Policy News: December 6, 2021

In this issue:

Apply for the 2022 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award
Applications are due Dec. 10, 2021.

Congress passes stopgap measure to fund the government through Feb. 18.

Executive Branch
USDA proposes reinstating roadless protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

Maryland Attorney General Sues Monsanto.

Scientific Community
The National Academics issues a call for nomination for a workshop about public and ecosystem health. National Science Board to meet Dec. 8-9.

Federal Register opportunities

Apply for the 2022 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award

Are you a science graduate student interested in the intersection between policy and science? ESA invites you to apply for the virtual 2022 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA).

Offered each year, this award gives graduate students hands-on training and science policy experience including interacting with congressional decision-makers, federal agency officials and ecologists who work in the science and public policy arena.

Many past recipients are currently working in public policy crediting the ESA GSPA as a stepping-stone to policy fellowships such as the AAAS Fellowship or the NOAA Knauss Fellowship. Other past recipients pursue a research career, but they find the public policy knowledge gained from the experience provides a foundation for interacting with policymakers.

Several 1-2 hour training and prep sessions will occur in late January and February 2022 over Zoom. Virtual Hill visits will be held Feb. 16-17. Participants are required to attend the trainings and must be available Feb. 16-17 for Hill meetings.

For more information and to apply, visit this page. Applications are due Dec. 10, 2021.


Nominations: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-9 to advance Christopher Frey’s nomination to be the EPAs assistant administrator for research and development. Frey is a former chair of the EPAs Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and he was a member of the CASAC Particulate Matter Review Panel that former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler dismissed in 2018. He was a prominent critic of the EPA during the Trump administration. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) voted with the Committees Democrats to support the nomination.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced the nomination of Jainey Bavishi to be the assistant secretary of oceans and atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the second-most senior position at NOAA. Bavishi most recently led the New York City Office of Resiliency.

Appropriations: The House of Representatives and the Senate voted to pass a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government funded through Feb. 18, 2022, averting a government shutdown. The measure, known as a continuing resolution, generally keeps funding at fiscal year 2021 levels.

Legislative Updates:

  • Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act (S. 3245). This legislation establishes an Interagency Working Group on Coastal Blue Carbon and authorizes $15 million through FY2026 for the working group’s initiatives, including developing a national map of coastal blue carbon ecosystems. The House Natural Resource Committee held a hearing for the House version of this bill (H.R. 2750) in June 2021.
  • Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR) introduced the Northern Spotted Owl Habitat Improvement Act (H.R. 6019), which codifies a Trump administration rule that removed 3.4 million acres from the species’ critical habitat. The Biden administration withdrew this rule in November 2021.
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and other Republican committee members introduced a bill (S. 3277) to codify a Trump administration regulation that limited states’ ability to block fossil fuel projects under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration proposed this regulation after coastal states, such as Washington state and New York, have used their authority under section 401 to block fossil fuel export facilities and pipelines in their states, citing air quality and climate concerns.

More News:

Executive Branch

White House: The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced that it is creating an energy division, which will work to develop national clean energy innovation plans and ensure the United States reaches net-zero emissions by 2050. The division will be led by Sally Benson, a Stanford University climate and energy expert, and Costa Samaras, a Carnegie University associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Benson will serve as deputy director for energy and chief strategist for the energy transition and Samaras will serve as principal assistant director for energy and chief adviser for energy policy. In addition, the office will work closely with White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy and OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Jane Lubchenco.

Nominations: President Biden nominated Shalanda Young to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Senate confirmed Young as OMB deputy director earlier this year. The Biden administration has not had a Senate-confirmed OMB director yet. Among other responsibilities, the Office of Management and Budget prepares the annual President’s Budget Request and reviews all new federal regulations through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Along with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, OMB issues a yearly memo to agency heads outlining research and development budget priorities.

Forest Service: The Department of Agriculture issued a new proposed rule reinstating roadless protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Late in the Trump administration, the Forest Service exempted 9 million of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from the roadless rule, effectively opening up these areas to logging. During the Trump administration, ESA submitted comments opposing the Forest Service’s proposal to exempt the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Rule, noting that the Tongass stores a large amount of carbon and fuels productive and commercially important marine ecosystems.

NOAA: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering Endangered Species Act protections for the Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii), in response to a petition for listing from environmental groups. The Atlantic humpback dolphin is a shallow water dolphin and is found off the coast of western African from Western Sahara to Angola. NMFS is seeking scientific information about the species’ habitat, abundance and population trends and distribution and population structure and more for its review of the species’ status. Scientific and commercial information must be received by January 31, 2022.

More News:


Scientific Community

White House: The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy request comments from the public on the draft prospectus of USGCRP’s upcoming decadal Strategic Plan. The prospectus can be accessed for review, and comments may be submitted through the USGCRP Review and Comment (R&C) System. Interested persons and organizations are invited to submit comments by Jan. 11, 2022.

NSF: The National Science Board will meet Dec. 8-9. Agenda items include current NSF-funded cool science, a panel on the uneven geography of K-12 STEM education and broadening the participation of the Missing Millions in STEM. The meeting will be livestreamed via YouTube and recorded for later viewing on NSB’s YouTube channel. For more details, see the NSB meeting announcement.

IPBES: The external review of the draft scoping report for the business and biodiversity assessment closes Dec. 13, 2021. The rolling work program of IPBES up to 2030, adopted by the Plenary in decision IPBES-7/1, includes a methodological assessment of the impact and dependence of business on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. To serve as an expert reviewer, register on the IPBES website.

NASEM: The National Academies isssued a call for nominations, due Dec. 10, for a upcoming workshop about public and ecosystem health.  From the project website, “The National Academies seeks nominations for committee members to organize a workshop, Integrating Public and Ecosystem Health Systems to Foster Resilience: A Workshop to Identify Research to Bridge the Knowledge-To-Action Gap. Ecosystems form the foundation upon which society can survive and thrive, providing food, clean water, clean air, materials, and recreation. These connections between people and their environments are being stressed by human-driven actions (e.g. climate change, pollution, resource exploitation, and others) that can alter ecosystems and the services they can provide. If ecosystems are not resilient in the face of these stressors, the subsequent ecological changes may affect human health.”

USGCRP: The National Academies’ Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is using its convening authority to support USGCRP’s engagement with a wide range of potential users in its work designed to begin new conversations with researchers and users of global change information and for the development of long-term engagement strategies with USGCRP.

The Committee has been holding a series of listening sessions in November and December to help the USGCRP hear directly from groups and individuals who use or produce global change information. At these public sessions, participants will be able to learn about USGCRP, comment on how global change information is used or could be more useful and suggest forms of future long-term engagement with USGCRP. No previous knowledge of USGCRP is expected for participants.

The Committee seeks to connect with personally and professionally diverse groups at these sessions, in particular global change information users and researchers who may not have interacted with USGCRP before. Individuals from boundary organizations, government, professional societies, academia, industry, nonprofits are encouraged to participate.

The final two listening sessions will focus on food and transportation/infrastructure:

More News:

ESA Correspondence to Policymakers 

View more letters and testimony from ESA here.

Federal Register Opportunities

Upcoming Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:

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

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.