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AIBS Public Policy Report for 10 April 2006

  • AIBS submits congressional testimony on FY 07 budget
  • Ehlers/Holt Dear Colleague letter on NSF
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports a net gain in U.S. wetland acreage
  • New in BioScience: "Evolution After Dover"

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].


AIBS submits congressional testimony on FY 07 budget

In March and April, AIBS provided testimony to House and Senate appropriation committees in support of the President's fiscal year 2007 budget request for the National Science Foundation. The President's request would provide NSF with $6.02 billion in the coming budget year, which would include a 5.4 percent bump for the Biology Directorate and funding for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

AIBS has also provided testimony in support of the U.S. Geological Survey, asking Congress to increase funding for the Department of the Interior's science agency to $1.2 billion. More specifically, AIBS encouraged Congress to restore proposed cuts to the USGS budget while also working to provide important new funding for the USGS Biology Discipline.

The full text of the testimony is available at www.aibs.org/position-statements/.


Ehlers/Holt Dear Colleague letter on NSF

Many readers will recall a recent Action Alert requesting that scientists contact their U.S. Representatives to ask that they sign a Dear Colleague letter that was being circulated by Representatives Ehlers (R-MI), Holt (D-NJ), Inglis (R-SC), and Lipinski (D-IL). The letter was recently sent to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee. Ultimately, 162 Representatives signed the letter, which supports the President's fiscal year 2007 budget request for the National Science Foundation.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports a net gain in U.S. wetland acreage

President Bush's 2004 pledge to have "no net loss" of wetlands seems to have been realized according to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. For the first time, "Status and Trends of Wetlands in Conterminous United States" reports that from 1998 to 2004, the nation gained a net 191,800 acres of wetlands bringing the total acreage to 107.7 million acres in the lower 48 states. The report attributes the net gain to restoration programs that helped increase the acreage of shallow-pond wetlands. These gains were offset, however, by smaller losses in swamp and marshland wetlands caused by urban and rural development. It is important to note that these findings do not include Gulf Coast wetland losses due to the 2005 hurricane season.

During a 30 March press conference, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton joined Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to announce the report findings. "This report, prepared as a part of President Bush's initiative to stem the loss of wetlands, is good news not only for biologists but for all of us. We all depend on wetlands as the nurseries of life," Norton said. "Although the overall state of our wetlands is still precarious, this report suggests that nationwide efforts to curb losses and restore wetland habitats are on the right track."

Not everyone is impressed with the conclusions of the report. The Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) has called it "misleading." According to an ASWM press release, "The 'no net loss of wetlands' is largely due to the proliferation of ponds, lakes and other deepwater habitats, as the report points out. These ponds include ornamental lakes for residential developments, stormwater detention ponds, wastewater treatment lagoons, aquaculture ponds and golf course water hazards." The National Wildlife Federation also expressed caution with the government report, calling it "pure spin."

To read the "Status and Trends of Wetlands in Conterminous United States," please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wetlands Status and Trends website.


New in BioScience: "Evolution After Dover"

In the April issue of BioScience Erin Heath reports on the outlook for evolution education following the December 2005 federal court ruling in the Kitzmiller case.

The following is a brief excerpt from the article.

The scene: a press conference featuring scientists and religious leaders. The date: 21 December 2005, the day after US District Court Judge John E. Jones III struck down the Dover, Pennsylvania, Area School District's inclusion of intelligent design in the district's science curriculum. The mood: cautious elation.

"Cautious elation" may appear to be a contradiction in terms, but that's exactly what many scientists felt about what was, by most accounts, a major victory for science education in Dover. Repeatedly, distinguished scientists such as Kenneth R. Miller, Francisco J. Ayala, and Joel Cracraft (a former president of AIBS) indicated that while they were gratified that the Dover judge recognized the importance of science education, the intelligent design movement, though weakened, is not dead. Indeed, new legislation seeking to at least downplay evolution's importance has already cropped up in state legislatures nationwide.




 


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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