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Public Policy Report for 5/12/2000

  • Funding allocations for NSF, VA-HUD-IA, Interior not encouraging
  • Forest Service issues draft Environmental Impact Statement on roadless areas while Congress looks at proposed forest management planning regulations
  • Conservation and Reinvestment Act clears House, moves slowly in Senate
  • AIBS and membership co-sponsor advertisement recognizing NSF's 50th anniversary
  • House co-sponsors needed for "Doubling Bill"
  • President proclaims Global Science and Technology Week, May 7-13

The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks to AIBS membership leaders and contacts, including the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Director, AIBS Council Representative, Journal Editor, Newsletter Editor, Public Policy Committee Chair, Public Policy Representative, and Education Committee Chair of all AIBS member societies and organizations (see the Membership Directories for contact information).

All material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. Please mention AIBS as the source; office staff appreciate receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp [publ...@aibs.org; 202-628-1500 x250].


Appropriations for NSF, VA-HUD-IA, Interior not encouraging - The Congressional appropriations committees have received their "302(b)" allocations the discretionary funding for the government agencies and operations. Although overall, non-defense discretionary spending would rise by 7% under the Congressional budget limits and some committees, including Agriculture, saw their allocations increase over last year, the VA-HUD-IA allocation dropped from $78.420 billion to $78.017 billion, some six billion less than was requested by the administration. This would likely doom the 17% increase sought for NSF by the Administration. Due to competing needs for substantial increases for HUD programs, there might be little or no increase for NSF. The situation is even worse for Interior, which dropped from $15.128 billion last year to $14.723 billion this year. However, committee chairs have expressed chagrin with these limits and made it clear that they intend to exceed the limits. Thus, the stage is set for another long battle between Congress and the White House, for President Clinton has said that he will not sign spending bills at the levels suggested by the Congressional budget plan.

Forest Service issues roadless area draft Environmental Impact Statement - The Forest Service on May 9 proposed new regulations to protect certain roadless areas within the National Forest System. The proposed action would prohibit road construction and reconstruction in inventoried roadless areas and require Forest Service officials to evaluate whether and how to protect roadless characteristics as part of the forest planning process at the next forest plan revision. The Forest Service estimates that the preferred alternative would reduce logging in roadless areas by 73%; logging for purposes such as forest health would still be permitted. The proposed rule covers inventoried roadless areas within the Tongass National Forest in a special provision that specifically notes that the decision would be subject to existing statutory direction uniquely applicable to the Tongass National Forest. Twelve alternatives were fully developed and considered, including 4 each for prohibited activities, procedural evaluation requirements, and alternative treatments for the Tongass National Forest. A no action alternative was considered in each case. This proposed rulemaking and accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) are available at http://roadless2.fs.fed.us/documents/deis/index.shtml).

Some environmental groups have condemned the Forest Service's preferred alternative, saying that the proposal is unacceptable because it fails to halt logging, mining, grazing or off-road vehicle use and because it excludes the Tongass National Forest, uninventoried roadless areas and roadless areas smaller than 5,000 acres from any protection. Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife said the "DEIS released by the Forest Service today is halfway to where Americans want it to be." He noted that while no new roads would be built in national forest areas, both commercial and "forest health" logging could continue. Forest health logging accounts for more than 65 percent of all logging on national forest lands. Defenders contends that the other methods of logging used in roadless areas, including helicopter removal and bulldozing, can be even more harmful than traditional logging. Forestry organizations criticize the plan because it would reduce employment in the timber industry. They also sounded an alarm that forest health will suffer if the proposed policy is implemented. American Forest and Paper Association President W. Henson Moore said, "In an act that confounds both science and common sense, the Clinton/Gore administration has condemned our National Forest System to a future of neglect. Today's release by the U.S. Forest Service of the draft "roadless area" environmental impact statement sounds the death knell for the health of our national forests and signals an attack on rural America."

The Forest Service is planning to hold dozens of local and regional public meetings in the next two months. The list of meetings, which include meetings for nearly every national forest, can be found at http://roadless.fs.fed.us/meetings/index.shtml. Written comments must be submitted by July 17 to USDA Forest Service-CAET, Attn: Roadless PO Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122, by fax to 877-703-2494 or by e-mail to mailto:roadlessdeis@fs.fed.us.

Meanwhile, the Senate Forests Subcommittee investigated the Forest Service's proposed forest planning regulations, which are expected out this month in final form, The proposed regulations are meant to promote ecological, economic, and social sustainability in the use of the national forests are based on a report issued last year by a specially-appointed Committee of Scientists. Some in Congress, including subcommittee Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID), say that the proposed regulations undermine the legislative mandates imposed by the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act, the 1960 law that declares that the purposes of the national forest include outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed and fish and wildlife. The Act directs the Secretary of Agriculture to administer national forest renewable surface resources for multiple use and sustained yield.

For an analysis of the proposed forest management planning regulations, see the Washington Watch column in the February 2000 Bioscience, available online at http://www.aibs.org/latitude/latpublicpolicy.html.

Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) clears the House - On May 10, the House of Representatives voted 315 102 to pass H.R.701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (or as "Outer Continental Shelf" legislation) co-sponsored by Don Young (R-Ak) and George Miller (D-CA). The bill was developed as an alternative to the Teaming with Wildlife legislation that would have provided funding for wildlife conservation through an excise tax on outdoor recreation products. CARA directs nearly $3 billion annually over 15 years, or a little more than half the income the federal government gets from its off-shore oil-drilling leases, to nature conservation and wildlife protection efforts around the country. The money would go to national, state and local conservation projects, from the restoration of coastal wetlands to the purchase of land for urban parks. The bill had guarded support from much of the national environmental community. They said it would create incentives for new oil and gas leasing in sensitive coastal areas and that the coastal impact assistance could be used for projects that are harmful to the environment, such as building infrastructure to promote more development. The bill does not ensure that money set aside for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is actually spent by Congress (a problem that has plagued this Fund since its inception). The original legislation required that funding be used to benefit non-game wildlife programs, but that language was removed before the House Resources Committee passed the bill. The bill faced stiff opposition from appropriators and property rights advocates. In the Senate, a variety of similar bills have generated little activity, but the Senate now plans to consider S.2123, the legislation that mirrors H.R.701, introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank H. Murkowski (R-Ak) and Mary Landrieu (D-La), next month.

AIBS and membership co-sponsor advertisement recognizing NSF's 50th anniversary The May 9 edition of Roll Call, a Washington, D.C. newspaper specializing in coverage of Congress and widely read by members of Congress and their staffers, featured a half-page ad saluting NSF on its 50th anniversary. AIBS helped to raise funds from the 80 society and university members of the Coalition for National Science Funding, which sponsored the advertisement and was among the co-sponsors. Thanks are due to the following AIBS member societies for their generous contributions to help defray the cost of this advertising:

American Bryological and Lichenological Society
Botanical Society of America
American Society of Agronomy
North American Benthological Society
Archbold Biological Station
American Type Culture Collection
American Phytopathological Society
American Society of Plant Physiologists
Society of Toxicology
New York Botanical Garden
BioQuest Curriculum Consortium
Poultry Science Association
Animal Behavior Society
Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology
American Society of Plant Taxonomists
Southern Appalachian Botanical Society
International Association of Landscape Ecology - US Region
Association of Southeastern Biologists

Doubling Bill languishes in the House of Representatives - The Federal Research Investment Act or H.R. 3161 (also known as the "Doubling Bill") is in need of Congressional co-sponsors. Since Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced the bill on 28 October 1999, 24 co-sponsors have signed on, but many more are needed, especially among members of the House Science Committee. Please write to your representative to ask that he or she co-sponsor this legislation.

The AIBS Legislative Information Center (http://www.aibs.org/latitude/latpublicpolicy.html) lists all the co-sponsors for H.R.3161. If your representative is listed, write a letter of thanks! The members of the Science Committee are:

Hon.F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., (R- Wisconsin), Chairman
Dana Rohrabacher, (R)California
Lynn C. Woolsey, (D)California
Zoe Lofgren, (D)California
Ken Calvert, (R)California
Joe Baca, (D)California
Gary G. Miller, (R)California
Steven T. Kuykendall, (R)California
John B. Larson, (D)Connecticut
Mark Udall, (D)Colorado
Dave Weldon, (R) Florida
Jerry F. Costello, (D) Illinois
Thomas W. Ewing, (R) Illinois
Judy Biggert, (R)Illinois
Dennis Moore, Kansas
Constance A. Morella, (R) Maryland
Roscoe G. Bartlett, (R) Maryland
Michael E. Capuano, (D)Massachusetts
James A. Barcia, (D) Michigan
Lynn N. Rivers, (D) Michigan
Vernon J. Ehlers, (R) Michigan
Nick Smith, (R) Michigan
Debbie Stabenow, (D) Michigan
Gil Gutknecht, (R) Minnesota
Anthony D. Weiner, (D)New York
Sherwood L. Boehlert, (R)New York
Bob Etheridge, (D) North Carolina
Frank D. Lucas, (R)Oklahoma
David Wu, (D)Oregon
Curt Weldon, (R) Pennsylvania
Michael F. Doyle, (D) Pennsylvania
Joseph M. Hoeffel, (D)Pennsylvania
Marshall "Mark" Sanford, (R)South Carolina
Bart Gordon, (D)Tennessee
Ralph M. Hall, (D)Texas
Lamar Smith, (R)Texas
Eddie Bernice Johnson, (D)Texas
Joe Barton, (R)Texas
Sheila Jackson Lee, (D)Texas
Nick Lampson, (D) Texas
Kevin Brady, (R)Texas
Chris Cannon, (R)Utah
Merrill Cook, (R)Utah (CO-SPONSOR)
George R.Nethercutt, Jr., (R)Washington
Jack Metcalf, (R)Washington
Brian Baird, (D)Washington
Mark Green, (R)Wisconsin

The bill calls for a substantial increase in investment in federal science and technology research. Agencies that would receive additional funding, if the House passes the bill and if funds are appropriated, include the National Science Foundation, the Department of the Interior, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The legislation authorizes total funding increases ranging from $39 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $64 billion in fiscal year 2009. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences would be directed to develop methods for evaluating federally-funded research programs and for terminating programs that do not meet accepted standards. The Senate passed its version (S.296) of this bill last year.

In your letter, you might note that the House is to be commended for passing H.R. 2086, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act, which was sponsored by Committee Chair Sensenbrenner. This bill authorizes appropriations for FY 2000 through 2004 for research and development activities of the following departments and agencies in connection with the High-Performance Computing Program (establishing goals and priorities for, and engaging in, Federal high-performance computing research, development, networking, and related activities): (1) the National Science Foundation (NSF); (2) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; (3) the Department of Energy (DOE); (4) the National Institute of Standards and Technology; (5) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and (6) the Environmental Protection Agency. Point out that information technology is a critical tool but that without data generated by basic research (which would receive increased funding as a result of the Doubling Bill) it could be a tool without a purpose.

President proclaims Global Science and Technology Week, May 7-13 - Saying that "At its core, science is an international endeavor," President Clinton declared May 7-13 to be the Global Science and Technology Week. Citing international cooperative efforts to explore space and sequence the human genome, along with U.S. participation in the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organization efforts to identify, understand, and raise public awareness about the threat to our planet's ozone layer, the President called upon students, educators, and all the people of the United States to learn more about the international nature of science and technology and the contributions that international scientists have made to our Nation's progress and prosperity.


 


The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington DC, with a staff of approximately 30. It was founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences and has been an independent organization since the mid-1950s, governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The AIBS membership consists of approximately 6,000 biologists and 80 professional societies and other organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 240,000 biologists. AIBS is an umbrella organization for the biological sciences dedicated to promoting an understanding of the natural living world, including the human species and its welfare, by engaging in coalition activities with its members in research, education, public policy, and public outreach; publishing the peer-reviewed journal, BioScience; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening scientific meetings; and performing administrative and other support services for its member organizations.


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