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AIBS Testimony to Senate: Increased FY 2011 Funding for USGS and EPA

May 12, 2010

Submitted by:
Julie Palakovich Carr, Senior Public Policy Associate
and
Richard O'Grady, Ph.D., Executive Director
American Institute of Biological Sciences
1444 I Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-628-1500
Fax: 202-628-1509

Submitted to:
Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
United States Senate

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) appreciates the opportunity to submit testimony in support of increased appropriations for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fiscal year (FY) 2011. AIBS requests that Congress provide the USGS with $1.3 billion in FY 2011, with at least $240 million for the Biological Resources Discipline. We further request that Congress provide the EPA's Office of Research and Development with at least $646.5 million, with at least $273 million for human health and ecosystem research.

U.S. Geological Survey

As a broker of unbiased, independent research, data, and assessments, the USGS provides needed information to public and private sector decision-makers. Data generated by the USGS save taxpayers money by reducing economic losses from natural disasters, allowing more effective management of water and natural resources, assisting the necessary preparation for climate impacts, and providing essential geospatial data that are needed for commercial activity and resource management. Much of these data are collected only by the USGS. Our nation cannot afford to sacrifice this information; rather, we should increase our investments in this work. Increased funding for the USGS is a wise investment that will bear real returns and benefits for the country.

The FY 2011 budget request for the USGS is inadequate to sustain the agency's critical work. The budget request appears to provide a 1.9 percent increase. However, when $13.5 million in fixed costs and $11.7 million in Interior-wide cuts are accounted for, the proposed budget would only increase funding for the USGS by 0.7 percent from FY 2010 enacted. Given the agency's critical activities for the environmental and economic health of the nation, more support is justified.

The proposed budget would cut funding for the Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) within the USGS. Interior-wide cuts and absorption of fixed costs will result in a net decline of $6.2 million from FY 2010 enacted. This erosion of funding will undercut BRD's ability to fulfill its valuable programmatic missions. BRD's science programs inform natural resource managers and reduce economic losses from invasive species and pathogens. The BRD provides scientific data that help us understand how ecosystems are influenced by climate change, and that help us address these changes. Research conducted by the BRD addresses the risks of environmental contaminants to our citizens and living resources. The BRD also provides the science necessary to understand and manage endangered fish, wildlife, and plants. All told, these services contribute significantly to the health of our nation's environment and economy.

Federal investment in the BRD is further leveraged through partnerships with other federal, state, local, tribal, and private organizations. Through efforts such as the Cooperative Research Units, the USGS and their partners address pressing issues facing natural resource managers, such as invasive species, wildlife diseases, and endangered species recovery. In addition to providing research expertise, these partnerships at 40 universities in 38 states serve as important training centers for America's next generation of scientists and resource managers. Yet although these joint ventures between USGS scientists and university researchers are effective investments of proven worth, funding for the Cooperative Research Units would decline by $170,000 under the Administration's budget request.

Also of note within the BRD is the Biological Research and Monitoring budget line, which develops new research methods, inventories populations of plants and animals, and monitors changes in these species and their habitats over time. This information is used by federal and state natural resource managers to maintain healthy and diverse ecosystems while balancing the needs of public use. The science conducted by the Biological Research and Monitoring program is also vital for informing management actions by other Interior bureaus. The President's budget would provide an additional $4.0 million for USGS science support to the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. We strongly support this increase and encourage Congress to further increase funding for these initiatives.

The National Streamflow Information Program within the Water Resources Discipline of the USGS also provides needed information for resource managers. Its national network of stream-gages records changes in streamflow due to alterations in land use, water use, rainfall, drought, and climate change. This information is vital to resource managers who make decisions about water use, for scientists charged with protecting and restoring aquatic species and habitats, and ultimately for farmers making decisions about crop management.

Additionally, we ask Congress to fully fund fixed costs at the USGS. The President's budget request does not fully fund these expenses, creating a $13.5 million budget cut for USGS programs. Within the BRD, the absorption of fixed costs will remove $2.6 million from funds needed for research, monitoring, and public education activities.

The USGS is uniquely positioned to address many of the nation's biological and environmental challenges, including energy independence, climate change, water quality, and conservation of biological diversity. Biological science programs within the USGS gather long-term data not available from other sources. These data have contributed fundamentally to our understanding of the status and dynamics of biological populations and have improved our understanding of how ecosystems function, all of which is necessary for predicting the impacts of land management practices and climate change on the natural environment. This array of research expertise not only serves the core missions of the Department of the Interior, but also contributes to management decisions made by other agencies and private sector organizations. In short, increased investments in these important research activities will yield dividends.

Environmental Protection Agency

As EPA's scientific division, the Office of Research and Development (ORD) supports valuable extramural and intramural research that is used to understand, prevent, and mitigate environmental problems facing our nation. ORD research informs decisions made by public health and safety managers, natural resource managers, businesses, and other stakeholders concerned about climate change, air and water pollution, and land management and restoration. In short, ORD provides the scientific basis upon which EPA monitoring and enforcement programs are built. Funding, however, for ORD has declined since FY 2004, when it peaked at $646.5 million. At $605 million, the budget request for FY 2011 falls far short of addressing past budget deficits. We ask that Congress restore funding for ORD to at least the FY 2004 level.

The Ecosystem Services Research (ESR) program is one important area within ORD that would benefit from increased funding. The ESR is responsible for enhancing, protecting, and restoring ecosystem services, such as clean air and water, rich soil for food and crop production, pollination, and flood control. "EPA's Ecosystem Services Research Program is bold, innovative, and necessary," wrote Dr. Judith Meyer, chair of the Ecological Processes and Effects Committee of the EPA's Science Advisory Board in a 2009 Committee consultation. She also wrote that "[t]he considerable potential of the program is unlikely to be achieved with its current level of funding and staff." The President's budget request would do little to solve the problem, with a proposed $1.5 million cut in funding for the program. More troubling is potential elimination of FTEs that could accompany this budget cut. We ask that Congress fully fund the program.

The Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship is another program that has been chronically underfunded. The fellowship contributes to the training of the next generation of scientists by supporting graduate students pursuing an advanced degree in environmental science. The President's request of $17.3 million represents the first real increase for the program since FY 2006 and would provide 240 new fellowships. Since its inception in 1995, this successful program has supported the education and training of approximately 1,500 STAR Fellows who have gone on to pursue careers as scientists and educators.

In conclusion, we urge Congress to restore funding for the ORD to historic levels and to proportionally increase funding for human health and ecosystem research within the program. These appropriation levels would allow ORD to address a backlog of research needs.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request.

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