Policy Statements » Letters from the President:

Dr. William Schlesinger, President
Ecological Society of America

Testimony for Fiscal Year 2005 for the
Environmental Protection Agency to the
Senate Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations

As President of the Ecological Society of America, I am pleased to provide written testimony for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Ecological Society of America has been the nation’s premier professional society of ecological scientists for nearly 90 years, with a current membership of 8,000 researchers, educators, and managers. We appreciate the opportunity to offer written testimony on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA’s dual mission to safeguard human health and the environment depends upon the agency’s intramural and extramural research programs, both of which would suffer significant cuts under the President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2005. As the nation continues to face a host of environmental challenges, we believe shortchanging EPA’s science and technology programs will compromise the agency’s ability to perform its mission.

In particular, the Ecological Society of America is concerned about proposed cuts to the agency’s STAR Grants Program. Managed by the agency’s Office of Research and Development, this competitive, peer-reviewed, extramural grants program generates scientific information that supplements the agency’s intramural research programs and better equips EPA to respond to emerging issues. The proposed FY 2005 budget would slash this valuable program by $35 million, in spite of its excellent track record and recent laudatory review by the National Academy of Sciences. “The Measure of STAR: Review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Research Grants Program,” points out that STAR grants fill a critical gap in the agency’s in-house scientific expertise and enhance EPA’s ability to respond to new issues. The Ecological Society of America encourages Congress to fund the STAR Grants Program at its FY 2004 level of $100 million.

Another area of concern is the EPA’s STAR Fellowship Program, which would decline by 40 percent ($4 million) under the agency’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. This program, which is the only one of its kind, funding graduate students conducting applied environmental research, has also had an excellent track record since its inception in 1995. An extremely competitive program—only 7 percent of applicants are awarded fellowships—the program has produced high quality research and is helping to train the next generation of environmental scientists. The Ecological Society of America appreciates the past support of this committee in restoring previous cuts to the STAR Fellowship Program and we hope committee members will do so again for FY 2005, funding the Program at its current level of $10 million.

In addition to these extramural programs, we are also concerned about the proposed cuts to the agency’s intramural Science and Technology account and urge the committee to bring this account to the fiscal year 2004 level.

We appreciate the committee’s past support of EPA’s research programs and the opportunity to provide our comments on its proposed budget. Thank you for considering our testimony.