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Monday, February 27, 2012

Federal Funding for Wildfire Control and Management


Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kelsi Bracmort
Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy


The Forest Service (FS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) are responsible for protecting most federal lands from wildfires. Wildfire appropriations nearly doubled in FY2001, following a severe fire season in the summer of 2000, and have remained at relatively high levels. Acres burned annually have also increased over the past 50 years, with the six highest annual totals occurring since 2000. Many in Congress are concerned that wildfire costs are spiraling upward without a reduction in damages. With emergency supplemental funding, FY2008 wildfire funding reached a record high of $4.46 billion.

There are three basic categories of federal programs for wildfire: federal lands protection, nonfederal lands protection, and other fire-related expenditures. The vast majority (about 95%) of federal wildfire funds are spent to protect federal lands—for fire preparedness (equipment, baseline personnel, and training); fire suppression operations (including emergency funding); post-fire rehabilitation (to help sites recover after the wildfire); and fuel reduction (to reduce wildfire damages by reducing fuel levels). Since FY2001, FS fire appropriations have included funds for state fire assistance, volunteer fire assistance, and forest health management, as well as for community assistance, fire research, and fire facilities.

Four issues have dominated wildfire funding debates. One is the high cost of fire management and its effects on other agency programs. Several studies have recommended actions to try to control wildfire costs, and the agencies have taken various steps, but it is unclear whether these actions will be sufficient. Wildfire suppression expenditures have exceeded agency appropriations annually for more than a decade. Borrowing to pay high wildfire suppression costs has affected other agency programs. The Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement (FLAME) Act of 2009 was enacted in P.L. 111-88 to insulate other agency programs from high wildfire suppression costs by creating a separate funding structure for emergency supplemental wildfire suppression efforts.

Another issue is funding for fuel reduction. Funding and acres treated rose (roughly doubling) between FY2000 and FY2003, and have stabilized since. Currently about 3 million acres, less than 1% of federal lands, are treated annually. However, 75 million acres of federal land are at high risk, and another 156 million acres are at moderate risk, of ecological damage from catastrophic wildfire. Since many ecosystems need to be treated on a 10-35 year cycle (depending on the ecosystem), current treatment rates are insufficient to address the problem. A third issue is the federal role in protecting non-federal lands, communities, and private structures. In 1994, federal firefighting resources were apparently used to protect private residences at a cost to federal lands and resources in one severe fire. A federal policy review recommended increased state and local efforts to match their responsibilities, but federal programs to protect non-federal lands have also expanded, reducing incentives for local participation in fire protection.

Finally, post-fire rehabilitation is raising concerns. Agency regulations and legislation in the 109th Congress focused on expediting such activities, but opponents expressed concerns that this would restrict environmental review of and public involvement in salvage logging decisions, leading to greater environmental damage. Legislation was introduced but not enacted in the 110th Congress to provide alternative means of addressing post-fire restoration in particular areas. The large wildfires to date in 2011 have reignited concerns about post-fire rehabilitation. Except for appropriations, legislative action regarding this issue since the 110th Congress has been minimal.



Date of Report: February 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: RL33990
Price: $29.95

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): A Primer for the 112th Congress


M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Michael Ratner
Specialist in Energy Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney


In the ongoing energy debate in Congress, one issue has been whether to approve energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR or the Refuge) in northeastern Alaska—and if so, under what conditions—or whether to continue to prohibit development to protect the area’s biological, recreational, and subsistence values. ANWR is rich in fauna, flora, and oil and natural gas potential. Its development has been debated for more than 50 years, but sharp increases in energy prices from late 2000 to early 2001, in 2004-2008, and in 2011 from a variety of causes (e.g., terrorist attacks, oil spills, and energy infrastructure damage from hurricanes), have repeatedly intensified the debate. Few onshore U.S. areas stir as much oil industry interest as ANWR. At the same time, few areas are considered more worthy of protection in the eyes of conservation and some Native groups. Current law explicitly prohibits oil and natural gas leasing in the Refuge. This report provides a primer on this debate, including background information, and a short description of issues which have arisen repeatedly, as well as some that have been debated only recently. It also discusses key provisions of H.R. 3407, a bill to open ANWR; in conjunction with H.R. 7, any of its revenues allocated to the U.S. Treasury would be allocated to fund surface transportation programs.

Procedurally, a key feature in this background is the difficulty in changing the status quo, either toward development or toward additional protection. When energy prices have been high, those Members who advocate increasing supplies as a method of lowering energy prices have renewed their focus on ANWR development. Changes in party control in the House in the 112th Congress have encouraged development advocates. Over the years, opponents of opening the Refuge have succeeded consistently in stopping such attempts. However, any change from the status quo appears just as difficult for proponents of wilderness designation who seek to provide additional statutory protection as it does for development advocates.

Substantively, a number of issues have been raised. Development advocates assert that 

  • ANWR oil would reduce U.S. energy markets’ exposure to Middle East crises, lower oil prices, and extend the economic life of the Trans Alaska Pipeline; 
  • development would create jobs in Alaska and elsewhere in the United States; and 
  • ANWR oil could be developed with minimal environmental harm; some argue that surface development could be limited to a fraction of leased acres. 
Wilderness advocates counter that 
  • intrusion on this ecosystem cannot be justified on any terms; 
  • economically recoverable oil found (if any) would provide little energy security and could be replaced by cost-effective alternatives; 
  • ANWR production would have negligible effect on oil prices; 
  • job claims are exaggerated; and 
  • development would be widely scattered, with irreparable impacts. 

This primer provides background for analyzing the various claims through an examination of ANWR’s history, and an analysis of its geological, biological, human, and economic resources.



Date of Report: February 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL33872
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Klamath River Basin: Background and Issues


Charles V. Stern, Coordinator
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Cynthia Brougher
Legislative Attorney

Bill Heniff Jr.
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process


The Klamath River Basin on the California-Oregon border is a focal point for local and national discussions on water allocation and species protection. Previously, water and species management issues have exacerbated competition and generated conflict among several interests—farmers, Indian tribes, commercial and sport fishermen, federal wildlife refuge managers, environmental groups, and state, local, and tribal governments. As is true in many regions in the West, the federal government plays a prominent role in the Klamath Basin’s waters. This role stems primarily from (1) operation and management of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Water Project; (2) management of federal lands, including six national wildlife refuges; and (3) implementation of federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act.

Allocation of the Klamath Basin’s water has been contentious in the past. Controversy peaked in 2001 when the federal government halted irrigation water deliveries to protect species listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Efforts to permanently settle many of the basin’s water and species issues stepped up between 2002 and 2010, and were led by the federal government.

In 2010, the Secretary of the Interior and the governors of Oregon and California, along with multiple interest groups, announced the result of these negotiations: two interrelated settlement agreements, supported by the federal government and signed by numerous other parties. These agreements are meant to address many of the previous conflicts in the basin. The first agreement, known as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), provides for restoration, water deliveries, and related actions, including a defined range of water supplies for Reclamation project users as well as projects to restore and protect threatened and endangered fish species. The second agreement, known as the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), lays out a process for studies and a decision by the Secretary of the Interior regarding whether the removal of four dams in the Lower Klamath Basin (funded by power customers in Oregon and California, as well as the State of California) would be in the public interest. Together, removal of these dams would constitute the largest dam removal project ever undertaken.

Forty groups are signatories (or “parties”) to the Klamath agreements. Supporters of the agreements include the states of Oregon and California, three area tribes, Reclamation project irrigators, environmental interests, and other groups. Opponents of the agreement include some non-Reclamation project (“off-project”) irrigators, as well as a subset of environmental groups, tribes, and area residents who disagree with some or all of the agreements. While the Obama Administration endorsed the Klamath agreements, Congress has to formally authorize most provisions for the federal government to become a “party” and move forward with most actions.

In order to be fully implemented, both of these agreements require explicit authorization by Congress. Legislation currently before Congress (H.R. 3398 and S. 1851) would authorize the agreements, including approximately $800 million for federal actions (mostly in the KBRA). Considerations related to the Klamath agreements may include whether the federal government is obligated to act beyond current activities in the Klamath Basin (and, if so, to what extent), and what specific strategies should be authorized.

This report is divided into two parts: the first part provides a brief overview of issues in the Klamath Basin, with a focus on the federal government’s role in region. The second part focuses on the Klamath agreements and related issues for Congress in considering this legislation.


Date of Report:
February 1, 2012
Number of Pages:
44
Order Number: R
42157
Price: $29.95

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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 December 23, 2011, Congress enacted H.R. 2055, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74). Division E contained $29.23 billion for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in FY2012. This figure included an across-the-board reduction of $47.0 million. The FY2012 appropriation was a $381.4 million (1.3%) decrease from the FY2011 level ($29.61 billion) and a $2.11 billion (6.7%) decrease from the President’s request for FY2012 ($31.34 billion).

While the Administration had primarily proposed increases over FY2011 for major agencies funded by the bill, the FY2012 law included few increases over FY2011. However, one notable increase in the FY2012 law was $244.2 million (6%) for the Indian Health Service, and another was $51.9 million (7%) for the Smithsonian Institution.

While the FY2012 law reduced most agencies from the FY2011 levels, the amount of reduction varied. Among the enacted decreases were the following: 
         $219.1 million (3%) for the Environmental Protection Agency, 
         $83.4 million (2%) for the Forest Service, 
         $27.3 million (1%) for the National Park Service, and 
         $25.3 million (2%) for the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Neither the House nor the Senate passed a free-standing regular, annual appropriations bill for FY2012. From July 25, 2011, to July 28, 2011, the House had considered
H.R. 2584, but it came to no resolution thereon. No bill to fund Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies for FY2012 was introduced in the Senate. However, on October 14, 2011, the leaders of 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 were funded through a series of continuing appropriations laws until the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012.

Congress typically debates a variety of funding and policy issues when considering each year’s appropriations legislation. Issues debated during consideration of FY2012 legislation 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 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:
February 7, 2012
Number of Pages:
70
Order Number: R4
1896
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the112th 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 large-scale ecosystem restoration issues.

The 112th 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). P.L. 112-10 (final appropriations for FY2011) included a legislative delisting of a portion of the reintroduced Rocky Mountain gray wolf population.

The 112th 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 for 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 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 112th Congress to address ESA implementation and management of endangered and threatened species.



Date of Report: February 2, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R41608
Price: $29.95

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