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AIBS House Testimony in Support of FY 2012 Funding for the USGS and EPA

April 1, 2011

Submitted by:
Julie Palakovich Carr
Senior Public Policy Associate
Robert Gropp, Ph.D.
Director of Public Policy

Submitted to:
House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) appreciates the opportunity to provide testimony in support of appropriations for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fiscal year (FY) 2012. AIBS encourages Congress to provide the USGS with at least $1.2 billion in FY 2012, with at least $171 million for the Ecosystems Activity. We further request that Congress provide the EPA's Office of Research and Development with at least $597 million, with at least $72 million for ecosystem research.

U.S. Geological Survey

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) provides unbiased, independent research, data, and assessments that are needed by 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, and providing essential geospatial data that are needed for commercial activity and natural resource management. The data collected by the USGS are not available from other sources. Our nation cannot afford to sacrifice this information. Funding for the USGS is a wise investment that produces real returns for the country.

The FY 2012 budget request for the USGS is inadequate to sustain the agency's critical work. The proposed budget would cut funding from programs that support the agency's core missions, resulting in the termination of 230 full-time staff positions. These reductions would be especially destructive because, in constant dollars, the USGS has been flat funded for more than a decade. Given the agency's critical role in informing the environmental and economic health of the nation, more support is justified. We urge Congress to fully fund the USGS by restoring Administration-proposed reductions to core science programs.

One area that would be negatively impacted by the proposed budget is the Ecosystems Activity within the USGS. Three programs within this budget authority are slated for reductions. The Status and Trends, Fisheries, and Wildlife programs would collectively lose $4.4 million. This budget would undercut the agency's ability to fulfill its valuable programmatic missions in biology. The Status and Trends program inventories populations of plants and animals, and monitors changes in these species and their habitats over time. The Fisheries: Aquatic and Endangered Resources program and Wildlife: Terrestrial and Endangered Resources program conduct research that informs our understanding of biodiversity, and provide information to other Department of the Interior bureaus that is used to manage endangered species. Collectively, the knowledge generated by these programs is used by federal and state natural resource managers to maintain healthy and diverse ecosystems while balancing the needs of public use.

Another program inadequately funded in the Administration's request is the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII). Under the FY 2012 budget, all new data collection activities would be eliminated. This would halt efforts to make data on invasive species, wildlife disease, habitat loss, wetlands, and pollinators more accessible to resource managers, scientists, and the public. The budget would also eliminate partnerships with more than 40 federal and state agencies, 20 universities, and other networks. Moreover, this plan would have global consequences, as NBII serves as the United States node for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, an international collaboration of nearly 60 countries that enables public access to global biodiversity data.

Other external partnerships would be negatively impacted under the proposed budget. Through the Cooperative Research Units, the USGS and their partners address pressing issues facing natural resource managers, such as invasive species and wildlife diseases. 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. Although the Cooperative Research Units are effective investments that leverage federal funding, the program's budget would decline by $500,000 in FY 2012.

The National Streamflow Information Program within the Water Resources Activity also provides needed information for resource managers and scientists. Its national network of streamgages records changes in streamflow due to alterations in precipitation, land use, and water use. This information is vital to state and local governments, utilities, and resource managers who make decisions about water use.

In summary, the USGS is uniquely positioned to provide a scientific context for many of the nation's biological and environmental challenges, including water quality, energy independence, 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 other human activities 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

The Office of Research and Development (ORD) is the science division for the EPA. The 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 air and water pollution, human health, and land management and restoration. In short, ORD provides the scientific basis upon which EPA monitoring and enforcement programs are built. Funding for ORD, however, has declined since FY 2004, when it peaked at $646.5 million. At $584.1 million, the budget request for FY 2012 falls far short of addressing past budget deficits. We ask that Congress restore funding for ORD to at least the FY 2010 level.

The Ecosystem Services Research program within ORD 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. However, "[t]he considerable potential of the program is unlikely to be achieved with its current level of funding and staff." The FY 2012 budget request would do little to solve the problem, with a proposed $10.8 million cut in funding and a reduction of 16.7 full time equivalents for ecosystem research. We ask that Congress fully fund the program.

The Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship contributes to the training of the next generation of scientists by supporting graduate students pursuing an advanced degree in environmental science. The agency's request of $6 million in new funding represents the first real increase for the program since FY 2006 and would provide 105 new fellowships. Since its inception in 1995, this successful program has supported the education and training of 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 the FY 2010 enacted level and to proportionally increase funding for 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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