New compact to improve endangered plant protection - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Plant Conservation signed a memorandum of agreement on June 27 intended to achieve better protection of threatened and endangered plants in North America. This private-public partnership will work together to protect plants in peril and educate the public about the biological, medical, economic, and esthetic value of native plant species. CPC Chairman Eliot Paine and FWS Director Jamie Rappaport Clark signed the agreement during the 2000 World Botanic Gardens Congress in Asheville, North Carolina
New Democrats support increased research funding - The Washington Post reported May 29 that a group of 65 centrist, pro-growth Democrats who make up the New Democrat Coalition, founded in 1997, has become a key block of House Members working to find solutions to address the challenges of the "New Economy." The federal investment in research funding is among their many priorities. According to the article, New Democrats recognize that a sustained public investment in long-term, basic research has been the foundation for U.S. scientific and technological leadership. New Democrats are committed to increased funding for key federal research institutions and support--e.g., H.R. 3161 (the "Doubling Bill"), introduced by NDC member Rush Holt (NJ), which would authorize continuing increases for research funding.
CALFED water agreement reached A new agreement to protect and restore California's Bay-Delta System - a critically important part of California's natural environment that supplies drinking water for more than 22 million Californians, irrigation water for more than 7 million acres of the world's most productive farmland, and supports over 450 fish and wildlife species - may put an end to California's long tradition of fighting over water. On June 9, an Action Plan to address California's pressing long-term water needs and ensure that environmental protection, water quality, and water reliability are improved for all Californians. California's Water Future: A Framework for Action represents the culmination of several years of federal-state and stakeholder cooperation. The plan promises benefits to the environment, California's economy, and to urban and agricultural users. The plan also makes a strong commitment to continuous, independent scientific review of actions and decisions. The next steps include the release of a final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) later this summer, followed by the execution of a final Record of Decision by the Secretary and the Governor. Federal and State officials are seeking further input from interested parties.
The CALFED process is an unprecedented collaboration among state and federal agencies and
the state's leading urban agricultural and environmental interests. Its mission is to develop a long-term, comprehensive plan that will restore ecological health and improve beneficial uses of the Bay-Delta system, the intricate waterways created at the junction of the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and the watershed that feeds them.
Highlights of the plan, which can be found at http://www.doi.gov/news/fnlfrmwk.pdf, include:
- An ecosystem restoration program (ERP) that is the largest comprehensive restoration effort in the world. The ERP will fund hundreds of restoration projects in the Delta, the Sacramento River meander corridor, and Bay-Delta tributaries with a reliable source of funding. This effort will improve all aspects of environmental quality in California, including restoring the ecological health of the Bay-Delta and its tributaries, improving water quality and improving habitat conditions for fish and wildlife.
- The creation of an Environmental Water Account (EWA). The EWA is an innovative new feature of the plan that will be established for the protection and recovery of fish, including those listed under the Endangered Species Act. The EWA will ensure that the environment is provided with its own dedicated water supply and will help avoid conflicts with other water users.
- Significant new investment in CALFED's Watershed Program through a grant program to fund local projects that contribute to CALFED goals for ecosystem restoration, water quality improvement, and water supply reliability.
- Significant investment in loan and grant programs for agricultural and urban water use efficiency and conservation measures that will result in 1.3 million acre-feet of water savings; significant development of water recycling capitol improvement projects; and significant investments in the Delta levee system maintenance and improvements.
Rep. Ehlers calls strategy meeting for education bills AIBS Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul attended a strategy session called by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) to brainstorm with representatives of scientific societies about ways to increase support for his three science-math-engineering-technology (SMET) education bills. S.2624 - The National Science Education Act enhances and creates new programs within the National Science Foundation including a master SMET teacher program to provide mentors for K-8 teachers and train them in hands-on, inquiry-oriented instruction. This bill also establishes a working group to examine the ideal scope, sequence and content of SMET curricula. S.2623 - The National Science Education Enhancement Act enhances and creates new programs within the Department of Education including rigorous summer institutes for meaningful teacher professional development. S.2622 - The National Science Education Incentives Act creates tax credits for potential math and science teachers who pursue strong SMET content in their career preparation and tax incentives for businesses who provide goods and training services to elementary and secondary school teachers. The three bills have now been endorsed by 11 organizations including the National Science Teachers Association. Another 30 or so are considering endorsing the bills. These include AAAS, American Geological Institute, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, and several AIBS members, including the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the Soil Science Society of America, and the American Society for Agronomy.
Bald Eagle stays on endangered species list - It was widely anticipated that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which proposed a year ago to remove the Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species List, would take that measure on this Fourth of July. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delayed making this final decision while it grapples with the need to protect the species from a second decline resulting from loss of habitat. Although the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
would protect Bald Eagles from take, these laws, unlike the Endangered Species Act, can not be used to protect habitat. The U.S. FWS, recognizing that loss of habitat is likely to pose a threat to eagle populations, has delayed the Bald Eagle de-listing indefinitely while it tries to find solutions to this dilemma.