Policy News: July 23, 2018
ESA Policy News
In This Issue:
103 Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America convenes in New Orleans, LA
The Opening Plenary talk by Robert Twilley, “Ecosystem design approaches in a highly engineered landscape of the Mississippi River Delta” will be live-streamed – watch it here on Sunday, August 5 at 5 PM central time.
All Politics Are Local
Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL) founder Arti Garg provides her perspective on political engagement at the local level in an Ecotone blog post.
Travel Ban Will Hinder Scientists and International Collaboration
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President Donald Trump’s policy to ban travelers for five countries is constitutional.
‘Injurious Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act’ Reintroduced to Congress
Bill gives USFWS the authority to designate species as ‘injurious’ before they enter the U.S.
House, Senate and Administration release proposals to modify the Endangered Species Act and its regulations, EPA holds hearing on proposed “transparency in science” rule.
House passes appropriations bill for Interior, EPA and Forest Service; House approves changes to the key fisheries law.
Trump nominates entomologist to oversee agricultural research; NSF solicits “big ideas.”
Supreme Court will hear dusky gopher frog case in October
California releases water management plan for central California.
Grants for scientific engagement, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine release open science report.
Ireland votes to divest from fossil fuels, UK announces new environment bill, Aquaculture spill in Chile..
Federal Register Opportunities
Upcoming meetings and other opportunities for public involvement.
2018 midterm elections are happening in November. Register to vote and learn more about voting policies and rights in your state at Rock the Vote.
View an up-to-date list of ESA’s media coverage
103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America convenes in New Orleans, La.
The Opening Plenary featuring a talk entitled, “Ecosystem design approaches in a highly engineered landscape of the Mississippi River Delta,” by Robert Twilley will be live-streamed, Sunday, August 5th at 5:00 pm central time.
Environmental scientists, educators, and policymakers will gather at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana Aug. 5-10th, 2018, for the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Ecologists from around the world attend the five-day conference, which is expected to host over 3,000 scientific presentations this year. Registration is open online, and walk-in registration will also be available.
Meeting plenaries and symposia will delve into recent events as they explore the meeting theme “Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human wellbeing.” In the past year, record hurricanes, flooding, heat waves, and wildfire impacted ecosystems and communities in the United States and around the world. Shortly after Category 5 Hurricane Irma clipped Puerto Rico and pummeled several Caribbean Islands, a second Category 5 storm, Maria, made direct landfall on the U.S. territory, to devastating effect.
The Opening Plenary features Robert Twilley, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and a distinguished professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University. The 11th annual Regional Policy Award will be presented to Representative Walter J. Leger III, speaker pro tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives, during the Society’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana for his leadership in coastal restoration. The ESA award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker who has an outstanding record of informing policy decisions with ecological science.The event is free and open to the general public, and it will also be live-streamed – watch it here Sunday, Aug. 5 at 5:00 p.m central time.
Puerto Rican native Ariel Lugo, director of the USDA Forest Service’s International Institute of Tropical Forestry in San Juan, will deliver the Scientific Plenary lecture Monday, Aug. 6, on the adaptions and resilience of social-ecological systems in the Caribbean to extreme events.
Meeting field trips will explore the meeting’s theme outside the convention center, with a particular focus on wetlands, which harbor wildlife, improve water quality, and buffer coastal communities from wind and storm surge. Louisiana holds more than 40 percent of the wetlands in the continental United States. The Pelican State is also the site of the greatest wetlands losses. With the disappearance of swamps and marshes, the state is losing its coastline to erosion at a rate of 43 square kilometers per year, or about a football field every hour, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Local ESA members will lead visiting colleagues to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to find carnivorous plants, and guide a canoe outing under the moss-hung bald cypress canopy in the freshwater wetlands of Bayou Manchac. A service trip led by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation will pick up litter in the urban marsh at the mouth of Bayou St. John. On a crosstown walk down Washington Avenue, visitors will explore environmental and socioeconomic change in a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans neighborhood.
Visit the Annual Meeting website.
All Politics are Local
Read a guest Ecotone blog post written by Arti Garg, founder and chair of Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL). She shares how working in Congress and the White House inspired her to act locally in Hayward, CA after leaving Washington DC.
Travel Ban Will Hinder Scientists and International Collaboration
The U.S. Supreme Court June 26 ruled that President Donald Trump’s policy to ban travelers from five Muslim-majority countries is constitutional. The 5-4 decision affirms the policy which the administration introduced in shortly after taking office in January 2017. The travel ban itself, and the subsequent visa restrictions which involve significant personal information gathering, raise concerns for those who study, collaborate on, and promote science internationally.
As outlined by Scientific American, “The original ban had immediate repercussions for researchers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen-stranding several in transit and preventing others from coming to the United States to work, study or attend scientific meetings. The White House has since revised the policy. It now applies to travelers from five majority-Muslim nations-Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia-plus Venezuela and North Korea.” Chad had been on the list but was removed.
Although the ban and subsequent visa restrictions seek to enhance vetting for detecting attempted entry into the U.S. by terrorists, their broad applications are posing serious questions and concerns regarding travel (in and out of the States) for working scientists and academia.
ESA and Others Push Back
ESA joined with other scientific and research organizations to pen multiple letters opposing the travel ban and other restrictions on travel, from January 2017 up to the most recent letter in May 2018.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), ESA, and 54 other professional societies and organizations voiced their concerns regarding the additional screening policy in a letter submitted to the administration in May. The comprehensive letter points out many of the problems this policy might cause.
First, the letter addresses the impact on future academic, scientific exchange and collaboration. If implemented, particularly with insufficient resources, the additional screening requirements will have a negative impact on higher education and scientific collaborations.
Second, there is uncertainty about the information collected from visa immigrant and nonimmigrant applicants. What information, where it is gathered from, how often it will be reviewed by the applicable agencies, make the policy confusing for applicants. Other concerns are privacy issues, weight of social media information; and worries for vulnerable individuals, such as those who have fled terrorism and human rights abuses.
Impacts on Scientists
The extent of the most recent restriction varies by country. Iranians can enter the U.S. only on student visas or temporary ‘J’ work visas, which are common among foreign postdocs in the United States. Citizens of Chad, Libya and Yemen can no longer enter on business or tourist visas, and Syrians and North Koreans are barred in all circumstances.
The restrictions are significant for students in science. They will find it difficult, if not impossible, to come to the United States to study or work. And those that do may be limited in their ability to leave the U.S., for fear of not being able to return, leaving them isolated from family and home.
The ban does allow student exemptions, yet the number of student visas issued is a fraction of the amount needed. As reported by Nature:
“[D]ata from the Department of Justice reveal that the government issued just 289 visas to students from Iran, Libya, Yemen and Somalia in the first three months of this year. “This is less than a quarter of the volume needed to be on track for 2016 student visa levels,” the last full year before the ban took effect, Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissenting opinion.
Visa application and approval has already seen a decline since the ban went into effect in 2017. The NAS collects information via an online questionnaire on visa applications and visa-related issues from the scientific community. Each completed questionnaire profiles one visa case. The data shows the following:
- Total cases over 15 years: 14,044
- Total new cases reported for 2017: 518
While 966 cases per year was the average for 14 years, only 518 were reported in 2017. These numbers indicate visa application from the scientific community fell approximately 55%. In light of visa application and approval already falling significantly, this policy will only hinder students further. And with fewer students pursuing studies in the States, the ability of the U.S. to compete in scientific fields will suffer.
As Wired explained, after the latest version of the ban went into effect on December 8, 2017 more than 8,400 people from the banned nations (including Chad) applied for visa waivers in the first month; 128 of those qualified for visas outright because of special exemptions, but of the more than 8,200 others only two waivers were approved. And those who do manage to get a visa will have to endure lengthy separations from their families, without a means of visiting them or having them visit the U.S.
Some universities are speaking out against the ban. “The travel ban executive order inhibits [the] free flow of scholars and ideas and sends a chilling message not only to promising and law-abiding individuals from the affected regions, but also to students and scholars from around the world who want to contribute to an open and welcoming society,” said Christopher L.the president of Princeton University.
Congress has weighed in with support of the students as well. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration met June 26 for the hearing, “Student Visa Integrity: Protecting Educational Opportunity and National Security.” Several senators expressed concern over the dropping international student enrollment numbers. “We’ve seen new international student enrollment drop by 3% this year across U.S. higher education institutions, and that number is expected to double next year, while other countries are seeing double-digit increases.” said Senator Durbin (D-IL). He went on to say, “We want [international students] to make America more successful.” One main takeaway from the hearing based on the various testimonies is that the government is committed to upholding national security while at the same time creating a more globally engaged and welcoming United States.
Impact on Science
In addition to travel of potential students, the bans restrict visiting scholars, and scientists traveling out of the country for symposia and conferences. Researchers say the U.S. scientific community has already lost potential collaborators, trainees and recruits. As The Washington Post outlines, the ban will cost the U.S. scientific talent. For example:
“Iran, which has the largest population of the targeted countries, has been making significant strides in science, particularly in chemistry, engineering and life sciences, with the quality and number of scientific publications increasing in the past three decades. By the metric of articles published, it recently surpassed Israel as the scientific leader of the Middle East.”
As addressed in the NAS letter:
“Scientific exchanges, whether through long- or short-term visits or at professional society meetings, are vitally important to the United States…. [M]any U.S. professional societies have significant numbers of international members, and it is important for those individuals to be able to attend the U.S. societies’ meetings. In a 2012 report, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that nearly 1.8 million meetings (not all scientific) were held in the United States. The attendance of international scientists at U.S. meetings and conferences is important in terms of the intellectual content contributed, the number of collaborations with U.S. counterparts that are created or sustained, and the benefits accrued to the United States economy.”
The concern for national security is not lost on scientific communities, and organizations are calling for balance. In an October 2017 report, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) argued that “when the government invokes claims of security to justify an infringement of our civil or academic liberties, the burden of persuasion must be on the government[.]” The report went on to stress that any restrictions on research “must be precise, narrowly defined, and applied only in exceptional circumstances.” The NAS letter closes with this point: “We are all committed to the safety and security of the United States but feel any regulations adopted for that purpose must be precise, well thought out and able to be amended if the negative consequences we cite in these comments [privacy concerns, impact on scientific exchange, among other issues] come to fruition.”
How this ban and the travel restrictions are implemented and if how it is carried out will stay within constitutional bounds will be closely watched. Academia and international science organizations are already seeing the negative effects; whether these issues can be rectified under the ban as it stands now remains to be seen.
Resource for Scientists Coming to the U.S.
National Academy of Science: The Board of International Science Organizations
The International Visitors Office (IVO) is a program operated by the Board on International Scientific Organizations. The IVO serves as a resource on visa-related issues for The National Academies, Academy members, as well as scientists and students traveling to the United States for professional activities.
‘Injurious Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act’ Reintroduced to Congress
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) reintroduced the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act to Congress July 13. Gillibrand and the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) previously introduced this bill during the last Congress in 2016.
The bill gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) greater authority to regulate invasive species and would allow USFWS the authority to designate a species as ‘injurious’ – or causing significant ecological and/or economic harm to human health, agriculture or native wildlife – before a species is introduced to the U.S. Under the Lacey Act, injurious species cannot be imported to U.S. or sold within the U.S. without a permit from USFWS. Currently, federal authorities can only designate a species as ‘injurious’ after the species has entered the U.S.
The legislation outlines a process for USFWS to evaluate the threat of potentially invasive species and designate species as injurious based on a risk analysis. USFWS is directed to consult with stakeholders and related agencies like the National Invasive Species Council when making determinations. USFWS is also given the authority to make emergency designations for species that post an imminent threat. The bill directs funds from civil and criminal penalties levied under the Lacey Act and fees for live animal imports to an Injurious Wildlife Prevention Fund, which will be used to cover the costs of implementing this bill.
Gillibrand and Stefanik cited the impact of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussel on the Great Lakes and the impending threat of Asian carp as their motivation for introducing the legislation.
Endangered Species Act: In three separate efforts to modify the Endangered Species Act (ESA), members of the House and the Senate introduced bills to change the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service proposed modifying regulations to change how the agencies implement the Act.
The House Congressional Western Caucus introduced a set of nine bills that would amend the Endangered Species Act. Members of the Western Caucus allege that the ESA has become too restrictive, unsuccessful at protecting species and harmful to landowners and industry. Three of the bills — LAMP, LOCAL and EMPOWERS Acts — focus on strengthening the role of state, local and tribal governments in the Endangered Species Act. Other bills modify the de-listing process and the petition process and cap attorney’s fees for endangered species lawsuits. The House Western Caucus also included the Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act (H.R. 3608) in the package. This bill, originally introduced in 2017, requires data used in listing decisions to be made publically available.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced draft legislation to overhaul the Endangered Species Act July 2. The bill focuses on strengthening the role of state and local governments in implementing the Act. Under the legislation, species recovery teams may not have more federal representatives than state and local representatives. Recovery teams would also be required to give more weight to scientific information provided by state, local or tribal governments. Barrasso’s committee held a hearing on the draft legislation July 18. Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) and other committee Democrats expressed concerns that the bill would limit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to use science, limit judicial review of agency actions and not help species conservation.
In the executive branch of government, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service released a set of proposals to significantly change the regulations defining how the agencies implement the Endangered Species Act. One change removes the blanket 4(d) rule that effectively treats threatened species the same as endangered species and prohibits the take, or killing, collection and harassment of threatened species. Another change allows USFWS and NOAA employees to take economic impacts into consideration when making listing decisions. For example, officials would be able take into consideration that listing a species might halt the local timber industry and led to less economic activity in an area. USFWS and NOAA are also proposing changing regulations that limit the agencies’ ability to designate areas not currently occupied by a species as critical habitat. Under one of the proposed rules, agencies can only designate areas that are not inhabited by a species as ‘critical habitat’ if areas currently inhabitated are insufficient for the conservation of the species. Finally, the new proposed regulations define the term “foreseeable future,” a term used in listing decisions, only as far as agency officials “can reasonably determine that the conditions posing the potential danger of extinction are probable.”
EPA “Transparency” Rule Hearing: Representatives of public health, environmental and scientific groups testified against the EPA’s proposed ‘transparency in science’ rule at a public hearing held by the EPA in Washington, DC July 17. The groups attested that the proposed rule would limit the EPA’s ability to use the best available science while crafting environmental regulations. Two members of Congress – Reps . Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Susan Bonamici (D-OR) – also testified at the EPA hearing to oppose the rule. Only two speakers – one from the American Petroleum Institute and another individual representing companies affected by the National Ambient Air Quality Standard – supported the rule. Before the public hearing, ESA and 68 other organizations released a statement opposing the rule. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine also sent a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler warning that the regulation “pose[s] a threat to the credibility of regulatory science.”
Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations: The House voted to pass a “minibus” spending bill, including spending for the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service. The spending bill passed 217 -199, with all Democrats and 15 Republicans opposing the bill, largely due to environmental policy riders in the legislation.
Interior: The Bureau of Land Management receives $1.2 billion, a $55 million increase over fiscal year (FY) 2018 levels. The Fish and Wildlife Service receives $1.6 billion, an $11.4 million decrease. The U.S. Geological Survey receives $1.2 billion, an $18 million increase. USGS’ cooperative research units, which the Trump administration has proposed defunding, receive $19.3 million, a $1.9 million increase.
EPA: The EPA receives a $100 million decrease, bringi the agency’s budget to $7.9 billion.
Forest Service: The Forest Service receives $6.1billion in total, including $3 billion for wildland fire management. This represents a $197.5 million increase for the Forest Service. Forest Service Research and Development’s funding stays flat at $297 million.
Lawmakers approved several policy riders as part of the appropriations package. The bill:
- Bars the federal government from paying attorney’s fees as part of settlements under the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species acts
- Prohibits the EPA from using the social cost of carbon metric
- Stops enforcement of the Obama-era EPA methane rule
- Prevent the EPA taking action against states who do not meet the requirements of Chesapeake Bay pollution limits
- Prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from implementing or enforcing the listing of the Preble’s jumping mouse as a threatened species
- Prevents rulemaking on the status of the lesser prairie chicken and
- Prevents USFWS from enforcing a species listing if a species has not undergone a five-year review.
Fisheries Bill: The House voted to approve a bill that overhauls the Magnusson-Steven Act, the primary law governing fisheries management in the U.S. The bill, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” (H.R. 200) aims to give local fishery management councils’ more authority and flexibility in order to benefit people in fishing communities. Congress last reauthorized the Magnusson-Stevens Act in 2007 — at this point, Congress required NOAA Fisheries to use scientific stock assessments to set catch limits and prevent overfishing. Notably, this bill would loosen these requirements for stock assessments. Commercial and recreational fishing groups are divided on the legislation, while Democrats and conservation groups are strongly opposed. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Carbon Tax Resolution: The House passed a resolution, introduced by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), declaring that a carbon tax would be “detrimental” to the U.S. economy. Resolutions are nonbinding and simply express the opinion of the House or Senate. All House Republicans voted for a similar resolution in 2016. This time, six Republicans – all of which are members of the Climate Solutions Caucus – voted against the resolution.
STEM Diversity Resolution: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) recognized the importance of diversity in the STEM fields in a resolution. They note that STEM is a growing and increasingly important field and further diversity will help the field solve future scientific challenges. It especially recognizes the American Physical Society’s Bridge Program, which seeks to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented groups earning doctoral degrees in physics. The resolution is online here.
NSF Grants: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and 18 other Senate Democrats introduced a resolution supporting NSF funding for climate change education. This resolution comes after four Republican senators sent a letter to the NSF inspector general in June asking for an investigation of grant for a program encouraging TV meteorologists to educate their audience about climate change science.
SHARKS!: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing titled “SHARKS!” on shark research before the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Shark scientists testified on the benefits of shark research, including informing conservation, and the need for additional funding for this research. Members of the committee, including Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), also shared their enthusiasm for sharks, but did not commit to further funding for research.
- The House voted to approve the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (H.R. 50). This bill, sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) aims to reduce the number of “unfunded mandates,” or new federal decrees that require states and local governments to expend resources without additional funding, including new environmental regulations. The bill also requires federal agencies to consult with businesses and local governments affected by regulations before issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking.
- The House voted to approve the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act (H.R. 3906) from Rep. Danny Heck (D-WA). This bill establishes a stormwater infrastructure funding taskforce made up of federal, state, local and private representatives.
- Sen. James Risch (R-ID) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S. 3223) in the Senate. This legislation would allocate revenue from energy development on federal lands and waters to the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program, which funds state fish and wildlife agencies. The House version of this bill, H.R. 4647, was introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) in December 2017. Unlike the House version of this bill, however, the Senate bill requires congressional approval of the transfer for funds from the federal government to state agencies.
- Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration and Promotion Act (S. 3240).The bill aims to promote native plants by creating grant programs for botanical research and conservation of rare plants in the Department of Interior and directing the federal government to provide preference to native plants in land management programs. The House version of the bill (H.R. 1054) was introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in February 2017.
- Rep. Michelle Luja Grisham (D-NM), along with 61 other House Democrats, introduced the America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018 (H.R. 6410). This bill declares Congress’ support for National Monuments established between 1996 and April 2017, confirms that only Congress has the power to reduce the size of national monuments, expands the Bears Ears National Monument and designates new wilderness areas in the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains National Nonument in New Mexico and in the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada.
- Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) introduced the Chemical Assessment Improvement Act (H.R. 6399), which eliminates the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) chemical assessment program. Biggs and House Science Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who co-sponsored the legislation, claim that IRIS is ‘flawed’ and uses ‘improper science.’
Nominations: The Trump administration has nominated Scott Hutchins to serve as USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics. This position oversees the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, among other agencies. The previous undersecretary for research, education and economics, Catherine Wotecki, also served as the USDA’s chief scientist. Hutchins currently works as the global leader of integrated field sciences for Corteva Agriscience, the agricultural division of DowDupont, Inc. and has worked for Dow since 1987. He has a Ph.D. in entomology from Iowa State University and has served as the president of the Entomological Society of America.
President Trump has picked S. Lane Genatowski to be the heard of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Genatowski is an investment banker and attorney who has worked in the energy industry. He currently works as a managing partner at Dividend Income Advisors, overseeing the firm’s investments in utilities.
The Senate Agriculture Committee announced that it will hold a hearing to question James Hubbard, Trump’s nominee for USDA undersecretary of natural resources and the environment, July 24 at 10 am. This position oversees the U.S. Forest Service.
NSF Competition: The National Science Foundation is giving the public the opportunity to submit ideas for projects that the NSF should fund. The contest is called the “the NSF 2026 Idea Machine,” and a portal to submit ideas will open Aug. 31. Suzi Iacono, the head of NSF’s Office of Integrative Activities, told Science Magazine that ideas should be exciting, original and cross-disciplinary and must fit into the NSF’s mission.
NSF STEM Education Committee: NSF announced the first members of its new Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education advisory panel. This committee was created by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act and is tasked with encouraging U.S. scientific and technological innovations in education. Committee membership includes representatives of private industry, academia, education nonprofits and public school educators.
DOE National Laboratories: The Department of Energy has launched its Lab Partnering Service, an online platform that allows stakeholders to identify and find expertise, technologies and information from across the Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The Lab Partnering Service is online here.
Dusky Gopher Frog: The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for the Weyerhauser v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) case in Oct 2018. At issue, in this case, is whether USFWS can designate an area as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act where the species does not currently exist. Louisiana landowners and a timber company, Weyerhauser, sued the federal government in 2013 after USFWS designated a 1,500-acre area as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog. While the frog has not been found in the area for at least 50 years, USFWS argues that area would be essential for the population if it does recover.
Grants for Civic Engagement: Research!America and the National Science Policy Network are offering grants of up to $5,000 to student and post-doc led groups that are interested in projects that “elevate the importance of scientific research” in the midterm elections. Examples of projects that might be supported by this project are roundtable discussions with candidates and community science events. The request for proposals is online here, and applications are due Aug. 10, 2018.
Gulf of Mexico Films: The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and Screenscope Films have released 25 new short films to accompany its Dispatches from the Gulf documentary series. The films are available on YouTube. Accompanying educational resources are also available, and educators can request free copies of the Dispatches from the Gulf documentaries.
Open Science Report: The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a report, “Toward an Open Science Enterprise: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research,” looking at examples of open science and challenges in adopting open science. The report provides five recommendations. 1) Research institutions should create a culture that better rewards and supports researchers engaged in open science practices. 2) Research institutions and professional societies should train students to implement open science practices effectively. 3) Research institutions and funders should develop policies to preserve research products and provide resources for long-term preservation and availability of these research products. 4) Funders should make sure that research archives adhere to FAIR (Finable-Accessible-Interoperable-Reusable) data principles. 5) The research community should work together to realize Open Science by Design.
Chile: 900,000 salmon escaped an aquaculture facility in Chile during a storm July 5, sparking new debate on the regulation of aquaculture operations in the country. Environmentalists have criticized the industry’s use of antibiotics and say that the non-native salmon could harm native fish species and add ammonia to the water, leading to an algal bloom.
Ireland: The lower house of Ireland’s parliament passed a bill to divest the country’s €8 billion euros ($9.34 billion US) national investment fund from the coal, oil, gas and peat industries within five years. The bill is expected to pass the parliament’s upper house easily and become law by the end of 2018, making Ireland the first country to divest from fossil fuels.
United Kingdom: Prime Minister Theresa May announced July 18 her government’s intention to introduce the country’s first environment law in the county since 1995. May has not released details on the law, but did say that the bill would make the government’s 25-year environmental plan into law. This plan sets policy from protecting air and water and restoring wildlife habitat. Environmentalists have also called on May to create an environment watchdog to replace EU oversight of the country’s environmental quality.
California: State officials released a draft plan to increase water flows in the lower San Joaquin watershed to conserve salmon and other native fish populations July 6. A previous plan approved in 1995 allowed 80 percent of water from this river to be diverted for agricultural purposes, while the new plan requires that 40 percent of river’s water should be allowed to flow. The California State Water Resources Control Board will release the final version of the plan in August and is accepting public comments on the plan.
State Wildlife Law: The Association of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies has released its State Wildlife Law Project website, an online search platform of state and territorial fish and wildlife law.
Federal Register Opportunities
Public Meetings, many of which are live-streamed:
- BLM – Sierra Front-Northwestern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council (July 26-27)
- BLM – Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council Meeting (August 7-8)
- BLM – Alaska Resource Advisory Council Meeting (Aug. 14)
- EPA – Environmental Finance Advisory Board (Aug. 21)
- EPA – National Environmental Justice Council Meeting (Aug. 14)
- NOAA NMFS – North Pacific Fishery Management Council Ecosystem Committee Meeting (July 24)
- NOAA NMFS – Pacific Fishery Management Council Scientific and Statistical Committee Meeting (Aug. 2)
- NOAA NMFS – Public Meeting in Preparation for the International Whaling Commission 67th Meeting (Aug. 7)
- NOAA NMFS – New England Fishery Management Council Research Steering Committee (Aug. 8)
- NOAA National Ocean Service – Evaluation of Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve (meeting Aug. 8, comments due Aug. 17)
- NOAA National Ocean Service – U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting (Aug. 16)
- NOAA National Ocean Service – Evaluation of Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve (meeting Aug. 21, comments due Aug. 31)
- NOAA National Ocean Service – Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council (Aug. 22)
- State Department – Public Meeting: Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (July 25)
Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:
- Agricultural Research Service – Request for Nominations of Members for the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board. Nominations are due August 10, 2018.
- BLM – Notice of Proposed Withdrawal of Extension and Opportunity for Public Meeting for the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Winter Range, Wyoming. Comments and requests for a public meeting must be received by July 25, 2018.
- BLM – Environmental Impact Statements and Resource Management Plans for Greater-sage grouse conservation. The comment period for revised plans for Colorado, Nevada and Northeastern California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming is open until Aug. 2, 2018.
- BLM – Notice of Intent To Amend the Resource Management Plan for the Colorado River Valley Field Office (Colorado). BLM is seeking comments through Aug. 6, 2018.
- BLM – Call for Nominations and Comments for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska 2018 Oil and Gas Lease Sale. Comments due Aug. 20, 2018.
- Council on Environmental Quality – Update to the Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are due Aug. 20, 2018.
- Department of Commerce – Request for Comments on the Cross-Agency Priority Goal: Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset. Comments are due July 27, 2018.
- Department of the Interior – Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee; Call for Nominations. Nominations are due Aug. 9, 2018.
- EPA – Request for Nominations of Candidates to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) and SAB Standing Committees. Nominations due Aug. 8, 2018.
- EPA – Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science. Comments on this proposed regulation must be received on or before Aug. 16, 2018.
- EPA – Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Costs and Benefits in the Rulemaking Process. Comments due Aug. 13, 2018.
- NOAA – Request for Nominations for the Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing
- NOAA NMFS – New England Fishery Management Council – Draft Amendment to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. Comments are due by Aug. 6, 2018.
- NOAA NMFS – Call for Nominations to the Marine Mammal Scientific Review Groups. Nominations are due Aug. 15, 2018.
- NOAA National Ocean Service – Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Coral Reef Conservation Program. Preliminary, scoping comments are due Aug. 15, 2018.
- NSF – Request for Information-Environmental Research and Education, National Security and Economic Competitiveness. Comments due Aug. 20, 2018. The committee has also created a survey.
- U.S. ACE – Solicitation for Applications for Stakeholder Representative Members of the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee. Applications due July 27, 2018.
- USDA APHIS – Oral Rabies Vaccine Trial; Availability of a Supplemental Environmental Assessment. This environmental assessment is available for public comment through Aug. 2, 2018.
- USFS – Amendments to Land Management Plans for Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation. Comments are due Aug. 1, 2018.
- USFWS – Proposed Replacement of the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of Red Wolves in Northeastern North Carolina. Comments are due July 30.
- USFWS – Removing Oenothera coloradensis (Colorado Butterfly Plant) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. Comments due Aug. 7, 2018.
- USFWS – Initiation of 5-Year Status Reviews of Five Listed Animal Species. Information must be received by Aug. 17, 2018 for best consideration.
- USFWS – Updated Collision Risk Model Priors for Estimating Eagle Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities. Comments due Aug. 20, 2018.
- USFWS – Draft Long-Range Transportation Plans for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lands in Regions 2, 6 and 8. Comments due Aug. 20, 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.
Register to Vote
The 2018 midterm elections are happening this November, with primaries starting in some states this month. On a national level, all seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the seats in the Senate will be contested. Several state governorships and many other state and local elections will also be contested. Be sure you are registered to vote in time to participate! Learn more about voting policies and rights in your state and register to vote at Rock the Vote, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging young people in politics.
ESA In the News
ESA regularly issues press releases to the media about journal articles and other Society news. Press coverage is kept up-to-date on our “In the News” page. Check out news stories here.
ESA Correspondence to Policymakers
View letters and testimony from ESA here.
- Energy Sciences Coalition – Statement on Final Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations for the Department of Energy Office of Science (July 16, 2018)
- Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) – Thank you to Senate Appropriations Committee (June 22, 2018)
- Multisociety Letter to the State Department on Proposed Information Collections for Applications for Immigrant Visas and Alien Registration and Applications for Nonimmigrant Visas (May 24, 2018)
- Coalition for National Science Funding – Thank You to House Appropriations Committee for FY 2019 Appropriations(May 23, 2018)
- Multi-organization Letter on Forest Service Research and Development FY 2019 Appropriations(May 17, 2018)
- Energy Sciences Coalition Statement in Support of the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act, S. 2503(May 15, 2018)
- ESA letter to EPA – Comment period extension request for proposed rulemaking – Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science (May 8, 2018)
- Multisociety Letter on Forest Service R&D Appropriations (April 27, 2018)
- NDD United Letter on Potential Rescissions (April 25, 2018)
- ESA House Testimony on EPA FY 2019 Budget (April 24, 2018)
- ESA Senate Testimony on EPA FY 2019 Budget (April 24, 2018)
- Energy Science Coalition Statement in Support of ARPA-E (April 16, 2018)
- Coalition for National Science Foundation Funding (CNSF) FY 2019 Appropriations Advocacy Letter (April 12, 2018)
- Energy Sciences Coalition FY 2019 Funding Statement for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (March 30, 2018)
- Energy Sciences Coalition Thank You for FY 2018 Appropriations (March 30, 2018)
- Friends of ARS Letter on FY 2019 ARS Appropriations (March 16, 2018)
- CNSF Letter on FY 2018 Appropriations (Feb. 21, 2018)
- Energy Sciences Coalition FY 2018 Appropriations Statement (Feb. 16, 2018)
ESA’s policy activities work to infuse ecological knowledge into national policy decisions through activities such as policy statements, Capitol Hill briefings, Congressional Visits Days, and coalition involvement. Policy News Updates are bi-monthly summaries of major environmental and science policy news. They are produced by the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of America.
Send questions or comments to Alison Mize, director of public affairs, Alison@nullesa.org or Nicole Zimmerman, public affairs manager, Nicole@nullesa.org
Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership.