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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gray Wolves Under the Endangered Species Act: Distinct Population Segments and Experimental Populations

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy


After near eradication of the gray wolf from the lower 48 states in the first half of the 20th century, the wolf was on the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA’s) first list of endangered species, divided into two subspecies—the Eastern Timberwolf and the northern Rocky Mountain wolf. In 1978 the wolf was listed at the species level (the gray wolf) as endangered in all of the conterminous 48 states except Minnesota, where it was listed as threatened. With the exception of experimental populations established in the 1990s, in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reintroduced wolves to selected areas, protections for the gray wolf have diminished as wolf populations have increased in some areas—such as in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The use of distinct population segments (DPSs), a term created in the 1978 ESA amendments, has played a role in that reduced protection. DPSs allow vertebrate species to be divided into distinct groups, based on geography and genetic distinctions. This report analyzes the DPS designation process as it is applied to the gray wolf. It also examines experimental populations of wolves under the ESA.

Experimental populations (Ex Pops) of wolves were reintroduced in three regions in the United States in the 1990s: the Central Idaho population, the Yellowstone population, and the Blue Range population in Arizona and New Mexico (known as Mexican gray wolves). The Ex Pops in Central Idaho and Yellowstone have grown to over 1,700 wolves as of December 2009, while the Mexican gray wolf population has not surpassed 59 wolves, and as of January 2011 totaled 50.

ESA protection for wolf DPSs has changed back and forth since the first DPSs—Western, Eastern, and Southwestern—were proposed in 2003. Each effort by FWS to delist the wolf or designate a DPS has been rejected by a court. In 2003, FWS determined that because of the population size, the Western and Eastern DPSs no longer needed the protection of the ESA and so those DPSs were downlisted from endangered to threatened. Courts nullified the rulemaking. In 2007, FWS designated and delisted the Western Great Lakes DPS, and in early 2008, FWS designated and delisted the Northern Rocky Mountain DPS. However, courts found both delistings flawed and vacated both rulemakings. In December 2008, FWS returned wolves to their former protected status, eliminating the DPSs, and redesignating the wolves in southern Montana, southern Idaho, and all of Wyoming as “nonessential experimental populations.” In April 2009, FWS again established DPSs in the Western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies and delisted both populations except for in Wyoming. FWS was sued regarding the Western Great Lakes delisting and settled the case, returning the population to its previous status (threatened and endangered). In August 2010, a court ruled that the Northern Rockies delisting violated the ESA, directing that the delisting be declared invalid. The Northern Rockies wolves were returned to their experimental population status, meaning they are treated as threatened in most circumstances but are endangered outside of the Ex Pop boundaries.

Some Members of the 112
th Congress responded to court nullification of the regulatory delistings by proposing legislation to eliminate all protections of the gray wolf nationwide under the ESA (H.R. 509—Rehberg; S. 249—Hatch), to let states decide how to protect wolves found in Idaho and Montana (H.R. 510—Rehberg), to direct FWS to reissue the regulatory delisting of April 2009, making the rule immune from judicial review (H.R. 1, § 1713—Simpson; Senate version § 1709—Tester), or to make that regulatory delisting law (S. 321—Baucus). If passed, a delisting bill appears to be the first law to delist a species under the ESA.


Date of Report: March 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RL34238
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, March 30, 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: March 16, 2011
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R41613
Price: $29.95

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Earthquakes: Risk, Detection, Warning, and Research


Peter Folger
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

The United States faces the possibility of large economic losses from earthquake-damaged buildings and infrastructure. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has estimated that earthquakes cost the United States, on average, over $5 billion per year. California, Oregon, and Washington account for nearly $4.1 billion (77%) of the U.S. total estimated average annualized loss. California alone accounts for most of the estimated annualized earthquake losses for the nation.

A single large earthquake, however, can cause far more damage than the average annual estimate. The 1994 Northridge (CA) earthquake caused as much as $26 billion (in 2005 dollars) in damage and was one of the costliest natural disasters to strike the United States. One study of the damage caused by a hypothetical magnitude 7.8 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault in southern California projected as many as 1,800 fatalities and more than $200 billion in economic losses. An issue for the 112
th Congress is whether existing federally supported programs aimed at reducing U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes are an adequate response to the earthquake hazard.

Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake risk reduction: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They variously assess U.S. earthquake hazards, deliver notifications of seismic events, develop measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and conduct research to help reduce overall U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes. Congressional oversight of the NEHRP program might revisit how well the four agencies coordinate their activities to address the earthquake hazard. Better coordination was a concern that led to changes to the program in legislation enacted in 2004 (P.L. 108-360).

P.L. 108-360 authorized appropriations for NEHRP through FY2009. Total funding enacted from reauthorization through FY2009 was $613.2 million, approximately 68% of the total amount of $902.4 million authorized by P.L. 108-360. Congress appropriated $131.2 million for NEHRP in FY2010, similar to FY2009 funding levels. Also, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) provided some additional funding for earthquake activities under NEHRP. What effect funding at the levels enacted through FY2010 under NEHRP has had on the U.S. capability to detect earthquakes and minimize losses after an earthquake occurs is difficult to assess. The effectiveness of the NEHRP program is a perennial issue for Congress: it is inherently difficult to capture precisely, in terms of dollars saved or fatalities prevented, the effectiveness of mitigation measures taken before an earthquake occurs. A major earthquake in a populated urban area within the United States would cause damage, and a question becomes how much damage would be prevented by mitigation strategies underpinned by the NEHRP program.

Legislation was introduced during the 111
th Congress (H.R. 3820) that would have made changes to the program and would have authorized appropriations totaling $906 million over five years for NEHRP. Ninety percent of the funding would have been designated for the USGS and NSF, and the remainder for FEMA and NIST. The bill passed the House but not the Senate. Similar legislation will likely be introduced in the 112th Congress.


Date of Report: March 18, 2011
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: RL33861
Price: $29.95

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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


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 species—such as water in arid regions like California, old growth timber in national forests, or free-flowing rivers—ESA 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 of 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, resource-specific 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: March 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41608
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

U.S. Tsunami Programs: A Brief Overview


Peter Folger
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s northeast coast near Honshu in the afternoon on Friday, March 11, 2011 (12:46 a.m. eastern time in the United States). The earthquake triggered a tsunami that has caused widespread devastation to parts of the coastal regions in Japan closest to the earthquake. The tsunami traveled across the Pacific Ocean, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tsunami warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska issued tsunami warnings for coastal areas of Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Alaska, and California. Although the tsunami caused widespread damage along the northeast coast of Japan, tsunami warnings issued from the tsunami warning centers gave the above U.S. Pacific territories, Hawaii, and the U.S. West Coast adequate warning to prepare for incoming waves.

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) manages the two tsunami warning centers that monitor, detect, and issue warnings for tsunamis generated in the Pacific Ocean. The NWS operates the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) at Ewa Beach, HI, and the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/AKTWC) at Palmer, AK. The National Tsunami Hazards Mitigation Program (NTHMP) assists states in emergency planning and in developing maps of potential coastal inundation for a tsunami of a given intensity. The goal of NTHMP is to ensure adequate advance warning of tsunamis along all the U.S. coastal areas and appropriate community response to a tsunami event.

The tsunami warning centers monitor and evaluate data from seismic networks and determine if a tsunami is likely based on the location, magnitude, and depth of an earthquake. If the center determines that a tsunami is likely, it transmits a warning message to NOAA’s weather forecasting offices and state emergency management centers, as well as to other recipients. The centers monitor coastal water-level data, typically with tide-level gages, and data from NOAA’s network of Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) detection buoys to confirm that a tsunami has been generated, and if not, to cancel any warnings. Shortly after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Congress passed the Tsunami Warning and Education Act (P.L. 109-424), to enhance and modernize the existing Pacific Tsunami Warning System to increase coverage, reduce false alarms, and increase the accuracy of forecasts and warnings, among other purposes. As a result, the array was expanded to a total of 39 DART buoys in March 2008.

Funding for the NOAA tsunami program supports three main categories of activities: (1) warning, such as the activities of the tsunami warning centers and DART network; (2) mitigation, such as the activities of NTHMP; and (3) research, including activities conducted by the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and the National Buoy Data Center. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that total funding for all these activities ranged from $5 million to $10 million annually between FY1997 and FY2004, but increased after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami from approximately $27 million in FY2005 to $42 million in FY2009. Funding in FY2010 was $41 million.

Currently, 7 of the 39 DART buoys are not operational. Of the 7 buoys that are not working, 5 are deployed in the Pacific Ocean. If more DART buoys fail, and regional forecasting capabilities are impaired, then the NOAA Administrator must notify Congress within 30 days. According to NOAA, the current continuing resolution (P.L. 112-4) does not allow the NWS to allocate FY2011 funding to purchase ship time required to repair the 7 DART buoys that are not working.



Date of Report: March 18, 2011
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R41686
Price: $29.95

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