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AIBS Submits Testimony to Senate in Support of Increased FY 2006 Funding for the US Geological Survey

April 29, 2005

Submitted to:

Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
132 Dirksen Senate Office Builiding
Washington, DC 20510

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) requests that Congress provide the United States Geological Survey (USGS) with at least $1 billion in fiscal year 2006. This funding level would restore administration proposed cuts to important science programs, provide a modest but much needed inflation adjustment, and allow implementation of important science and information dissemination initiatives. This funding level would also help USGS address the cost of maintaining research facilities and better address impending workforce issues.

The USGS provides independent data, information, research support and assessments needed by public and private sector decision-makers. The Survey's unique combination of biological, geographical, geological and hydrological research programs enable USGS scientists to utilize cutting-edge interdisciplinary research techniques to answer important questions.

USGS scientists do not work in isolation. Through the Survey's nearly 400 offices located in every state and partnerships with over 2,000 federal, state, local, tribal, and private organizations, the USGS has built the capacity to leverage additional research expertise. For example, through the Cooperative Research Units program USGS scientists are stationed on university campuses. This proximity to academic researchers helps bring additional intellectual and technical resources to bear on the biological, ecological, and natural resource questions USGS seeks to understand. The value of Cooperative Research Units extends beyond their immediate research productivity, however. Cooperative Research Units are a vital component of our national education and training infrastructure. These research units enable future natural resource professionals to gain the skills and experience government agencies need. Furthermore, Cooperative Research Units are one of USGS' mechanisms for providing data and technical assistance to local, state, and national decision-makers.

Natural resource managers require reliable, relevant, and timely information. The Biological Informatics Program develops and applies innovative technologies and practices to the management of biological data, information, and knowledge resulting from research, thereby increasing the value of that research to scientists, planners, decision-makers, educators, students, and the public. Increased funding for the USGS would enable the Biological Informatics Program to continue on-going activities and begin to implement initiatives that the resource management and research communities have identified as national priorities.

USGS biological research programs gather important data and information that academic, private sector, or other government scientists do not or can not collect. For instance, a clear national priority is the prevention and mitigation of future losses resulting from non-native species invading new environments. USGS research is helping guide our understanding of how invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, snakehead fish, or tamarisk, colonize new environments. Decision-makers, whether working for the National Park Service, a state parks department, or a hydroelectric utility, utilize USGS science to develop action plans for combating invasive species.

Infrastructure is vital to science. Increasingly, coordinated networks of databases and data gathering instruments are required to answer the questions that public policymakers and scientists are asking. For example, biologists may use real-time data from the USGS streamgage network to determine how quickly a pollutant travels through a watershed, impacts downstream fisheries, or enters a community's drinking water supply.

USGS biologists conduct impartial research that makes it possible to assess the vitality of waterfowl, songbirds, large mammals, terrestrial plants, amphibians, and their habitats. These data subsequently inform state and federal agency conservation planning and management. As an example, the USGS bird-banding program allows scientists to better understand bird populations, habitat requirements, and migration routes. An understanding of these matters is necessary to inform the development of hunting regulations.

Within the Biological Research and Monitoring account, the budget request proposes several important funding increases. For instance, the budget request includes small increases for ecological systems mapping, the Great Lakes Deepwater Fisheries Program, Science on Interior's Landscape, support for biological and geological research for better decision making in the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, and the development of innovative control methodologies for invasive plants.

Unfortunately, the budget request calls for cuts of just over $4.0 million in the Biological Research and Monitoring account. These cuts would end research on the Mark Twain National Forest, pallid sturgeon, diamondback terrapins, the grizzly bear population in Montana, the ground-water supply at Leetown Science Center, fishery genetics research in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, manatees, the Delaware River Basin, and a portion of a general program increase. We encourage the committee to work to restore these cuts.

The administration has also requested potentially damaging general funding cuts. Included in this category is a $420,000 cut from the USGS vehicle fleet and reduced travel and transportation costs. USGS biological research requires that scientists be able to travel to field research sites and scientific meetings. Thus, we request that the committee carefully review this proposed cut to ensure adequate funding is available to support ongoing research activities. Additionally, the proposed budget would eliminate the Nebraska Cooperative Research Unit. At least $395,000 should be appropriated to maintain this research unit. However, we encourage the committee to also work to provide additional funding to support the overall Cooperative Research Units program.

In the FY 2005 appropriation, Congress funded "uncontrollable costs," such as salary and office space rental cost increases. The administration should be commended for accounting for these costs in the FY 2006 budget request. We encourage the committee to once again work to fully fund these expenses. Without full funding of these expenses, USGS science programs would likely be forced to reprogram funds that would otherwise support science.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request. If you require additional information, please contact Robert Gropp at 202-628-1500.

Read more AIBS Position Statements

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