ESA Policy News: March 20, 2023

In this issue:

President’s Budget Request Includes Increases for Science Funding
Request represents “wishlist” for the administration and includes increases for scientific programs.

ESA Selects 2023 Graduate Student Policy Award
Fifteen ESA members will travel to DC to receive policy and communications training and meet with policymakers on Capitol Hill.

Comment Period for the National Nature Assessment Closes March 31, 2023
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy leaders appeal for input from ecologists in a Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment editorial.

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.

Senate Commerce Committee to consider ocean debris legislation.

Federal judge blocks news Clean Water Act rule in Texas and Idaho.

Executive Branch
White House approves Willow oil project in Alaska.

Texas State Board of Education issues guidance encouraging schools to emphasize the “positive” aspects of climate change in textbooks.

IPCC issues sixth assessment report.

Scientific Community
National Audubon Society opts to keep name.

Federal Register

President’s Budget Request Includes Increases for Science Funding

President Joe Biden released his President’s Budget Request March 9. This request marks the start of the appropriations process for fiscal year 2024 (FY24), which starts Oct. 1, 2023. The House and Senate will begin drafting spending bills in the coming weeks.

Across administrations, the President’s Budget Request is typically viewed as a “wishlist” and allows the administration to demonstrate its priorities and vision for the federal government.

Overall, the request provides significant increases to most agencies and programs relevant to ecological science, although the request falls about $5 billion short of the amount authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act, passed by Congress this past fall.

Biden’s request includes a 5.2% cost of living increase for federal employees. This would be the largest raise for federal employees since the Carter Administration but falls short of the 8.7% increase supported by federal employee unions and some Congressional Democrats.

Select agency requested funding levels are outlined in the paragraphs below.

National Science Foundation

The President’s FY24 budget request to Congress includes $11.314 billion for NSF, an increase of 18.6% from FY23 levels. This includes increases for programs intended to diversify the STEM workforce. The administration includes funding to support no more than 2,500 new Graduate Research Fellowship Program fellows.

This number is less than the $15.7 billion for the agency authorized in FY 2024 the CHIPS Act and Science Act. The Coalition for National Science Funding, a coalition of scientific societies and universities, is requesting $11.9 billion for NSF in FY 2024.

Department of Agriculture

Citing competition with China, the administration includes over $4 billion for agricultural research, a $299 million increase. This incorporates funding for climate research and increasing research capacity among historically underserved populations. The Agricultural Research Service receives just over $2 billion in total, a proposed 10.5% increase. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture receives $1.868 billion, a nearly 10% increase, while the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the USDA’s primary competitive research grants program, receives $550 million, an over 20% increase.

The budget request increases funding for the Forest Service’s Research and Development programs to $349 million, a 13.6% increase. In the agency’s budget justification, the Forest Service says that this budget increase will be used to increase climate research and research related to reforestation, carbon sequestration and carbon accounting. The agency sets a goal of 1,100 peer-reviewed scientific publications during FY 2024.


The Biden administration proposes $12 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, around a 19% increase over FY 2023 levels. This includes $5 billion for climate programs and $1.8 billion for environmental justice. The request notes that this funding level will allow the agency to add more than 2,400 employees, restoring its capacity to carry out its mission.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to consider the EPA’s proposed FY2024 budget with EPA Administrator Michael Regan March 22.

Interior Department

Overall, Biden seeks a 9% raise for the Department of the Interior. This includes $5.7 billion for climate adaptation and resilience and $366 million for climate science research.

The request includes $3.8 billion for the National Park Service, a $289 million increase over the previous year.

The Bureau of Land Management receives $1.669 billion, a $140 million increase, in the request. This includes funding to support the America the Beautiful initiative, which seeks to protect 30% of public lands and water by 2030 and $12 million for youth corps programs.

Biden allocates $1.786 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey, an increase of $288.3 million over FY2023 levels. This includes $395 million for the Ecosystems Mission Area, a $87.8 million increase. The Climate Adaptation Science Center and Land Change Science programs are funded at $128.0 million, $44.8 million above FY 2023 enacted levels.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service receives $4.1 billion, a $314.9 million increase, in Biden’s proposal.


The Earth Science Directorate receives $2.5 billion, a 14% increase.

Department of Energy

Biden seeks to increase the budget of the Office of Science by 9% to 8.8 billion. Within the Office of Science, Biological and Environment Research receives a 2.5% increase. The budget request vows to enhance the Department of Energy’s climate science work by expanding the Urban Integrated Field Laboratories and the network of climate resilience centers, affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The Energy Department will also continue investments in AI approaches for improving Earth and environmental system predictability.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The request includes $231 million for NOAA’s climate research programs, a $7 million increase above FY 2023 levels. The budget also includes $87 million for marine sanctuaries and protected areas, contributing to the Biden administration’s goal to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

ESA Selects 2023 Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients

The request includes $231 million for NOAA’s climate research programs, a $7 million increase above FY 2023 levels. The budget also includes $87 million for marine sanctuaries and protected areas, contributing to the Biden administration’s goal to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

The Ecological Society of America is honored to announce the Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) 2023 cohort. ESA’s Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) provides graduate students with science policy training and the opportunity to meet with congressional policymakers on Capitol Hill.

Award recipients receive communications training and learn about the federal budget and appropriations process, then meet with congressional decision-makers to discuss federal support of research and education in the biological sciences.

“Advocating for sustained science funding and establishing connections with legislators is an invaluable experience when laying the groundwork for a meaningful career at the science–policy interface,” said ESA President Sharon Collinge. “Many of our former award recipients have launched impressive careers in public policy, and it will be exciting to see what this year’s cohort sets out to accomplish after their experience on the Hill.”

ESA selected 15 students to receive the award: Alicia L. Arrington-Thomas (University of Mississippi), Tira L. Beckham (North Carolina State University), Jonathan Behrens (Duke University), Elijah Catalan (University of California, Los Angeles), Scott M. Carpenter (Yale University), Chloe Y. Cho (Cornell University), Gina L. Errico (Oklahoma State University), Vanessa M. Lau (Columbia University), Shalimar G. Moreno (East Carolina University), Maria H. Park (University of Minnesota), Brandon A. Quintana (California State University, Fullerton), Sarah E. Rothman (University of Maryland), Veronica Manka’a Tangiri (Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Lund University), Aubrey Tingler (University of Maryland) and Tatjana Washington (University of Chicago).

Visit the ESA website for more information about the 2023 GSPA cohort

Click here to see a Flickr album with photos of this year’s award winners

Comment Period for the National Nature Assessment Closes March 31, 2023

In April 2022, the Biden administration announced the launch of the first-ever U.S. National Nature Assessment (NNA). Led by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, this report will assess the state of the U.S.’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 climate, health, environmental justice and economic goals.

In October 2023, the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) issued a Request for Information (RFI), entitled Framing the National Nature Assessment, to inform the development of the NNA. The comment period ends March 31, 2023.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for ecologists to provide input to the US government on how nature, biodiversity and ecosystems will be measured to provide the information needed to manage ecosystems and biodiversity within the United States.

In an editorial in ESA journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Heather Tallis, Allison Crimmins and Jane Lubchenco write: “We invite you to help shape it and ensure strong, diverse, relevant content. You can start by telling us: What questions should the NNA answer? What needs should it fill? How can we ensure strong collaboration with users and incorporate diverse ways of knowing nature? What form should the final product(s) take to be most accessible and useful to you, your community, and the government?”

Tallis is the acting director of the National Nature Assessment and the assistant director for biodiversity and conservation sciences in the White House OSTP. Crimmins is the director of the National Climate Assessment and Lubchenco is the OSTP deputy director for climate and the environment.

OSTP requests a limit of 3500 words and/or seven pages for each RFI submission. Submit a comment here.

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 Commerce Committee: The full committee will hold a meeting March 22 to consider pending legislation, including the Save Our Seas 2.0 Amendment Act (S. 318). This bill is part of a years-long bipartisan effort to reduce ocean trash, spearheaded by Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The bill provides the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration increased flexibility to deliver federal resources and enter into cooperative agreements to conduct marine debris prevention and clean-up, including a genius prize for innovation and research to address marine debris. Similar legislation passed the Senate during the previous session of Congress.

Legislative updates:

  • Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced the Marine Mammal Climate Change Protection Act (H.R. 1383), which would direct the NOAA to develop climate impact management plans for marine mammals that are at significant risk due to the climate crisis. The plans would include strategies for mitigating the harm posed to these species by climate change.

Executive Branch

White House: The Biden administration issued final approvals for the Willow project, allowing between 576 and 614 million barrels of oil to be drilled over the next 30 years in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The project is expected to produce a peak of 180,000 barrels of oil per day and generate 9.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year for up to 30 years.

Before the formal announcement, the Biden administration also announced that it will draft new regulations protecting around 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and withdraw 2.8 million acres of the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas exploration.

The administration also announced that it is withdrawing a land swap deal that would have allowed a road to be built through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. However, in comments to made to local residents, Interior Secretary Debra Haaland indicated that she is open to a new deal that would build a road in the area, connecting a town of 925 to the rest of the state.

White House: The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is requesting input to create an updated version of the 2009 “Climate Literacy: Essential Principles of Climate Science” report. USGRP aims to include advances in climate and social science since 2009 and adds a focus on informed climate decisions. Comments should be submitted through the USGCRP website and are due by May 15, 2023.

White House: The Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) is holding a series of virtual listening sessions to inform the development of the 2023- 2028 Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Strategic Plan. Listening session topics include STEM education, workforce, engagement and research and innovation capacity. For the full list of sessions, dates and RSVP information, see the OSTP website.

USGS: The Advisory Council on Climate Adaptation Science has re-opened nominations for new members. This committee advises the U.S. Geological Survey and the Interior Department about climate adaptation science and the regional and national Climate Adaptation Science Centers. Nominations are now open through April 15, 2023.

USDA: The National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board is accepting nominations for new board members and also advisory committee members. Two seats will represent land-grant and non-land-grant universities and a member representing academia on the specialty crop committee. For more information about the vacancies and to apply, see the NAREEE website

NSF: The Advisory Committee for Polar Programs is scheduled to meet April 12-13. Agenda items include a discussion of the agency’s physical qualifications program and other items.  NSF’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs will provide an update on sexual assault/harassment prevention. A Sexual Assault and Harassment Needs Assessment report from the U.S. Antarctic Program found that harassment is widespread at research facilities across the continent and that NSF lacks adequate reporting and response systems, garnering attention from the House Science Committee. Polar researchers have also recently criticized the physical qualification program disqualifying scientists from going to Arctic or Antarctic field sites for minor, managed health conditions, hampering diverse participation in the polar sciences. The meeting will be held virtually and in person at the National Science Foundation headquarters. Visit the NSF website to RSVP.

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.

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.