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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Softwood Lumber Imports From Canada: Current Issues



Katie Hoover
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Ian F. Fergusson
Specialist in International Trade and Finance


Softwood lumber imports from Canada have been of concern to Congress for many years. Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce and exercises authority over trade relations with foreign nations. Lumber production is a significant industry in many states, and U.S. lumber producers are concerned they are at an unfair competitive disadvantage in the domestic market against Canadian lumber producers because of Canada’s timber pricing policies. This has resulted in four major disputes (so-called “lumber wars”) between the United States and Canada since the 1980s. The last major dispute was resolved when the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) was signed. Under the agreement, Canadian softwood lumber shipped to the United States is subject to export charges and quota limitations when the price of U.S. softwood products falls below a certain level.

Tension between the United States and Canada over softwood lumber trading has been persistent and may be inevitable. Both countries have extensive forest resources, but they have quite different population levels and development pressures. Vast stretches of Canada are still largely undeveloped, while relatively fewer areas in the United States (outside Alaska) remain undeveloped. These differences have led to different forest policies.

For decades, U.S. lumber producers have argued that they have been injured by subsidies to their Canadian competitors in the form of lost market share and lost revenue. In the United States, the majority of the timberlands are privately owned and prices are determined by competitive bidding in an open market. In Canada, the majority of the timberlands are owned by the provincial governments and leased to private firms. The provinces administratively set the price of timber through a stumpage fee, a per unit volume fee charged for the right to harvest trees. Some assert that the stumpage fees charged by the Canadian provinces are subsidized, or priced at less than their market value. Directly comparing Canadian and U.S. lumber prices is difficult and often inconclusive, however, due to major differences in tree species, sizes, and grades; measurement systems; requirements for harvesters; environmental protection; and other factors.

Three recent developments in the softwood lumber trade relationship between the United States and Canada may be of interest to Congress. First, in January 2012, the United States and Canada extended the 2006 SLA for another two years until October 2015. Second, an unfavorable arbitration decision under the dispute resolution terms in the SLA may have shifted the negotiation priorities for the U.S. lumber industry. Third, Canada has joined in the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, an effort to develop a free-trade agreement with nine countries across the Asia-Pacific. How this will effect the negotiations for the SLA and the softwood lumber trade between the United States and Canada remains to be seen. Congress may consider legislation or oversight on these issues.



Date of Report: October 23, 2012
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R42789
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Monday, October 29, 2012

National Park System: Establishing New Units



Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The National Park System (System) includes 398 diverse units administered by the National Park Service (NPS) of the Department of the Interior. Units generally are added to the National Park System by acts of Congress, although the President may proclaim national monuments for inclusion in the System on land that is federally managed. An act of Congress creating a Park System unit may explain the unit’s purpose; set its boundaries; provide specific directions for land acquisition, planning, uses, and operations; and authorize appropriations for acquisition and development. Today, there are more than 20 different designations (i.e., titles) for units of the National Park System, reflecting the diversity of the areas. There is no statute that sets out and defines all the designations, and Congress has discretion in choosing the type of designation for a unit being established.

Before enacting a law to add a unit, Congress often first enacts a law requiring the NPS to study an area, typically to assess its national significance, suitability and feasibility, and other management options. When Congress directs the NPS to prepare a study, the agency must assess whether an area contains natural or cultural resources that are nationally significant, constitutes one of the most important examples of a type of resource, and is a suitable and feasible addition to the Park System. The agency also is to consider certain factors established in law (e.g., threats to resources) to promote the consistency and professionalism of the studies.

The Secretary of the Interior is required by law to recommend annually to Congress a list of areas for study for potential inclusion in the National Park System. The Secretary also must submit to Congress a list of areas previously studied that contain primarily historical resources, and a list of areas with natural resources. Previously studied areas are to be ranked in order of priority for consideration of addition to the Park System. For the first time during the Obama Administration, on August 28, 2012, the Department of the Interior submitted a list of 15 areas for potential study for addition to the Park System and a list of 7 areas that were previously studied that meet the criteria for inclusion in the Park System and for which supporting data are still accurate and current. The Obama Administration did not submit similar lists in previous years. Instead, during its first three years, the Administration focused on completing authorized studies and other current responsibilities, such as facility maintenance.

The addition of units to the National Park System sometimes has been controversial. Some discourage adding units, asserting that the System is “mature” or “complete,” while others assert that the System should evolve and grow to reflect current events, new information, and reinterpretations. A related issue is how to properly maintain existing and new units given limited fiscal and staffing resources. Differences exist on the relative importance of including areas reflecting our natural, cultural, and social history. The adequacy of standards and procedures for ensuring that the most outstanding areas are included in the Park System also has been debated.

It is generally regarded as difficult to meet the criteria and to secure congressional support and funding for expanding the National Park System. Thus, another issue has been whether particular resources are better protected outside the National Park System, and how to secure the best alternative protection. Certain areas that receive technical or financial aid from the NPS, but are neither federally owned nor directly administered by the NPS, include affiliated areas and national heritage areas. Some programs give places honorary recognition. The NPS also supports local and state governments in protecting resources through grants for projects and technical assistance.



Date of Report: October 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: RS20158
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Monday, October 22, 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: October 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R41613
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National Monuments and the Antiquities Act



Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney


The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act was designed to protect federal lands and resources quickly, and Presidents have proclaimed a total of 132 monuments. Congress has modified many of these proclamations and has abolished some monuments. Congress also has created monuments under its own authority.

Presidential establishment of monuments sometimes has been contentious—for example, President Franklin Roosevelt’s creation of the Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming (1943); President Carter’s massive Alaskan withdrawals (1978); and President Clinton’s establishment of 19 monuments and enlargement of three others (1996-2001). In early 2010, an Obama Administration draft document regarding possible monument designations renewed controversy over the Antiquities Act, although the President cited support for his four subsequent monument designations in 2011 and 2012.

Issues have included the size of the areas and types of resources protected; the effects of monument designation on land uses; the level and types of threats to the areas; the inclusion of nonfederal lands within monument boundaries; the act’s limited process compared with the public participation and environmental review aspects of other laws; and the agency managing the monument.

Opponents have sought to revoke or limit the President’s authority to proclaim monuments. The 112th Congress is currently considering proposals to limit the President’s authority to create monuments. Some bills would block monuments from being declared by the President in a particular state—H.R. 845 (Montana); H.R. 846 (Idaho); H.R. 2147 and S. 1182 (Utah); H.R. 2877 (Arizona); and H.R. 3292, S. 144, and S. 1554 (Nevada). One bill, S. 2473, would require the consent of the pertinent state legislature to establish a national monument. Another bill—H.R. 302—would require approval by the pertinent state legislature and governor before a monument was proclaimed by the President. Others—H.R. 817, S. 122, and S. 927—would require congressional approval. Two other bills, H.R. 758 and S. 407, would require congressional approval and also would create procedures for the President and the Secretary of the Interior to follow before the President could designate a monument. H.R. 4089, which passed the House on April 17, 2012, would restrict the President’s authority to designate national monuments by requiring approval of a monument proclamation by the pertinent governor and state legislature.

Monument supporters favor the Antiquities Act in its present form, asserting that the public and the courts have upheld monument designations and that many past designations that initially were controversial have come to be supported. They contend that the President needs continued authority to act promptly to protect valuable resources on federal lands from potential threats.



Date of Report: October 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41330
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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Endangered Species Act: A Primer



M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy


The Endangered Species Act (ESA, P.L. 93-205, 87 Stat. 884. 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544) has a stated purpose of conserving species identified as endangered or threatened with extinction, and conserving ecosystems on which they depend. It is perennially controversial because the protections provided can make it the visible policy focal point for underlying situations involving the allocation of scarce or diminishing lands or resources, especially in instances where societal values may be changing. In response to past controversies, Congress has repeatedly considered minor amendments and major changes to the act. No action has been taken to date in the 112th Congress, but the issue is likely to resurface in the 113th Congress.

The purpose of the report is to describe the major features and controversies of the ESA as background for consideration of possible amendments in the 113th Congress. The major features of ESA and related controversies are briefly summarized as follows:


  • ESA retains its authorities even though its authorization for funding expired in 1992, and funds may be and have been appropriated in the absence of a current authorization. ESA prohibitions and penalties remain in effect regardless of appropriations. 
  • ESA’s principal parts are the listing and protection of species, designation of critical habitat and avoidance of its destruction, and consultation by federal agencies regarding actions that may harm listed species. Each of these three principal parts is discussed in detail. 
  • Dwindling species are listed as either endangered or threatened according to assessments of the risk of their extinction. Once a species is listed, legal tools are available to aid its recovery and to protect its habitat. 
  • ESA has broad provisions for citizen suits to enforce the act, and lawsuits have played a major role in enforcement and interpretation of many, or perhaps most, of the act’s provisions. 
  • ESA provides for exemptions from the act for agency projects, but the provisions are little used for a variety of reasons. 
  • The act is administered primarily by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and by the National Marine Fisheries Service for certain marine and anadromous species. 
  • ESA is the implementing legislation for U.S. participation in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. 
  • ESA often becomes controversial even where a particular species is not the focus of a controversy but a symptom of it.

Date of Report: October 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: RL31654
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