ESA Policy News: April 17, 2023

In this issue:

ESA & ESAL Webinar “Protecting Waterways for Healthy Communities and Ecosystems” – Monday, May 8 at 2:00 pm
Join ESAL and ESA to learn how science and policy intersect to protect waterways, hear from local advocates for ecologically sound practices, and discuss the potential impact of an ongoing Supreme Court Case.

President Joe Biden vetoes measure to nullify the administration’s most recent Clean Water Act rule.

Executive Branch
Top environmental official at the State Department to depart to lead the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Climate lawsuit filed by Hawai’i teens advances in state courts.

New Mexico governor signed bill to limit prescribed fires.

IPBES launches call for Indigenous and local knowledge.

Scientific Community
National Academies to hold webinar series titled “Paving the Way for Continental Scale Biology: Connecting Research Across Scales” starting April 24-25.

Federal Register

ESA & ESAL Webinar “Protecting Waterways for Healthy Communities and Ecosystems” – Monday, May 8 at 2:00 pm

Monday May 8
2:00 – 3:00 pm ET
RSVP here to receive instructions to join

Join Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally and the Ecological Society of America to learn how science and policy intersect to protect waterways, hear from local advocates for ecologically sound practices, and discuss the potential impact of an ongoing Supreme Court Case. 

Rain fills our rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, but how does it get there? Wetlands are vital to managing how water flows after storm events to protect human environments from floods and natural environments from soil erosion and habitat destruction. Sound ecological science data clearly shows the vital role of wetlands for nature and to also protect human health and property. Planning requires the expertise of ecologists, landscape architects, environmental planners, and environmental engineers, and can be incentivized by local regulations.

State and local waterway protections benefit communities by improving flood control, replenishing groundwater reserves, protecting biodiverse habitats, and supporting the maintenance of thriving outdoor spaces that everyone can enjoy. The Clean Water Act is a federal law that gives authority to states to protect the nation’s waters. An ongoing Supreme Court case (Sackett vs. EPA) has the potential to shape the scope of this law. In this panel, co-hosted by Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally and the Ecological Society of America, we will hear from legal experts and implementers who will discuss the role of policy, both federal and local, in effective ecosystem management.

Confirmed panelists:

Erika Harris- Senior Planner, Puget Sound Regional Council
Royal C. Gardner, JD– Professor of Law and Co-Director, Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy, Stetson University College of Law.


Clean Water Act: President Joe Biden vetoed a Congressional Review Act measure that would have nullified the administration’s most recent Clean Water Act rule, which seeks to define the “Water of the U.S.” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) called on additional Democrats to support a veto override – only nine Democrats supported the measure in the House and four Democrats and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) supported the measure in the Senate. It is unlikely the House or the Senate will have the votes to overturn the veto.

The definition in the rule includes ‘navigable waters’, wetlands and other bodies of water adjacent to them if they are connected with ‘relatively permanent’ waters. Waterways are only included if they will ‘virtually always significantly affect’ traditional navigable waters or if waters they have a ‘significant nexus’ to larger downstream waters. The Biden administration said that rule aims to create a ‘durable’ definition of the Waters of the U.S. using the best available science after the rules finalized by the Obama and Trump administrations have been challenged in the courts.

Shortly after Biden’s veto, a federal judge in North Dakota halted the implementation of Biden’s new Clean Water Act rule in 24 states, writing that a pending Supreme Court case is likely to change the authority of the federal government under the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the Sackett v. EPA case by early summer 2023. In this case, Chantell and Michael Sackett sought a CWA Section 404 permit to develop wetlands on their Idaho property that was denied. The Sacketts are represented by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation and backed by business and agricultural groups. This ruling leaves the US under a split regulatory regime, with 24 states subject to the Biden Clean Water Act rule and 26 states following previous Clean Water Act rules after lawsuits challenging Biden’s rule.

Forests: Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA) and John Sarbanes (D-MD) and 28 other lawmakers sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, urging their agencies to undertake a formal rulemaking to protect mature and old-growth forests. The letter citing President Joe Biden’s Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies executive order and the benefits of old-growth forest for carbon sequestration, water quality and more.

NOAA: The House Science Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, April 18, to consider Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK)’s draft legislation to take the National Oceanic Administration out of the Department of Commerce and make NOAA into an independent agency. The hearing witnesses are three former NOAA administrators.

More News:

Legislative updates:

  • Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN) introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution nullifying a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) rule listing the Northern Long-eared Bat as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Previously, the bat species was listed as a threatened species. USFWS finalized the rule listing the species as an endangered species in late November 2022 and then delayed the rules’ effective date to March 31, 2023 after political pushback. Mullin and Stauber said that the rule should not be finalized due to adverse economic impacts and the impacts of the rule on building infrastructure.

More News:

Executive Branch

State Department: Monica Medina, the assistant secretary of oceans and international and scientific affairs will leave the State Department to lead the Wildlife Conservation Society at the end of April. Medina is the top environmental official in the State Department. She was named the first Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources ahead of the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of Parties in December 2022 in Montreal and has also represented the United States in global plastics and international seabed negotiations.

More News:




IPBES: The international body is launching a “call for contributions on Indigenous and local knowledge”, to invite Indigenous Peoples and local communities from all over the world to support the three ongoing IPBES assessments:

  • Thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food and health (nexus assessment) (2021-2024,
  • Thematic assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, determinants of transformative change and options for achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity (transformative change assessment) (2021-2024,
  • A methodological assessment of the impact and dependence of business on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people (business and biodiversity assessment) (2023-2025,

The IPBES Secretariat is hoping to receive materials that express community-based knowledge, practices, values, needs, and/or experiences related to one or more of the assessments. Materials can be submitted in national or local languages. IPBES also welcomes recommendations of individuals, communities, organizations and networks that could engage in the development of the assessments as reviewers or contributing authors. To read more about the call for contributions and to participate, follow this link. The deadline for the call is May 8, 2023.

More News:

Scientific Community

NASEM: A new initiative within the National Academies, Climate Crossroads will serve as a nexus point within the National Academies, allowing the organization to chart new pathways for sustained national and global leadership over the coming decades. Climate Crossroads will leverage the disciplinary breadth of the organization, provide space to be responsive as new challenges arise and expand the impact of the Academies’ work to a more diverse range of stakeholders and decision-makers including by developing new ways to work with underrepresented communities. The National Academies are establishing a new advisory committee to steer its work and seeking a broad range of experts to participate. Nominations are due by May 1, 2023, nominate an expert here.

NASEM: The Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology will hold a webinar series titled “Paving the Way for Continental Scale Biology: Connecting Research Across Scales” starting April 24-25. This webinar will include identifying and discussing practices that have been used successfully to translate knowledge from small-scale biological research to regional- and continental-scale, challenges that prevent uptake of these practices and specific research questions that could serve as pilots for implementing research projects that integrate one or more successful practices. Speakers will highlight frontier research efforts demonstrating continental-scale biology. This event will provide a platform for creative collaboration among experts from multiple fields, organizations and sectors. RSVP here.

Research!America: Today, Monday, April 17th at 1:00 p.m, Research!America will host an alliance conversation with Dr. Regina Barzilay, an expert in artificial intelligence, both within the biomedical sphere and outside of it. Dr. Barzilay will answer a few “AI for Beginners” questions and then share her own story – how confronting breast cancer convinced her AI can dramatically improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer. RSVP here.

NASEM: The Committee on Understanding and Addressing Misinformation about Science is hosting a one-day hybrid workshop on April 19, 2023. The workshop will bring together researchers, practitioners, philanthropists, and policymakers among others, for a series of discussions on the topic of science misinformation. Presentations and discussions will address the nature, mechanisms, and differential impacts of misinformation about science as well as explore select interventions to address misinformation and their intended outcomes. Each discussion will include a time of Q&A with the committee and audience. RSVP here.

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.