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AIBS Submits Testimony to Senate in Support of Increased FY 2007 Funding at the US Geological Survey

April 10, 2006

The American Institute of Biological Sciences requests that Congress provide the United States Geological Survey (USGS) with $1.2 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2007, with at least $200 million for the Biological Resources Discipline.

The funding we request would restore proposed cuts to important science programs, provide a modest but needed inflation adjustment, and implement important science and information dissemination initiatives. This funding would also help USGS address the cost of maintaining research infrastructure.

The USGS provides independent research, data, 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 innovative interdisciplinary research techniques to answer important questions.

USGS scientists do not work in isolation. Through offices located in every state and partnerships with more than 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 brings additional intellectual and technical resources to work on the biological, ecological, and natural resource questions USGS seeks to answer. The value of Cooperative Research Units extends beyond their immediate research productivity, however. Cooperative Research Units are a vital component of our nation's 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. Increased funding for the USGS would enable the Biological Informatics Program to continue on-going activities and begin to implement initiatives the resource management and research communities have identified as priorities. For instance, new nodes could be added to the National Biological Information Infrastructure program.

The NatureServe program provides the scientific basis for wise natural resources management. Together with its network of sate Natural Heritage programs, NatureServe provides valuable information about rare species and threatened ecosystems to numerous federal and state agencies to help them make informed natural resource management decisions. The proposed $1.0 million investment in ensuring the quality and consistency of this national data resource is estimated to leverage $40 million nationwide, primarily from state and private sources.

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 economic losses from non-native species invading new environments. USGS research helps guide our understanding of how these invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, snakehead fish, and tamarisk, colonize new environments. Decision-makers, whether a private land owner or a resource manager working for a government agency, utilize USGS science to develop action plans to combat invasive species.

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, USGS research allows scientists to assess the vitality of bird populations, determine habitat requirements, and map migration routes. This information is increasingly important to public health officials concerned with the potential spread of diseases that may be transmitted from wild animals to humans or domesticated animals. Indeed, included in the President's FY 2007 budget request is $3.2 million for surveillance of migratory waterfowl for avian flu.

The FY 2007 budget request does not fully fund "fixed" cost increases. We encourage the committee to fully fund these expenses. Without full funding for these costs, USGS science programs would likely be forced to reprogram funds that would otherwise support important research.

An FY 2007 appropriation of $1.2 billion for the USGS and at least $200 million for the Biological Resources Discipline would enable the USGS to: maintain current research efforts; restore $7.3 million in proposed terminations of on-going research; provide at least a $1.5 million increase to the Cooperative Research Units program; provide $1.0 million for the NatureServe program; provide funding for fixed cost increases; provide $3.2 million to support surveillance of waterfowl for avian flu; support for a new USGS-wide natural hazards initiative; and, provide a modest inflation adjustment.

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

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