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Public Policy Report for 01/06/2003

  • Science: FY04 request for NSF is $1 billion below authorized level
  • Bush Administration releases National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan
  • Corps of Engineers releases revised regulatory guidance letter on wetlands mitigation
  • What do you want NEON to do for you? AIBS and NSF want to know!
  • Reminder: Comments on NSB Report on Infrastructure due January 9

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].


SCIENCE: FY04 REQUEST FOR NSF IS $1 BILLION BELOW AUTHORIZED LEVEL

Science reports that the White House will propose a 9% increase over the President's proposed FY03 budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF), to roughly $5.4 billion for FY04. The generosity of the increase can't yet be determined, however, since Congress has yet to decide on final numbers for FY03. Last year, appropriators in both houses of Congress approved similar increases of that magnitude over the President's request for FY03: the Senate recommended a total of $5.35 billion; the House recommended $5.42 billion. Congressional sources tell AIBS that they intend to pass the FY03 appropriations in late January and while it is unlikely that NSF will get quite as much as the committees approved last summer, it will still be a healthy increase. Therefore, if things go as expected by science policy analysts, the President's FY04 proposal will likely be a very small increase for NSF. It also falls far short of the $6.4 billion authorized for FY04 by the recently passed NSF authorization bill.

And for the first time in years, things look even worse for NIH. With NIH's five-year doubling path expected to be completed when Congress approves the FY03 appropriations later this month, the agency appears to be facing a minute percentage increase. Science reports that the increase for FY04 is only $50 million above last year's request, which amounts to less than a 1% increase.

The President's request for FY04 is expected to be released in early February. AIBS will include full analysis of several agency budget requests, including NSF and NIH, in future issues of the AIBS Public Policy Report.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION RELEASES NATIONAL WETLANDS MITIGATION ACTION PLAN

The Bush administration released its National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan on December 24, 2002. The plan was created by the federal agencies with jurisdiction over wetlands including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and Transportation.

In addition to recommending a revision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory guidance letter on wetland mitigation (see next story), the Action Plan tasks the federal agencies with jurisdiction over wetlands with 16 action items aimed at improving compensatory mitigation accountability, clarifying performance standards, and improving data collection and availability. Many of these items directly address recommendations from the 2001 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) report "Compensating for Wetland Losses Under the Clean Water Act."

"These actions affirm this Administration's commitment to the goal of no net loss of America's wetlands and its support for protecting our Nation's watersheds," EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said. The plan, accompanying press release, and NRC report can be accessed from http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/guidance/index.html.

CORPS OF ENGINEERS RELEASES REVISED REGULATORY GUIDANCE LETTER ON WETLAND MITIGATION

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a new regulatory guidance letter on wetland mitigation on December 27, 2002. The revision comes slightly more than a year after the Corps first attempt at the guidance letter resulted in accusations from conservation groups that the administration was abandoning the "no net loss" policy for wetlands put in place by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Les Brownlee stated that "the improvements in the Corps' regulatory guidance and implementation of the action plan will enhance effective regulatory decision-making in the permit process and improve the planning of successful wetland mitigation projects."

The Corps states that the new guidance is "intended to fully support the national policy for "no overall net loss" of wetlands." The revision also acknowledges that wetland function, not acreage, should be the product of interest in mitigation projects: "Focusing on the replacement of the functions provided by a wetland, rather than only calculation of acreage impacted or restored, will in most cases provide a more accurate and effective way to achieve the environmental performance objectives of the no-net-loss policy." Additionally, the revised letter emphasizes a watershed approach to mitigation, increased use of functional assessment tools, and improved performance stands.

The revised regulatory guidance and accompanying materials can be viewed at: http://www.usace.army.mil/inet/functions/cw/hot_topics/corps_epa.htm.

WHAT DO YOU WANT NEON TO DO FOR YOU? AIBS AND NSF WANT TO KNOW!

The AIBS project on Infrastructure for Biology at Regional to Continental Scales (IBRCS), funded by a grant from NSF, is soliciting community input NOW on NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network program proposed by the National Science Foundation. IBRCS is preparing its initial white paper on NEON for public dissemination and transmittal to NSF in March 2003. The report will help inform discussions of NEON in relation to NSF's budget proposal for FY2004 (expected to be released in February 2003) and will lay the groundwork for future NEON development and IBRCS activities.

Go to http://ibrcs.aibs.org/townmeeting (AIBS contact: IBRCS Project Manager, Jeffrey Goldman, jgoldman@aibs.org) to arrange to speak at an IBRCS town meeting and/or submit written comments. Comments submitted before February 14, 2003 will be of use in preparing the March 2003 white paper; comments submitted after that date will be of use in future IBRCS activities and reports.

Please frame your comments with reference to:

1) The latest NSF proposal for NEON: the 23-page Expanded Description document released in the fall of 2002: online in the Focus on NEON section of the IBRCS website at http://ibrcs.aibs.org/ , or via direct link to NSF at http://www.nsf.gov/bio/neon/start.htm . Both of these URLs also include other relevant NSF documents, such as prior NEON and BON workshop reports.

2) The following aspects of NEON development that the IBRCS white paper is considering:

* scientific rationale * network design & deployment * measurements & instrumentation * connectivity & information management * specimen & sample management * collaborations & partnerships * management structure * anticipated scientific results * education & outreach * benefits & applications.

(Note to AIBS member societies and organizations: IBRCS representatives will meet with the AIBS Board of Directors and the AIBS Council to discuss the IBRCS white paper and future IBRCS activities at the next annual AIBS Council meeting, in Washington DC, on March 23 - 24, 2003.)

REMINDER: COMMENTS ON NSB REPORT ON INFRASTRUCTURE DUE JANUARY 9

As reported in the previous issues of the AIBS public policy reports, the National Science Board is requesting comments on its report "Science and Engineering Infrastructure for the 21st Century." The report is based on a study conducted by the NSB Task Force on Science and Engineering Infrastructure. Citing an "urgent need to increase federal investments aimed at providing access for scientists to the latest and best scientific infrastructure," the report's primary recommendation is that NSF not only increase the amount of funds for infrastructure, but also the proportion of the agency's budget devoted to infrastructure (suggesting that the amount spent on other programs would have to be cut). The draft report can be downloaded from the NSF website at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/.

Comments are due by January 9, 2003 and should be sent via email to nsf-inf@nsf.gov. AIBS plans to submit comments and will post them on the AIBS website after submission.


- Register for the 2003 AIBS annual meeting, Bioethics in a Changing World, at www.aibs.org/meeting2003

- IBRCS/NEON updates at www.aibs.org/ibrcs

- Link your website to AIBS at http://www.aibs.org/link/index.html

 


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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