Volume 16 - Issue 3

Editor: Laura M. Bies
Reporters: Timothy B. Balzer and William Blystone

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Wildlife Policy News is intended to foster the exchange of information about policy issues among Society leaders. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy of The Wildlife Society unless so stated. Please share this publication with your colleagues. Contents may be reprinted with credit to Wildlife Policy News. We welcome comments and suggestions for future issues ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

In this Issue:

  1. Myers Nominated for USGS Director
  2. House Passes FY 2007 Interior Budget Bill
  3. Supreme Court Affirms States’ Right to Regulate Dams
  4. Survey Shows Sportsmen Concerned about Global Warming
  5. Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Improvement Act of 2006 Passes House
  6. Public Comment Period on Bald Eagle Delisting Extended
  7. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Votes Against Moratorium on Horseshoe Crab Take
  8. Soil and Water Conservation Society Releases CEAP Report

Myers Nominated for USGS Director

On 3 May, President Bush nominated former Alaska Division of Oil and Gas Director Mark Myers to head the U.S. Geological Survey. Myers would replace Charles Groat, who resigned almost a year ago after serving as director since 1998. Myers resigned his positions as the Alaska State Geologist and Director of Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas in October 2005. In his resignation letter to Governor Murkowski, Myers stated that he felt the state’s concessions to the oil companies were too generous. Myers is an internationally recognized geologist and former State Geologist and head of Alaska’s Geological Survey. As director of the State of Alaska Division of Oil and Gas, Myers oversaw a staff of nearly 100 employees.

Acting Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett praised President Bush’s nomination of Myers. If confirmed by the Senate, Myers would become the 14th Director of the USGS since the agency was established in 1879. USGS Associate Director for Geology Patrick Leahy will continue to serve as Acting Director until the Senate confirms a nominee.

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House Passes FY 2007 Interior Budget Bill

On 18 May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY 2007 spending bill for Interior and related agencies (HR 5386). The $25.9 billion measure, which passed with a 293-128 vote, is 1% less than the current funding level and 2% more than the administration’s request.

Within the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), $17.759 million was appropriated towards subsections (a), (b), (c), and (e) of section 4 of the Endangered Species Act and another $12.581 million towards the designation of critical habitat. State and tribal wildlife grants were appropriated only $50 million, far less that the president’s requested $74.7 and the $85 million the Teaming with Wildlife Coalition endorsed. The refuge system was appropriated $381.7 million, a cut of $763,000 and well below the $415 million requested by the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, of which TWS is a member. As a whole, the U.S. Geological Survey was appropriated $991.447 million. Although greater than the president’s suggested $944.8 million, it too is shy of the $2.1 billion recommended by the USGS Coalition. Of this total figure, $175.597 million was appropriated towards the Biological Resources Discipline, including the Cooperative Research Units.

The Bureau of Land Management was appropriated $867,738 million, including $23,387 for the Wildlife Management program, the level that TWS recommended, and $21.435 million for the Threatened & Endangered Species Program, equal to the president’s request.

An amendment struck language that would have lifted longstanding moratoriums on natural gas drilling along the outer continental shelf. A separate proposal to end moratoriums on oil and natural gas drilling was defeated. An amendment, supported by TWS, to end logging subsidies in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest also passed. Language preventing the EPA from slackening reporting requirements for companies using toxic substances was adopted 231-187. A 222-198 vote blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from executing regulation critiqued as weakening the Clean Water Act.

A summary of the USFWS budget is available here. TWS independently submitted a formal request regarding the FY07 Interior Budget on 16 March, and the letter is available here. HR 5386 funds the DOI, EPA, USFS, and other related agencies. At time of press, the bill was undergoing Senate committee markup.

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Supreme Court Affirms States’ Right to Regulate Dams

The Supreme Court ruled on 15 May that operators of hydroelectric dams must meet a state's water quality requirements in order to qualify for a federal license under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The unanimous decision was the Court's first ruling in an environmental case under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The dispute arose when the S.D. Warren Company prepared to renew its federal licenses. The Clean Water Act requires that an applicant for a federal license or license renewal first obtain state certification if its activities "may result in any discharge into the navigable waters.” Congress did not define the word "discharge," and the company argued that the word should be understood to refer to the addition of pollutants. Since it was not adding anything to the water, the company argued, Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, requiring state certification, did not apply to its activities. Justice David H. Souter said there was no reason not to give the word “discharge” its plain, everyday meaning: “flowing or issuing out.” The flow of water over a dam was therefore a “discharge,” he said.

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Survey Shows Sportsmen Concerned about Global Warming

The majority of America’s sportsmen and women view global warming as an urgent problem needing immediate action, according to poll results released by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) on 23 May. In the first-ever comprehensive nationwide survey of hunters and anglers, 76% agree that global warming is occurring. In addition, 81% agreed that America is addicted to oil, and 86% of these feel that Congress and the Administration is not doing enough to break that addiction.

The survey, which NWF commissioned Responsive Management to perform, polled 1031 licensed hunters and anglers across the country. Complete poll results are available here.

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Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Improvement Act of 2006 Passes House

On 17 May the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Improvement Act of 2006 (HR 518). In addition to reauthorizing and improving upon the initial act that expired last year, this new bill creates a competitive grants program available to groups throughout the Americas for projects that include habitat evaluations, population studies, conservation planning, outreach, and reduction of habitat loss. The ratio of matching funds was reduced from 3:1 to 1:1, easing fundraising challenges faced by grant seekers. The House approved a funding ceiling of $6.5 million over four years — an increase of $1.5 million over current authorization, yet $1.5 million short of the amount anticipated and far less than the $15 million conservation groups were advocating. The annual appropriations process will determine how much of that is realized on the ground. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Public Comment Period on Bald Eagle Delisting Extended

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the comment period on its proposal to remove the bald eagle from the Endangered Species list. The comment period has been extended to 19 June 19, 2006. In addition, the Service has announced that it is seeking comment on management tools. Information on the proposal is available here. Comments should be sent to Michelle Morgan, Chief, Branch of Recovery and Delisting, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, Virginia 22203.

On 13 February 2006 the Service reopened the public comment period on its original 1999 proposal to remove the bald eagle from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species, due to new information related to the nesting management guidelines and the regulatory definition of disturb along with updated population numbers and status information received since the 1999 proposed delisting. The Service has proposed nesting management guidelines and a regulatory definition of disturb to help landowners and others understand how they can help protect bald eagles consistent with existing law. If delisted, bald eagles would continue to be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Both acts protect bald eagles by prohibiting killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nests or eggs.

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Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Votes Against Moratorium on Horseshoe Crab Take

On 10 May the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Horseshoe Crab Management Board voted against imposing a moratorium on horseshoe crab take in the Delaware Bay. The board voted to adopt Addendum IV to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Horseshoe Crabs. The Addendum allows for a delayed, male-only take in New Jersey and Delaware for two years. The taking of crabs is prohibited during the crucial spawning period and the take is limited to 100,000 males per year. The decision places a limit for each state. However, New Jersey has already imposed a moratorium on its own take. Virginia, on the other hand, is advocating for the highest possible take of horseshoe crabs.

The red knot bird relies solely on horseshoe crab eggs during an annual stopover at the Delaware Bay on its 10,000-mile migration from the tip of South America to the Arctic. Without the fat-rich diet of horseshoe crab eggs, the bird’s ability to successfully complete its long-distance migration to its breeding grounds in the Arctic is severely compromised. Groups aiming to protect the red knot have supported the moratorium, sighting that the bird could become extinct by 2010 if the horseshoe crabs are not plentiful enough to provide an adequate food supply.

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Soil and Water Conservation Society Releases CEAP Report

On 18 May, the Blue Ribbon Panel of the Soil and Water Conservation Society released its final report on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). CEAP is an effort to quantify the environmental benefits of conservation practices used by private landowners participating in various U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs. At the request of USDA, the Blue Ribbon Panel has prepared an external review of CEAP.

The panel’s final report contains a number of recommendations, including that Congress mandate one percent of all conservation program funding to support on-the-ground monitoring of the benefits the USDA’s conservation programs produce. The panel also recommends that Congress update and reauthorize the Soil and Water Conservation Act of 197, that USDA focus CEAP on a small number of critical and explicitly stated environmental goals, and that building the science base to support environmental management on working land should be a primary purpose of CEAP. The full report is available here.

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