AIBS, ESA, AERC TO CO-HOST ROUNDTABLE ON BIOTERROR THREATS TO NATURAL AND URBAN ECOSYSTEMS - AIBS is partnering with the AIBS-members the Ecological Society of America and the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers to hold a public roundtable on bioterrorism threats to natural and urban ecosystems. Date: Friday 22 February 2002, 12 noon - 3:00 p.m., Holman Lounge, National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC. Panelists include: Mark Wheelis, Section of Microbiology, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA; and Terry Yates, Vice Provost for Research, University of New Mexico & former Director of the Division of Environmental Biology, NSF. Representatives from DOI or the Homeland Security Office are being sought. Admission is free and lunch will be provided. Video tapes will be available afterwards. Register to attend by contacting Marsha Brown at AIBS, tel 202-628-1500 x 202; fax 202-628-1509; email@example.com.
FATE OF SEA GRANT, USGS FUNDING STILL UP IN THE AIR - Although it is believed that the White House Office of Management and Budget has dropped its proposal to transfer base funding for three Smithsonian research programs to NSF, the fate of Sea Grant funding, which OMB also reportedly planned to shift to NSF, is still unknown. When the Administration releases its FY2003 budget request on Monday, AIBS, which wrote to OMB to express concern about the proposed transfer of Sea Grant funding, will be certain to determine whether OMB has been persuaded to re-think the plan.* In December, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education also voiced their opposition, noting - as did AIBS - that Sea Grant supports research that is intended to answer management questions. It is far-removed from the very basic research of the nature supported by NSF funding. There is also some question about the ability of the Administration to move this funding, as the authorizing statutes direct the funding to NOAA. In addition to funding research, the Sea Grant program also has a large extension component. Through this program the results of Sea Grant sponsored applied research are communicated directly to those who will benefit from the research, including commercial fishermen. Similarly, the proposed transfer of funding for the USGS Water Resources National Research Program, which OMB also planned to transfer to NSF, is still up in the air.
STILL ANOTHER NONGAME WILDLIFE FUNDING BILL IS ON THE TABLE - S. 990 IS PASSED BY THE SENATE - The Senate approved legislation (S. 990) in December that would authorize $350 million per year for a program to benefit a nongame wildlife called Teaming with Wildlife. Sound familiar? It should. Teaming with Wildlife was the progenitor of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), legislation that - despite having 242 House co-sponsors and 65 Senate supporters - was never enacted. The tortured history of this seemingly popular bill began in 1997 with a simple concept - impose a small federal excise tax on outdoor recreational equipment and give the proceeds to the states for nongame wildlife management. It was an analog to the 1937 Pitman-Robertson Act Wildlife Restoration Act, when Congress enacted excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, bows and arrows; the proceeds were turned over to the states through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration program, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 1950 Dingell-Johnson Act (also known as the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act), modeled after the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act was enacted in 1950. Dingell-Johnson imposed federal excise taxes on fishing tackle and equipment and earmarked the proceeds for a special account for apportionment to the states for sport fish restoration programs. What could be more obvious, now that the game and sport fish species were taken care, than to provide assured funding to the states for nongame wildlife restoration - especially at a time when many wildlife populations were declining precipitously? Thus, Teaming with Wildlife was born. And like its predecessors, it faced opposition from some manufacturers of outdoor recreational equipment. Unlike its predecessors, the Teaming coalition, led by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies - which represents the 50 state game, fish, and wildlife agencies - was unable to over come this opposition.
Enter Don Young, Alaska's sole congressman. At the time, he chaired the House Resources Committee. He is not known for strong stands to protect wildlife and the environment. Yet, in the 106th Congress, he sponsored and championed the original Conservation and Reinvestment Act. As originally conceived, CARA have directed off-shore oil and gas drilling revenues - over 15 years - to several state-funding programs. One part ($900 million) would have gone to the existing Land and Water Conservation Fund, another part ($1 billion) to coastal states to mitigate the impacts of offshore drilling, and another part ($350 million) to nongame wildlife restoration. Other programs that would have been funded included urban parks and restoration, historic preservation, and conservation easements and species recovery. Despite opposition across the spectrum - the property rights groups launched an all-out offensive, some conservation organizations worried that states would allow offshore drilling just to get at a chunk of the funding, and Congressman everywhere resisted the notion of dedicating revenue to specific programs - the House approved CARA by a vote of 315 to 102 on 11 May 2000. Although by that time, the language in the wildlife restoration bill had mutated. It was no longer limited to nongame species. But still, it was a great deal of money and no doubt some of it would benefit nongame species conservation.
The Senate, unfortunately, didn't take up the challenge. Instead, it offered up "CARA LITE" - an appropriation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of $50 million for state wildlife grants, later supplemented by another $50 million in another spending bill. The Congress even amended the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 to create new budget authority and outlays from 2002 through 2006 for "State and Other Conservation" subcategory; and to define "conservation spending category" to include the budget account under USFWS for State Wildlife Grants.
Any program that would benefit all 50 states - generously so - doesn't go quietly into the night. So CARA is still with us. In the 107th Congress, Young's bill came back in 2001 and made it through the House Resources Committee. But in 2001, House leadership never let the bill come to the floor for a vote; in the Senate, none of the several competing bills ever made it through committee.
And this brings us back to Teaming with Wildlife. Sort of. While all this was going on, Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) introduced the American Wildlife Enhancement Act of 2001 (S. 990) on 6 June 2001. This bill provides an authorization for $350 million to the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program as well as three other wildlife related conservation titles, but it does not create a dedicated revenue stream, such as the excise taxes of Pittman-Robertson or Dingell-Johnson or the offshore drilling revenues of CARA.. Authorization bills do not guarantee that funds will be allocated to the authorized programs. The appropriations committees annually decide on actual spending. Many authorized programs are never funded or funded well below authorized levels. However, the good news is that S.990 passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 20, 2001.
It is the core title of S. 990 that bring us back to Teaming with Wildlife. That title would establish the wildlife grants program as an adjunct to an ongoing Pittman-Robertson sport hunting program. The new program would allocate money primarily to nongame species, although game species are not excluded as beneficiaries. The bill says the $350 million is to be used "to address the unmet needs for a wide variety of wildlife and associated habitats, including species that are not hunted or fished, . . ." No counterpart House bill has been introduced. The Bush administration has not addressed the issue.
And finally, it is widely believed that the Bush administration's budget request for Fiscal Year 2003 -scheduled to be released to Congress and the public on February 4 - will include a reprise of CARA-LITE.
PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE RELEASES REPORT ON AQUATIC ECOSYSTEMS - A report released 29 January 2002 by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change concludes that global climate change of the magnitude predicted for the United States over the next 100 years poses a serious threat to lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands throughout the United States. Entitled Aquatic Ecosystems and Climate Change: Potential Impacts on Inland Freshwater and Coastal Wetland Ecosystems in the United States, the report is available on the Pew Center's website at http://www.pewclimate.org/projects/index.cfm. Former AIBS Public Policy Committee Chair Mark M. Brinson co-authored the report, along with N. LeRoy Poff and John W. Day, Jr. It is the seventh in a series of Pew Center reports examining the potential impacts of climate change on the U.S. environment. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, climate change solutions, and the economics of climate change. While stating that, "Most specific ecological responses to climate change cannot be predicted, because new combinations of native and non-native species will interact in novel situations," the report foretells of changes in patterns of plant and animal distributions in freshwater ecosystems and coastal wetlands; changes in the productivity of aquatic ecosystems; an exacerbation of the warming by carbon release resulting from the melting of the Alaskan permafrost, dropping of groundwater tables, and drying of wetlands, and likely catastrophic peat fires; and wetland loss in boreal regions of Alaska and Canada resulting in additional releases of CO2 into the atmosphere. The authors also suggest that coastal wetlands are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise associated with increasing global temperatures.
U.S. OCEANS COMMISSION TO HOLD PUBLIC MEETING IN FLORIDA - The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy will hold a public meeting in Florida to hear and discuss coastal and ocean issues of concern to the Florida and Caribbean region. The public meeting will be held Friday, February 22, 2002 from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Florida Marine Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, First Floor Auditorium, 100 Eighth Avenue, SE, St. Petersburg, FL, 33701. The agenda will include presentations by invited speakers representing local and regional government agencies and non-governmental organizations, comments from the public and any required administrative discussions and executive sessions. Invited speakers and members of the public are requested to submit their statements for the record electronically by February 13, 2002 to the meeting Point of Contact. Additional meeting information, including a draft agenda, will be posted as available on the Commission's Web site at http://www.oceancommission.gov. For further information, contact Terry Schaff, U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 1120 20th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, 202-418-3442, firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEWLY-NAMED ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR FOR FISH, WILDLIFE, AND PARKS HAS NO SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND; SENATE FINALLY CONFIRMS NEW FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE DIRECTOR - The Senate has confirmed the appointment of Craig Manson, a California judge, to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. According to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, "Judge Manson has a distinguished record of service in both federal and state government and broad experience in wildlife and natural resource management." Manson was appointed to the Sacramento County Municipal Court in January 1998, and elevated to the Superior Court in June 1998. Before that (1993-98) he served as General Counsel for the California Department of Fish and Game, where he was responsible for providing legal and policy advice to the agency Director, the Secretary for Resources, and the Governor, on state and federal Endangered Species Acts, wetlands, water law, California Environmental Quality Act and other natural resource issues. Judge Manson has been also an Adjunct Professor at the McGeorge School of Law. He also worked as outside counsel for the California Department of Conservation. Manson is a native of Missouri and grew up in New Mexico and California. Judge Manson will become the first African-American to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Park.
After numerous blocks on his nomination (for reasons unrelated to his qualifications), Steve Williams has been confirmed by the Senate as the new director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Williams was Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. He has held the position since 1995. Prior to his current position, Williams was Deputy Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission from 1992-1995; Assistant Director for Wildlife for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife from 1989-1992; and a wildlife biologist specializing in research and management for white-tailed deer for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife from 1985-1989. He served as a graduate research assistant at Pennsylvania State University from 1981-1985, working on wildlife habitat analysis, and also worked as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of North Dakota from 1979-1981. Williams holds a Ph.D. in Forest Resources from Pennsylvania State University, an MS in biology from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, and a BS in Environmental Resource Management from Pennsylvania State University. He is a member of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, The Wildlife Society, and other professional and conservation related groups. By law, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must have scientific education and experience in the principles of fisheries and wildlife management.