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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Lacey Act: Compliance Issues Related to Importing Plants and Plant Products


Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The Lacey Act regulates the trade of wildlife and plants and creates penalties for a broad spectrum of violations. In 2008, the Lacey Act was amended to include protections for foreign plants and to require adherence to foreign laws as they pertain to certain conservation and other activities involving plants. Further, the 2008 amendments make it unlawful to submit falsified documents related to any plant or plant product covered by the act, and to import certain plant and plant products without an import declaration.

The primary drivers behind the Lacey Act amendments of 2008 (2008 amendments) were to reduce illegal logging globally and increase the value of U.S. wood exports. Illegal logging is a pervasive problem with economic and environmental consequences. The World Bank estimates that illegal logging costs governments approximately $5 billion annually in lost royalties and an additional $10 billion in lost revenue. Further, if there were no illegally logged wood in the global market, it has been projected that the value of U.S. exports of roundwood, sawnwood, and panels could increase by an average of approximately $460 million each year. A halt to illegal logging would also raise the value of domestic wood production. If this is added to exports, the estimated increase in revenue for companies in the United States could be approximately $1.0 billion annually.

A highly publicized raid on Gibson Guitar Corporation brought to light several existing policy issues related to the 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act. Some issues are broad and address the intent of the act. For example, some question why U.S. importers should be held responsible for violations of foreign law or if the requirements under the Lacey Act actually reduce illegal logging. Other issues are narrow and address certain requirements in the act. For example, several suggest that the declaration requirements for importing plant and plant products are cumbersome and not possible to meet in some cases. Further, some contend that the 2008 amendments should not apply to plants harvested or plant products fabricated before the 2008 amendments were enacted. Countering these arguments are those that reiterate the benefits of the 2008 amendments, primarily reducing illegal logging and increasing the economic value of legally obtained plants and plant products on the market.

Congress is addressing these issues through proposed legislation. H.R. 3210 (The Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness Act; RELIEF Act) was introduced on October 14, 2011, and addresses issues related to declaration requirements, penalties, reporting requirements, and certification standards, among other things authorized under the Lacey Act. Efforts to address implementation issues are also being pursued through regulations. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is soliciting comments on regulatory options that can address issues related to declaration requirements, and is expected to release a report evaluating the implementation of declaration standards under the 2008 amendments.



Date of Report: December 1
2, 2011
Number of Pages:
24
Order Number: R
42119
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: FY2012 Appropriations


Carol Hardy Vincent, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Interior (DOI), except for the Bureau of Reclamation, and for agencies within other departments—including the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture and the Indian Health Service (IHS) within the Department of Health and Human Services. It also includes funding for arts and cultural agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and numerous other entities.

On July 19, 2011, the House Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 2584 (H.Rept. 112-151) with $27.52 billion in appropriations for FY2012 for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. If enacted, this would be a $2.09 billion (7.1%) reduction from the FY2011 appropriation of $29.61 billion and $3.82 billion (12.2%) less than the Administration’s FY2012 request of $31.34 billion. While the Administration had primarily proposed increases over FY2011 for major agencies funded by the bill, the House committee proposed few such increases. One notable increase in the House committee bill was $392.4 million (10%) for the Indian Health Service.

While most agencies would be reduced from the FY2011 levels in the House committee bill, the amount of reduction varied. Among the decreases recommended by the committee were the following:

         $1.53 billion (18%) for the Environmental Protection Agency, 
         $310.6 million (21%) for the Fish and Wildlife Service, 
         $172.1 million (4%) for the Forest Service, and 
         $131.7 million (5%) for the National Park Service. 

From July 25, 2011, to July 28, 2011, the House considered H.R. 2584 but came to no resolution. No bill to fund Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies for FY2012 has been introduced in the Senate. However, on October 14, 2011, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies released a draft bill for FY2012. Because no regular appropriations bill was enacted before the October 1, 2011, start of the fiscal year, agencies and activities in the bill are being funded through a continuing appropriations resolution (P.L. 112-55) providing appropriations at the FY2011 level, minus 1.503%, under the authority and conditions in the FY2011 appropriations law (P.L. 112-10). Continuing appropriations for FY2012 are to be provided through December 16, 2011, unless a regular appropriations bill is enacted sooner.

Congress typically debates a variety of funding and policy issues when considering each year’s appropriations legislation. These issues have included regulatory actions of the Environmental Protection Agency, energy development onshore and offshore, wildland fire fighting, royalty relief, Indian trust fund management, climate change, DOI science programs, endangered species, wild horse and burro management, and agency reorganizations. Other issues have included appropriate funding levels for Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement and education; Indian Health Service construction and contract health services; wastewater/drinking water needs; the arts; land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and the Superfund program.



Date of Report: December
7, 2011
Number of Pages:
72
Order Number: R41
896
Price: $29.95

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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 (National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS) 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 112th 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 nontarget 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 112th 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 112th Congress may consider bills to 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 NMFS and the Fish and Wildlife Service may be an issue during the 112th Congress amid pressures to reduce federal spending.



Date of Report: December 6, 2011
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R41613
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wild Horses and Burros: Issues and Proposals


Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (the 1971 Act) protects wild horses and burros on federal lands, and places them under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service (FS). Under the 1971 Act, the agencies are to inventory horse and burro populations on federal land to determine appropriate management levels (AMLs). They are authorized to remove animals exceeding the range’s carrying capacity. First, the agencies are to destroy “old, sick, or lame animals” by the most humane means available. Second, they are to remove healthy animals for private adoption. Third, if adoption demand is insufficient, the remaining healthy animals are to be destroyed. However, the agencies have not used this authority since 1982, and the FY2011 Interior appropriations law prohibited funds from being used to slaughter healthy animals. In addition, under a 108th Congress change, the agencies are to sell, “without limitation,” excess animals (or their remains) that essentially are too old or otherwise unadoptable.

BLM has not achieved reduction to the national AML, which is 26,576 for all herds. There were an estimated 38,497 wild horses and burros on BLM lands as of February 28, 2011. Another 41,874 animals were in BLM holding facilities as of September 2011. More than half of BLM’s $75.8 million FY2011 appropriation for wild horses and burros was used to care for animals in holding facilities. A much smaller number of horses and burros are on FS lands—4,700.

Management of wild horses and burros has long been controversial, with most attention centering on BLM. Among the most contentious issues are whether BLM should destroy healthy animals under the authority provided in the 1971 Act, and sell animals “without limitation” as provided in the 108th Congress change. Other controversial issues include the priority given wild horses and burros in land use decisions; whether, and to what extent, to remove animals from the range; the disposal of healthy animals through the adoption and sales programs; the extent of holding animals in facilities, particularly long-term (pasture) facilities; the use of fertility control to slow the rate of reproduction; and the costs of management and whether funding is appropriate.

Several sets of options are being considered or implemented for reaching AML, limiting the number of animals in holding, reducing program costs, and generally improving the care and management of wild horses and burros, primarily by BLM. An October 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office recommended that BLM use different methods to estimate populations, issue a policy to achieve consistency in setting AMLs, provide information to the public on treatment of animals, and develop alternatives to caring for animals in facilities. In November 2008, the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board made recommendations to BLM on how to reduce wild horse and burro herd sizes, population growth, and costs of management, among other issues. On October 7, 2009, the Secretary of the Interior, calling the BLM wild horse and burro program “unsustainable,” announced proposals to establish wild horse preserves for the care of non-producing herds, and to reduce population growth rates through such methods as expanded use of fertility control. In February 2011, BLM released a draft strategy to advance the Secretary’s proposals, pursue new options for animals removed from the range, and reduce program costs. In spring 2011, BLM began to solicit proposals to establish wild horse and burro sanctuaries, either on BLM or combined public-private land, for the long-term care of nonreproducing herds. Further, the National Academy of Sciences is developing recommendations for BLM on using the best science in caring for wild horses and burros. Two recent reports (Department of the Interior and American Association of Equine Practitioners) found overall quality care for wild horses and burros, while providing recommendations. No broad legislation to amend the 1971 Act has been introduced in the 112th Congress.



Date of Report: December 8, 2011
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: RL34690
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Army Corps of Engineers Water Resource Projects: Authorization and Appropriations


Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Charles V. Stern
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertakes activities to maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Congress directs the Corps through authorizations, appropriations, and oversight of its studies, construction projects, and other activities. Historically, the agency’s authorizations and appropriations have been largely projectbased, with the projects being in specific locations. There is some uncertainty about legislation related to the Corps during the 112th Congress, in light of the House Republican Conference standing order in its conference rule and the Senate Republican Conference resolution supporting a moratorium on Member earmark requests. This report summarizes congressional authorization and appropriations processes for the Corps and explains the standard Corps project development process. It also discusses agency activities under general authorities. 

Authorization of Water Resources Activities.
Congress generally authorizes Corps activities and provides policy direction in Water Resources Development Acts (WRDAs). Beginning in 1986, a biennial WRDA consideration was loosely followed; enactment has been less regular. The most recent WRDA was enacted in 2007 (P.L. 110-114). Pressure to authorize new projects, increase authorized funding levels, and modify existing projects promotes fairly regular WRDA consideration. WRDAs historically have been omnibus bills including many provisions for sitespecific activities. Authorizations of many Corps activities were included under the House Republican Conference 2010 moratorium on Members requesting earmarks. Congress also authorizes some studies through resolutions passed by an authorizing committee. 

Annual Agency Appropriations.
Federal funding is provided for most Corps civil works activities through annual Energy and Water Development appropriations acts or supplemental appropriations acts. At times appropriations acts also have included Corps authorizations. In part because of competition for funds and because Corps authorizations outpace appropriations, many authorized activities have not received appropriations. There is a backlog of more than 1,000 authorized studies and construction projects. In recent years, few new studies and new construction activities have been included in either the President’s budget request or enacted appropriations. Most of the congressionally directed spending items added to the Corps budget have funded the continuation of ongoing Corps activities not included in the President’s budget. 

Standard Project Development.
The standard process for a Corps project requires two separate congressional authorizations—one for investigation and one for construction—as well as appropriations. The investigation phase starts with Congress authorizing a study; if it is funded, the Corps conducts an initial reconnaissance study followed by a more detailed feasibility study. Congressional authorization for construction is based on the feasibility study. For most activities, Congress also requires a nonfederal sponsor to share some portion of study and construction costs. These cost-sharing requirements vary by the type of project. For many project types (e.g., levees), the nonfederal sponsors are responsible for regular operation and maintenance. 

Other Corps Activities and Authorities.
Although the project development process just described is standard, there are exceptions. Congress has granted the Corps some general authorities to undertake some studies, small projects, technical assistance, and emergency actions such as flood-fighting and repair of damaged levees. Additionally, the Corps conducts emergency response actions directed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Congress also has specifically authorized Corps participation in numerous environmental infrastructure projects (e.g., municipal water and wastewater treatment systems).



Date of Report: December 5, 2011
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R41243
Price: $29.95

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