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Friday, September 28, 2012

Federal Land Management Agencies and Programs: CRS Experts


Katie Hoover
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

This report lists CRS Federal Land Management Agencies and Programs with phone numbers and email addresses.


Date of Report: August 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: R42656
Price: $19.95

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Hunting, Fishing, Recreational Shooting, and Other Wildlife Measures: S. 3525



M. Lynne Corn, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney


The House and Senate have been considering various approaches to open more federal lands to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. S. 3525 addresses some of the same topics as H.R. 4089, which passed the House on April 17, 2012. Both concern hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, but the bills take different approaches. While H.R. 4089 directs changes to federal land management and land planning, S. 3525 allows existing management to continue, requiring only that land managers assemble priority lists to improve access for those activities.

Several issues related to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting are addressed in S. 3525. Hunting and conservation have been linked since the advent of federal wildlife legislation, such as the Lacey Act of 1900 (making it a federal crime to ship game killed in violation of one state’s laws to another state) or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (regulating the killing, hunting, buying, or selling of migratory birds). Even so, controversy exists about exactly what hunting, fishing, or shooting sports should be allowed on federal land, and when. A primary issue is whether opening more lands to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting should be balanced against good game management, public safety, resource management, and the statutory purposes of the lands. S. 3525 focuses on providing additional physical access to federal lands where these activities are already allowed. This would be accomplished through acquisition of lands or rights of way.

S. 3525 would also expand or authorize certain sport fishing programs. In addition, it addresses the concerns of trophy hunters who killed polar bears in the months before the species was proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act or between the proposal and the actual listing. These hunters have not been allowed to import their trophies; the bill would allow specified imports of these trophies.
It would support a program of regional working groups to conserve populations of migratory birds. It would amend the duck stamp program, to allow the Secretary of the Interior to increase the price of the stamp at specified intervals. Such a change, which would provide additional funding for acquisition of waterfowl habitat, has been advocated among hunters for several years. S. 3525 would make funding changes for some of these activities, and reauthorize a number of conservation programs, as well as expanding an existing program to control nutria, a marshland pest.

S. 3525 was not referred to a committee, and consequently lacks a committee report. It was placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders on September 11, 2012; on September 20, 2012, a cloture motion on the motion to proceed to the measure was presented in Senate.



Date of Report: September 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R42751
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Gray Wolf and the Endangered Species Act: A Brief Legal History



Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Wolves had all but disappeared from the contiguous United States when Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed wolves as an endangered species in most of the lower 48 states. Since then, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) has held every status of protection under the ESA, as regulatory efforts have shifted from conserving the wolf, which culminated in reintroducing wolves into three parts of the American West in the 1990s, to reducing wolf protections where its population has surged. Litigation has followed each regulatory change. After courts rejected regulatory efforts to reduce protections, Congress enacted P.L. 112-10, Section 1713, which removes federal protection of the gray wolf in Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and north-central Utah, and marks the first legislative delisting in the history of the ESA. P.L. 112-10 further prohibits judicial challenge of the delisting.

In December 2011, FWS delisted wolves in the Western Great Lakes area. In addition, FWS proposed recognizing a new species of wolf, the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), and changing the gray wolf’s historic range to omit all or parts of 29 states in the eastern United States. On August 31, 2012, FWS announced the delisting of wolves in Wyoming, effective September 30, 2012. Also, FWS has proposed evaluating whether wolf populations in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest are appropriately protected under the ESA. Pending legislation would shift gray wolf management to the states (H.R. 1819 and H.R. 2584, §119), or would eliminate ESA protections for gray wolves (H.R. 838, H.R. 509, and S. 249).

This report provides a brief history of the laws, regulations, and lawsuits related to the wolf’s protected status. Fuller analyses of the concepts discussed in this report can be found in the companion report, CRS Report RL34238, Gray Wolves Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): Distinct Population Segments and Experimental Populations, by Kristina Alexander and M. Lynne Corn.



Date of Report: September 5, 2012
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41730
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Wildfire Fuels and Fuel Reduction



Kelsi Bracmort
Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Severe wildfires have been burning more acres and more houses in recent years. Some assert that climate change is at least partly to blame; others claim that the increasing number of homes in and near the forest (the wildland-urban interface) is a major cause. However, most observers agree that wildfire suppression and historic land management practices have led to unnaturally high accumulations of biomass in many forests, particularly in the intermountain West. While high-intensity conflagrations (wildfires that burn the forest canopy) occur naturally in some ecosystems (called crown-fire or stand-replacement fire ecosystems), abnormally high biomass levels can lead to conflagrations in ecosystems when such crown fires were rare (called frequentsurface- fire ecosystems). Thus, many propose activities to reduce forest biomass fuels.

The characteristics of forest biomass fuels affect the nature, spread, and intensity of the fire. Fuel moisture content is critical, but is generally a function of weather patterns over hours, days, and weeks. Fuel size is also important—fine and small fuels (e.g., needles, grasses, leaves, small twigs) are key to fire spread, while larger fuels (e.g., twigs larger than pencil-diameter, branches, and logs) contribute primarily to fire intensity; both are important to minimizing fire damages. Fuel distribution can also affect damages. Relatively continuous fuels improve burning, and vertically continuous fuels—fuel ladders—can lead a surface fire into the canopy, causing a conflagration. Lastly, total fuel accumulations (fuel loads) also contribute to fire intensity and damage. Thus, activities that alter biomass fuels—reducing total loads, reducing small fuels, reducing large fuels, and eliminating fuel ladders—can help reduce wildfire severity and damages.

Several tools can be used to reduce forest biomass fuels. Prescribed burning is the deliberate use of fire in specific areas under specified conditions. It is the only tool that can eliminate fine fuels, but is risky because it burns any fuel available. Wildland fire use is the term used for allowing a wildfire to be used like a prescribed burn (i.e., within specified areas and conditions). Thinning is a broader forestry tool useful for eliminating fuel ladders and total fuels in the crown, but it does not eliminate fine fuels, and it concentrates fuels in a more continuous array on the surface. The combination of thinning with prescribed burning is often proposed to combine the benefits, but it also combines the cost of both. Logging does little to reduce fuel loads.

The federal land management agencies undertake all of these activities under general authorities for wildfire protection and land and resource management. Fuel reduction, primarily via prescribed burning, is funded with direct annual appropriations for wildfire management. Other activities, particularly thinning, are funded through other annual appropriations accounts, such as vegetation management. Also, several mandatory spending accounts provide funds for related activities, such as treating logging and thinning debris. In addition, wildfire assistance funding allows the Forest Service to provide technical and financial aid for reducing forest biomass fuel loads on nonfederal lands, among other things.

The issues for Congress include the appropriate level of funding for prescribed burning and thinning for fuel reduction and the appropriate reporting of accomplishments. Current reporting does not identify ecosystems being treated and the effectiveness of the treatments. Similarly, current appropriations and reporting do not distinguish thinning for fuel reduction from thinning for other purposes, such as enhancing timber productivity. More complete reporting could allow Congress to better target its appropriations for fuel reduction to enhance wildfire protection.



Date of Report: September 4, 2012
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R40811
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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 has enacted provisions to direct certain management measures for U.S. tuna fishing under the authority of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (P.L. 112-55); to authorize the Corps of Engineers to take emergency measures to exclude Asian carp from the Great Lakes (P.L. 112-74); to create a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to promote efforts to achieve long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico (P.L. 112-141); and to extend the authority to make expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund and other trust funds, including various programs under the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, through FY2014 (also in P.L. 112-141).

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 has enacted provisions to direct the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to establish an infectious salmon anemia research program (P.L. 112-55) and to authorize the Corps of Engineers to transfer funds to the Fish and Wildlife Service for National Fish Hatcheries in FY2012 to mitigate for fisheries lost due to Corps of Engineers projects (P.L. 112-74).

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. Other than annual appropriations, no marine mammal legislation has been enacted by the 112th Congress.

The level of appropriations for fisheries, aquaculture/hatchery, and marine mammal programs administered by the NMFS and the Fish and Wildlife Service is a recurring issue during the 112th Congress due to pressures to reduce federal spending.



Date of Report: August 30, 2012
Number of Pages: 35
Order Number: R41613
Price: $29.95

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