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Public Policy Report for 10/25/2000

  • Budget roundup; good news for NSF
  • Federal agencies announce unified watershed management strategy
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces final wildlife refuge compatibility regulations
  • Everglades restoration funding approved by Congress
  • Holt and Morella introduce new science and math education bill

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].


BUDGET ROUNDUP; GOOD NEWS FOR NSF Although Congress is still working on four of the13 annual funding bills, and six of those that have gone to the White House remain unsigned, things are looking bright for the National Science Foundation. On October 12, the Senate and the House agreed to provide $4.426 billion for NSF overall in Fiscal Year 2001 a $529 million or 13.6% increase over Fiscal Year 2000. This represents the largest dollar increase the Foundation has ever received, in real or constant dollars. The increase includes an additional $391.1 million over last year for Research and Related Activities, for a total of $3.350 billion. The Biocomplexity in the Environment Initiative will receive an additional $75 million - an increase of $25 million. Unfortunately, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) was not funded. The Environmental Protection Agency research budget increases by 6.1% (to $686 million) including a $45 million boost for the science and technology programs. NASA research and development increases by 5.6%, for a total of $10.32 million, which includes a 14.4% increase for life and microgravity sciences. These numbers are all somewhat tentative, due to procedural glitches that may require a second approval by the House before it is sent to the President for signature.

The Department of Agriculture appropriations bill has not yet been signed by the President. The Congress agreed to provide the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service a total of $506.2 million, including $106 million for the National Research Initiative which is a decrease of $13 million from FY2000. The Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, another competitive grant program, was funded at $120 million for the second consecutive year. This five-year program, which carries a mandatory funding provision, was blocked by Congress for the first two years of its authorization. The agriculture appropriations bill is also includes funding for educational opportunities for underrepresented minorities. For FY2001, these programs, created by various legislative acts, include $1 million for a higher education multicultural scholars program, $3.5 million for an education grants program for Hispanic-serving Institutions, $3 million for a program of noncompetitive grants to Alaska Native-serving and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions to carry out higher education programs, $9.5 million for a program of grants to colleges and universities having significant minority enrollments to build teaching and research capacity (the "1890 institutions"), and $1.5 million for the 29 tribally-controlled colleges that were designated land-grant colleges by legislation enacted in 1994.

The U.S. Geological Survey which includes all scientific research in the Department of the Interior, will receive a 7.0% increase in Fiscal Year 2001. Although earlier House and Senate appropriations had trimmed the request considerably, the final Interior bill grants nearly the entire request and allows for increases in R&D funding by all four USGS divisions. The Biological Resources Division received an appropriation of $158 million, an increase of nearly 15%, which includes funding for full staffing of the 36 Cooperative Research Units for the first time. Within the total, the bill provides: $8.0 million above the 2000 enacted level for USGS science centers and $3.4 million of the $13.0 million requested for "DOI Science Priorities" to be used to fund high priority research needs of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

FEDERAL AGENCIES ANNOUNCE UNIFIED WATERSHED MANAGEMENT STRATEGY On October 18, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Army Corps of Engineers released the Unified Federal Policy for a Watershed Approach to Federal Land and Resource Management. This policy, which provides a framework for a watershed approach to Federal land and resource management activities, is one of the 111 action items in the President's 1988 Clean Water Action Plan: Restoring and Protecting America's Waters [http://cleanwater.gov/action/toc.html] It is intended to provide a framework to enhance watershed management for the protection of water quality and the health of aquatic ecosystems on Federal lands. Though this policy is not intended to be a rule, the agencies sought public comment, which was incorporated into the final version of the policy. Copies of the final policy are available electronically from the Internet/World Wide Web at ww.cleanwater.gov/ufp or by contacting USDA-Forest Service, Content Analysis Enterprise Team, Attn: UFP, Building 2, Suite 295, 5500 Amelia Earhart Drive, Salt Lake City, UT
84116; (801) 517-1037.

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE ANNOUNCES FINAL WILDLIFE REFUGE COMPATIBILITY REGULATIONS - After considering and responding to more than 500 public comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its final Compatibility Policy and Regulations today, giving uniform direction and procedures for making decisions regarding wildlife conservation and public use to managers of units of the 93 million acre National
Wildlife Refuge System. According to the FWS, the policy provides a strong framework to continue to manage refuge lands sensibly in keeping with the general goal of putting wildlife first, while providing recreational and educational opportunities for a growing number of visitors. The 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act required the Service to update the compatibility policy, first issued in 1966. Under the new policy, a refuge manager must determine whether any proposed or existing public use will "materially interfere with or detract from" the refuge's conservation mandates; and all compatibility determinations must be made in writing after following uniform procedures. This determination includes providing notice to the public and inviting comment on pending determinations.

The 1997 act also established "priority public uses"-- compatible uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and interpretation -- that are especially welcome on refuges and receive preference over other uses. Priority public uses are reviewed for compatibility less frequently than other uses, and refuge managers are encouraged to seek resources to facilitate these activities if they are determined to be otherwise compatible.

AIBS submitted comments to FWS on the compatibility policy, expressing concern about the undue delay in issuing scientific research permits that will occur as a result of the public comment procedure and about the potential chilling effect on scientific research that might result from organized campaigns by animal rights activists opposed to live animal research. AIBS suggested that the regulations define scientific research as "inherently compatible with the national wildlife refuge mission and with specific refuge purposes," so as to avoid the need for a compatibility review on each of the 500 or so national wildlife refuges and possibly even for each individual permit request. The FWS declined to include in its final compatibility regulations measures that might facilitate scientific research on the refuges.

EVERGLADES RESTORATION FUNDING APPROVED BY CONGRESS - Although the Everglades Restoration Act has been stalled in the House of Representatives after passing the Senate in September, Congress has approved some of the Everglades restoration projects as part of the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes hundreds of flood control, navigation, and other Army Corps of Engineers projects. The bill, which was supported by homeowners, the sugar industry, the White House, and both presidential nominees Gore and Bush, will dedicate $1.4 billion (if appropriated) to undo the Corps' system of canals and water pumping projects that disrupted the natural water flow of the system. The restoration is projected to cost $7.8 billion for a series of projects that will span 36 years. There are also efforts underway to attach the funding provisions to one of the four appropriations bills that Congress has yet to complete. Critics of the bill include environmental organizations who have called for significant reforms in the way the Corps conducts environmental reviews and by taxpayer organizations who object to the use of the Corps as a pork barrel bonanza for members of Congress, who load the biennial Water Resources Development Act with hundreds of Corps projects to move water and soil from one place to another and now, in the case of the Everglades, to move it back again.

HOLT AND MORELLA INTRODUCE NEW SCIENCE AND MATH EDUCATION BILL - Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Constance Morella (R-Md) on October 19 introduced the National Improvement in Mathematics and Science Education Act, which is intended to implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (the "Glenn Commission"). H.R. 5504 also addresses gender equity in math and science education, an issue addressed by the report of the Commission of Women and Minorities in Math, Science, Engineering, and Technology a Commission chaired by Rep. Morella [http://www.nsf.gov/od/cawmset/start.htm#meetings]. Both Morella and Holt served on the Glenn Commission.


 


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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