Policy News: April 22, 2019
The ESA Southwest Chapter, the Public Affairs Office, and Northern Arizona University are co-hosting a Communicating Science Workshop for members to address the needs of ecologists to communicate scientific information in a variety of public and professional settings. The workshop will provide participants with skills to effectively communicate with Congress and the public.
When: Friday, June 7, 2019, 10:00 am- 5 pm
Where: Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
Cost to attend: None and ESA offers a $200.00 overnight travel award or a $100.00 commuter award to members who attend.
We are expanding the Society’s Rapid Response Team (RRT), a diverse group of about 50 ecologists who are subject matter experts and help ESA address policy and media opportunities in a timely and effective manner. ESA invites any member to apply to be a member of the RRT. By applying, you are raising ESA’s ability to connect ecologists with policymakers and to provide information to the media.
One of ESA’s central missions is to share ecological information with policymakers and members of the media. Since the Society opened its Public Affairs Office in 1983, ESA has served as a trusted source of ecological information. The establishment of the RRT in 2005 enhanced our ability to respond to time-sensitive issues, such as 2010’s BP oil spill and to the more recent Hurricanes Irma and Maria. ESA also encourages RRT members to alert the Society to policy issues or other opportunities.
Dear ESA Member:
As you may know, President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget request sent to Congress would flat-fund or drastically cut scientific research accounts across many federal agencies. At the same time, lawmakers are working on a budget agreement to determine the overall level of federal spending. ESA, along with other organizations in the scientific community, is urging congressional leaders to raise the budgetary caps for FY 2020 avoid the affects of mandatory across-the-board cuts to agencies (sequestration) and to support funding for scientific research.
We are hearing from Hill staff that they are not receiving funding requests from individual scientist constituents. If you have reached out to your lawmaker: thank you! If you have not: please do.
The ecological community is facing many hurdles to see strong funding for science in FY20. Each of you has an important role as a constituent to let your Members of Congress know how and why strong federal funding for science benefits you, your state, and the nation.
We ask you to contact (email or call) your U.S. Representative and both of your U.S. Senators and request robust funding for FY20 appropriation bills for scientific research – especially for ecological research and to raise the budget caps. Visit GovTrack to identify your Members of Congress.
Thank you for your consideration,
Public Affairs Office
Here are some tips to develop a short, concise message.
Step 1. Start with a High-Level Talking Point
Example: Our nation’s research enterprise is among the most powerful engines for American prosperity. We need robust FY 2020 funding for scientific research and we urge to “raise the budgetary caps” for FY 2020 to support research funding and avoid the affects of mandatory across-the-board cuts to agencies! One of the consistent areas of bipartisan agreement over the past 70 years has been the importance of the federal government’s role in supporting research and innovation.
Step 2. Share your personal story!
Briefly explain how federal funding has benefited your research and tell how your research contributes to addressing local, state or federal issues of concern. Note that your work is supported by Agency XYZ and Program XYZ.
Highlights of drastic cuts proposed by the administration to key agencies important to you as well as the amounts that ESA has requested, for your reference.
|Agency||President’s Budget Request||ESA Request for FY20|
|NSF||$7.1 billion (a 12% cut)||$9 billion|
|EPA||$6.1 billion (a 31% cut)||$746 million for Science and Technology|
|DOE Office of Science||$5.4 billion (a 17.3% cut)||$7 billion|
|NOAA||$4.5 billion (a 17% cut)||$5.7 billion|
|USDA/ARS||$1.253 billion (a 4% cut)||$1.821 billion|
|USDA/NIFA||$1.4 billion (a 4.9% cut)||$445 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative|
|USDA/USFS||$5.67 billion (a 6.4% cut)||
$310 million for Forest Service R&D
$83 million for Forest Inventory and Analysis
$16 million for the Joint Fire Science Program
|DOI/USGS||$938.5 million (a 16.7% cut)||$1.2 billion|
Step 3. Say Thank You!
Thank your Member of Congress for their support for sustainable funding for our nation’s science and technology agencies and ask them to continue sustainable, predictable funding and urge them to prioritize these investments and reject the administration-proposed cuts to science as they begin to craft the FY 2020 funding bills.
Nominations: The Senate voted to confirm David Bernhardt as Interior secretary. All Senate Republicans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voted for Bernhardt’s confirmation. Bernhardt is a former oil, gas and water lobbyist who worked as Interior’s Solicitor General during the Bush administration and served as deputy to former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
On Bernhardt’s second day as Interior Secretary, the Interior Department’s Inspector General told lawmakers and watchdog groups that her office is launching a review of ethical complains against Bernhardt, including an allegation that Bernhardt blocked the release of scientific studies analyzing the impacts of certain pesticides on endangered species.
- President Trump signed H.R. 2030 authorizing the Interior Department and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to implement a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River basin. All states in the Colorado River basin approved the plan in March 2019. Shortly after, California’s Imperial Irrigation District, the largest single water user in the river basin, sued to halt the plan in California state courts, claiming other California water districts violated state environmental laws when they agreed to the terms of the contingency plan.
- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Arctic Policy Act (S.1179), which would add two additional indigenous representatives to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission to better incorporate traditional knowledge in arctic science. It also permanently establishes the Arctic Executive Steering Committee and creates two advisory committees, comprised of tribal representatives and representatives of Arctic communities, to the Arctic Executive Steering Committee.
- Senate Energy and Natural Resource Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) and four Senate Republicans introduced the Enhancing Fossil Fuel Energy Carbon Technology (EFFECT) Act (S. 1201), which would create carbon capture research programs in the Department of Energy.
CASAC: The EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board Staff Office released a list of nine candidates for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The EPA is seeking an individual with expertise in ecology. Tim Lewis, a recently retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aquatic ecologist, announced earlier this year his intention to resign once a replacement is appointed. The seven-member CASAC provides outside scientific advice to the EPA on the technical bases for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Comments on the nominees are due April 30, 2019.
On April 11, the CASAC sent EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler a letter recommending that Wheeler reinstate the CASAC particulate matter panel, a subcommittee of 20 scientific experts because the committee lacks the scientific breadth of knowledge needed to adequately review the EPA’s draft Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter. Wheeler disbanded the particulate review panel in October 2018.
EPA: A new legal interpretation states the Clean Water Act only regulates pollution discharges into surface water and does not cover discharges into groundwater, even if the groundwater discharges will reach surface waters. In a fact sheet, the EPA points out that other environmental laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Resources, Compensation and Liability Act apply to groundwater. The Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit dealing with this issue, County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawai’I Wildlife Fund, later this year. This interpretative statement applies to states outside of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the west coast, Alaska and Hawaii and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the east coast from Maryland to South Carolina.
NOAA: The National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale as an endangered species, starting May 15. Bryde’s whales are the only baleen whales that live in the Gulf of Mexico year-round, and NOAA estimates that there are less than 100 individuals in this population. Oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico, collisions with shipping vessels, anthropogenic noise and entanglement with fishing gear all threaten the population’s survival.
NPS: Acting Director P. Daniel Smith promoted David Vela, Trump’s nominee to lead the Park Service, to the position of the acting deputy director of operations in the agency’s headquarters. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources advanced Vela’s nomination in November 2018, but the full Senate did not confirm Vela in the 115th Congress and the President has not yet re-nominated him in the 116th Congress. Previously, Vela served as the superintendent of Grand Teton National Park. Watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a complaint with the Interior Department Inspector General claiming that this appointment is illegal because only a Senate-confirmed NPS director can appoint a deputy director for operations. NPS has not had a Senate-confirmed director since January 2017.
USFWS: The agency initiated a new status review of the bi-state greater sage grouse distinct population segment to determine whether this population segment should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. USFWS originally proposed listing this population, which is found along the California-Nevada border, as a threatened species in 2013 and withdrew this proposed rule in 2015. In May 2018, a federal judge determined that USFWS acted in “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it decided not to list the bi-state sage grouse. USFWS also re-opened the comment period on the original proposed rule listing the species as a threatened species and is accepting public comments on that rule through June 11, 2019. A final determination will be released by Oct. 1, 2019.
USDA: The Washington Post reports that a 2018 memo from the acting USDA chief scientist requires agency researchers to include a disclaimer that results published in scientific journals are “preliminary.”
Oregon: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) released a draft wolf management plan for the eastern third of the state, after a five-year delay. The most significant change would allow ODFW to issue a permit to a rancher or their designee to kill a wolf if there are two confirmed livestock depredations in the area in the past nine months and ODFW determines that wolves present a significant risk to livestock present in the area. Currently, ODFW can authorize the killing of a wolf that has attacked livestock twice over any time period. This management plan does not apply to wolves in the western parts of the state where gray wolves are still listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the plan during its June 7 meeting. ODFW will allow public testimony on the plan during the meeting and is accepting written testimony through May 23.
IPBES has also recorded a series of webinars presenting the key findings of the Methodological Assessment of Scenarios and Models and the four Regional Assessments of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The webinars are available here.
Climate: Over 3,000 scientists signed on to a letter published in Science declaring that youth climate protesters’ concerns are “justified and supported by the best available science” and “current measures for protecting the climate and biospheres are deeply inadequate.”
NSF: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Cordova requesting information about foreign influence that may affect NSF funded research. The letter inquires about how agency vets researchers receiving NSF funds, how NSF identifies and investigates potential fraud and agency policies to prevent the potential theft of research data and findings. Grassley previously sent similar requests to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. The Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general indicated that, after Grassley’s letter to NIH in October 2018, the National Institutes of Health referred 12 cases where NIH-funded researchers failed to disclose foreign ties to the inspector general for further review.
- Arctic Research Commission – 111th Commission Meeting (May 8)
- BLM – Northwest Resource Advisory Council Meeting (April 25)
- Department of Energy – Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (April 25 – April 26)
- EPA – Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Safe and Sustainable Water; Resources Subcommittee Meeting (April 23-24)
- EPA – National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Meeting (April 30-May 2, comments due April 21)
- Forest Service – Butte County (CA) Resource Advisory Committee (May 6)
- Forest Service – Fresno and Madera County (CA) Resource Advisory Committee (May 7, 14, 21)
- Forest Service – Olympic Peninsula Resource Advisory Committee (May 10, 23)
- Forest Service – Wrangell-Peterson (AK) Resource Advisory Committee (May 11, May 25)
- Forest Service – Wenatchee-Okanogan (WA) Resource Advisory Committee (May 22)
- Interior Department – Invasive Species Advisory Committee Meeting (May 2)
- NASA Earth Sciences Division -Applied Sciences Advisory Committee (May 7-8)
- NOAA -Recovery Planning Workshop for the Oceanic Whitetip Shark (April 23-24)
- NOAA – Science Advisory Board (April 23-24)
- NOAA -Southeast Data, Assessment and Review Meeting – Red Grouper (May 1)
- NOAA – Meeting of the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel (May 21-22)
- NOAA NMFS – Pacific Fishery Management Council Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup Meeting (April 30 – May 1)
- NOAA NMFS – Western Pacific Fishery Management Council Meetings (May 1-10)
- NOAA NMFS – U.S. Stakeholder Meeting on Pacific Bluefin Tuna Long-Term Management Framework (May 2)
- NOAA NMFS – Pacific Fishery Management Council Stock Assessment Review Panels (May 6-10)
- NOAA NMFS – Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Scientific and Statistical Committee Meeting (May 7-8)
- NPS – National Park Service Alaska Region Subsistence Resource Commission Program Meetings (Lake Clark National Park – April 30, Cape Krusentern National Monument – May 14 & 15, Kobuk Valley National Park – May 16 & 17)
- NPS – Wekiva River System Advisory Management Committee Meetings (May 8)
- Army Corps of Engineers – Notice of Intent/NEPA Scoping Meeting and Public Comment Period for the Grand River Habitat Restoration and Invasive Species Control Project, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Comments are due May 15, 2019.
- BLM – Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Black Rock City LLC’s Burning Man Special Recreation Permit Renewal in Pershing, County, Nevada. Comments are due April 29, 2019.
- NOAA – Coastal Migratory Pelagics Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region; Framework Amendment 6. Comments are due April 25, 2019.
- NOAA NMFS – South Atlantic Fishery Management Council – Scoping Process for Ecosystem Component Species. Comments are due May 16, 2019, meetings will be held May 7 and May 9, 2019.
- NOAA NMFS – Spiny Lobster Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; Amendment 13. Comments are due May 20, 2019.
- NRCS – Review of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service National Conservation Practice Standards. Comments are due April 25, 2019.
- USFWS – Removing the Borax Lake Chub From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Comments are due April 29, 2019.
- USFWS – Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Advisory Group; Call for Nominations. Nominations are due by April 29, 2019.
- USFWS – North American Wetlands Conservation Council; Call for Nominations. Nominations are due by April 29, 2019.
- USFWS – Harvest Regulations for Migratory Birds in Alaska During the 2019 season. Comments are due by May 3, 2019.
- USFWS – Draft City of Rancho Palos Verdes Natural Community Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Assessment, City of Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County, California. Comments are due May 6, 2019.
- USFWS – Notice of Availability for the Butte Creek Ranch Safe Harbor Agreement for the Northern Spotted Owl and Gray Wolf, Siskiyou County, California; Categorical Exclusion. Comments are due by May 8, 2019.
- USFWS – Removing the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) from the Endangered Species List. Comments are due May 14, 2019.
- USFWS -Proposed Frameworks for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations.Comments are due by May 17, 2019.