In This Issue:
Upcoming ESA Webinars
ESA will host two webinars with the Federation of American Scientists and Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally.
House Science Committee proposes a new postdoctoral fellowship program for early-career scientists impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Interior Department finalizes an oil and gas leasing plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Louisiana governor signs climate change executive orders.
Climate Science Legal Defense Fund releases a guide to political activities for federally employed scientists.
ESA In the News
View an up-to-date list of ESA’s media coverage.
Opportunities to Get Involved
Federal Register opportunities.
Register to Vote & Request an Absentee Ballot
A report, Democracy Counts 2018, from Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education found that college students in STEM fields are less likely to vote than students in the humanities, social sciences and education. On a national level, the presidency, all seats in the House of Representatives and a third of Senate seats will be contested. Several state governorships and many other state and local elections will also be contested. Be sure you are registered to vote in time to participate! Learn more about voting policies and rights in your state and register to vote at Rock the Vote, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging young people in politics.
Voting procedures and requirements requesting an absentee ballot during the coronavirus pandemic vary by state. Visit your state board of elections website or Vote.org for deadlines and to request a ballot.
The Science Debate is asking the presidential candidates a series of science and technology policy questions. State-level coalitions are working with Science Debate and the National Science Policy Network to develop regionally tailored, nonpartisan questions for all candidates related to science, technology and health policy priorities. Check their website to see the candidate’s responses.
Upcoming ESA Webinars
Connecting with Congressional Committees to Inform Hearings
Sept. 10, 2:00 pm eastern time
Register here: https://esa.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEocu-srzsuEtV2sn_KNTJFyonT5PR-ZE6s
The Federation of American Scientists’ Congressional Science Policy Initiative (CSPI) seeks to bring scientific expertise into Congressional hearings. The CSPI team tracks Legislative Branch activity, and when key hearings are announced after which the team solicits the CSPI community for questions and ideas that Members of Congress could raise during the hearing. This data-driven information and questions are then communicated to Congress for use in the hearings to promote a rich discussion of the issues. In this webinar, Federation of American Scientist Executive Director Ali Nouri will introduce ESA members to the CSPI program and describe how ecologists can contribute to Congressional hearings.
Local engagement opportunities for scientists
Sept 30, 2:00pm eastern time
Register here: https://esa.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEufuqorDouHNNcEpqcDaM8OhxbX1W8nPsb
While federal policy and politics tends to dominate the national headlines, the importance of policy-making and implementation at the state and local government level often gets overlooked. Recent events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and discussions of racial justice and police reform, have highlighted the critical role of city, county and state governments. In this webinar, Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL) scientists will discuss the ways in which ecologists can engage with local government and use their expertise and inquiry driven, evidence-based approaches to inform policy decisions. ESAL will highlight examples of scientists who have made substantive contributions to their communities, often without a major career shift. The presenters will also draw on their own experiences working in local government to share in-depth case studies. This workshop is intended for scientists at all stages of their careers, including students. ESAL and ESA hope that attendees will leave inspired with new ideas for how they can get more involved in their own communities.
Senate: The Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis released a “Case for Climate Action,” mirroring the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ report released in July (see ESA Policy News, July 13, 2020). The report follows months of committee hearings and meetings with climate activists, business and labor leaders and more. The Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis only has Democratic members. The plan represents Senate Democrats’ intentions if they retake the Senate after the 2020 election. The Senate report sets the overarching goal of reducing U.S. emissions to help achieve 100 percent global net-zero emissions no later than 2050. It endorses providing incentives for natural carbon storage, increasing funding for conservation and protecting coastal wetlands and forests from development and creating a new Civilian Conservation Corps.
House Science Committee: Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and a bipartisan group of committee members introduced the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 8044). This bill authorizes $250 million to the National Science Foundation to award two-year postdoctoral fellowships to help keep researchers whose employment opportunities have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the STEM pipeline.
See ESA’s Legislative Tracker for more updates on legislation relevant to the ecological community.
White House: The Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) annual R&D funding priorities memorandum repeats the administration’s focus on the Industries of the Future and carries over other budget priorities from past years, including earth system predictability, the bioeconomy and ocean research. The document gives guidance to executive branch agencies heads as they prepare their fiscal year 2022. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2022 priorities include infectious disease modeling, predictions and forecasting. Another new priority identified is arctic research.
Consistent with the administration’s focus on the Industries of the Future, OSTP, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and other federal agencies announced over $1 billion in awards for the establishment of 12 artificial intelligence and quantum information science research institutes. Quantum information science and artificial intelligence are two of the ‘Industries of the Future.’
Nominations: President Donald Trump withdrew the nomination of William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management. All Senate Democrats opposed Pendley’s confirmation and Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Cory Garner (R-CO), who are both up for re-election, faced widespread pressure to oppose the nomination. Before joining the Trump administration, Pendley led the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which advocates for selling federal lands. Pendley remains the agency’s de facto leader in a non-Senate confirmed position. Senate Democrats are still calling on Interior Secretary to remove Pendley from the BLM. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said that he is planning oversight hearings to examine the legality of an order keeping Pendley in charge of the BLM. The agency has not had a Senate-confirmed director since the end of the Obama administration.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Western Watersheds Project are challenging Pendley’s current appointment and Acting National Park Service Director Margaret Evenson’s appointment in the courts under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.
Interior: The Department finalized an oil and gas leasing plan for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, clearing the way for the agency to auction off drilling leases by the end of the year. A provision in the 2017 tax reform law lifted a prohibition on oil and gas drilling in the coastal plain and requires the BLM to hold at least two oil and gas lease sales by December 2024, with each sale offering at least 400,000 acres.
Environmental groups and the Gwich’in Steering Committee have filed lawsuits challenging the drilling plans. Representatives of the Gwich’in Steering Committee say that the Bureau of Land Management failed to give Gwich’in Nation members adequate opportunities to express their views and that allowing drilling would harm Porcupine caribou, an important subsidence hunting species.
Army Corps of Engineers: The proposed Pebble gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska is facing a last-minute hurdle, after the agency determined that the project “cannot be permitted as proposed.” The Army Corps of Engineers wrote in a letter that it “would likely result in significant degradation of the environment” under the Clean Water Act and that it would have significant adverse effects on the aquatic system. Now the mine operator, Pebble Partnership, has 90 days to submit a mitigation plan to offset “unavoidable adverse impacts” to wetlands within the pristine Koktuli River watershed. Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Dan Sullivan (R) both oppose the mine. Most of the land surrounding Pebble mine is owned by the state making any mitigation efforts difficult unless the state sold surrounding land to the Pebble Mine Limited Partnership.
This latest development is in stark contrast to a previous announcement. Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers released a final environmental impact statement for the mine concludes that it would not have a significant impact on the region’s salmon fishery. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to the world’s most productive sockeye salmon fishery. In 2014, the EPA vetoed the mine, citing the impacts of the mine on fisheries. Environmental groups and Alaska Native communities have strongly opposed the mine for years.
USFWS: The agency is proposing reclassifying the status of the Stephen’s kangaroo rat from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The species was first added to the list of endangered species in 1988, and habitat loss and urbanization within its range in Southern California are the primary threats to the species. USFWS credits the creation of new reserves in Riverside and San Diego counties for the species and conservation efforts on Department of Defense lands for the species recovery. USFWS is also proposing implementing a 4(d) rule which would allow the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other permitted entities to incidentally harm kangaroo rats during activities intended to maintain, enhance or restore open habitat areas used by the rat. USFWS says that the activities include livestock grazing, wildfire management and suppression, prescribed fire activities, or nonnative, invasive, or noxious plant removal. The proposed rule is open for public comments through Oct. 19, 2020.
USFWS is also proposing listing the marron bacora, a plant native to the U.S. Virgin Islands, as an endangered species and designating 2,500 acres on St. John as critical habitat. The plant’s current range is largely with the Virgin Islands National Park. This proposed rule is open for public comment through Oct. 26, 2020.
Louisiana: Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed two climate change executive orders. One order creates a task force that will provide recommendations to Edwards about how the state can reach a goal of net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 as well as interim emissions reduction targets of 26-28 percent by 2025 and 40-50 percent by 2030. The other executive order creates the position of a state chief resilience officer that will coordinate adaptation efforts across agencies.
North Carolina: Attorney General Josh Stein (D) filed a lawsuit challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s decision to permit offshore seismic exploration for oil and gas off the state’s coast. North Carolina denied a permit for seismic exploration, but the federal government overrode the state’s objections. Stein says that seismic exploration will harm the state’s fishing and tourism industries and coastal communities overwhelmingly oppose offshore drilling in the state.
NEPA: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and attorneys generals representing 19 states, Guam and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit challenging the administration’s new National Environmental Policy Act regulations. The coalition argues that the regulations violate the Administrative Procedures Act and the National Environmental Policy Act because the final rule is contrary to NEPA’s statutory language and arbitrary and capricious.
AAAS: The National Science Policy Network and the American Association for the Advancement of Science will hold the 45th AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy Oct. 13-14. Registration for this event is free and the event will be held virtually.
The group will gather to discuss major current challenges affecting science, policy and society, as well as their intersectionality:
- The COVID-19 pandemic crisis is demanding unprecedented research speed, resources, collaboration, and results from the scientific community. At the same time, it is deeply disrupting the scientific research enterprise, educators, students, and academic institutions. The pandemic has exposed strengths and weaknesses within the scientific enterprise, as well as persistent societal inequities.
- Ongoing worldwide demonstrations against racial injustice and police violence have emphasized the tragically persistent scourge of racism in our society. Mirroring the broader society, progress on racial justice and equity in science has been slow and insufficient. We strive for science to lead here, to provide pathways towards greater equity and justice in society, and a clear example of a just and inclusive enterprise.
What We’re Reading
- ‘Heinous!’: Coronavirus researcher shut down for Wuhan-lab link slams new funding restrictions
- Thousands allowed to bypass environmental rules in pandemic
- Environmental Justice Becomes Part of California City Planning
- NJ Legislature passes landmark environmental justice bill to protect minority communities
ESA In the News
ESA regularly issues press releases to the media about journal articles and other Society news. Press coverage is kept up-to-date on our “In the News” page. Check out news stories here.
ESA Correspondence to Policymakers
- ESC – Statement in Support of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act – similar letters send to the House Committee on Armed Services Committee and the Senate Committee Armed Services (Aug. 5, 2020)
- ESC – Response to the House Science Committee on the Department of Energy Office of Science Reauthorization Act (Aug. 4, 2020)
- Multisociety Open Letter about ICE’s Modification of the Exemption to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (July 8, 2020)
- ESC – COVID-19 and Science Infrastructure Statement – identical statement sent to House and Senate leaders (July 6, 2020)
- CNSF – Letter of Support for the Nomination of Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan (June 15, 2020)
View more letters and testimony from ESA here.
Opportunities to get involved
- Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service – Establishing AWA Standards for Birds – Virtual Public Meetings (Sept. 29)
- BLM – Notice of Public Meetings for the John Day-Snake Resource Advisory Council Planning Subcommittee (Sept. 16)
- BLM – Western Oregon Resource Advisory Council Meeting (Sept. 23-24)
- BLM – Virtual Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting (Sept. 23-24)
- EPA – Science Advisory Board – Reduced-Form Tools Review Panel Meeting (Sept. 10)
- EPA – Public Teleconferences of the Chartered Science Advisory Board (Sept. 15)
- EPA – FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel Meetings (Sept. 15-18)
- Forest Service – Missoula Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Sept. 3)
- Forest Service – Missoula Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Sept. 8)
- Forest Service – Ketchikan Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Sept. 10)
- Forest Service – Saguache-Upper Rio Grande Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Sept. 15)
- Forest Service – Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board Meeting (Sept. 16)
- Forest Service – South Central Idaho Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Sept. 24)
- NOAA – Science Advisory Board (Sept. 10-11)
- NOAA – Evaluation of the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve Public Meeting (Sept. 9, comments due Sept. 18)
- NOAA – Evaluation of Florida State Coastal Management Program Meeting (Sept. 23, comments due Oct. 2)
- NOAA – Hydrographic Services Review Panel Meeting (Sept. 24, comments due Sept. 15)
- NOAA NMFS – Public Information Session Regarding Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Stock Assessment (Sept. 3)
- NOAA NMFS – Meeting of the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel (Sept. 9-10)
- NPS – Alaska Region Subsistence Resource Meetings (Aniakchak National Monument SRC – Sept. 29, Lake Clark National Park SRC – Sept. 30, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park SRC – September 24-25)
- NPS – Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument Advisory Council Meeting (Sept. 14)
- NPS – Meeting of the National Park System Advisory Board (Sept. 16-17)
- NSF – Advisory Committee for Polar Programs (Sept. 10-11)
Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:
- Army Corps of Engineers – Intent to Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Proposed Landfill Expansion within Wetlands that Drain to Burnetts Mill Creek at the Existing Regional Landfill off Merged U.S. Routes 58, 13, and 460 in Suffolk, Virginia. The proposed project’s virtual public scoping room will be available through Sept. 14, 2020.
- BLM and Bureau of Reclamation – Notice of Availability of the Lake Powell Pipeline Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment. The public comment period for will close on Sept. 8, 2020.
- BLM and USFWS – Draft Environmental Impact Statement to Consider a Highway Right-of-Way, Draft Amended Habitat Conservation Plan and Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit for the Mojave Desert Tortoise, and Resource Management Plan Amendments, Washington County, UT. To ensure comments will be considered, the BLM and USFWS must receive written comments by Sept. 10, 2020.
- BLM – Application for Proposed Withdrawal Extension and Public Meeting, San Francisco Peaks/Mount Elden Recreation Area, Arizona. Comments must be received by Sept. 14, 2020.
- BLM – Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Lithium Nevada Corp. Thacker Pass Project Proposed Plans of Operations and Reclamation Plan Permit Applications, Humboldt County, Nevada. Comments will be accepted until Sept. 14, 2020.
- BLM – Call for Nominations for the San Rafael Swell Recreation Area Advisory Council. A completed nomination form and accompanying nomination/ recommendation letters must be received by Sept. 21, 2020.
- Bureau of Reclamation – Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Public Open Houses for the Boise River Basin Feasibility Study, Elmore County, Idaho. The public will have the opportunity to participate in the process by providing input through a web-based virtual meeting room through Sept. 14, 2020.
- EPA – TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals; Request for Nominations; Extension of Nomination and Public Comment Periods. To be considered for appointment to the SACC nominations must be received on or before Sept. 1, 2020.
- EPA – National Priorities List: Deletion of the Cimarron Mining Corporation Superfund Site. Comments must be received by Sept. 4, 2020.
- EPA – Cuprous Iodide; Draft Ecological Risk Assessment for Federally Listed Species. Comments must be received on or before Sept. 14, 2020.
- EPA – Pesticide Product Registration; Receipt of Applications for New Active Ingredients (July 2020). Comments must be received on or before Sept. 28, 2020.
- FERC – Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC, Southern Natural Gas Company, LLC; Notice of Availability of the Environmental Assessment for the Proposed Evangeline Pass Expansion Project. Comments must be received on or before 5:00pm Eastern Time on Sept. 23, 2020.
- Interior Department – Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment #7: Wetlands, Coastal, and Nearshore Habitats; and Birds. Comments must be received on or before Sept. 22, 2020. The LA TIG will host a public webinar on Sept. 3, 2020.
- NOAA and EPA – Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Intent to Find that Washington has Satisfied All Conditions of Approval Placed on its Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program. Individuals or organizations wishing to submit comments on the proposed findings document should do so by Sept. 14, 2020 (comment period extended).
- NOAA – Public Comment for a Draft NOAA Science and Technology Strategy: Citizen Science. Comments must be received by Sept. 8, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Removing the Prohibition on Continuing To Fish After a Partial Offload in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program. Submit comments on or before Sept. 3, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Endangered and Threatened Species – 5-Year Review of the Dusky Sea Snake. The agency must receive information no later than Sept. 8, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Shrimp Fishery Off the South Atlantic States; Amendment 11. Written comments must be received on or before Sept. 8, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; St. Matthew Blue King Crab Rebuilding Plan in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Comments on Amendment 50 must be received no later than Sept. 14, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Shrimp Fishery Off the South Atlantic States; Amendment 11. Written comments must be received on or before Sept. 14, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program; Amendment 111. Comments must be received no later than Sept. 28, 2020.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 21 to the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. Public comments must be received on or before Sept. 28, 2020.
- USFWS and NOAA NMFS – Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat. NOAA NMFS and USFWS will accept comments from all interested parties until Sept. 4, 2020.
- USFWS – Amendment to the Multiple Species Conservation Program, County of San Diego Subarea Plan for Otay Ranch Village 14 and Planning Areas 16 and 19, San Diego County, California; Environmental Assessment. The comment period has been extended and now closes Sept. 4, 2020.
- USFWS – Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan for the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly and Three Subspecies of the Mazama Pocket Gopher, Puget Sound Energy; Categorical Exclusion. Submit written comments by Sept. 11, 2020.
- USFWS – Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan for Karner Blue Butterfly and Frosted Elfin in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, Albany, Colonie and Guilderland, New York; Categorical Exclusion. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Sept. 14, 2020.
- USFWS – Receipt of Incidental Take Permit Application and Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan for the Sand Skink and Blue-Tailed Mole Skink, Polk County, FL; Categorical Exclusion. USFWS must receive written comments on or before Sept. 16, 2020.
- USFWS – Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Assessment, Keystone XL Pipeline; Incidental Take Permit Application for American Burying Beetle; Tripp County, South Dakota, and Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, and Keya Paha Counties, Nebraska. USFWS will accept comments on or before Sept. 16, 2020.
- USFWS – Designation of Critical Habitat for Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum). USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Sept. 21, 2020.
- USFWS – Proposed American Burying Beetle Habitat Conservation Plan and Low-Effect Screening Form; NS-374 Bridge Over Leader Creek, Hughes County, OK. Written comments must be received or postmarked on or before 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Sept. 28, 2020.
- USGS – Draft National Spatial Data Infrastructure Strategic Plan; Comment Request. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before Sept. 17, 2020.
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.
Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership.