March 13, 2018

Chairman Thad Cochran
United States Senate
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Vice Chairman Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senate
437 Russell Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Leahy:

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) encourages Congress to restore the Administration's proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget cuts to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). These cuts will have a long-term and negative impact on our nation's ability to conduct the scientific research required to make informed decisions about our natural resources, public lands, and to combat the invasive species that pose significant threats to our economy and public well-being. We are particularly concerned by the proposed cuts to the Ecosystems mission area. We respectfully request that Congress provide $1.2 billion in FY 2018 to the USGS with at least $174 million for the Ecosystems mission area.

The USGS provides unbiased, independent research, data, and assessments that are needed by public and private sector decision-makers. Data generated by the USGS saves taxpayers money by enabling more effective management of water and biological resources, and by providing essential geospatial information that is needed for commercial activity and natural resource management. The data collected by the USGS are not available from other sources and our nation cannot afford to sacrifice this information.

The Ecosystems activity within USGS underpins the agency's other science mission areas by conducting the research required to understand the impacts of water use, energy exploration and production, and natural hazards on natural systems. The USGS conducts research on and monitoring of fish, wildlife, and vegetation--data that informs management decisions by other Interior bureaus regarding protected species and land use, as well as State, local, and Tribal governments.

Examples of successful USGS Ecosystem initiatives include:

  • Development of comprehensive geospatial data products that characterize the risk of wildfires on all lands in the United States. These products are used to allocate firefighting resources and to plan wildfire fuel reduction projects.
  • Identification and evaluation of control measures for Asian carp, sea lamprey, Burmese pythons, and other invasive species that cause billions of dollars in economic losses annually.
  • New insights on the spread of avian flu, chronic wasting disease, and other diseases spread by wildlife in North America.

As a science agency, much of the USGS budget is dedicated to staff as well as equipment and facilities that must be maintained and updated to ensure the continuity of data acquisition and that the data gathered are reliable and available for future scientific investigations.

Under the President's budget proposal, cuts and program eliminations include:

Elimination of curation and research on fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals that is conducted by the Biological Survey Unit. USGS has more than a million specimens of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that are housed at the Smithsonian. These curatorial and research positions are required to maintain and use these specimens and the data associated with them.

Elimination of research on the ecological effects of fracking. Research by the USGS on this topic compliments research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency on water quality issues associated with fracking. This information is vital to federal and state management of energy development.

Reduce wildlife and fisheries research. USGS conducts this research for the benefit of federal and state stakeholders. Without these research programs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and other Interior bureaus will not have the scientific information needed to fulfill their agency missions to manage wildlife, as these agencies do not have the scientific capacity of the USGS.

Reduced research on ecosystems of concern. This research is a critical component of efforts to restore important national treasures, such as the Everglades and the Chesapeake Bay. The Arctic ecosystem research and monitoring program addresses the needs of Native communities, and also promotes public health throughout the US through monitoring avian flu.

Again, we respectfully request that Congress reject the ill-advised budget cuts proposed in the Administration's FY 2018 budget request for the USGS.

Sincerely,

Robert Gropp, Ph.D.
Co-Executive Director

CC: Senate Committee on Appropriations

Read more AIBS Position Statements

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