Policy News: April 25, 2022

In this issue:

White House Announces First National Nature Assessment 
This assessment will provide a comprehensive report on the state of the nation’s lands, waters, and wildlife.

House Science Committee to hold hearings about the Department of Energy Office of Science and climate science.

Executive Branch
White House repeals Trump-era National Environmental Policy Act regulations.

Judge upholds critical habitat for jumping mouse.

Maine State Senate advances proposal to restore tribal sovereignty.

War in Ukraine could have a profound ecological impact.

Scientific Community
Long Term Ecological Research Network to hold panel discussion about community engagement.

Federal Register opportunities

White House Announces First National Nature Assessment

In an executive order made in honor of Earth Day, the White House announced the creation of a U.S. National Nature Assessment. This assessment, similar to the National Climate Assessment, will provide a comprehensive report on the state of the nation’s lands, waters and wildlife and the specific benefits that they provide. The assessment will also allow the country to look ahead at how nature might change in the future and identify opportunities for investments in nature to help achieve the administration’s climate, health, environmental justice and economic goals. The U.S. Global Change Research Program will lead the development of this assessment.

Along with this assessment, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Domestic Climate Policy lead a report to the National Climate Task Force on opportunities for greater deployment of nature-based solutions. The White House Office of Management and Budget will develop guidance for agencies regarding accounting for ecosystems services in policies.

The executive order also includes provisions regarding forestry and protecting old-growth forests.The order requires the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to inventory old-growth forests and identify threats to these forests. After the inventory, the agencies will develop policies for climate-smart management and conservation of old-growth forests. The order also includes incentives to reduce deforestation internationally and promote economic development in areas heavily dependent on the timber industry.

Read a fact sheet about the Executive Order here.


House Science Committee: The committee will hold a hearing about research infrastructure at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, featuring testimony from Undersecretary for Science and Innovation Geraldine Richmond April 27.

The next day, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing about climate change with Ko Barrett of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and NOAA; Dr. Dominique David-Chavez, an assistant professor of indigenous natural resource stewardship at Colorado State University; and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: The Senate will hold a confirmation hearing for President Biden’s nominee to be the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) director, David Applegate, this Thursday April 28. Applegate is a career USGS employee who has served as the acting USGS director for the past year.

House Appropriations Committee: House Appropriators will hold hearings with leaders from the Department of Energy, the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency this week regarding the agencies’ Fiscal Year 2023 budget requests.

More News:

Executive Branch

White House: The Biden administration finalized a rule repealing three National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations implemented during the Trump administration. The changes to the NEPA regulations require agencies to consider the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of a proposed action. This includes climate change impacts. The changes also allow increased community input and flexibility when developing alternatives to proposed projects and allow federal agencies to tailor their NEPA procedures, as long as they are consistent with the Council on Environmental Quality’s regulations. The rule takes effect May 20, 2022.

White House: Using money from the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year, the Biden administration announced a $1 billion grant program for ecosystem restoration programs as part of the administration’s goal of conserving 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will administer the grant program. The administration hopes to supplement funds from the infrastructure bill with private and philanthropic funds.

Forest Service: Chief Randy Moore issued his annual letter of intent for wildfire to agency leaders. The letter pleges to increase hazardous fuels reduction by two to four times to mitigate the wildfire crisis. The agency will use funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support this work. The letter states that while “extensive science supports using fire on the landscape and recognizes it as a important tool to reduce risk and create resilient landscapes at the necessary scale,” the agency “must have a clear understanding of when, where, how and under what conditions” to allow fires to burn. The letter states that the agency’s policy is that every fire receives a strategic, risk-based response, commensurate wih the threats and opportunities, and uses the full spectrum of management actions that consider fire and fuel conditions, weather, values at risk and resources available and that is in alignment with the applicable management plan.

Interior Department: The Biden administration resumed selling new oil and gas leases on public lands the week of April 18. Shortly after Biden’s inauguration, the administration issued a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands. With the resumption of lease sales, the Interior Department increases the royalties paid for oil and gas from 12.5% to 18.75%.

The administration also released plans to approve 48 renewable energy projects on public lands by the end of fiscal year 2025 and double renewable energy production on public lands by 2023.

Equity: Federal agencies, including scientific agencies, released equity action plans, in accordance with a Biden Executive Order:

  • The National Science Foundation equity action plan includes a plan to expand collection of and tracking of awardee demographic data and extending harassment prevention efforts.
  • The Department of Energy vowed to add at least one “DEI-specific program policy factor” to all of the agency’s funding opportunity announcements.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture touted investments in minority-serving institutions for research, extension and teaching activities and diverse student recruitment. The plan also highlights the department’s decision to restore roadless rule protections to Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, as part of efforts to increase tribal consultation.

Endangered Species: The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider Endangered Species Act protections for the Clear Lake hitch, a freshwater minnow found in California, after environmental groups challenged the agency’s 2020 decision not to list the species.

BLM: Interior Department Solicitor General Robert Anderson issued a memorandum withdrawing a Trump administration solicitor general opinion prohibiting the Bureau of Land Management from requiring compensatory mitigation for projects that damage public lands. Mitigation actions could include actions to improve environmental quality on non-federal lands, as long as those lands have connections to relevant federal lands. The new memorandum reinstates a memorandum issued by former Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins late in the Obama administration.

More News:




Scientific Community

LTER: The Community Building working group from the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will facilitate a panel discussion about community engagement with colleagues from across the network Thursday, April 28. The committee’s goal is to highlight how different sites approach community engagement and to facilitate discussion on strategies to build relationships based on respect and accountability with community members near LTER sites. Register here.

NSF: The agency has issued a new draft Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide. Notably, the new draft guide requires grant proposals including field research must submit a Plan for Safe and Incusive Field/Vessel/Aircraft Research, in which the principal investigators details steps grantees will take to prevent harrassement in the field and plans to report incidents and respond to harassment. The guide is open for public comment through June 13, 2022.

NAS: The National Academies’ 159th Annual Meeting starts this Friday, April 29. Several sessions will be livestreamed and recordings will also be posted online after the meeting, see the online public program here.

The Division of Earth and Life Studies is seeking experts to conduct an independent review of a White Paper on Building a Scientific Roadmap to a Carbon Negative Agricultural System. The review will provide an overall critique of the white paper and address questions related to whether the white paper meets its stated goals, accurately reflects the scientific literature, documents findings in a consistent, transparent, and credible way and presents key messages that reflect supporting evidence. The critique will also consider whether the research needs in the white paper are appropriate, whether the data and analysis in the paper are handled competently and if the document’s presentation and organization are effective in communicating its findings. The National Academies is seeking experts in carbon cycling in agricultural systems, terrestrial carbon management and more. Nominations are due April 30, 2022.

The Ocean Studies Board of the National Academies is releasing a new report, “Cross-Cutting Theme for U.S. Contributions to the UN Ocean Decade,” today, April 25. The report addresses the critical issues of conducting inclusive, equitable and accessible science; proposing protocols for application to future research agendas and providing thematic areas under which important new research programs can be further developed. Following the report’s release, the Ocean Studies Board will hold its spring 2022 meeting April 26-28.

ASM: The American Society for Microbiology issued a new report, Microbes and Climate Change: Science, People, & Impacts, examining the relationship between microbes and climate change. As major drivers of elemental cycles, and producers and consumers of 3 of the gases responsible for 98% of increased global warming (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide), microbes have a pivotal impact on climate change and are, in turn, impacted by it.

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.