ESA Policy News: February 20, 2023

In this issue:

Call for Nominations for 2023 ESA Regional Policy Award
ESA seeks nominations for its annual Regional Policy Award to recognize a local or regional policymaker who has integrated environmental science and policy in initiatives that foster more sustainable communities.

House and Senate leadership announce committee leadership positions.

Executive Branch
The Invasive Species Advisory Committee will meet publicly March 6-8, the first time since the committee was disbanded in 2019.

Republican-led states sue the Biden administration over new Waters of the U.S. rule.

Governors ask President Biden to take further executive action to meet climate goals.

Tensions between Russia and the U.S. threaten ecology research in the Arctic.

Scientific Community
National Academies of Science report recommends that STEMM organizations act to to change their organizational cultures and environment to increase diversity, equity and inclusion.

Federal Register opportunities

Call for Nominations for 2023 ESA Regional Policy Award

Do you know someone who has made positive efforts toward environmental sustainability in Portland, Oregon?  ESA seeks nominations for its annual Regional Policy Award to recognize a local or regional policymaker who has integrated environmental science and policy in initiatives that foster more sustainable communities.

ESA has honored past award recipients for policy work that included:

  • wildlife conservation
  • green urban renewal initiatives
  • stream, river, lake restoration

ESA’s 2023 Annual Meeting will take place in Portland, Oregon. The annual Regional Policy Award honors policymakers from the region in which the Society holds its conference that year. Nominees should be from the Portland area and likely to accept the award in person at the Society’s Opening Plenary.

Award Criteria

Candidates to receive the Policy Award be a current or recently former elected or appointed official located in the city, state or region where the ESA Annual Meeting is held that particular year and must meet at least 3 out of the 5 criteria below:

  1. Has a proven track record of applying ecological science to their decision-making;
  2. Seeks the best available science when making environmental policy decisions;
  3. Demonstrates a commitment to communicating ecological understanding to the general public;
  4. Demonstrates a commitment to enhancing communication between policymakers and the ecological community; and
  5. Strives to involve the local community in his or her environmental policy initiatives (e.g. implement volunteering programs, outreach efforts, or education programs related to environmental policies).

Whenever possible, the nominations process should address the following:

  • Does the candidate have a science advisor or consult with scientists?
  • Does the nominee refer to scientific resources, such as peer-reviewed studies, etc.?
  • How would awarding this nominee be received at the local/regional level?
  • What are specific activities that this individual has accomplished informed by ecological science?
  • Is the nominee likely to appear in person to accept the award (currently set for 5 PM on Sunday, August 6, 2023)

Send nominations and direct inquiries to Nicole Zimmerman, public affairs manager,


Senate Appropriations Committee: Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (D-ME) released the committee roster for the 118th Congress, including subcommittee leadership assignments. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will chair the Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee, which funds the National Science Foundation, NOAA and NASA, among other agencies. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) will be the Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee ranking member. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will chair the Interior and Environment subcommittee, which funds the Interior Department and the US Forest Service. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is that subcommittee’s top Republican. Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and John Hoeven (R-ND) will lead the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Kennedy (R-LA) will lead the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

House Agriculture Committee: Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA) announced the Democratic leadership of the committee. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) will be the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Research and Biotechnology.

The House and Senate Agriculture committees are working to produce the 2023 Farm Bill this year. This bill sets policy every five years for agriculture programs, including research and conservation programs.

House Science Committee: Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) released the subcommittee membership rosters following an organizational meeting. Freshman Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) will chair the Research and Technology Subcommittee and Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) will be that subcommittee’s ranking member. Stevens chaired this subcommittee during the previous session of Congress. Freshman Rep. Max Miller (R-OH) will chair the Environment Subcommittee and Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) is the subcommittee’s ranking member.

Legislative updates:

  • Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced legislation (H.R. 1002) preventing any position in the federal competitive service, created after September 30, 2020, from being reclassified outside of merit system principles without the express consent of Congress. This legislation comes in response to a Trump administration executive order, issued in October 2020, that created a “Schedule F” for federal employees. Federal employees in this classification would be easier to fire and ESA and the scientific community opposed the executive order over concerns that it could be used to fire scientists whose results contradict the preferences of political appointees. The full House passed similar legislation from Connolly and Fitzpatrick during the previous session of Congress.
  • Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) and 14 other bipartisan members of Congress from Florida reintroduced a bill (H.R. 1008) to allow harmful algal blooms to be classified as major disasters, opening up access to federal disaster relief funding.

More News:

Executive Branch

Interior: The Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC) will hold its first meeting since 2019 March 6-8, 2023. In September 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order reviving several lapsed federal advisory committees, including ISAC and in January 2022, the Interior Department issued a call for nominations for new ISAC members. The purpose of the virtual meetings is to convene the full ISAC to orient new members to NISC and their role in ISAC, receive updates from National Invasive Species Council (NISC) member agencies regarding ongoing priority activities and start deliberations on select issues warranting ISAC advice to NISC.

In 2019, NISC disbanded the ISAC when the Trump administration cut funding for the council by 50%.

EPA: The draft annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory finds that U.S. emissions increased 5.5% in 2021 from 2020 levels when the country reported a record decrease in emissions, largely due to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the inventory finds that emissions were almost 4% lower in 2021 than they were in 2019. The report is open for public comment through March 17.

USDA: President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Xochitl Torres Small to be the deputy secretary of Agriculture. Torres Small represented a rural New Mexico district in Congress from 2018 to 2020 and has served as USDA’s undersecretary for rural development since 2021. Torres Small will replace Jewel Bronaugh, who announced that she will leave the Agriculture Department in late January 2023. Torres Small’s nomination will need to be confirmed by the full Senate.

USFWS: The agency is proposing removing the wood stork (Mycteria americana) from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The bird’s population has doubled from 5,000 nesting pairs when the species was listed in 1984 to 10,000 or more nesting pairs today. Additionally, the species have expanded their range geographically from Florida into parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and adapted to new types of nesting areas, such as coastal salt marshes, old, flooded rice fields, floodplain forest wetlands, and human-created wetlands. The wood stork is the only species of stork that breeds in the United States. The proposed rule is open for public comment through April 17, 2023.

Arctic: A new report from the U.S. Arctic Research Program about the goals and objectives for arctic research recommends that federal arctic research efforts should expand and improve Arctic greenhouse gas monitoring and model how disease risk, prevalence, and distribution for wildlife hosts and parasites are affected by increasing air temperatures. The report notes that rates of atmospheric warming and ocean acidification in the Arctic may be as much as three to four times faster than the global average. Other recommendations include increasing U.S. researchers’ participation in international research efforts and expanding cooperative agreements between the U.S. and the European Union.

More News:



Climate: The United States Climate Alliance, a group of 26 bipartisan governors, sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to take further executive action to bridge the gap between the climate accomplishments of the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law and Biden’s climate goals. Potential climate actions identified in the letter include developing a national climate adaptation strategy and adapting new greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

More News:


Scientific Community

NASEM: A new report recommends that higher education institutions and science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) organizations should go beyond a focus on simply increasing the numeric participation of minoritized racial and ethnic groups and act to change their organizational cultures and environment to increase diversity, equity and inclusion. Removing barriers to entry and participation, while also implementing practices that convey belonging, will allow organizations to move from broadening participation by the numbers to fostering a culture of inclusion, thriving, and success. Read the report highlights and the full report here.

NASEM: Next Monday, Feb. 27, the National Academeis will hold the first of two national symposia focused on policies and practices that can support students and professionals in science, engineering, and health fields with family caregiving responsibilities, such as for children or older adults. This virtual symposium will bring together scholars and leaders from a range of sectors and seek to identify evidence-based interventions that can support recruitment, retention, and advancement of family caregivers in science, engineering, and health fields. The insights gained will inform the work of an ongoing National Academies consensus study. Register here.

ESA: Interested in knowing more about nature-based solutions to climate warming, or about what the future of coastal wetlands in the U.S. may look like? In this ESA webinar titled “Introducing the USGS Climate Research and Development Program”, Dr. Ariana Sutton-Grier, the Program Coordinator for the Climate R&D program, will introduce the broad variety of climate and environmental change research supported by the program followed by lightning talks from four program scientists. RSVP for the March 7 webinar here

Invasive Species: The North American Invasive Species Management Association is holding a series of webinars for National Invasive Species Awareness Week:

Monday, Feb. 20
Invasive Species Programs Across Mexico

Tuesday, Feb. 21
USGS Invasive Species Research Unit: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Projects and the Effects of Climate Change on Invasive Species

Wednesday, Feb. 22
The Water Resources Development Act: Provisions for Invasive Species Prevention and Management

Thursday, Feb. 23
Collaboratively Addressing Feral Swine/Wild Pigs and Preparing for African Swine Fever across North America

Friday, Feb. 24
American Bullfrog Management to Support Conservation and Recovery of Native Species in the West

More News:

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, or Nicole Zimmerman, public affairs manager,

Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership.