ESA Policy News: December 19, 2022

In this issue:

White House Seeks Comments About the Scope of the National Nature Assessment, ESA Seeks Member Input for Comments
Submit your input to inform ESA comments by Jan. 23, 2023.

Nations Agree to Protect 30% of the Planet by 2030
COP 15 concludes in Montreal.

Comments about the draft Fifth National Climate Assessment Due Jan. 27.
Webinar recording is available.

Apply for the 2023 Katherine S. McArthur Graduate Student Policy Award
Application deadline extended to January 8, 2023.

House Science Committee holds hearing about the US Antarctic Program’s sexual assault and harassment’ needs assessment report.

Executive Branch
The annual Arctic Report Card finds that the Arctic is becoming warmer, wetter and stormier.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife releases wolf reintroduction plan.

IUCN releases first restoration barometer report.

Scientific Community
The number of international students in the US increases after pandemic-related declines

Federal Register opportunities

White House Seeks Comments About the Scope of the National Nature Assessment, ESA Seeks Member Input for Comment

ESA is seeking feedback from the ecological community to inform its response to the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) recent Request for Information (RiF), entitled Framing the National Nature Assessment published in the Federal Register.

As a member of the ecological community, your feedback is essential to shape the NNA.  We encourage everyone to participate by providing feedback to ESA to inform its comments. Additionally, we strongly encourage all ecologists to submit individual responses to the NNA RiF.

OSTP requests a limit of 3500 words and/or seven pages for each RiF submission. The formal deadline to submit comments about shaping the NNA to OSTP is March 31, 2023.

The opportunity to help inform ESA comments closes Jan. 23, 2023. Use this link to provide input into ESA comments. You may choose to answer all or just one of the questions and replies can be anonymous,

Nations Agree to Protect 30% of the Planet by 2030

Diplomats at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Montreal, Canada agreed to protect 30% of the worlds’ lands and waters by 2030. This ’30 by 30′ pledge mirrors goals set by the Biden administration and elsewhere in the world at the national and subnational levels.

Countries also agreed to reduce the use of pesticides and nutrient runoff from agriculture by 50%. The agreement text commits countries to reducing the rate of the introduction of invasive species.

The agreement does not create a new international fund for biodiversity. Rather, diplomats agreed to create new fund within the United Nation’s Global Environment Facility for biodiversity and to continue talks about establishing a separate fund. Wealthy countries committed $30 billion for biodiversity aid to developing countries.

The agreement is non-binding. Similar to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, countries must track and report their progress towards national biodiversity targets. During previous UN biodiversity talks, nations agreed to end biodiversity loss within ten years in 2010 but ultimately made minimal progress toward that goal.

See also:

Comments about the draft Fifth National Climate Assessment Due Jan. 27

The White House US Global Change Research Program released a draft version of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), which is now available for a 12-week public review and comment period.

Director of the National Climate Assessment Allison Crimmins joined a webinar hosted by ESA and moderated by ESA Past President Dennis Ojima to give an overview of the fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) status and how ESA members can submit feedback regarding the draft NCA5. The webinar recording is posted online.

Additional information about the NCA5 draft can be found in the Federal Register Notice and in the USGCRP Open Notice. All comments must be submitted by 11:59 PM ET on January 27, 2023 via the USGCRP Review and Comment System.

Apply for the 2023 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 2023 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). Apply and come to DC to meet with your lawmaker on Capitol Hill!

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. ESA covers all travel expenses and plans to hold the event onsite at its Washington, DC office Tuesday, April 24-25 unless events beyond our control occur. Applications are due Jan. 8, 2023, 12PM EDT. (please note that the original deadline on Jan. 1 has been extended)

For more information and to apply, visit the ESA website.


Appropriations: Top House and Senate appropriators announced that they have reached an agreement in principle regarding fiscal year (FY) 2023 appropriations and they expect Congress will pass a full-year spending bill before current funding expires Dec. 23. The details of FY 2023 spending bills are not yet available. The federal government has been operating under temporary stopgap measures since Oct. 1, 2023, which is when FY 2023 began.

Polar Research: The House Science Committee held a hearing regarding the US Antarctic Program’s sexual assault and harassment needs assessment report. This report, released in August 2022, found that harassment is widespread at research facilities across the continent and that NSF lacks adequate reporting and response systems. Response and enforcement is spread across institutions and contractors, leaving gaps. Members of Congress heard testimony from NSF Chief Operating Officer Karen Marrongelle and Kathleen Neher, the chief operating officer of the Civil Group at Leidos, which is the prime contractor for NSF’s Antarctic Support Contract. Marrongelle testified that, as a result of the harassment report, NSF issued a contract modification creating a Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention Program Office.

NDAA: Congress passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act, an annual must-pass bill setting defense policy for the next year. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was unsuccessful in attaching an energy-permitting reform measure to the bill. The bill does include a measure directing the Pentagon to phase out the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) in firefighting gear. High levels of PFAS contamination have been found near military bases.

Lawmakers included Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)’s Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act, which permanently reauthorizes the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and expands the task force’s work in the final NDAA. The final defense legislation reauthorizes the reauthorizes the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 and the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Act of 1998.

Other provisions of interest include a measure requiring the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a plan for implementing an early career fellowship program and creating a pilot program to increase capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions to achieve and maintain “very high” research activity status.

Water Infrastructure: Congress passed the biennial Water Resources Development Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation authorizes water infrastructure projects over the next two years. According to a summary from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the legislation streamlines the implementation of shoreline protection and restoration projects to aid communities most vulnerable to coastal storms. Among other provisions, the legislation authorizes ecosystem restoration projects in the Upper Mississippi River and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and extends the authorization for pilot invasive species programs through 2028.

Legislative updates:

  • Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) introduced the Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act (S. 5199 & H.R. 9453). This bill authorizes federal agencies to create prize competitions for innovative projects that advance the ability to preserve, sustain and restore coral reef ecosystems. This bill’s text was included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
  • The full House passed the Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act (S. 1466). This bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), authorizes U.S. Geological Survey study to create an action plan for a robust multi-year integrated program to assess, monitor and conserve saline lake ecosystems such as the Great Salt Lake. The bill authorizes $5 million for this study each year through Fiscal Year 2027. The Senate passed this bill in late November 2022.
  • The full Senate passed a bill (H.R. 5973) reauthorizing the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act through 2027. The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act provides funding for fish and wildlife research and restoration projects in the Great Lakes Basin. This bill passed the House earlier in 2022.
  • The full Senate passed the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act (S. 3429), which requires NOAA to create a task force to study declines in salmon runs in the state. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is the lead sponsor of the bill. The late Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced a similar measure in the House earlier this year.

Executive Branch

White House: During a White House Summit on STEMM Equity and Excellence, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Association for the Advancement of Science announced the launch of the STEMM Opportunity Alliance.  This new organization will aim to build a STEMM ecosystem rooted in equity, inclusion and scientific excellence to power progress, innovation and prosperity for all by 2050. Funders have already committed $4 million for the organization. After the summit, the White House also released a fact sheet highlighting actions across the federal government and outside of the government to support diverse learners, teachers, workers and communities in STEMM.

NOAA: The 2023 Arctic Report Card finds that the Arctic is becoming warmer, wetter and stormier. The year between Oct. 2021 and Sept. 2022 was the sixth warmest year in the Arctic on record since 1900. The region experienced above-average snow accumulation, but earlier snowmelt. Precipitation has increased significantly since the 1950s across all seasons. Arctic seabird species, such as ducks, auklets, shearwaters, murres and puffins experienced substantial die-offs.

Forest Service: The agency is seeking 20 members to join the Northwest Forest Plan Area Advisory Committee. The group will advise the Forest Service about modernizing the Northwest Forest Plan, which was adopted in the 1990s in response to calls to reduce clear cuts of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest.

The committee will advise the Forest Service about planning options to complement the Wildfire Crisis Strategy and proactively reduce wildfire risk. This includes ways to address dynamic ecosystems with adaptive management and monitoring and integrating indigenous traditional ecological knowledge into forest planning and management. The agency is also seeking feedback on how to protect and promote the conservation of mature, old-growth forests while ensuring that national forests are resilient to high-severity wildfire, insects, disease and other disturbances worsened by climate change.

The committee membership will include the scientific community, as well as representatives of government, tribal and public groups. Nominations are due Jan. 17, 2023. For more information and to apply, see the Federal Register Notice.

BLM: An internal document published by E&E News shows that the Bureau of Land Management has over 3,000 vacant positions, close to 25% of the number of positions authorized by Congress. The highest vacancy rate is in Nevada, where there are 471 vacancies and 1,334 positions total. The agency’s national headquarters has a 25% vacancy rate. In 2020, the Trump administration moved the agency’s headquarters to Grand Junction, CO, prompting 135 headquarters staff to leave the Bureau. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland reversed this decision in September 2021. The Bureau of Land Management manages 245 million acres of public lands, mostly in the western US.

More News:



IUCN: The first Restoration Barometer report finds that $26 billion in conservation funding has led to 14 million acres of ecosystem restoration across 18 countries. The restoration barometer is a tool that governments can use to track ecosystem restoration and its benefits across all terrestrial ecosystems and report on their commitments against global frameworks.

Ukraine: The US National Academies of Sciences and the Polish Academy of Science launched a grant program to support research by Ukrainian scientists. The program provides grants to PI-led research teams to continue work at Polish research institutions. The teams can include students and professionals who are based in or outside of Ukraine. The goal of the program is to sustain Ukraine’s research ecosystem during the war. More than 200 researchers have been placed in Polish research institutions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

More News:

Scientific Community

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.