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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Endangered Species: A Compendium



This Compendium explores the major features and controversies of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It covers areas such as funding and exemptions. It demonstrates how science has been used in selected cases and offers a discussion of the nature and role of science in general, and its role in the ESDA process in particular, together with general and agency information quality requirements and policies, and a review of how the courts have viewed agency use of science.

 Detailed coverage is provided the polar bear, Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead trout, Pacific salmon and steelhead trout, bald eagle, gray wolves, sage grouse, and whale populations.

  The ESA has been among the most contentious environmental laws because of its strict substantive provisions. Increasing numbers of animal and plant species face possible extinction. These species are valued for ecological, educational, scientific, recreational, spiritual, aesthetic, and (in some cases) economic reasons. Some contend that because the loss of species could have predictable and unpredictable social and economic effects, all species should be saved. Others disagree, and hold that the cost to society to save species is concrete and large, while the benefits are vague. Protection of endangered and threatened species—and the law that protects them, the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543)—are controversial, in part, because dwindling species are often indicators of competition for scarce resources.

Date of Report: January 16, 2013
Number of Pages: 309
Order Number: C12018
Price: $59.95

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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.

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.

Although many bills were introduced, little legislation related to ESA was enacted by the 112
th Congress. Committees conducted oversight of the implementation of various federal programs and laws that address threatened and endangered species. P.L. 112-10 (final appropriations for FY2011) included a legislative delisting of a portion of the reintroduced Rocky Mountain gray wolf population. P.L. 112-74 provided slightly more than $237 million for FWS endangered species and related programs; this FY2012 funding for FWS core ESA programs was 0.5% more than the FY2011 enacted amount and 3.5% less than the FY2012 Administration request. P.L. 112-270 amended P.L. 106-392 to maintain annual base funding for the Upper Colorado and San Juan fish recovery programs through FY2019.

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, 111th , or 112th Congresses to reauthorize ESA.

This report discusses oversight issues and legislation that was introduced in the 112
th Congress to address ESA implementation and management of endangered and threatened species.


Date of Report: January 16, 2013
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41608
Price: $29.95

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Genetically Engineered Fish and Seafood: Environmental Concerns



Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

In the process of congressional oversight of executive agency regulatory action, concerns have been raised about the adequacy of the FDA’s review of a genetically modified (GM) salmon. More specifically, concern has focused on whether and how potential environmental issues related to this GM salmon might be addressed. In response to these concerns, several bills were introduced in the 112th Congress seeking to declare GM fish unsafe and thus prevent FDA approval of this salmon for human consumption or to require that GM fish be specifically labeled. No final action was taken on these bills by the 112th Congress.

Genetic engineering techniques allow the manipulation of inherited traits to modify and improve organisms. Several GM fish and seafood products are currently under development and offer potential benefits such as increasing aquaculture productivity and improving human health. However, some are concerned that, in this rapidly evolving field, current technological and regulatory safeguards are inadequate to protect the environment and ensure public acceptance that these products are safe for consumption. (The safety of GM foods for human consumption is not addressed in this report.)

In the early 2000s, several efforts began to develop GM fish and seafood products, with a GM AquAdvantage salmon developed by AquaBounty, Inc., in the forefront of efforts to produce a new product for human consumption. By September 2010, requested data had been provided to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by AquaBounty, and FDA’s Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee held public hearings on the approval of AquAdvantage salmon for human consumption. The public comment period on FDA approval closed on November 22, 2010.

Environmental concerns related to the development of GM fish include the potential for detrimental competition with wild fish, and possible interbreeding with wild fish so as to allow the modified genetic material to escape into the wild fish population. Sterilization and bioconfinement have been proposed as means of isolating GM fish to minimize harm to wild fish populations. To address these concerns, AquaBounty proposed producing salmon eggs (all sterile females) in Canada, shipping these eggs to Panama, growing and processing fish in Panama, and shipping table-ready, processed fish to the United States for retail sale.

On December 20, 2012, FDA announced the availability for public comment of (1) a draft environmental assessment of the proposed conditions specified by AquaBounty and (2) FDA’s preliminary finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for AquaBounty’s conditions. The 60-day public comment period runs through February 25, 2013. If significant new information or challenges arise in the public comments, FDA must decide whether or not a full environmental impact statement is required prior to approval of AquaBounty’s application. If approved, AquAdvantage salmon would be the first GM animal approved for human consumption.



Date of Report: January 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R41486
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wilderness Laws: Statutory Provisions and Prohibited and Permitted Uses



Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Katie Hoover
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy


The 1964 Wilderness Act established a National Wilderness Preservation System of federal lands “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The act designated 54 wilderness areas with 9.1 million acres within the national forests and reserved to Congress the authority to add areas to the system. Congress has enacted 117 subsequent statutes designating wilderness areas (including one with 16 wilderness-related subtitles) and 8 other statutes requiring wilderness study or otherwise significantly affecting wilderness areas. Many of these statutes provide management direction for designated areas that differs from the Wilderness Act provisions. As of December 31, 2012, the system totaled 759 wilderness areas with 109.5 million acres of federal land.

The Wilderness Act and other wilderness statutes have contained many provisions related to the administration of the areas. All but three direct management in accordance with the Wilderness Act. Provisions prohibiting buffer zones around designated areas are common. Many also preserve existing state jurisdiction and responsibilities over fish and wildlife, while some preserve other jurisdictions and authorities, such as for law enforcement and cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies. Water rights has been a controversial issue. Several statutes have directed wilderness study of potentially qualified lands, and have designated intended or potential wilderness, contingent upon some future condition or event. Concern about protection of the study areas has led Congress to include provisions addressing interim management and release of areas.

The Wilderness Act generally prohibits commercial activities within wilderness areas, although it allows commercial activities related to wilderness-type recreation. The act also generally prohibits motorized and mechanical access, and roads, structures, and other facilities within wilderness areas. Although wilderness is generally open to other public uses, some wilderness statutes have authorized temporary closures for various reasons. Also, many statutes have withdrawn the designated areas from the public land disposal laws, the mining and mineral leasing laws, and from the laws authorizing the disposal of common mineral materials. However, valid existing rights are not terminated, and can be developed under reasonable regulations.

The Wilderness Act and many subsequent wilderness statutes have also allowed various nonconforming uses and conditions. Motorized access has generally been permitted for management requirements and emergencies, for nonfederal inholdings, and for fire, insect, and disease control. Continued motorized access and livestock grazing have also generally been permitted where they had been occurring prior to the area’s designation as wilderness. Construction, operations, and maintenance, and associated motorized access, have also been permitted for water infrastructure and for other infrastructure in many instances. Motorized access for state agencies for fish and wildlife management activities has sometimes been explicitly allowed. Low-level military overflights of wilderness areas have been permitted in several statutes. Access for minerals activities has been authorized in some specific areas and for valid existing rights; the Wilderness Act specifically allows mineral prospecting. Finally, several statutes have allowed access for other specific activities, such as access to cemeteries within designated areas or for tribal activities.



Date of Report: January 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 87
Order Number: R41649
Price: $29.95

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Endangered Species: A Compendium



This Compendium explores the major features and controversies of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It covers areas such as funding and exemptions. It demonstrates how science has been used in selected cases and offers a discussion of the nature and role of science in general, and its role in the ESDA process in particular, together with general and agency information quality requirements and policies, and a review of how the courts have viewed agency use of science.

Detailed coverage is provided the polar bear, Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead trout, Pacific salmon and steelhead trout, bald eagle, gray wolves, sage grouse, and whale populations.

The ESA has been among the most contentious environmental laws because of its strict substantive provisions. Increasing numbers of animal and plant species face possible extinction. These species are valued for ecological, educational, scientific, recreational, spiritual, aesthetic, and (in some cases) economic reasons. Some contend that because the loss of species could have predictable and unpredictable social and economic effects, all species should be saved. Others disagree, and hold that the cost to society to save species is concrete and large, while the benefits are vague. Protection of endangered and threatened species—and the law that protects them, the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543)—are controversial, in part, because dwindling species are often indicators of competition for scarce resources.


Date of Report: January 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 309
Order Number: C12018
Price: $59.95

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