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Public Policy Report for 11/15/2000

  • Proposal sent to AIBS members for expanding the AIBS Public Policy Office, creating Public Issues Council
  • Canadian Species at Risk Act hits dead end
  • Long-awaited Forest Management Planning Regulation announced
  • Forest Service close to final rule on roads
  • No time for evolution in Canada?
  • USDA to subsidize biofuels
  • David Brower, conservation legend, dies

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].


PROPOSAL SENT TO AIBS MEMBERS FOR EXPANDING THE AIBS PUBLIC POLICY OFFICE AND ESTABLISHING A PUBLIC ISSUES COUNCIL

AIBS member societies and organizations have now been contacted by the AIBS leadership with an invitation to make optional contributions in addition to their regular AIBS membership dues as ear-marked funds for the AIBS Public Policy Office to hire more staff to work with the membership.

It is also proposed that an AIBS Public Issues Council be created to facilitate collaborative public policy decisions and action among the AIBS membership. It is proposed that the existing AIBS Council be modified to serve this purpose, and, furthermore, that member presidents be encouraged to participate in Council affairs.

The proposal, which is a response to membership requests at the 1999 AIBS Presidents' Summit, is online at http://www.aibs.org/latitude/latfunding.html or via the opening page of www.aibs.org. Initial feedback from membership leaders is requested by the end of November 2000; formal funding commitments from the membership are required by the end of August 2001.

Replies can be sent to Richard O'Grady, AIBS Executive Director, rogrady@aibs.org, tel. 202-628-1500 x 258, fax 202-628-1509.

CANADIAN SPECIES AT RISK ACT HITS DEAD END: Prime Minister Jean Chretien has dissolved parliament and called for new elections in November, once again scuttling an attempt to give Canada a national law protecting endangered species. Conservation groups who had been highly critical of the flawed bill, hope that a much stronger endangered species law, which protects habitat, makes listing decisions based on science not politics, and provides for citizen enforcement, can be enacted in the next session.

LONG-AWAITED FOREST MANAGEMENT PLANNING REGULATION ANNOUNCED On 9 November 2000, the USDA Forest Service announced its final National Forest System Land Resource Management Planning rule. This rule, which takes effect November 9, 2000 replaces the 1982 regulations that were designed to implement the mandates of the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act and the National Forest Management Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act (among others). Over the years, the Forest Service realized that the 1982 regulations described the process of forest planning, but failed to address the substantive issues involved in deciding how to manage the 192 million acres of land in 42 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico that the Forest Service manages. These lands include 155 national forests, 20 national grasslands, and various other lands.

The regulation (and the explanatory comments) are quite lengthy. It is likely to be posted at
http://www.fs.fed.us/forum/nepa/rule/

The Forest Service efforts to improve the planning regulations actually began in 1989 with a comprehensive review of its land management planning process. Based in part on this review, the Forest Service published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 1991 regarding possible revisions to the 1982 planning rule. An actual proposed rule was developed and published for comment in 1995. However, the Forest Service abandoned that proposed rule after receiving substantial negative comment. In 1997, the Forest Service tried again. The Secretary of Agriculture convened a 13-member Committee of Scientists to review the Forest Service planning process and offer recommendations for improvements within the statutory mission of the Forest Service and the established framework of environmental laws. The members of this Committee of Scientists represented a diversity of views, backgrounds, and academic expertise. The Committee's charter was to ``provide scientific and technical advice to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the Forest Service on improvements that can be made in the National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning Process and to address such topics as how to consider the following in land and resource management plans: biological diversity, use of ecosystem assessments in land and resource management planning, spatial and temporal scales for planning, public participation processes, sustainable forestry, interdisciplinary analysis, and any other issues that the Committee identifies that should be addressed in revised planning regulations." The Committee was also asked to recommend improvements in Forest Service coordination with other federal, state, and local agencies, and tribal governments while recognizing the unique roles and responsibilities of each agency in the planning process. The Committee held more than 20 publicly noticed meetings and teleconferences across the country and heard from Forest Service employees, representatives of tribes, state and local governments and other federal agencies, members of the public, former Chiefs of the Forest Service, and members of the original Committee of Scientists regarding their concerns and ideas about the current planning process and the current management of national forests and grasslands.

The Committee of Scientists homepage can be found at: http://www.cof.orst.edu/org/scicomm/index.htm.

Following these meetings, the Committee of Scientists issued a final report on March 15, 1999,
entitled Sustaining the People's Lands. That report is online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/science/

The Forest Service then issued a proposed rule in October 1999 incorporating the recommendations of the Committee of Scientists along with its own experiences in forest management. After considering 10,489 written comments and holding 23 public hearings at which 1,339 people offered comments, the Forest Service completed the final rule. It reaffirms sustainability as the overall goal for National Forest System planning and management; establishes requirements for the implementation, monitoring, evaluation, amendment, and revision of land and resource management plans; and guides the selection and implementation of site-specific actions. The intended effects are to simplify, clarify, and otherwise improve the planning process; to reduce burdensome and costly procedural requirements; to strengthen and clarify the role of science in planning, and to strengthen collaborative relationships with the public and other government entities. The final rule emphasizes four key concepts. First, it affirms sustainability as the overall goal for national forest and grassland management in accordance with the Multiple-Use-Sustained-Yield Act of. Second, it requires extensive cooperation and collaboration with the public and other private and public entities. Third, it integrates science more effectively into the planning and management of national forests and grasslands. Finally, the rule eliminates burdensome analytical requirements that were designed to govern the initial development of land and resource management plans and puts into place a new planning framework that addresses problems, issues, and opportunities identified through collaboration with the public, through monitoring or other scientific analyses, or by other means.

FOREST SERVICE CLOSE TO FINAL RULE ON ROADS - FOREST SERVICE OFFERS PREFERRED PLAN FOR PROTECTING ROADLESS AREAS IN NATIONAL FORESTS - After receiving extensive public input 1.6 million written and oral comments - USDA's Forest Service on November 13 presented Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman with its preferred plan for protecting nearly 60 million acres of roadless areas in national forests. Glickman will decide on a final plan in December. The Forest Service's preferred plan, one of several alternatives contained in a final environmental impact statement, would prohibit most road construction and reconstruction in 49.2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas, increasing to 58.5 million acres in April 2004 when the Tongass National Forest would be included; prohibit timber harvesting except for defined stewardship purposes in these same areas; and allow road construction when necessary for public safety and resource protection. Stewardship purpose timber harvests would occur only to maintain or improve roadless characteristics. Such harvests would need to improve habitat for threatened, endangered, proposed, or sensitive species; reduce the risk of uncharacteristically severe fire; or restore ecological structure, function, and processes.

"Conservation leadership requires that we stand up for the values and lands entrusted to our care by the American people," said Mike Dombeck, chief of USDA's Forest Service. "Creation of the National Forest System by Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt, although unpopular with some at the time, is today viewed as an enduring victory for conservation. It is my firm belief future generations will regard this proposal in the same light." Dombeck went on to thank, "the thousands of Forest Service employees who worked tirelessly to make this day possible."

President Clinton is expected to give final approval to the rule after the 30-day waiting period mandated by law to give Congress an opportunity to review all new regulations, but it is unlikely that this lame-duck Congress will have the time to conduct such a review. Forest industry leaders, who are dissatisfied with the proposed rule, hope that a Republican president would alter or negate the rules through an Executive Order. Environmental groups were particularly pleased by the decision to include the Tongass, which would have been excluded by the original proposed rule.

The four-volume environmental impact study is available on the web at http://roadless.fs.fed.us. Printed copies will be available for review at all Forest Service offices and 10,000 public and municipal libraries nationwide.

NO TIME FOR EVOLUTION IN CANADA? The new Ontario science curriculum addresses evolution only in advanced biology, a course designed for Grade 12 students who plan to study biology at the college level. All other students will go through elementary and high school without being taught about evolution. Ontario hasn't banned evolution in other grades and courses, but science teachers say the curriculum they must teach is already so large there's no room for extras such as evolution. However, others feel that the Ontario curriculum is deliberately designed to avoid controversy although there have been no reports of pressure on the school system by anti-evolutionists. The Ottawa Citizen reported that Officials at the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training wouldn't discuss the issue.

USDA TO SUBSIDIZE BIOFUELS - Companies that make ethanol, biodiesel and other fuels from farm products will be offered direct government subsidies of 29 percent to 40 percent to buy crops such as corn and soybeans. Although the payments, to be capped at $7.5 million per company and $300 million total for Fiscal Years 2001 and 2002, will be aimed at small firms, any cooperative of farmers or company will be eligible for the payments. USDA's subsidy is intended to expand industrial consumption of agricultural commodities by promoting their use in production of bioenergy which will also advance the goals set forth in the President's Executive Order on Biobased Products and Bioenergy.

DAVID BROWER, CONSERVATION LEGEND, DIES - David Brower, 88, former executive director of the Sierra Club and founder of Friends of the Earth and the Earth Island Institute, died Nov. 5. Under Brower's leadership from 1952 to 1969, The Sierra Club was transformed from a mountaineering club to a highly effective conservation organization that played a major role in stopping the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from constructing dams in the Grand Canyon and did major preservation work stretching from the Florida Everglades to the Allagash wilderness in Maine. He also helped lobby successfully for the North Cascades National Park in Washington State and the passage of the Wilderness Act. It was once estimated that in the 1960s, Mr. Brower's efforts deterred $7 billion worth of building projects. After leaving The Sierra Club, Mr. Brower created two new groups: the John Muir Institute which studies ecology and conservation; and Friends of the Earth, formed as a subsidiary of the League of Conservation Voters. Friends of the Earth started, on April 22, 1969, what is now the annual Earth Day observance. He later founded the Earth Island Institute, an umbrella group focusing on conservation, preservation and restoration work internationally.


 


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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