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Monday, January 31, 2011

Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Issues in the 112th 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. Aquaculture or fish farming enterprises seek to supplement food traditionally provided by wild harvests.

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 in the federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 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 112
th Congress may oversee implementation of the MSFCMA as well as address individual habitat and management concerns for U.S. commercial and sport fisheries in an attempt to modify the balance between resource use and protection. Additional concerns might include providing additional flexibility in managing harvests to eliminate overfishing; determining the appropriate level of funding for fishery disaster assistance; determining whether to modify fishing vessel capacity reduction and limited access privilege (catch share) programs; modifying programs to better control bycatch of non-target species; amending various fishery laws to strengthen enforcement to stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; amending and reauthorizing the Oceans and Human Health Act; amending and reauthorizing the Coral Reef Conservation Act; enhancing efforts to monitor, restore, and protect marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico; implementing the Antigua Convention for eastern tropical Pacific tuna, authorizing a national strategy to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia; and providing additional support to maintain the character of traditional fishing communities.

Aquaculture—the farming of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in a controlled environment—is expanding rapidly abroad, yet with little growth in the United States. In the United States, important species cultured include catfish, salmon, shellfish, and trout. The 112
th Congress may consider whether National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration policies and regulations can balance development and regulation of the aquaculture industry in the U.S. EEZ, and whether to prohibit regional fishery management councils from authorizing aquaculture in federal offshore waters through fishery management plans and their amendments under the MSFCMA.

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 permits are obtained. It also addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. The 112
th Congress may consider bills to reauthorize and amend the MMPA, including the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, 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 and an expanded research program for the recovery of the southern sea otter.

The level of appropriations for fisheries, aquaculture/hatchery, and marine mammal programs administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service may be an issue during the 112
th Congress amid pressures to reduce federal spending.


Date of Report: January 26, 2011
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: R41613
Price: $29.95

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Wilderness: Legislation and Issues in the 112th Congress

Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Sandra L. Johnson
Information Research Specialist


The Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964 and directed that only Congress can designate federal lands as part of the system. Free-standing bills to designate wilderness areas are typically introduced and considered in each Congress; such bills are not amendments to the Wilderness Act, but typically refer to the act for management guidance and sometimes include special provisions. Several wilderness bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress.

Wilderness designation can be controversial. The designation generally prohibits commercial activities, motorized access, and human infrastructure from wilderness areas, subject to valid existing rights. Advocates propose wilderness designations to preserve the generally undeveloped conditions of the areas. Opponents see such designations as preventing certain uses and potential economic development in rural areas where such opportunities are relatively limited.

Most bills direct management of designated wilderness in accordance with the Wilderness Act. However, proposed legislation also often seeks a compromise among interests by allowing other activities in the area. Typically, pre-existing uses or conditions are allowed to continue. Sometimes this authority is temporary, with nonconforming uses to be halted and/or nonconforming conditions to be rectified. At other times, the authority is permanent, with limited access permitted for specific areas, uses, and times, or with the authority to operate and maintain pre-existing infrastructure. Wilderness bills often contain additional provisions, such as prohibiting buffer zones around the wilderness, or providing special access for particular purposes, such as border security or Native American religious needs. Water rights possibly associated with wilderness designations have also been controversial, and many existing statutes have addressed wilderness water rights in various ways.

Other controversies regarding wilderness have focused on management by federal agencies, such as how and when an agency releases a wilderness study area that is not recommended as wilderness. Successful litigation over Forest Service wilderness recommendations in 1980 led Congress to develop “release language” in legislation. This provision excused the Forest Service from reviewing wilderness potential and from protecting wilderness conditions in the initial land management plans for national forests.

The issue of agency management is more contentious for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, for two reasons. First, BLM is required by law to protect the wilderness characteristics of its wilderness study areas (WSAs) until Congress determines otherwise. Second, in contrast to Forest Service planning, the BLM planning process is not cyclical and BLM planning guidance has not required wilderness consideration in planning. A 1996 attempt by the agency to expand the original WSAs was challenged in court, and a 2003 settlement agreement resulted in different BLM wilderness guidance prohibiting additional administrative WSA designations and protections. In December 2010, however, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an order directing BLM to maintain a wilderness inventory, to consider wilderness potential in planning, and to protect wilderness characteristics of the inventoried areas unless alternative management is deemed appropriate. This policy has received both praise and objections from some Members of Congress, as well as various interest groups.



Date of Report: January 24, 2011
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R41610
Price: $29.95

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Humane Treatment of Farm Animals: Overview and Issues


Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

Animal protection activists in the United States have long sought legislation to modify or curtail some practices considered by U.S. agriculture to be acceptable or even necessary to animal health. Members of Congress over the years have offered various bills that would affect animal care on the farm, during transport, or at slaughter; several proposals were introduced in the 111th Congress. Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees generally have expressed a preference for voluntary rather than regulatory approaches to humane care. Meanwhile, animal activists have won initiatives in several states to impose some care requirements on animal producers.


Date of Report: January 7, 2011
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: RS21978
Price: $19.95

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Horse Slaughter Prevention Bills and Issues


Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

In 2006, two Texas plants and one in Illinois slaughtered nearly 105,000 horses for human food, mainly for European and Asian consumers. In 2007, court action effectively closed the Texas plants, and a state ban in Illinois closed that plant. Meanwhile, activists have continued to press Congress for a federal ban. Lawmakers have prohibited the use of funds or user fees for inspection of horses for human food in several years’ appropriations measures, including FY2010 (P.L. 111-80). Pending at the start of the second session of the 111th Congress were bills (H.R. 503, S. 727) that would made it a crime to knowingly possess, ship, transport, sell, deliver, or receive any horse, carcass, or horse flesh intended for human consumption. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security where no further action was taken.


Date of Report: January 11, 2011
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS21842
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 112th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices


Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney/Acting Section Research Manager


The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1543) was enacted to increase protection for, and provide for the recovery of, vanishing wildlife and vegetation. 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. Habitat loss is the primary cause for listing species. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. Accordingly, when certain resources are associated with listed speciessuch as water in arid regions like California, old growth timber in national forests, or free-flowing riversESA is seen as an obstacle to continued or greater human use of these resources. ESA may also be controversial because dwindling species are usually harbingers of broader ecosystem decline or conflicts. As a result, ESA is considered a primary driver of largescale ecosystem restoration issues.

The 112
th Congress may conduct oversight over the implementation of various federal programs and laws that address threatened and endangered species. This could range from addressing listing and delisting decisions under ESA to justifying funding levels for international conservation programs. The 112th Congress may also 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) and managing water supplies in the Klamath Basin. In the 112th Congress, resourcespecific issues may be addressed independently, whereas oversight on the implementation of ESA may be addressed in debates about particular species (e.g., wolves, polar bears, and salmon).

The 112
th Congress may consider legislation related to global climate change that includes provisions that would allocate funds to the 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, 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 109
th Congress, but none were enacted. No legislative proposals were introduced in the 110th or 111th Congresses to reauthorize ESA.

This report discusses oversight issues and legislation introduced in the 112
th Congress to address ESA implementation and management of endangered and threatened species.


Date of Report: January 25, 2011
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R41608
Price: $29.95

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