administration moved to dismiss a lawsuit by New England fishermen challenging former President Barack Obama’s decision to designate the nation’s first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean April 16. The Justice Department argued in a court filing that Obama did not violate the Antiquities Act in creating the monument which removes nearly 5,000 square miles from oil and gas exploration as well as restricting commercial fishing in the area. This motion comes as the Trump administration faces several lawsuits by green groups, companies, and tribes over its decision removes lands from the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah.

NOAA will let Gulf Coast States Manage Red Snapper Fishing Seasons

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced it will allow five Gulf Coast states to set their fishing seasons for red snapper in federal waters in 2018 and 2019. States plan to take advantage of the move — Florida is planning for a 40 day recreational fishing season and Alabama planning a 47-day season. Recreational fishing groups – who have pushed for longer fishing seasons for red snapper — praised the decision. Conservation groups like the Ocean Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund have expressed concerns that last year’s 42 day red snapper season caused overfishing.

EPA’s Science Advisory Board Will Meet 

A key Environmental Protection Agency advisory panel, the Science Advisory Board (SAB), scheduled its first face-to-face meeting since EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt imposed a new membership requirements for the board, banning recipients of EPA grants from serving on the board. A half-dozen members of the board were forced out as a result. Many of the replacements have ties to the industries the EPA is meant to regulate. Traditionally, the SAB had consisted mostly of academic researchers. The meeting is set to take place May 31 and June 1 and the agenda includes a discussion of EPA’s semiannual regulatory agenda, briefings by staffers, and a review of a draft report on screening methodologies used in the reviews of hazardous pollutant emissions standards for dozens of industries. The meeting is also expected to elucidate how the group’s direction has changed since Pruitt reshaped it. The meeting will take place in Washington, DC and will be open to the public. For more information, see the Federal Register Notice.

Interior Department will not Reduce Royalty Rates

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will not accept an internal recommendation to slash deep water royalty rates by a third. The proposal, which received bipartisan scrutiny, would have cut rates from 18.75 percent to 12.5 percent on acreage more than 200 meters below the ocean’s surface. Zinke stated that “Right now, we can maintain higher royalties from our offshore waters without compromising the record production and record exports our nation is experiencing.” However, Interior will move forward with other recommendations from the royalty committee, such as conducting a study comparing the U.S. offshore industry to operations in Guyana and Mexico.

Hearing on R&D Espionage

The House Committee on Science held a joint subcommittee hearing looking into the efforts of foreign powers to exploit or steal research and development conducted at academic institutions in the United States on April 11. The committee came to a bipartisan conclusion that such espionage efforts were serious concerns and that countermeasures should be strengthened. Despite the strengthened security, legislators affirmed a U.S. commitment to an open research community and a welcoming attitude toward international scholars. Learn more or view the full hearing here.

Sage Grouse Plan Leaked 

leaked draft Environmental Impact Statement shows that the Bureau of Land Management is planning to remove some key protections from Obama-era greater sage-grouse conservation plans in Wyoming, including easing restrictions on oil and gas development and expanding some permitting exemptions. The BLM’s plans for sage grouse in Wyoming are particularly significant because the state contains over one-third of the sage grouse’s total population, the densest population of any state. It is not clear if the agency is drafting similar environmental impact statements in the other nine western states in the sage grouse’s range.

Trumps Picks Former State Forester for USDA Undersecretary Position

President Trump has selected James Hubbard to serve as the U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for natural resources and environment. This position is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Forest Service and requires Senate confirmation. Hubbard served as the head of the Colorado Forest Service for 20 years and also worked for the U.S. Forest Service as the deputy chief for state and private forestry and the Department of the Interior. Hubbard retired from the U.S. Forest Service in January 2017.

Lawmakers Call for Pruitt’s Resignation

Thirty-nine senators and 135 representatives co-sponsored a resolution calling on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to resign. All of the sponsors are Democrats. The resolution cites Pruitt’s misuse of taxpayer money and his efforts to undermine and censor scientists in agency decision-making. 

National Academies of Science Annual Meeting

The National Academies of Science will hold its 155th annual meeting April 28 through May 1 in Washington, DC.  New Academy members will be elected and six members elected to the Academy in 2017 will present their research. Parts of the meeting will be webcast. For more information, see the NAS website.

Get Involved

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 Members for the North Slope Science Initiative, Science Technical Advisory Panel 

The Bureau of Land Management is requesting nominations to serve on the North Slope Science Initiative’s (NSSI) 15-member Science Technical Advisory Panel (Panel). The Panel advises the NSSI Oversight Group on technical issues such as identifying and prioritizing inventory, monitoring, and research needs across the North Slope of Alaska and the adjacent marine environment. Nominations and applications for membership on the panel must be received no later than May 29, 2018.

Nominate Members for the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board 

The Bureau of Land Management is requesting nominations of individuals to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. The Board provides advice concerning the management, protection, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands administered by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, through the U.S. Forest Service. Nominations must be submitted via mail or email by May 29, 2018.

For more opportunities to get involved, go to the Federal Register section.

Legislative Updates

House Passes Four Natural Resources Bills

The House of Representatives voted to pass four natural resource-related bills.

  • H.R. 3607, introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), allows the National Park Service to retain money received for medical services performed at national parks in remote areas.
  • H.R. 3961 from Rep. Darren Soto (R-FL) allows the federal government to initiate a study to consider designating parts of the Kissimmee River as wild and scenic rivers.
  • H.R. 146, introduced by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), transfers some federal lands in Tennessee to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
  • H.R. 443 from Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) directs the Department of the Interior to study the President James K. Polk Home in Tennessee for inclusion in the National Park System

House Natural Resources Committee Advances Several Bills

 The House Natural Resources committee advanced several bills to the full House by voice vote April 18.

  • The Recreation, Not Rep Tape Act (H.R. 3400), introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) eases permitting for tour guides and tour trips across multiple public land agencies.
  • H.R. 2991, from Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), to establish the Susquehanna National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania.
  • H.R. 788, from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), to amend the Pittman-Robertson Act to facilitate the establishment of more public target ranges in certain states.
  • H.R. 1026, from Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), to revise the authorized route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in northeastern Minnesota and to extend the trail in Vermont to connect with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
  • H.R. 4069, from Rep. Don Young (R-AK), to amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to clarify the treatment of authentic Alaska Native articles of handicraft containing nonedible migratory bird parts.
  • H.R. 4645, from Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), to add certain segments of East Rosebud Creek in Montana to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Legislation Introduced

Invasive Species Prevention and Forest Restoration Act (H.R. 5519) -Introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), this bill would amend the Plant Protection Act for the purposes of mitigating the threat of invasive species, and for other purposes.

Innovations in Mentoring, Training and Apprenticeships Act (H.R. 5509) — Introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TN), this bill directs the National Science Foundation provide grants for research about STEM education approaches and the STEM-related workforce, and for other purposes.

Federal Register Opportunities

Public Meetings: 

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.

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 with the 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) Public comments on the plan can be submitted online through May 4, 2018.

NSF — Reporting Requirements Regarding Findings of Sexual Harrassment, Other Forms of Harrrassment or Sexual Assault. The National Science Foundation is requesting public comments on a proposed reporting requirement for organizations that receive NSF funding. In this proposed requirement, awardee organizations must report finding/determinations of sexual harrassment, other forms of harrassment, or sexual assault regarding an NSF funded Principal Investigator or any co-PI. Public comments are due May 4, 2018. 

State Department — 60-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application for Nonimmigrant Visa. The State Department is proposing adding several questions to the Online Application for Nonimmigrant Visa (DS-160) form, including a question about applicant’s social media accounts.

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). Preliminary comments can be submitted through May 3, 2018.

USFWS – Public Input for Meeting of Conference of the Parties to CITES. The Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking information and recommendations on items that the United States might consider submitting for discussion at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Conference of Parties meeting in Sri Lanka in May and June 2019. Country representatives of the Convention meet periodically to review which species in international trade should be regulated and other aspects of the implementation of CITES. The FWS is inviting the public to provide information and recommendations on resolutions, decisions, and agenda items that the U.S. might consider submitting for discussion at the meeting. The public comment period is open until May 11, 2018.

USFWS- Proposed Rule to Reclassify the Hawaiian Goose from Endangered to Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposing reclassifying the Hawaiian goose from endangered to threatened. The FWS is proposing a rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act to enhance conservation of the species through range expansion and management flexibility. The FWS is seeking information, comments and data from the public on this proposed rule. Submit comments by June 1.

USFWS – Draft Recovery Plan for Four Invertebrate Species of the Pecos River Valley The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft recovery plan for four endangered invertebrate species – Noel’s Amphipod, Koster’s springsnail, Roswell springsnail, and Pecos assiminea – found in southeastern New Mexico and southwest Texas. The draft recovery plan includes recovery objects and criteria to be met in order for the species to be removed from the endangered species list. The USFWS is seeking comments, review and new information on these species. Submit comments by June 1.

USFWS – Endangered Species Act Draft Recovery Plan for the Cumberland Darter.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft recovery plan for the endangered Cumberland darter. The agency is requesting review and comments on the draft plan from the public. Public comments close June 4, 2018.

USFWS – Endangered Status for the Island Marble Butterfly and Designation of Critical Habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposes a rule that will add the Island Marble Butterfly to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and to designate critical habitat for the island marble butterfly under the Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service will also announce the availability of a draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed designation of critical habitat for the island marble butterfly. They will accept comments received or postmarked on or before June 11, 2018.

USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Findings for Two Species. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking any new information on the status and threats to the Cape mountain zebra (South Africa)

Visit this page on ESA’s blog for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment.