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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA): Protections, Federal Water Rights, and Development Restrictions

Cynthia Brougher
Legislative Attorney

In its first session, the 111th Congress enacted an omnibus public lands bill that provided conservation protection for a number of river segments under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (WSRA). Another omnibus bill is widely expected in the second session and may include additional provisions under the WSRA. Congress enacted the WSRA as part of a myriad of environmental conservation legislation enacted in the 1960s and 1970s. The act provides protection to certain rivers within the United States in order to balance the tendency toward development of the nation's rivers for industry or recreation. The act declares it to be the policy of the United States that certain rivers that possess "outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values, shall be preserved in freeflowing condition." The act further provides that "the established national policy of dam and other construction be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers ... in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes." 

Under the act, rivers meeting certain criteria may be designated for inclusion in a national rivers system and classified for specific protections. A river may be classified as wild (the most primitive rivers with the most restrictive protections), scenic (rivers with some access with intermediate protections), or recreational (rivers with some development with the most lenient protections). Designated federal agencies issue comprehensive management plans to ensure the protected values of the river. In order to accomplish the goals of the act, the WSRA uses two main methods of protection: water rights to maintain flows and restrictions on development for federal projects to preserve the natural path of the rivers. 

This report analyzes the federal government's authority under the WSRA to maintain and preserve designated rivers. It provides an overview of the WSRA and the process by which rivers are designated and administered under the act. It also examines the use of federal water rights under the act to ensure instream flows and the prohibitions on development of rivers for federal projects.


Date of Report: February 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R41081
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Biotechnology in Animal Agriculture: Status and Current Issues

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

Geoffrey S. Becker
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Animal agriculture is being transformed by rapid advances in biotechnology—a term that encompasses a variety of technologies, including genetic engineering (GE), genetic modification, transgenics, recombinant DNA techniques, and cloning, among others. Producers are interested in the application of biotechnology to improve productivity, consistency, and quality; to introduce new food, fiber, and medical products; and to protect the environment. Potential human health applications of transgenic animals include producing biopharmaceuticals and generating organs, tissues, and cells for xenotransplantation. Criticisms of such applications involve issues ranging from food safety and social resistance to potential negative impacts on animal welfare and on ecosystems. Questions also have arisen about the adequacy of the current regulatory structure to assess and manage any risks created by these technologies. 

On January 15, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released final guidance on how it is to regulate GE animals and products. FDA is to do so under its existing statutory authority and regulations. Generally, GE-derived foods, for example, are to be regulated like non- GE foods; if their composition does not differ from their conventional counterparts, they will not have to be labeled. Nonetheless, developers of GE animals and of GE-derived products must gain FDA pre-market approval. 

On February 6, 2009, the FDA announced the first approval of a drug from a GE animal. The drug is a human anti-clotting agent produced in the milk of transgenic goats. 

Although animal biotechnology involves many techniques other than cloning, this latter technology has attracted widespread attention. A final risk assessment and industry guidance on the safety of meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs, and goats and their offspring were released January 15, 2008, by FDA. The documents generally echoed the FDA's December 28, 2006, draft risk assessment, which found that such products are as safe to eat as those of conventionally bred animals. The FDA also concluded that cloning poses the same risks to animal health as those found in animals created through other assisted reproductive technologies—although the frequency of such problems is higher in cloning. (Scientists stress that cloning is an assisted reproduction technique that does not involve any transfer or alteration of genes through GE.) The agency said it was no longer asking industry to refrain voluntarily from marketing the products of cloned animals and their offspring, although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did ask that it be continued for products from clones (but not from the offspring of clones). 

The Senate-passed version of the 2007-2008 farm bill would have delayed the FDA final risk assessment and continued the marketing moratorium until completion of newly mandated studies on the safety and on the market impacts of introducing such products. This delay was not retained in the enacted version of the bill (P.L. 110-234). Bills on animal cloning in the 110th Congress would have required all food from cloned animals or their offspring to be labeled, and prohibited food from cloned animals from being labeled as organic. These and other bills on cloning or other regulation of animal biotechnology could be offered in the 111th Congress. 
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Date of Report: January 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL33334
Price: $29.95

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Agricultural Biotechnology: Background and Recent Issues

Tadlock Cowan 
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development 

Geoffrey S. Becker 
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

U.S. soybean, cotton, and corn farmers have rapidly adopted genetically engineered (GE) varieties of these crops since their commercialization in the mid-1990s. Over the last decade, GE varieties in the United States have increased from 3.6 million acres to 143 million acres. Worldwide, 25 countries planted GE crops on approximately 309 million acres in 2008. GE varieties now dominate soybean, cotton, and corn production in the United States, and they continue to expand rapidly in other countries. As adoption has spread, policy debates have continued over the costs and benefits of GE products. 

Ongoing concerns include the impacts of GE crops on the environment and food safety, and whether GE foods should be specially labeled. Underlying these issues is the question of whether U.S. regulation and oversight of biotechnology—with responsibilities spread primarily among the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—are adequate, particularly as newer applications, for example, biopharmaceuticals (drugs manufactured with the use of GE crops or animals) or stacked GE traits in single organisms, emerge that did not exist when the current regulatory regime was established. 

Regulatory noncompliance incidents most pointedly raise concerns about the adequacy of existing U.S. regulatory structures. About 16 major events have occurred since 1995, according to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Another recurring concern has been the adequacy of APHIS's environmental assessments for deregulating GE plants. In 2006, a U.S. District Court held that USDA's environmental analysis for a variety of GE alfalfa was inadequate and ordered further planting to cease until an environmental impact analysis was completed. A similar case involves GE sugar beets. In 2005, trace amounts of an unapproved GE rice were found in samples of the 2005 crop of U.S. long grain rice. 

In October 2008, APHIS announced the first revision of its biotechnology regulations since their promulgation in 1987. Proposed changes include a multi-tiered permitting system, new risk categorizations for assessing environmental releases of GE organisms, regulation of GE plants that produce pharmaceutical and industrial compounds, and new standards for low-level presence of regulated GE products. A final rule on the proposed changes has not yet been published. Other recent issuances include FDA's January 2009 final guidance on regulation of GE animals and products. APHIS is now seeking public comment and data concerning ongoing and future research on GE animals. In a ruling in January 2008, APHIS published its final guidance on the safety of meat and milk from cloned animals. 

Some U.S. agricultural export markets, notably the European Union (EU), have taken a more restrictive approach to regulating agricultural biotechnology than the United States, presenting obstacles for U.S. farm exports. In 2006, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel ruled against the EU's de facto moratorium on approvals of new GE crops from 1998 to 2004. The parties (Canada and the United States) subsequently agreed to extend the time for EU compliance with the ruling to January 11, 2008. Positive action from the EU remains slow. U.S. agricultural interests remain concerned that stricter EU rules for labeling and tracing GE products will continue to discriminate against U.S. exports. Congress generally has been supportive of GE agricultural products, although some Members have expressed wariness about their adoption and regulation. Legislative activity in the 110th Congress was modest. There has been no legislative activity to date in the 111th Congress on agricultural genetic engineering.


Date of Report: January 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 38
Order Number: RL32809
Price: $29.95

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Water Infrastructure Funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Betsy A. Cody
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Megan Stubbs
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5, the ARRA, or Recovery Act). Among the purposes identified in the legislation are preservation and creation of jobs and promotion of U.S. economic recovery, and investment in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits. This report identifies funding for water infrastructure programs and projects contained in the legislation. 

The legislation directs additional appropriations to a number of existing federal programs that either directly invest in water infrastructure projects or provide assistance to states and localities for such activities. Water infrastructure funding in the bill, available for obligation through September 30, 2010, is provided to five federal agencies and one commission. This funding totals $13.5 billion. 

The bill provides funding for locally built wastewater and drinking water treatment projects through assistance programs administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For the EPA wastewater program, the enacted bill provides $4.0 billion. For the EPA drinking water program, P.L. 111-5 provides $2.0 billion in additional funds. These funds were allocated to states according to established formulas, and states will award actual assistance to projects and communities. For the USDA programs that benefit rural communities, the Recovery Act provides $1.38 billion in grants and loans; USDA state offices are making individual project decisions. Additional funding in the bill for these programs is three to four times more than the level of regular appropriations. 

The enacted legislation provides funding for water resources development and management projects administered by four agencies. It provides $4.6 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and $1.0 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). The legislation also provides $340 million for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agricultural watershed program, and $220 million for the Department of State's International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) for levee and dam upgrades. Congress directed that the funds be used consistent with the eligibility and prioritization constraints and direction provided in P.L. 111-5 and the accompanying conference report, H.Rept. 111-16. Discretion regarding which specific water resource projects received funds was largely left up to the Administration. 

Even after enactment, implementation of the additional water infrastructure funding in the ARRA is raising a number of issues, including how general restrictions in the legislation, such as "Buy American" requirements, will affect timely spending of ARRA funds. Another issue concerns matching fund requirements. Unless project assistance is provided entirely as grants, communities and project sponsors will need to come up with matching funds, which could be very challenging in the current fiscal environment. Congressional committees have held several hearings on use of ARRA water infrastructure funds, and additional oversight is likely during the remainder of the 111th Congress. 
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Date of Report: February 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R40216
Price: $29.95

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CRS Issue Statement on Water Resources

Nicole T. Carter, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The federal government has a long history of involvement in water resource development and management to facilitate water-borne transportation, expand irrigated agriculture, reduce flood and drought losses, and more recently to restore and protect wetlands and aquatic ecosystems. Increasing pressures on the quality and quantity of freshwater supplies have resulted in heightened local and regional water use conflicts. Pressures include population growth, in-stream species and ecosystem needs, water source contamination, agricultural water demand, climate change and variability, Indian water rights claims, and recreational uses. 

Water resources infrastructure includes locks, dams, levees, channels, breakwaters, hydropower facilities, canals, and related structures. A system of shared responsibilities for this infrastructure has evolved, with programs existing at all levels of government and in the private sector.


Date of Report: January 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 4
Order Number: IS40407
Price: $7.95

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Measuring and Monitoring Carbon in the Agricultural and Forestry Sectors

Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Proposals to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases often include the use of forestry and agricultural practices and lands for carbon sequestration. However, uncertainty about the accuracy of measuring carbon from these activities has led some to question this potential. Basic approaches for measuring forest and agricultural carbon include on-site measurement; indirect measurement from off-site tools; and estimation using models or inferences. Because of challenges associated with balancing the cost and accuracy of these measurement tools, any practicable system for measuring forest and agricultural carbon might require a mix of these approaches.

Concerns about global climate change and its impacts on the environment and the economy are encouraging policy-makers and stakeholders to explore a range of options to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs).1 Congress is considering legislation that would, among other things, provide incentives for parties to reduce or mitigate GHG emissions or to sequester (store) additional CO2.2 The possible use of forestry and agricultural practices and lands to mitigate or sequester CO2 is part of the debate. However, substantial uncertainty exists about current ability to accurately quantify, monitor, and verify the amount of carbon sequestered by various agricultural and forestry practices. By comparison, measuring the carbon from a discrete point source, such as a power plant, is relatively easy and precise. Incorporating the agriculture and forestry sectors in an emissions reduction program will likely require a firm basis for measuring carbon inventories and change for forestry and agricultural practices and lands.


Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RS22964
Price: $29.95

Friday, February 19, 2010

International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy

Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Global trade in illegal wildlife is a growing illicit economy, estimated to be worth at least $5 billion and potentially in excess of $20 billion annually. Some of the most lucrative illicit wildlife commodities include tiger parts, caviar, elephant ivory, rhino horn, and exotic birds and reptiles. Demand for illegally obtained wildlife is ubiquitous, and some suspect that illicit demand may be growing. 

International wildlife smuggling may be of interest to Congress as it presents several potential environmental and national security threats to the United States. Threats to the environment include the potential loss of biodiversity, introduction of invasive species into U.S. ecosystems, and transmission of disease through illegal wildlife trade, including through illegal bushmeat trade. National security threats include links between wildlife trafficking and organized crime and drug trafficking. Some terrorist groups may also be seeking to finance their activities through illegal wildlife trade, according to experts. Wildlife source and transit countries may be especially prone to exploitation if known to have weak state capacity, poor law enforcement, corrupt governments, and porous borders. 

The U.S. government addresses illegal wildlife trade through several national and international venues. Congress has passed numerous laws that regulate and restrict certain types of wildlife imports and exports, including the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Lacey Act and Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, and several species-specific conservation laws. These laws and others establish authorities and guidelines for wildlife trade inspection at ports of entry, and wildlife crime law enforcement and prosecution. Internationally, the United States is party to several wildlife conservation treaties, including the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which serves as the primary vehicle for regulating wildlife trade. Foreign training and assistance programs to combat illegal wildlife trade are also conducted by some federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of State, which leads an international initiative against wildlife trafficking. 

The role of Congress in evaluating U.S. policy to combat wildlife trafficking is broad. Potential issues for Congress include (1) determining funding levels for U.S. wildlife trade inspection and investigation; (2) evaluating the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid to combat wildlife trafficking; (3) developing ways to encourage private-sector involvement in regulating the wildlife trade; (4) using trade sanctions to penalize foreign countries with weak enforcement of wildlife laws; (5) incorporating wildlife trade provisions into free trade agreements; and (6) addressing the domestic and international demand for illegal wildlife through public awareness campaigns and non-governmental organization partnerships. This report focuses on the international trade in terrestrial fauna, largely excluding trade in illegal plants, including timber, and fish. 



Date of Report: February 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 47
Order Number: RL34395
Price: $29.95

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The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the111th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1543) has been one of the more contentious environmental laws. This may stem from its strict substantive provisions, which can affect the use of both federal and nonfederal lands and resources. Under ESA, species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) can be listed as endangered or threatened according to assessments of their risk of extinction. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. ESA may also be controversial because dwindling species are usually harbingers of broader ecosystem decline. The most common cause of species listing is habitat loss. ESA is considered a primary driver of large-scale ecosystem restoration issues. 

The 111th Congress has considered whether to revoke ESA regulations promulgated in the waning days of the Bush Administration that would alter when federal agency consultation is required. In addition, legislation related to global climate change includes provisions that would allocate funds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species program and/or to related funds to assist species adaptation to climate change. Other major issues concerning ESA in recent years have included the role of science in decision-making, critical habitat (CH) designation, protection by and incentives for property owners, and appropriate protection of listed species, among others. 

The authorization for spending under ESA expired on October 1, 1992. The prohibitions and requirements of ESA remain in force, even in the absence of an authorization, and funds have been appropriated to implement the administrative provisions of ESA in each subsequent fiscal year. Proposals to reauthorize and extensively amend ESA were last considered in the 109th Congress, but none was enacted. No legislative proposals were introduced in the 110th Congress to reauthorize the ESA. 

In the first session of the 111th Congress, P.L. 111-8 contained language authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw or reissue (1) revisions to the ESA Section 7 consultation regulations promulgated by the Bush Administration and (2) a December 2008 special rule that outlined protections afforded polar bears. In addition, P.L. 111-11 included provisions (1) authorizing the implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement, providing for the reintroduction of Chinook salmon, and (2) amending P.L. 106-392 to extend the authorizations for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery programs through FY2023. P.L. 111-88 appropriated about $281 million for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species and related programs for FY2010. 

This report discusses oversight issues and legislation introduced in the 111th Congress to address ESA implementation and management of endangered and threatened species.


Date of Report: February 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R40185
Price: $29.95

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Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Issues in the 111th Congress

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas; many federal laws and regulations guide their management as well as the management of their habitat. 

Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. States generally have jurisdiction within 3 miles of the coast. Beyond state jurisdiction and out to 200 miles, the federal government manages fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) through eight regional fishery management councils. Beyond 200 miles, the United States participates in international agreements relating to specific areas or species. The 111th Congress may oversee implementation of the MSFCMA as well as address individual habitat and management concerns for U.S. commercial and sport fisheries to achieve a sustainable balance between resource use and protection. Current concerns include whether additional effort should be taken to eliminate overfishing, how fishery disaster assistance should be funded, and whether to more aggressively encourage fishing vessel capacity reduction and limited access privilege programs. The 111th Congress has enacted P.L. 111-5, including language to broaden the basis for determining import increases for trade adjustment assistance for fishing and aquaculture to include wild-caught fish and seafood in addition to farmraised fish and seafood. In addition, P.L. 111-11 authorized implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement providing for the reintroduction of Chinook salmon; extended the authorizations for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery programs through FY2023; directed the Secretary of Commerce to establish an ocean acidification program within NOAA, and to establish an interagency committee to develop an ocean acidification research and monitoring plan; and reauthorized (through FY2015) and amend the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act of 2000. 

Aquaculture—the farming of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in a controlled environment—is expanding rapidly abroad, with more modest growth in the United States. In the United States, important species cultured include catfish, salmon, shellfish, and trout. The 111th Congress has enacted P.L. 111-5, including language (1) providing as much as $50 million in total assistance to aquaculture producers for losses associated with high feed input costs during the 2008 calendar year and (2) including National Fish Hatcheries as eligible for $165 million in resource management funding as well as $115 million in construction funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). With few exceptions, the MMPA prohibits harm or harassment ("take") of marine mammals, unless restrictive permits are obtained. It also addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality, primarily associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. The 111th Congress may consider bills to reauthorize and amend the MMPA as well as measures to address specific marine mammal habitat and management concerns, such as how to deal with the effects of increasing noise in the ocean. 



Date of Report: February 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R40172
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Biomass: Comparison of Definitions in Legislation

Kelsi Bracmort
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The use of biomass as an energy feedstock is emerging as a potentially viable alternative to address U.S. energy security concerns, foreign oil dependence, rural economic development, and diminishing sources of conventional energy. Biomass (organic matter that can be converted into energy) may include food crops, crops for energy (e.g., switchgrass or prairie perennials), crop residues, wood waste and byproducts, and animal manure. Most legislation involving biomass has focused on encouraging the production of liquid fuels from corn. Efforts to promote the use of biomass for power generation have focused on wood, wood residues, and milling waste. Comparatively less emphasis has been placed on the use of non-corn based biomass feedstocks— other food crops, non-food crops, crop residues, animal manure, and more—as renewable energy sources for liquid fuel use or for power generation. This is partly due to the variety, lack of availability, and dispersed location of non-corn based biomass feedstock. The technology development status and costs to convert non-corn based biomass into energy are also viewed by some as an obstacle to rapid technology deployment. 

For over 30 years, the term biomass has been a part of legislation enacted by Congress for various programs, indicating some interest by the general public and policymakers in expanding its use. To aid understanding of why U.S. consumers, utility groups, refinery managers, and others have not fully adopted biomass as an energy resource, this report investigates the characterization of biomass in legislation. The definition of biomass has evolved over time, most notably since 2004. The report lists biomass definitions enacted by Congress in legislation and the tax code since 2004 and definitions contained in pending legislation (the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, H.R. 2454; the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, S. 1462; and the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, S. 1733). Comments regarding the similarities and differences among the definitions are provided. Factors that may prevent a private landowner from rapidly entering the biomass feedstock market are also included in the report.


Date of Report: February 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R40529
Price: $29.95

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CRS Issue Statement on Federal Lands

Ross W. Gorte, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Conflicting public values concerning federal lands raise many questions and issues: how much land the federal government should own, how managers should balance conflicting uses and coordinate efforts to address large-scale impacts (such as climate change), whether Congress should protect specific areas, and when and how agencies should collect and distribute fees for land and resource uses. Congress continues to examine these questions— particularly in assessing the various uses that might be made of the federal lands—through legislative proposals, program oversight, and annual appropriations for the four major federal land management agencies: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the Department of the Interior, and the Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture. These agencies have differing mandates, missions, and levels or degrees of resource protection on the lands they administer.


Date of Report: January 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 4
Order Number: IS40311
Price: $7.95

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Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes in the United States

Peter Folger
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes affect communities across the United States every year, causing fatalities, destroying property and crops, and disrupting businesses. Tornadoes are the most destructive products of severe thunderstorms, and second only to flash flooding as the cause for most thunderstorm-related fatalities. Damages from violent tornadoes seem to be increasing, similar to the trend for other natural hazards—in part due to changing population demographics and more weather-sensitive infrastructure—and some analysts indicate that losses of $1 billion or more from single tornado events are becoming more frequent. Insurance industry analysts state that tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and related weather events have caused nearly 57%, on average, of all insured catastrophe losses in the United States in any given year since 1953. 

Policies that could reduce U.S. vulnerability to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes include improvements in the capability to accurately detect storms and to effectively warn those in harm's way. The National Weather Service (NWS) has the statutory authority to forecast weather and issue warnings. Some researchers suggest that there are limits to the effectiveness of improvements in forecasting ability and warning systems for reducing losses and saving lives from severe weather. The research suggests that, for example, social, behavioral, and demographic factors now play an increasingly important role in tornado-related fatalities. 

At issue for Congress is its role in mitigating damages, injuries, and fatalities from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The National Science and Technology Council has recommended the implementation of hazard mitigation strategies and technologies, including some—such as conducting weather-related research and development and disseminating results—that Congress has supported through annual appropriations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and other federal agencies. Other recommended strategies include land use and zoning changes, which are typically not in the purview of Congress. 

Congress attempted to clarify the federal role in mitigating damages from windstorms (including tornadoes and thunderstorms) by passing the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-360). It is not evident whether the program made progress toward its objective: achievement of major measurable reductions in the losses of life and property from windstorms. Authorization for the program expired at the end of FY2008. Stand-alone legislation (H.R. 2627) to reauthorize the program was introduced on May 21, 2009. On October 15, 2009, H.R. 3820, the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2009, was introduced to reauthorize the National Earthquakes Hazards Reduction Program (Title I) and the wind hazards program (Title II) through FY2014. H.R. 3820 was ordered to be reported by the House Science and Technology Committee on October 21, 2009. 

It is not clear whether changes to climate over the past half-century have increased the frequency or intensity of thunderstorms and tornadoes. An issue for Congress is whether future climate change linked to increases in greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more frequent and more intense thunderstorms and tornadoes, and whether ongoing efforts by Congress to mitigate longterm global warming will reduce potential future losses from thunderstorms and tornadoes.


Date of Report: February 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R40097
Price: $29.95

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CRS Issue Statement on Endangered Species

Pervaze A. Sheikh, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The 111th Congress might face specific resource conflicts involving threatened and endangered species, including managing water supplies and ecosystem restoration in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Delta in California (i.e., Bay- Delta), managing water supplies in the Klamath Basin, and addressing ESA protections and contractual water rights in some basins. Addressing all of these concerns comprehensively without compromising the overall goals of the ESA may not be possible, especially given the strong commitments of those for and against this law. Thus, the 111th Congress is more likely to address these issues individually, independent of each other. 

The ESA has been among the most contentious environmental laws because of its strict substantive provisions. Increasing numbers of animal and plant species face possible extinction. These species are valued for ecological, educational, scientific, recreational, spiritual, aesthetic, and (in some cases) economic reasons. Some contend that because the loss of species could have predictable and unpredictable social and economic effects, all species should be saved. Others disagree, and hold that the cost to society to save species is concrete and large, while the benefits are vague. Protection of endangered and threatened species—and the law that protects them, the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543)—are controversial, in part, because dwindling species are often indicators of competition for scarce resources.


Date of Report: January 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40274
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Natural Gas Passenger Vehicles: Availability, Cost, and Performance

Brent D. Yacobucci 
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

Higher gasoline prices in recent years and concerns over U.S. oil dependence have raised interest in natural gas vehicles (NGVs). Use of NGVs for personal transportation has focused on compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative to gasoline. Consumer interest has grown, both for new NGVs as well as for conversions of existing personal vehicles to run on CNG. This report finds that the market for natural gas passenger vehicles will likely remain limited unless the differential between natural gas and gasoline prices remains high in order to offset the higher purchase price for an NGV. Conversions of existing vehicles will also continue to be restricted unless the Clean Air Act (CAA) is amended or if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes changes to its enforcement of the CAA.

Congressional and consumer interest in natural gas vehicles (NGVs) for personal transportation has grown in recent years, especially in response to higher gasoline prices, concerns over the environmental impact of petroleum consumption for transportation, and policy proposals such as the "Pickens Plan."1 Although natural gas passenger vehicles have been available for years, they have been used mostly in government and private fleets; very few have been purchased and used by consumers. Larger NGVs—mainly transit buses and delivery trucks—also play a role in the transportation sector, especially due to various federal, state, and local incentives for their use. However, high up-front costs for new NGVs, as well as concerns over vehicle performance and limited fuel infrastructure, have led to only marginal penetration of these vehicles into the personal transportation market.


Date of Report: February 3, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS22971
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Endangered Species Act and “Sound Science”

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

|M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

The adequacy of the science supporting implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is receiving increased congressional attention. While some critics accuse agencies responsible for implementing the ESA of using "junk science," others counter that decisions that should rest on science are instead being dictated by political concerns. 

Under the ESA, certain species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) are listed as either endangered or threatened according to assessments of the risk of their extinction. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to protect the species and its habitat. Efforts to list, protect, and recover threatened or endangered species under the ESA can be controversial. Some of this controversy stems from the substantive provisions of this law, which can affect the use of both federal and nonfederal lands. The scientific underpinnings of decisions under the ESA are especially important, given their importance for species and their possible impacts on land use and development. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior and the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Department of Commerce administer the ESA, and each agency has policies and requirements to ensure the integrity and objectivity of the science that underlies ESA decisions. The Information Quality Act (IQA or Data Quality Act) also imposes general requirements and has resulted in agency changes to carry out the goals of that act to maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated by the agencies. 

In several situations, economic and social disputes have resulted from actions taken to list, protect, and recover species under the ESA. Critics in some of these disputes assert that the science supporting ESA actions is insufficiently rigorous. Others assert that in some instances decisions were political rather than scientific. Controversy has arisen over what might be the essential elements of "sound science" in the ESA process and whether the ESA might benefit from clarification of how science is to be used in its implementation. The courts have had occasion to review the use of science by the agencies, which generally must show their decisions were not arbitrary and rest on credible science. For some purposes, if that science is the best available, even if it is considered imperfect or incomplete, it still may be used. 

Several bills affecting science as used in the ESA have been introduced in recent Congresses, but to date none have been enacted. Legislative activity in the 111th Congress is summarized in CRS Report R40185, The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 111th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices, by Eugene H. Buck et al. 

This report provides a context for evaluating legislative proposals through examples of how science has been used in selected cases, a discussion of the nature and role of science in general, and its role in the ESA process in particular, together with general and agency information quality requirements and policies, and a review of how the courts have viewed agency use of science. This report will be updated as events warrant. 
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Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: RL32992
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The Endangered Species Act: A Primer

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) protects species identified as endangered or threatened with extinction and attempts to protect the habitat on which they depend. It is administered primarily by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and by the National Marine Fisheries Service for certain marine and anadromous species. Dwindling species are listed as either endangered or threatened according to assessments of the risk of their extinction. Once a species is listed, legal tools are available to aid its recovery and to protect its habitat. The ESA can become the visible focal point for underlying situations involving the allocation of scarce or diminishing lands or resources, especially in instances where societal values may be changing, such as for the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the waters of the Klamath River Basin, or the polar environment. This report discusses the major provisions of the ESA, both domestic and international, and also discusses some of the background issues, such as extinction in general, and the effectiveness of the statute. 

The discussion is expanded for three aspects of the ESA and its implementation that have raised concerns and promoted debate—listing species, designating critical habitat, and consulting on projects. This report provides much of the context for understanding individual legislative initiatives discussed in CRS Report R40185, The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 111th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices, by Eugene H. Buck et al. This report will be updated as circumstances warrant. 
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Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL31654
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An Overview of USDA Rural Development Programs

Tadlock Cowan 
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

More than 88 programs administered by 16 different federal agencies target rural economic development. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the greatest number of rural development programs and has the highest average of program funds going directly to rural counties (approximately 50%). The Rural Development Policy Act of 1980 designated USDA as the lead federal agency for rural development. The Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agricultural Reorganization Act of 1994 created the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development and consolidated the rural development portfolio into four principal agencies responsible for USDA's mission area: the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Rural Utilities Service, and the Office of Community Development. 

Beginning with the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161), funding for the three Rural Community Advancement Program (RCAP) accounts is reported under their respective administering agencies, the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Utilities Service, respectively. 

This report provides an overview of the various programs administered by the four USDA agencies, their authorizing legislation, program objectives, eligibility criteria, and FY2005- FY2010 funding for each program. This report will be updated as new USDA Rural Development programs are implemented or amended. 
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Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 41
Order Number: RL31837
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Budget for FY2010

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

On May 11, 2009, President Obama requested $4.474 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) FY2010 budget. This amount was $109 million (2.5%) more than the FY2009 enacted appropriation of $4.365 billion. Administration priorities for the NOAA budget included satellite programs, climate research, endangered species recovery, and fisheries management. 

On June 18, 2009, the House passed H.R. 2847 to fund the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) for FY2010. The House included $4.603 billion for NOAA, which was $238 million (5.5%) more than the FY2009 appropriation and $129 million (2.9%) more than the FY2010 request. On June 25, 2009, the Senate passed the CJS appropriations bill for FY2010 (H.R. 2847) and recommended $4.773 billion for NOAA. This represented an increase of $408 million (9.3%) over the FY2009 enacted funding level, an increase of $299 million (6.7%) over the amount requested by the Administration, and an increase of $170 million (3.7%) over the amount passed by the House. On December 16, 2009, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117), which provides NOAA with $4.737 billion for FY2010. This represents an increase of 8.5% compared to the FY2009 enacted level and an increase of 5.9% over the Administration's request. 

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5). The amounts appropriated by Congress in the ARRA are in addition to the funding appropriated in the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8). ARRA provided NOAA with $830 million for a variety of activities such as restoring habitat, constructing and maintaining facilities, constructing a research vessel, supporting the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, and other projects. The ARRA funding is not included in comparing FY2010 requested, passed, and recommended levels with FY2009 enacted appropriations because ARRA funds are available in both FY2009 and FY2010. 
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Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R40840
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Estimates of Carbon Mitigation Potential from Agricultural and Forestry Activities

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

In the United States, the agriculture and forestry sectors account for 6%-8% of current estimated total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. Combined, these sectors are estimated to emit more than 500 million metric tons CO2 equivalent (MMT CO2-Eq.) each year, most of which is emitted from the agriculture sector. 

Current estimates of the combined amount of carbon sequestered by the agriculture and forestry sectors is reported at more than 1,100 MMT CO2-Eq. per year, most of which is attributable to carbon stocks and uptake by trees in the forestry sector. 

Numerous studies estimate the additional GHG mitigation potential of farm and forestry activities. Among these, two commonly cited studies are those conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Compared to current estimated mitigation potential levels, USDA and EPA projections provide a mostly positive picture of the potential for farm and forestry activities to mitigate GHG emissions. USDA and EPA project added mitigation potential of 590 to 990 MMT CO2-Eq. annually, thus increasing to roughly double current levels, assuming a high-end value or market price for carbon. At lower carbon prices, estimated additional mitigation potential is lower, but could still add about 40 to 160 MMT CO2-Eq. annually above current sequestration levels. 

These estimates are useful indicators of the potential for carbon storage in the agriculture and forestry sectors, which some in Congress see as potentially available for carbon offset allowances as part of a cap-and-trade program. A cap-and-trade system—as part of a GHG emissions reduction and trading program—is one possible approach being considered by Congress to address GHG emissions in the ongoing climate change debate. 

For policy decision-making, however, the results of studies such as those conducted by EPA and USDA to assess the carbon mitigation potential of farms and forests should be viewed with caution. These studies were published in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and use complicated simulation models largely based on data and market assumptions present in the late 1990s to early 2000s. Consequently, the available input data and modeling assumptions are limited in the extent to which they are able to accurately reflect both actual current conditions and longer-term future conditions. Given that these studies were developed prior to a variety of recent policy, market, and economic changes, some researchers now acknowledge that the published results of these studies are almost certainly outdated. Other related concerns include criticisms by prominent researchers of these modeling approaches and estimates. In addition, in the absence of defined policies outlining how an emission trading system would be designed and implemented, these models are limited in the extent to which they can depict future conditions under a regulatory system for sequestering carbon on farms and forests. 

In 2009 EPA updated its simulation models and underlying data and modeling assumptions. These changes to EPA's simulation models have implications for the agency's analysis of the overall estimated mitigation potential from agriculture and forestry activities, particularly for certain sequestration categories. Of particular concern to many in the U.S. agriculture sector, EPA's current estimates of the mitigation potential from agriculture soil carbon activities—such as conservation or no-till practices that preserve soil carbon—are sharply lower than previous EPA estimates.


Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R40236
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Federal Flood Policy Challenges: Lessons from the 2008 Midwest Flood

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Floods remain a significant hazard in the United States. Developing and investing in flood-prone areas represents a tradeoff between the location's economic and other benefits and the exposure to a flood hazard. In the United States, flood mitigation, protection, emergency response, and recovery roles and responsibilities are shared. Local governments are responsible for land use and zoning decisions that shape floodplain and coastal development. State and federal programs, policies, and investments influence community and individual decisions on managing flood risk. The federal government constructs some of the nation's dams and levees, offers flood insurance, supports nonstructural risk reduction actions (known as hazard mitigation), and provides emergency response and disaster aid. 

In June 2008, a series of storms in several midwestern states caused $15 billion in damages. The 2008 flooding drew comparisons to the devastating 1993 Midwest flood and raised questions about whether the lessons from the 1993 flood were heeded. In 1993, hundreds of levees throughout much of the basin were breached in the Midwest causing $30 billion in damages; much of the damage was agricultural and occurred in soaked upland areas. In contrast, the majority of the 2008 damages were concentrated along a few Mississippi River tributaries and in population centers with breached levees. The magnitude of the two floods simply overwhelmed the region's levees and dams, illustrating that some residual risk remains to people and investment behind these protective structures. Since 1993, emergency response and hazard mitigation programs have reduced risks in some Midwest communities; however, the region's flood risk continues to increase as more investments and people are located in flood-prone areas. 

Since 1993, Congress, federal agencies, state, and local governments have taken steps aimed at reducing the nation's flood risk; at the same time, climate, population, and investment trends have increased the threat, vulnerability, and consequences of flooding. For example, Congress authorized using federal disaster assistance to cover more of the costs to acquire, relocate or elevate flood-prone homes and businesses. However, broader efforts to adopt a comprehensive flood policy and management strategy have not been pursued. The fundamental direction and approach of the national policies and programs remain largely unchanged since 1993. A comprehensive strategy would require regulation of floodplain use, significant changes to federal programs, and increased investment in flood risk reduction by all levels of government. Although they would reduce flood risk, these changes face significant opposition. 

The 2008 Midwest flooding, Hurricane Ike in 2008, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 have renewed interest in the suite of tools available to improve flood resiliency. The issue for Congress is deciding on whether and how to enact and implement feasible and affordable flood policies and programs to reduce flood risk. The challenge is how to structure federal actions and programs so they provide incentives to reduce flood risk without unduly infringing on private property rights or usurping local decision making. Tackling this challenge would require adjustments in the flood insurance program, disaster aid policies and practices, and programs for structural and nonstructural flood risk reduction measures and actions. 


Date of Report: January 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 42
Order Number: R40201
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Measuring and Monitoring Carbon in the Agricultural and Forestry Sectors

Ross W. Gorte 
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy 

Renée Johnson 
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Proposals to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases often include the use of forestry and agricultural practices and lands for carbon sequestration. However, uncertainty about the accuracy of measuring carbon from these activities has led some to question this potential. Basic approaches for measuring forest and agricultural carbon include on-site measurement; indirect measurement from off-site tools; and estimation using models or inferences. Because of challenges associated with balancing the cost and accuracy of these measurement tools, any practicable system for measuring forest and agricultural carbon might require a mix of these approaches.


Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RS22964
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Grazing Fees: Overview and Current Issues

Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Charging fees for grazing private livestock on federal lands is a long-standing but contentious practice. Generally, livestock producers who use federal lands want to keep fees low, while conservation groups and others believe fees should be increased. The formula for determining the grazing fee for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service uses a base value adjusted annually by the lease rates for grazing on private lands, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production. The collected fees are divided among the Treasury, states, and federal agencies. Fee reform was attempted but not adopted in the 1990s. Current issues include instances of grazing without paying fees and efforts to retire certain grazing permits. This report will be updated as needed. .


Date of Report: January 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS21232
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Garcia v. Vilsack: A Policy and Legal Analysis of a USDA Discrimination Case

Jody Feder
Legislative Attorney

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long been accused of unlawfully discriminating against minority and female farmers in the management of its various programs, particularly in its Farm Service Agency loan programs. While USDA has taken concrete steps to address these allegations of discrimination, the results of these efforts have been criticized by some. Meanwhile, some minority and female farmers who have alleged discrimination by USDA have filed various lawsuits under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Pigford v. Glickman, filed on behalf of African-American farmers, is probably the most widely known. 

In October 2000, a group of Hispanic farmers filed a similar lawsuit against USDA. The case, Garcia v. Vilsack, involves allegations that USDA unlawfully discriminated against all similarly situated Hispanic farmers with respect to credit transactions and disaster benefits in violation of the ECOA, which prohibits, among other things, race, color, and national origin discrimination against credit applicants. The suit further claims that USDA violated the ECOA and the APA by systematically failing to investigate complaints of discrimination, as required by USDA regulations. Because the Garcia case has been tied up in litigation for nine years, there has been no decision on the merits of certain claims, nor has any compensation been paid to any of the plaintiffs. During the lengthy course of litigation, however, there have been numerous rulings on procedural and substantive issues that are discussed in detail in this report. 

There are several possible options for Congress to consider if it wishes to respond to the Garcia dispute. On the one hand, Congress could choose not to intervene in the Garcia case, leaving the ECOA as the standing legislative remedy. On the other hand, Congress could create a specific fund to aid farmers who are deemed to have been victims of USDA. Such a response would be similar to other compensation programs established by Congress to assist victims of certain specific circumstances (e.g., negligence, terrorism, and "acts of God"). Congress might also choose to adopt the model used in the consent decree in the Pigford case, which defined eligible claimants and established a system of notice, claims submission, consideration, and review. Although Congress was not involved in the creation of the compensation system established under the consent decree, Congress did make an additional $100 million available in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) to settle claims of class participants who did not receive a decision on the merits of their claims against USDA. Congress could also choose to have the Garcia case considered by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as a non-binding congressional reference case. 



Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R40988
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Coastal Zone Management: Background and Reauthorization Issues

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was first enacted in 1972, at a time when coordinated land use planning was generally supported in Congress. Planning was seen as central to protecting natural resources while fostering wise development in the coastal zone. Since 1972, pressures for both preservation and development have grown more intense as people continue to migrate to coastal areas to take advantage of economic opportunities, to retire, and to pursue recreational interests; as economic activities continue to concentrate in coastal locations; and as natural resources are threatened by the magnitude and location of these changes. The CZMA recognizes that many of these pressures are not compatible, and also that states (and in some states, local government) have the lead responsibility for planning and managing their coastal zones. The CZMA authorizes grants to states to develop and implement coastal management programs to address these pressures. The concepts behind the program combined with the modest grants have attracted 34 of the 35 eligible states and territories to participate. Although authorization for appropriations expired after FY1999, Congress continues to fund this program. 

Congress has reauthorized or amended this act eight times since 1972, responding to changing issues combined with a continuing interest in assisting states to manage their coastal resources. Participants also have adjusted their programs to reflect their changing priorities. Since 1999, when the most recent reauthorization expired, Congress repeatedly has considered, but not enacted, reauthorization language. Reauthorization has proven difficult, in part, because the numerous stakeholders (broadly consisting of three groups: participants; use and development interests; and environmental interests) have divergent views about possible changes to the current approach and about which topics should be emphasized or eliminated from the purview of coastal management. Since the law expired in 1999, the context in which reauthorization legislation could be considered continues to change. These changes include events (such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005), new information (such as knowledge about places in coastal waters where biological activity ceases during some seasons, called "dead zones"), trends (such as rising energy prices), climate change, and other federal programs related to coastal issues. 

Two bills, S. 1579 and H.R. 5451, were introduced to reauthorize the Coastal Zone Management Act during the 110th Congress. H.R. 5451 was reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans, but no further action was taken. In the 111th Congress, several bills related to climate change adaptation, working waterfronts, and renewable energy planning have been introduced that would amend the Coastal Zone Management Act. However, a reauthorization bill has not been introduced, and it is an open question whether reauthorization and related issues will receive further attention from the 111th Congress.


Date of Report: January 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: RL34339
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Biomass: Comparison of Definitions in Legislation

Kelsi Bracmort
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The use of biomass as an energy feedstock is emerging as one potentially viable way to address concerns about U.S. energy security, foreign oil dependence, rural economic development, and diminishing sources of conventional energy. Biomass (organic matter that can be converted into energy) may include food crops, crops for energy (e.g., switchgrass or prairie perennials), crop residues, wood waste and byproducts, and animal manure. Most legislation involving biomass has focused on encouraging the production of liquid fuels from corn. Efforts to promote the use of biomass for power generation have focused on wood, wood residues, and milling waste. Comparatively less emphasis has been placed on the use of non-corn based biomass feedstocks— other food crops, non-food crops, crop residues, animal manure, and more—as renewable energy sources for liquid fuel use or for power generation. This is partly due to the variety, lack of availability, and dispersed location of non-corn based biomass feedstock. The technology development status and costs to convert non-corn based biomass into energy are also viewed by some as an obstacle to rapid technology deployment. 

For over 30 years, the term biomass has been a part of legislation enacted by Congress for various programs, indicating some interest by the general public and policymakers in expanding its use. To aid understanding of why U.S. consumers, utility groups, refinery managers, and others have not fully adopted biomass as an energy resource, this report investigates the characterization of biomass in legislation. The definition of biomass has evolved over time, most notably since 2004. The report lists biomass definitions enacted by Congress in legislation and the tax code since 2004 and definitions contained in pending legislation (the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, H.R. 2454; the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, S. 1462; and the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, S. 1733). Comments regarding the similarities and differences among the definitions are provided. Factors that may prevent a private landowner from rapidly entering the biomass feedstock market are also included in the report. 
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Date of Report: January 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R40529
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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Commercial Fishery Disaster Assistance

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Disaster relief may be provided by the federal government to assist the fishing industry when it is affected by a commercial fishery failure. A commercial fishery failure occurs when fishermen endure hardships resulting from fish population declines or other disruptions to the fishery. The Department of Commerce can provide disaster assistance under Sections 308(b) and 308(d) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (16 U.S.C. § 4107), as amended, and Sections 312(a) and 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C § 1861). The National Marine Fisheries Service plays a central role in determining whether a disaster has occurred and in allocating federal funding to states and affected fishing communities. Congress plays a pivotal role by appropriating funds and providing oversight of the process. 

Fisheries are subject to environmental variability that may affect the fishery resource and/or commercial infrastructure such as boats, shoreside processing, and ports. Since 1994, federal fishery failures have been declared on 28 occasions and nearly $827 million in federal funding has been appropriated for fishery disaster relief. Funds have been allocated to fisheries of the North Pacific, Pacific Northwest, Gulf of Mexico, and the East Coast. Recent cases include Gulf of Mexico fisheries, the Chesapeake Bay soft shell blue crab fishery, the West Coast salmon troll fishery, New England shellfish fisheries, Puget Sound sockeye salmon fisheries, and the Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery. 

Direct federal financial assistance has been provided to fishermen and fishing communities in the form of grants, job retraining, employment, and low interest loans. Assistance has also included fishery data collection, resource restoration, research, and fishing capacity reduction programs to prevent or lessen the effects of future disruptions to fisheries. However, critics contend that disaster assistance programs often fall short of expectations because sometimes funds are not disbursed in a timely manner, ambiguities complicate the definition of a fishery failure, relief may not be integrated with long-term fishery management objectives, and funds may not reach the people who are in the greatest need of assistance. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently proposed regulations to clarify and interpret the fishery disaster assistance provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. 


Date of Report: January 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL34209
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Open Ocean Aquaculture

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Open ocean aquaculture is broadly defined as the rearing of marine organisms in exposed areas beyond significant coastal influence. Open ocean aquaculture employs less control over organisms and the surrounding environment than do inshore and land-based aquaculture, which are often undertaken in enclosures, such as ponds. When aquaculture operations are located beyond coastal state jurisdiction, within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ; generally 3 to 200 nautical miles from shore), they are regulated primarily by federal agencies. Thus far, only a few aquaculture research facilities have operated in the U.S. EEZ. To date, all commercial aquaculture facilities have been sited in nearshore waters under state or territorial jurisdiction. 

Development of commercial aquaculture facilities in federal waters is hampered by an unclear regulatory process for the EEZ, and technical uncertainties related to working in offshore areas. Regulatory uncertainty has been identified by the Administration as the major barrier to developing open ocean aquaculture. Uncertainties often translate into barriers to commercial investment. Potential environmental and economic impacts and associated controversy have also likely contributed to slowing expansion. 

Proponents of open ocean aquaculture believe it is the beginning of the "blue revolution"—a period of broad advances in culture methods and associated increases in production. Critics raise concerns about environmental protection and potential impacts on existing commercial fisheries. Potential outcomes are difficult to characterize because of the diverse nature of potential operations and the lack of aquaculture experience in open ocean areas. 

On January 28, 2009, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to approve a plan to issue aquaculture permits and regulate aquaculture in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. On September 3, 2009, the plan took effect because the Secretary of Commerce declined to oppose it within the required statutory period. Environmentalists and some fishing industry representatives have opposed the plan because of concerns related to environmental protection and potential negative effects on wild fish populations. Many who oppose the plan support a precautionary approach and development of national aquaculture standards. On September 8, 2009, H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009, was introduced. Section 704 of the bill would rescind the authority of the Secretary of Commerce, the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or Regional Fishery Management Councils to develop or approve fishery management plans to permit or regulate offshore aquaculture. The bill would also invalidate permits issued for conducting offshore aquaculture under the Magnuson- Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. On December 16, 2009, H.R. 4363, the National Sustainable Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2009, was introduced. H.R. 4363 would establish a regulatory system for offshore aquaculture in the United States Exclusive Economic Zone. 

This report discusses four general areas: (1) operational and business-related challenges; (2) potential economic impacts; (3) potential environmental impacts; and (4) the legal and regulatory environment. Significant questions remain about whether an appropriate mechanism exists for any federal agency to provide an open ocean aquaculture lease with the necessary property rights to begin construction and operation. Policy makers and regulators will be challenged to weigh the needs of a developing industry against potential environmental and social impacts. 


Date of Report: January 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL32694
Price: $29.95

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Marine Protected Areas: An Overview

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

There continues to be congressional interest in limiting human activity in certain areas of the marine environment, as one response to mounting evidence of declining environmental quality and populations of living resources. The purposes of proposed additional limits would be both to stem declines and to permit the rehabilitation of these environments and populations. One method of implementing this concept is for Congress to designate areas where activities would be limited, often referred to as marine protected areas (MPAs). Translating the MPA approach into a national program, however, would require that Congress resolve many economic, ecological, and social dilemmas. 

The complexity of creating a program is compounded by controversy over the uses that would be allowed, curtailed, or prohibited in MPAs; the purposes of a system of MPAs; and the location, size, and distribution of MPA units. One possible way to get past some of these complexities is to think of MPA designations as a form of zoning in the ocean. Experiences related to designating MPAs in other countries also may be instructive. However, questions have arisen about the effectiveness of administration and enforcement, the benefits and costs of MPAs, and the evaluation of outcomes at some sites. 

Numerous marine sites have been designated by federal and state governments for some kind of protection. Perhaps the best-known federal sites are units in the National Marine Sanctuary System. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to designate areas of marine and Great Lakes environments to protect cultural and natural resources. The Bush Administration supported the MPA concept and it continued most of the Clinton Administration initiatives to coordinate protection of marine resources at designated sites, including implementing Executive Order 13158 (May 2000), which endorsed a comprehensive system of MPAs. President Bush designated the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument) in 2006, and the Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments on January 6, 2009. 

Additional actions by Congress would be needed to create an MPA system that could be characterized as integrated or comprehensive. Some issues that would likely be raised in congressional discussions include whether new legislation is desired or needed; what the basic characteristics of units in any MPA system should be; how MPAs might be used to resolve use conflicts; and whether adequate funding would be authorized and appropriated to both enforce the protected status and evaluate the ecological and social impacts of MPAs. In the 110th Congress, several bills related to MPAs were introduced, including a bill to reauthorize the National Marine Sanctuary Act, but none of the legislation was enacted. In the 111th Congress, bills have been introduced to expand boundaries for the Gulf of the Farallones (CA), Cordell Bank (CA), and Thunder Bay (MI) National Marine Sanctuaries. 


Date of Report: January 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL32154
Price: $29.95

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The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the111th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1543) has been one of the more contentious environmental laws. This may stem from its strict substantive provisions, which can affect the use of both federal and nonfederal lands and resources. Under ESA, species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) can be listed as endangered or threatened according to assessments of their risk of extinction. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. ESA may also be controversial because dwindling species are usually harbingers of broader ecosystem decline. The most common cause of species listing is habitat loss. ESA is considered a primary driver of large-scale ecosystem restoration issues. 

The 111th Congress has considered whether to revoke ESA regulations promulgated in the waning days of the Bush Administration that would alter when federal agency consultation is required. In addition, legislation related to global climate change includes provisions that would allocate funds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species program and/or to related funds to assist species adaptation to climate change. Other major issues concerning ESA in recent years have included the role of science in decision-making, critical habitat (CH) designation, protection by and incentives for property owners, and appropriate protection of listed species, among others. 

The authorization for spending under ESA expired on October 1, 1992. The prohibitions and requirements of ESA remain in force, even in the absence of an authorization, and funds have been appropriated to implement the administrative provisions of ESA in each subsequent fiscal year. Proposals to reauthorize and extensively amend ESA were last considered in the 109th Congress, but none was enacted. No legislative proposals were introduced in the 110th Congress to reauthorize the ESA. 

In the first session of the 111th Congress, P.L. 111-8 contained language authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw or reissue (1) revisions to the ESA Section 7 consultation regulations promulgated by the Bush Administration and (2) a December 2008 special rule that outlined protections afforded polar bears. In addition, P.L. 111-11 included provisions (1) authorizing the implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement, providing for the reintroduction of Chinook salmon, and (2) amending P.L. 106-392 to extend the authorizations for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery programs through FY2023. P.L. 111-88 appropriated about $281 million for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species and related programs for FY2010. 

This report discusses oversight issues and legislation introduced in the 111th Congress to address ESA implementation and management of endangered and threatened species.


Date of Report: January 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R40185
Price: $29.95

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Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Issues in the 111th Congress

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas; many federal laws and regulations guide their management as well as the management of their habitat. 

Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. States generally have jurisdiction within 3 miles of the coast. Beyond state jurisdiction and out to 200 miles, the federal government manages fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) through eight regional fishery management councils. Beyond 200 miles, the United States participates in international agreements relating to specific areas or species. The 111th Congress may oversee implementation of the MSFCMA as well as address individual habitat and management concerns for U.S. commercial and sport fisheries to achieve a sustainable balance between resource use and protection. Current concerns include whether additional effort should be taken to eliminate overfishing, how fishery disaster assistance should be funded, and whether to more aggressively encourage fishing vessel capacity reduction and limited access privilege programs. The 111th Congress has enacted P.L. 111-5, including language to broaden the basis for determining import increases for trade adjustment assistance for fishing and aquaculture to include wild-caught fish and seafood in addition to farmraised fish and seafood. In addition, P.L. 111-11 authorized implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement providing for the reintroduction of Chinook salmon; extended the authorizations for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery programs through FY2023; directed the Secretary of Commerce to establish an ocean acidification program within NOAA, and to establish an interagency committee to develop an ocean acidification research and monitoring plan; and reauthorized (through FY2015) and amend the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act of 2000. 

Aquaculture—the farming of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in a controlled environment—is expanding rapidly abroad, with more modest growth in the United States. In the United States, important species cultured include catfish, salmon, shellfish, and trout. The 111th Congress has enacted P.L. 111-5, including language (1) providing as much as $50 million in total assistance to aquaculture producers for losses associated with high feed input costs during the 2008 calendar year and (2) including National Fish Hatcheries as eligible for $165 million in resource management funding as well as $115 million in construction funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). With few exceptions, the MMPA prohibits harm or harassment ("take") of marine mammals, unless restrictive permits are obtained. It also addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality, primarily associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. The 111th Congress may consider bills to reauthorize and amend the MMPA as well as measures to address specific marine mammal habitat and management concerns, such as how to deal with the effects of increasing noise in the ocean.


Date of Report: January 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R40172
Price: $29.95

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Brief Summaries of Federal Animal Protection Statutes

Vivian S. Chu
Legislative Attorney

This report contains brief summaries of federal animal protection statutes, listed alphabetically. It includes statutes enacted to implement certain treaties, but it does not include treaties. Additionally, this report includes statutes that concern animals but that are not necessarily animal protection statutes. For example, it discusses a statute authorizing the eradication of predators, because one of the statute's purposes is to protect domestic and "game" animals; and it includes statutes to conserve fish even though the ultimate purpose of such statutes may not be for the benefit of the fish. This report also includes statutes that allow the disabled to use service animals and statutes aimed at acts of animal rights advocates—i.e., the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, and the Recreational Hunting Safety and Preservation Act of 1994. .


Date of Report: February 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: 94-731
Price: $29.95

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