|Home||Archived April 13, 2016||(i)|
U.S. Geological Survey
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Other Federal Agencies
|American Farm Bureau Federation||National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges||U.S.
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Bureau of Land Management
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|American Geological Institute||National Institutes for Water Resources|
|American Water Resources Association||National Mining Association||U.S.
Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
|Applied Technology Council||The Ornithological
American Institute of Biological Sciences
Department of Commerce
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|Association of American State Geologists|
|Clean Water Network||The Wildlife Society||U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services
National Institute of Environmental
|The Groundwater Foundation|
|Information International Associates, Inc||U.S.
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|U.S. Environmental Protection Agency|
America's farmers and ranchers appreciate the help of the Geological Survey as they provide food and fiber to the nation and the world. Geospatial research and technology provided by USGS helps them make informed planting and harvesting decisions.
Sound scientific data is increasingly necessary in order to effectively resolve the complex resource issues facing farmers and ranchers. Sound decision-making requires reliable resource assessments, analysis and monitoring. USGS should continue to play a leading role in performing these functions.
Following are some areas where we believe the USGS can be particularly effective:
Finally, USGS must manage the data it collects in such a way as to protect the privacy and confidentiality of its providers. Data obtained from farmers, ranchers and other landowners should not be turned over to agencies for regulatory purposes. Nor should personal information that identifies the name of the landowner or the specific location of the property be turned over to agencies or the general public under the Freedom of Information Act. Information obtained from satellite imagery without the consent of the landowner should also be protected from public release. Data management is as important as the data itself.
There are some of the issues that we see for the US Geological Survey in the coming years. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this session, and we appreciate all your efforts on behalf of American agriculture.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I wish to commend you for the effort you are making to receive input from partners and cooperators. The American Geological Institute (AGI) has a long history of partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and we look forward to continued collaboration in the areas of education, public outreach, data preservation, and information dissemination. AGI also encourages USGS to enhance collaboration with the institute's 37 member societies.
This listening session focuses on the recent National Research Council report Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey. AGI supports the report's findings and urges the Survey to act on them.
An important point needs to be made about the Survey's mission. The most recent presidential budget request states that the USGS should focus its resources on providing scientific support for its sister land management agencies in the Department of the Interior. That mission is certainly important and needs to be well executed if land management decisions are to be made with the best available scientific information. But the Research Council report makes clear that the Survey's value to the nation goes well beyond the Department's stewardship mission for public lands. Some of the most important activities of the Survey -- such as natural hazard reduction, resource assessment, and environmental monitoring -- serve the entire nation and often are most applicable to those non-federal lands where the nation's citizens reside. It is imperative that these missions be recognized and valued within the Department and the White House.
What is the future role for USGS science in meeting societal needs in the new century?
The nation's strategic interests demand a full accounting of both domestic and international resources: water, mineral, and energy. In all three cases, the USGS is the nation's premier science authority and data source. The Survey's unique capabilities in remote sensing and geospatial data analysis will also be brought to bear in the re-assessment of domestic security needs. In recent years, there has been an erosion in several of these areas, particularly the Survey's mineral resource assessment capabilities. That trend must be reversed if the USGS is to provide all the analytical needs that the present crisis demands in assessment of global resources to meet societal needs.
The tragic exploitation of this nation's vulnerability to terrorism is also a reminder of our ever-growing vulnerability to natural disasters. Improving our resilience to extreme events will strengthen the nation's overall ability to respond to disruption by any means. As recommended by the Research Council, the USGS needs to "continue to exercise national leadership in natural hazards research and risk communication."
The USGS has a tradition of excellence in a number of geoscience disciplines, examples including seismology, economic geology, and hydrology. If the Survey is to meet societal needs in the future, that expertise must be maintained by a new generation of scientists. The establishment of the Mendenhall postdoctoral fellowship program is an excellent step toward achieving this goal, and it must be followed up with longer-term opportunities.
What are the emerging scientific issues on which USGS should focus?
For a mission agency like the USGS, emerging science needs will by definition be linked to emerging societal needs. With more people moving to hazard-prone areas -- coasts, floodplains, and areas of increased seismic, volcanic, and landslide risk --- there will be a growing need for USGS science directed at characterizing and mitigating these risks. The need for ecosystem restoration will also increase. The Survey's interdisciplinary work on the Florida Everglades is a case study for what is to come. As the nation's need for water, energy, and mineral resources inexorably grows, USGS expertise must be brought to bear, working with its many partners to provide a sound basis for decisionmaking.
An issue that has been emerging for some time is the need for more integrated science in support of ecosystem management. All four of the Survey's disciplinary divisions contribute important knowledge of ecosystems and their abiotic framework. Improvements in geospatial analytical tools make it possible for land managers to more easily consider how various aspects of the landscape relate to one another. But greater efforts are needed to inform land managers about what data are available and how the data can contribute to well-informed decisionmaking. As a recent report by the National Park Service Advisory Board made clear, the land management agencies are more familiar with their biological information needs and may be wholly unaware of the value of geological, hydrological, and pedological information. The Survey can take a leadership role in this area by encouraging greater interaction between Survey scientists and land managers in the other Interior Department bureaus and the U.S. Forest Service.
Regardless of what scientific issues emerge in the coming years, the need will remain for basic environmental data. That means the Survey must continue to support geologic mapping, long-term monitoring programs, and related activities that can serve as the basis for decisionmaking about a wide range of societal challenges.
In order to help identify emerging scientific issues, AGI strongly supports the need for external scientific oversight of the Survey such as that provided by the National Research Council in Future Roles and other reports examining individual USGS programs. We hope that USGS will continue to rely on the National Academies as well as its own federal advisory committees for guidance on emerging issues and needs. External reports, however, are only as good as the agency actions taken to implement their recommendations. The need for external oversight is complemented by a need to mine the Survey's own internal expertise -- the scientists who are most familiar with the Survey's activities. Although there are signs that morale has improved since the budget-induced cutbacks of the mid-'90s, much remains to be accomplished in rebuilding internal confidence in Survey leadership.
How can the USGS improve its partnerships and forge new alliances in related science fields of health, medicine, and space?
The biomedical sciences have been a budgetary juggernaut, fueled by a broad consensus on the need for advances in this field. A strong case has been made for the reliance of modern biomedical breakthroughs on technological advances made possible by federal investment in fundamental physical science research. The USGS is uniquely positioned to demonstrate linkages between the earth sciences, ecology and human health through its interdisciplinary work on environmental exposure pathways. The Survey's skills in collecting and characterizing natural settings lend themselves to collaborations with agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Public Health Service. These collaborations should be planned at the highest level, involving scientists both inside and outside the agencies.
For too long, there has been a divide between the geoscience community and the public health community leading to mistrust and poor communication over such geology-related health issues as radon, arsenic, and asbestos. The USGS partnership with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences holds great promise for helping to bridge the divide and should be strengthened. The Survey is to be commended for holding a congressional briefing on this topic to emphasize the connection between water quality data and human health. There are many more connections to be made. For example, the USGS global mineral assessment has a great deal of potential for developing derivative products that can be used for making decisions that balance resource needs and environmental impacts affecting both ecosystem and human health.
The Survey should emphasize the impact that natural disasters have on human health. A great deal of pain and suffering can be alleviated through a better understanding of natural processes, better warning systems, and better integration of USGS data and analysis into decisionmaking.
How does USGS achieve a balance between data acquisition and information management, regional studies, fundamental research, and international interests?
As implied in this question, the USGS faces a substantial challenge in balancing the near-term information and assessment needs of its customers against the long-term monitoring and research that is its underlying expertise and knowledge base. Meeting the challenge will take strong leadership informed by extensive public input not only at the national level like this session but also at the regional level. The Research Council report endorses the Survey's monitoring programs, emphasizing that long-term databases are one of the USGS's most important contributions to the nation, and that care must be taken not to disrupt them. In the last budget cycle, the Survey was able to take the first steps toward modernizing its national streamgage and seismic networks, both of which will require substantially increased investments in the coming years. Recognizing that the long-term value of such networks is a hard sell in an annual budget cycle, we recommend that USGS make extra efforts to promote them.
International involvement has been an even tougher political sell and will only succeed if its relevance to the USGS mission is clear. Success stories like the volcano response team and global resource assessments should be closely evaluated to determine lessons learned for other international initiatives.
The Research Council report sounds a cautionary note that in the Survey's efforts to prove its relevance and serve its customers, it has provided services to local jurisdictions that have put it in conflict with the private sector -- a major political liability. The report urges the Survey to undertake local projects only when they clearly serve a broader national goal.
The USGS website is one of the most visited in the federal government, but the Survey has only begun to mine its rich information resources on earth processes and history that are of interest to students and the public. We encourage the USGS to give high priority to improving and expanding Web-based data access.
Finally, in striking a balance among many different interests, the Survey must keep a close eye on the future of its workforce. Creating an environment in which the best scientists can work on challenging problems that address societal needs must be a top priority for USGS leadership. Building partnerships with the academic and private sectors can be done through creative use of fellowships, detailees, and other short-term arrangements. The recent Memorandum of Understanding between USGS and the National Science Foundation marks an important step in reinvigorating the Survey's ties to the academic research community, thus opening up a pathway for future employment.
Thank you again for this opportunity to appear before you. I would be happy to provide additional information on any of these topics.
USGS and AWRA have a long history of cordial relationships and close cooperation. The mission of AWRA is "to advance multidisciplinary water resources management and research". Presently, AWRA members are drawn in almost equal numbers from government agencies, academia, and consultants and represent nearly 60 disciplines that include water resources components. During its 37 years of existence, more AWRA members have been drawn from the ranks of USGS employees than from any other organization. Seven of the 36 AWRA Presidents were USGS employees at the time they were President of AWRA. Our current President-Elect is Ken Lanfear.
My comments will deal primarily with the water resources programs of USGS. I would like to express strong AWRA support for certain existing USGS water programs. We believe that the NAWQA Program has done an outstanding job of national water resources collection, analysis, and interpretation, and we support future NAWQA efforts. We remain concerned that future budget constraints might erode still further the USGS stream gaging network for real time flood prediction. We are concerned that no more key stations be lost from the network. This network is so fundamental that it should be protected even at the expense of other activities. We also believe the Federal-State Cooperative Program for water resources is fundamental to USGS and should be protected and enhanced.
AWRA offers the following thoughts and suggestions in response to the framing document provided by USGS. I asked AWRA Executive Board members and staff to respond individually to the questions. The responses, therefore, do not represent an AWRA consensus position.
What is the new century mission of the USGS in meeting societal needs?
A short answer is providing information in a timely and secure fashion. This refers specifically to the water quantity and quality information previously discussed under existing programs. One board member suggests an alliance with USGS counterparts in Canada and Mexico to coordinate date collection, dissemination, and research. He believes the experience of the European Union should be drawn upon to develop such an alliance. Finally, AWRA suggests that a National Water Policy is needed and that USGS must play a large role in its development.
What are the emerging scientific issues relevant to the mission of USGS?
Within the last 2 years, AWRA hosted two National Meetings that drew enormous interest and included both hydrologic and biologic issues. The topics of the meetings were stream restoration and aquatic ecosystems. AWRA believes that hydrologic and biologic issues cannot be separated and must be in tandem in most future USGS data collection, analysis, and interpretive projects. Other comments from AWRA board and staff members are that USGS needs to take a more global or continental approach to its mission and to develop stronger international alliances and representation. Since the events of September 11th, greater attention to the vulnerability, remediation and protection of our water resources seems like an obvious part of the mission of all water-related government agencies. Finally, two emerging issues that the USGS may wish to examine are "extrasolar water" and additional "tsunami/wave research via remote sensing."
How can USGS improve its partnerships and forge new alliances in related science fields of health, medicine and space?
In developing programs and partnerships, USGS needs to bring other agencies and organizations to the table in the earliest stages of the planning process. USGS also could consider additional and future partnerships with AWRA or similar organizations. With its multidisciplinary approach to water resources, AWRA can bring a large and diverse audience to meetings or conferences that would be cosponsored by USGS without some of the constraints that USGS might face in attempting to publicize its findings on controversial issues. USGS may need to continue to develop mechanisms to foster partnerships with colleges and universities.
How does USGS achieve a balance between data acquisition and information management, regional studies, fundamental research, and international interests?
An obvious answer is "Publish! Publish! Publish!" One board member suggested that USGS publications may not be reaching the general public and that some publications still are not as user friendly as they could be, even though USGS has made great strides in this direction. Perhaps other ways of communicating information, public forums, etc. would be useful. On the other hand, USGS deserves great credit for its excellent website and for the information available on the World Wide Web.
I hope the responses provided by AWRA can enhance the already great programs of the USGS. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to present the views of AWRA. We look forward to a continually productive relationship with the USGS in the future.
We represent the Applied Technology Council, a non-profit corporation founded nearly 30 years ago to protect life and property from the effects of natural and other disasters, through the advancement of science and engineering technology. The activities of our organization are guided by a Board of Directors of leading practicing structural engineers from across the country, including the president of the Structural Engineers Association of California and representatives from the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, the Western Council of Structural Engineers Associations, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. In effect, we represent the interests of thousands of structural engineers across the country, including approximately 8,000 in highly seismically active states.
With a focus on seismic engineering, and a growing involvement in wind and coastal engineering, ATC's mission is to develop state-of-the-art user-friendly resources and engineering applications to mitigate the effects of natural hazards on the built environment. To accomplish this mission, we review and synthesize research results from the structural engineering and earth science communities, identify that which is considered to be most useful, and put it into a form readily available for use by practicing structural engineers. We have developed the technical basis for the seismic provisions of the Uniform Buildings Code, the NEHRP Recommended Provisions for the Seismic Design of New Buildings and Other Structures, the NEHRP Handbook for the Seismic Evaluation of Buildings, and the AASHTO Specifications for the Seismic Design of Bridges. In addition, we have developed the de-facto national standard for post-earthquake safety evaluation of buildings, the seminal report on earthquake damage and loss estimation (which serves as the basis for much of the private-sector insurance portfolio analysis nationwide), and, most recently, the NEHRP Guidelines for the Seismic Rehabilitation of Buildings, which will provide the technical basis for seismic retrofit of buildings nationwide for the next several decades.
We in the structural and geotechnical engineering community laude the many and widespread efforts of the USGS in the identification and evaluation of seismic hazards nationwide. In particular, your efforts in developing and publishing seismic hazard maps for use by the engineering community have been invaluable and without reproach. These maps, which have been developed in a very open and all encompassing process considering the input of earthquake scientists and practicing engineers from all parts of the country, define critical and basic information without which we engineers would not able to perform our function of designing, evaluating, and rehabilitating buildings, bridges and other structures for seismic safety. If the public interest and safety is to be maintained, these efforts must continue.
We also laude the involvement by USGS earth scientists in national and international workshops, seminars, and engineering standards development activities. USGS scientists from the western region have played a key role in defining ground motions for structural design, including the factors used to estimate how ground shaking is amplified under different soil conditions and levels of shaking. We strongly believe that such involvement between USGS staff and the practicing engineering community is critical, and hope that management recognizes that such activities are as important, if not more important, than sole involvement in research.
In recent years the Applied Technology Council has identified a number of areas where action is critically needed by the USGS in the earthquake arena. These include:
Expand USGS involvement and visibility in the development of urban earthquake hazard maps.
Continue to develop and augment the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) and work with the U.S. Congress to ensure that adequate funding is provided for ANSS. As we are sure you are aware, the ANSS, when fully activated, will be able to provide emergency response personnel with real-time earthquake information; engineers with information about building and site response; and scientists with high-quality data to understand earthquake processes and solid earth structure and dynamics. We continue believe this to be a critical need, and one that will set the stage and provide baseline information for all future advances in creating an earthquake hazard resistant infrastructure.
Continue and augment USGS activities in post-earthquake seismic hazard and structural assessment investigation coordination, an area that until recently has been sorely lacking. The USGS has taken an active role in this area in the past two years, and its planning activities and leadership are well recognized by the earthquake research and engineering communities. As described in the draft NEHRP Post-earthquake Investigations Coordination Plan now being developed by the USGS, a more rigorous and disciplined post-earthquake data collection program is needed to ensure that hazard reduction specialists have ample information for developing new ways to reduce There is much more, however, that can and should be done to ensure that casualties anddeaths and economic losses resulting from future earthquakes be minimized.
In the wind hazard arena, USGS has not been actively involved in recent years, as far as we are aware, in activities related to developing wind hazard maps and engineering applications to improve the performance of low-rise residential construction against wind hazards. However, we strongly believe that there is a need for a more cohesive and concerted effort, akin to the NEHRP program, for wind hazard mitigation. At the current time, there is an effort in Congress to increase support for a Wind Hazard Caucus (Representatives Dennis Moore of Kansas, and Walter Jones of North Carolina are currently co-chairing the Caucus efforts) and to put forward legislation creating a wind hazard research and mitigation program, and we ask that USGS help support this effort and bring its wealth of expertise and successes to the wind hazard arena.
Finally, in the arena of coastal engineering, there are a number of activities that USGS should consider supporting or providing information on which basic engineering tools can be developed. A few activities in this regard include:
We thank you for this opportunity to provide these comments, and would be very happy to answer any questions you may have.
State Geological Surveys for many decades have been both users of U.S. Geological Survey data and assessments and partners in developing earth science information for use by the Nation and our States. State Surveys are responsible to their citizens for application of earth science knowledge to practical needs of the State's citizens, and we urge the U.S.G.S. to increase such applications to address the needs of the Nation.
Applying earth science data, information, and knowledge to issues of concern to the nation requires continuing creation of that knowledge through basic research. U.S.G.S. needs to balance these apparently contrasting goals through application of its financial and personnel resources to internal projects, studies, and data management and through partnerships and cooperative ventures with other federal agencies, state and local agencies, and academic institutions. AASG looks forward to its continuing relationship with U.S.G.S. in furthering these goals.
In particular AASG strongly supports efforts in the following areas:
AASG strongly supports geologic mapping as a vital part of essential government services for the good of the public. Geological maps are the basis for a wide range of economic, environmental, and health and safety applications. There are clear federal and state roles in supporting geologic mapping. AASG is pleased that Congress unanimously passed the National Geologic Mapping Act, and has reauthorized the National Cooperative Mapping Program. AASG urges funding at the fully authorized levels. The peer-reviewed, competitive STATEMAP component has produced more than 2,000 geologic maps since 1992 and is matched dollar for dollar by States. The peer-reviewed EDMAP component helps train the mappers of the future and is matched by participating colleges and universities. AASG supports revision and maintenance of digital and analog 1:000, 000- and 1-24, 000-scale topographic quadrangle maps, which are needed as bases for geologic maps.
Energy and Mineral Resources
In view of the Nation's continued, growing dependency on foreign import's, AASG strongly supports adequately funded programs to investigate domestic energy and mineral resources within the relevant federal agencies, including the Departments of Energy and Interior. Such programs are essential for sound energy, mineral, and environmental policy decisions as well as for national security, and, whenever practical, should be conducted on a cooperative basis or contracted to state geological surveys for maximum cost effectiveness. Up-to-date, accurate geologic mapping is critical to government's responsibility regarding natural resources.
AASG advocates the use of geologic information, including hazard maps, in the mitigation of natural disasters, such as landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods. This mitigation should occur before a natural disaster, because prediction, planning, and avoidance can significantly reduce risk and cost. Geologic maps are the basis for most natural hazard maps, which are needed to effectively reduce risks to people and property. AASG urges support of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, including an advanced national seismic research and monitoring system; research focused on the geology of the USA; and language that stresses the usefulness of geologic information in legislation concerning hazard mitigation.
AASG supports a cost-efficient federal stream-gaging program. AASG urges the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) to make stream gaging a national priority and encourages other federal users, including the Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Estuarine Program, and Environmental Protection Agency to support stream gaging networks. The federal government should fund the entire cost of a baseline national network of stream gages that measure the "pulse" of the Nation's surface-water resources. Through the USGS Water Resources Cooperative Program, regional, state, and local governments and appropriate private entities should financially support additional gages that they need for site-specific issues.
Research and Education
AASG supports federal and state funding of both basic and applied research in the geological sciences and related fields. AASG also supports Earth-science education on many fronts, including education of the public about mineral, energy, and water resources; geological hazards; conservation; and environmental protection. AASG encourages rigorous training of the next generation of geologists, particularly in field techniques.
The National Map
The USGS is conducting a planning process for overhauling the topographic mapping program in order to address problems with the current program and to put forth a new vision in which up-to-date information is put into the hands of clients and partners in a cost-effective way. Accurate, up-to-date, topographic maps are essential databases for effective Homeland Security. The Association:
In addition to these issue areas the AASG strongly urges the USGS to continue to maintain, develop, and make publicly available national data bases of earth science information. These databases provide comparable and consistent data vital to national, regional, state, and local issues. Such data bases include: topographic map data, geologic map data, surface and groundwater quality data, and stream flow data, and data bases need to be developed for natural hazards.
Equally important is continued basic research in areas such as toxic hydrology and groundwater flow and surface water quality modeling as illustrated MODFLOW and SPARROW.
The following are recommendations specifically directed toward future data collection from the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. (Editor's note: These suggestions represent the opinions of network members across the country.)
Pesticide contamination in our waters is an increasing concern in our community. [. . .] collecting data on the prevalence of the following pesticides in our waters and oceans. Each of them has been used to kill mosquitoes as a reaction to the spread of West Nile Virus in the NY tri-state area over the past year: malathaion, sumithrin (commercial name Anvil), piperonyl butoxide (PBO) also in Anvil, and resmethrin (commercial name Scourge)
With regard to the NAWQA future data collection, their data have been extraordinarily useful . . . because it is the best available data about pesticide contamination of streams, rivers, and wells. To make it even more useful in the future:
In the past few years USGS has been researching contamination of the High Plains aquifer, which includes the Ogallala. Their work has already been helpful . . . in western Kansas. In particular we need more data on contaminant levels in deeper groundwater (>100 ft) in the High Plains aquifer, especially salts and nitrate, both beneath irrigated land and land farmed by dryland methods. Then testing and analysis needs to be done to identify the source(s). Also better data is needed on the rate and pathways of recharge to the aquifer.
With the influx of CAFOs into the west, particularly Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah, there is more data needed on the Ogallala Aquifer and action taken to protect this sole source of water for so many people.
It would be great to have some water quality data in a searchable format. [In trying] to find out what the atrazine levels are in the White and Wabash Rivers and could not find any - nothing seemed clear even in the publications listed.
. . . the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management collects that data. . . . believe that USGS is involved. So they should have the info.
. . . have data on the environmental impacts of discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels, which include, among others, graywater. There are very few existing studies of graywater; most focus on graywater from Armed Forces Vessels, and we are particularly interested in graywater from cruise ships, because they have so many people on board and so many activities which other ships do not have (dry cleaning, photo processing) which have been found to be finding their way into graywater systems.
It would be great if you could encourage USGS to collect more data on the impact of nonpoint source activities, esp. farming and logging (and associated road building), on water quality.
Suggestions from Clean Water Network staff:
What is the new century mission of USGS?
At the most basic level, USGS's mission of providing high-quality, unbiased science is as valid for the new century as it was for the last. Issues related to allocation and use of water resources will continue to grow in significance. Dealing with these issues will demand even more water research and data.
The Groundwater Foundation encourages USGS to make communication a high priority. We have noticed, and applaud, USGS efforts to make information more user friendly and useful, even to lay persons, and encourage USGS to continue these efforts. Water protection and use decisions will involve many laypersons, who can make more informed decisions on the basis of USGS work.
We also encourage USGS to make communication with the federal executive and legislative branches of government a priority. These policy makers and budget setters must understand the critical need for this data and the need for the stable funding that makes scientific research and collection and analysis of data over time possible. For example, we are aware that Congress has recently asked USGS for information about water availability. We encourage USGS not only to respond to this request, but to make every effort to make sure Congress understands that issues of water quantity and quality are intertwined. Congress must understand that if water is polluted, it may not be available for human use.
Finally, in the area of communication, we are delighted with the efforts USGS has made to provide detailed quality information on its website, and encourage the continuation of those efforts.
What are the emerging scientific issues relevant to the mission of USGS?
We see the following as significant issues:
How can USGS improve its partnerships?
We applaud the efforts USGS is making to reach out to others, including nongovernmental organizations such as ours, and encourage USGS to continue to reach out to all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, educators, businesses and communities. We believe that much of the work of protecting water quality and quantity will be done at the local level by laypersons.
One of the positives things that appears to be emerging from the terrible tragedy of September 11 is an awareness in the US that we lack the public health infrastructure to deal with disasters. It appears that public health will be significantly strengthened. We encourage USGS to be involved in this effort and to develop new partnerships with public health entities to work on your mutual interests in safe drinking water.
How does USGS achieve a balance?
We will leave it to USGS and others to determine how this balance is achieved, but endorse the idea that it must be achieved. One key, as mentioned above, will be for policy makers and budget setters who impact the work of USGS to understand the following:
You state your objective is to ensure that the role of USGS science and information is valued in public policy and decision-making.
In 1998, OSTP recommended creating NBII regional nodes. USGS accepted this as a strategy to continue developing the NBII through building strong regional nodes supported by a well-coordinated and strong national initiative. Set in the overall context of the public-private partnership, this strategy has proven to be extraordinarily successful.
Future role for USGS in meeting societal needs being relevant.
A soundbite: "Elizabeth Aikens, Mayor of Walden Tennessee, loves the NBII". And that's a quote. She loves it because, through the NBII, she sees her school children getting a better opportunity to learn and love to learn about the science of their natural world. Some of that science is an output of the USGS. We certainly will let them know that.
Through our NBII SAIN efforts, the schools in Walden are getting the opportunity to use information systems and technology that will hold them in good stead. The SAIN is doing this through adding a local biological layer to the ongoing GLOBE program, which has long involved science discovery in the earth atmospheric sciences. We hope to extend the reach of government science through improving the capabilities of citizen science and student science.
That's just one geopolitical layer that our regional node has touched. At the county level, the Regional Planning Commission in Hamilton County Tennessee has been a partner and advocate of the NBII because they see in the development of the regional node an opportunity to get better information for decision making. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust is another partner where we are doing a pilot study to see how decision-making can be improved by better information support through the NBII.
And at the Southern Appalachian level, a region that is both a travel destination for it's rural natural beauty with the Nation's most visited National Park and one of outstanding scientific capabilities with a world class national laboratory, a major research university among other key assets, the NBII is creating a tool for support of both science and land use decision-making. And we are extending our reach. Working with other DOI agencies, especially the Park Service (an issue of great interest to OMB), we are building on the existing partnerships and developing information systems of the region to add the biological layer to systems with earth and atmospheric sciences for integrated science. In fact, next year we hope to be involved in a fascinating case study on improving land use decisions for the Appalachian Trail, a unique linear Park 2100 miles long that traverses a variety of environments, both natural and geopolitical.
What are the emerging scientific issues?
One of the outstanding features of the NBII is that it uses the best of the nation's scientific capabilities, which are broadly distributed and allows them to be used to help solve real problems at the regional level. In the case of Southern Appalachia, we face the general problems of loss of biodiversity, invasive pests, pollution and deterioration of ecosystem function, natural resource management on complex of public and private lands subject to recreation, vacation and retire homes and associated sprawl, but we face them specifically. The NBII helps us to look specifically at our Great Smokey Mountain National Park, at the issues of federal agency land planning, where development versus environmental conservation hit head to head in unique ways. SO ANOTHER slightly distorted sound bite: We are coordinating globally but acting locally.
Forging partnerships and new alliances in related fields
The development of the NBII is in its very foundation one of building partnerships. Compliments are certainly due to your staff (Chip, Dennis, Gladys, and her team) in their outstanding success in forging partnerships, both public and private as they have developed the concept of NBII nodes, including those that are regional, thematic and infrastructural. The NBII has partners from almost every science agency. It has had an interagency steering group under the White House Science Office, co-chaired by NSF and UGSG. It has worked with NASA from the application of remote sensing to biological issues. I understand it is working with CDC in a node on human-animal disease vectors. Indeed, information is a key in developing partnerships, in baselining what is known, so that gaps in knowledge can be identified when issues arise - or better yet, in anticipation of national issues and needs.
At the level of just our one Node, which really just began formal work as an NBII this year, our partnerships extend to all three sectors: public private and academia. We have over 8 Federal and three States agencies, including public schools, a DOE national laboratory, private companies, a National Park, and NGOs that include a public-private land trust, a museum, and an aquarium.
And when we have brought all of the nodes together, we have hundreds of committed partners whose energies and imaginations are truly satisfying to observe, as I hope Chip did when he attended our all-Node meeting in Chattanooga last July.
How to achieve a balance between all of the competing interests given finite resources?
One important thing is to make sure we optimize our assumptions. One assumption or understanding must be as, Chip, you said in Chattanooga, that Science and Information are not separate. Information is a critical input to the scientific progress and a major output of our investment. When used wisely, it can increase productivity. In our increasingly information literate and information-enabled society, I think information management has had some catching up to do. I think the growth and success of the NBII is a good indicator. But I also have seen how, through partnerships, USGS resource limits can be extended or leveraged. Certainly, through our NBII partnerships and the NBII Coalition that has emerged out of it, we are increasingly finding both support for USGS funding and opportunities to leverage our work with funding from other organizations, both government and private.
We should take a lead from administration priorities in this regard and I hope in some of the points I have made that we see where your continued support of NBII supports three priorities and can lead to opportunities: e-government - one of the few things that has clearly transcended the two Administrations; science-based decision making; empowering states
There are others I don't have time to touch on, such as international commitments. I'd like to congratulate USGS for the success of the NBII. I think it's continued nurturing and development is an asset to the nation and a great opportunity for expanding USGS reach and bringing the value of your science and your efforts to the American Taxpayer.
Thank you for the invitation to speak on behalf of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) today. I am Jonathan Pote, Associate Vice President for Research, Mississippi State University. I am also Vice Chair of NASULGC's Board on Natural Resources. I want to commend the Director and the USGS leadership for calling this session and giving the external community an opportunity to participate in the Agency planning process.
NASULGC is the nation's oldest higher education association. It has over 200 member institutions -- including 17 historically black institutions -- located in all fifty states, representing the country's major public research institutions. The Association's overriding mission is to support high quality public education through the efforts of member institutions to perform their traditional teaching, research, and public service roles. The Board on Natural Resources brings together leading educators and research scholars in the Association's universities to promote university-based programs dealing with natural resources.
During the last couple of years, NASULGC and USGS have held a series of meetings to explore areas of common research interest. This year all indications pointed to a real chance to initiate some new projects, but then the budget came out and we spent the next several months fighting for the survival of the Survey. The fact that we felt that we had a genuine interest, and that we did fight is a clear indication of how much closer the universities and the Survey have grown. We are pleased that the effort was so successful.
Through these meetings, I think we are gaining a better understanding of each other and are near to finding the right recipe for cooperating on new research agendas. Universities are one of the first places people bring their research needs and their local contacts and expertise are unsurpassed. The USGS is recognized as the nation's leading agency in the earth sciences and have the capability to both make information available quickly and to keep it available for decades.
No matter how strong an agency is, one of its most difficult tasks is selling its expertise to congress. When universities are fully engaged with the Survey's research, the number of people who understand the importance of the research and are willing to promote it broadly is dramatically increased. The multiplier effect for the Survey is huge. The researchers promote the work. The graduate students who were involved in the research promote it, and many of these go on to become congressional aides and even congressmen. The Survey also gets access to these students as potential future employees of the USGS.
NASULGC itself does not receive funding, so the real contacts will be by single universities or groups of them. Beyond that, my impression is that the real work is going to begin on a case-by-case basis, and will have to be developed at the scientist level. The one thing I am sure of is that there is far more potential for us as a team than there is for us working independently. We want to encourage the Director and his leadership to continue recent efforts to build on the solid foundation of cooperation between USGS and universities and we welcome opportunities to explore new and important vistas of scientific research.
The questions that the Director has raised for external community consideration are really at the core of what USGS will be as we move into an increasingly complex and unpredictable future. But, these are question which will need to be revisited as the world around us continues to change. Scientific renewal and regeneration will be essential for USGS to provide critical information to decision-makers. A mechanism is needed to ensure continuous scientific resuscitation enabling the agency to maintain sufficient scientific capacity. Formal science advisory boards (SAB) have proven an enormous asset to Federal agencies that have them. While the size, structure and mission differ, SABs share the ability to bring external analysis and input into an inherently closed process and provide guidance and oversight of internal science and research. The USGS SAB would be instrumental in providing guidance >and oversight to the USGS in the design, implementation and >administration of an effective strategic plan, and ensure a continuous dialogue with the external community. USGS should be commended for turning to the National Research Council for studies of its activities and administration and a SAB would complement this initiative.
Finally, we would suggest that USGS consider a peer reviewed competitive grants program, which cuts across division lines, to enable USGS to build and maintain a base of scientific expertise to address existing and emerging environmental, geohazard, and natural resource problems. The investigator-initiated research grants could significantly expand the number of scientists conducting USGS-related research and enhance the overall quality of scientific research at the agency. A grants program would also help preserve the credibility of the agency's research and science activities, and could provide opportunity for staff scientists to collaborate with university colleagues. Similar grants programs in other agencies have proven to be a highly cost-effective way for agencies to provide for a more balanced, long-term capital investment for improving environmental and natural resource, research and development. In addition, engaging the academic scientific community in emerging, next generation societal problems could avert costly remedial activities down the road. Importantly, a post-doctoral component of such a program could facilitate identifying and training the next generation of scientists, and be a recruiting tool to attract future staff for the USGS.
The NIWR is partially funded by and has long served as a partner with the US Geological Survey. The NIWR as a whole represents the 54 water Institutes that are located in every state and U.S territories. Each state Institute establishes a statewide advisory committee that represents federal, state, and local agencies, and private citizens and interest groups. Many Institutes link with their respective Federal/State extension services. These state extension services are represented in every county, and they frequently collaborate with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) which provides natural resource technical assistance in every county.
USGS is the pre-imminent science organization dedicated to natural resources, and considering the magnitude of these important science tasks, USGS is greatly under-funded. The USGS motto is, "Science for a Changing World." Our state Institutes currently concentrate much of their efforts on the effective transfer of knowledge and data "...for a Changing World." This requires both an understanding of the changing world and the kinds of information and data it needs.
One example of our changing world, involves the global population explosion and the resulting consumptive patterns with its growing demands on our natural resources. Another aspect of our changing world is an explosion of new information technologies. The changes are staggering indeed: the world wide web offers increasingly greater technological potential with broader bandwidth; computers have ever more power; tools for spatial information analysis have steadily evolved and are increasingly used by wider audiences; web-based interactive GIS is coming of age; and many other new technological tools continue to be developed. The web is also becoming a social network that goes beyond communicating data and information. Our technology has helped democratize information in a way that could not have even been contemplated 20 years ago. Now an informed public has the capacity and access to develop consensus on any of a vast range of topics at various scales in communities across the world.
The USGS has developed numerous prediction models, analytical approaches, and assessment tools. The USGS has a vast array of digital information on natural resource values in various locations and extensive spatial data at various scales over extended periods of time. The potential is great for utilizing important data and new tools to facilitate wiser land use decisions on federal as well as state and private lands. For USGS to realize this potential, an integrated user driven information system is required. USGS has extensive sets of spatial data that must be integrated and made available for regional, state, and particularly local users. Users must be able to insert additional layers of information related to their specific problems and needs. In fact, local problems and needs must drive the system. System flexibility should allow for input and query by users to assist in answering local questions and addressing local problems. Then, by drawing upon local and USGS data through a single system that also allows users to manipulate and visualize various data layers, a powerful and effective support system will be created. Modeling and analysis tools should provide users with information on the near and long-term impacts of parallel alternative decisions, and the risks posed to the environment, natural resources, ecosystem and human health associated with each decision. The results from such an integrated data information system would produce better-informed and hopefully wiser decision-making at the local, state, and regional levels.
To accomplish the establishment of an integrated decision system, USGS will need to partner with other organizations including state and territorial water research Institutes. Several integrated projects should be immediately initiated around the country that take advantage of the Institutes' service-oriented links to and knowledge of local decision making. This integration system utilizing new technologies will assist effective and informed local decision-making. This integrated system and these pilot projects will provide a critical step forward to assure that USGS accomplishes its goal of "Science for a Changing World."
The U.S. Geological Survey's role in mineral data collection, mineral and energy resource information, identification of geologic hazards, and geologic mapping activities provide important resources and support to the mining industry. The industry views the USGS as a critical source of unbiased and very reliable information to assist our mining companies in exploration, investment and business decisions related to mining operations at home and overseas. The National Mining Association, along with many other agencies and organizations nationally and internationally, use the USGS Geologic Division's mineral commodity and country specific mineral information to monitor and better understanding the mineral situation in the U.S. We also think an understanding of U.S. mineral information in a global context has never been more important than at this time.
The Geologic Division's International Minerals Program (Mineral Information Team), which was slated for elimination recently, is viewed as extremely important to NMA because, as a net importer of minerals, including many strategic minerals, the United States' ability to develop and implement global mineral-related strategy is severely compromised without this information. Losing the expertise and the ability to track the world "hot spots" with respect to strategic and critical materials would have a negative impact on national security. As the mineral industry becomes more international in nature, the value of reliable, timely international data is critical. As a world leader, the U.S. must have a comprehensive and essential understanding of the worldwide commodity markets necessary for strategic and critical materials. Our current military situation underscores the need for a national mineral policy much like our recent energy crisis underscored the need for a national energy policy.
NMA Government Affairs staff and our current leadership are very focused this year on the association's key objectives. They are to inform legislators, regulators and the media about the importance of mining on a state level and to the nation. USGS mineral information of all kinds plays a role in our message. On a more personal level, as a statistical services staff person, I use the information to answer a multitude of questions from all levels. In fact, the website's statistics section is one of our most popular areas of the site. It would be surprising if the mineral information section of the USGS site was not also a key source of traffic.
As customers of the USGS Geologic Division's mineral information we are concerned about maintaining the current programs and services provided by the division. Given current budget constraints, we therefore are not anxious to see the USGS' Geologic Division branch out in to too many new areas. NMA values the information currently provided, and views the agency's current mineral information functions as being very much in keeping with the USGS mission and also with the NRC study and the study recommendations.
The scientific information produced by the U.S. Geological Survey is of the highest quality but is insufficient to meet the scientific research needs of land and natural resource managers. The corps of scientists is small and their range of expertise is impressive but nonetheless limited. Further, they have a primary obligation to meet the research needs of the federal agencies they serve. Often the information they produce is useful to others, but the federal land and natural resource agencies often demand needed for short-term, local management needs. In the context of biological research, this kind of investigation may not have wider applicability. Biological systems are complex; variation is considerable. Understanding biological systems can take decades of study. Although USGS scientists recognize this fact, their ability to conduct the larger, longer studies that may be more appropriate for biological systems is limited by the demand for management-oriented research.
In short, USGS cannot cover all the bases. It should not attempt to do so.
USGS' special capabilities should be USGS' focus
What the USGS can and should do - in addition to meeting the research needs of the management agencies - is provide scientific leadership and direction. The USGS can help to set a research agenda. In fact, USGS' ICEBIRG meetings are an excellent example of this kind of effort. Instead of addressing research needs on an ad hoc, piecemeal basis, which inevitably leads to gaps, researchers should work from an agreed-upon agenda of research needed for proper management and conservation of resources.
Another way in which USGS can provide scientific direction is to provide science at the "meta" level. For instance, natural resource monitoring in the United States can best be described as a hodge-podge. Even for a single taxon, monitoring is conducted in a variety of ways. In some cases, different methodologies are justified by circumstances, but more often, it just developed that way because monitoring programs have developed in isolation from one another. The National Park Service has launched an ambitious inventory and monitoring program - again in isolation from other programs for the same taxa in the same ecosystem. Meanwhile, among the USGS staff are the leading researchers in monitoring methodology and statistical analysis. The USGS could make an invaluable contribution to resource management and conservation by helping to develop taxon- and habitat- specific monitoring protocols, standard data recording and analytical methods. More than that, what is desperately needed is an ecosystem- or landscape-level monitoring scheme for major groups of taxa that makes scientific sense. The limited amount of on-the-ground level monitoring capability has to be strategically deployed to be sure that there are no critical gaps in geographic or taxonomic coverage.
These are functions that are not filled by the private (academic) research community. It is unlikely that the private research community, which is largely unorganized, could fill such a role.
The goal for USGS, then, should be to find its niche within a larger research matrix. The Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units are an excellent template for that matrix. Having what amounts to a corps of scientists in an ecoregion means not only more quantitative capacity, but also a wider range of expertise and more opportunity for USGS to extend its own range without expanding staff. Further, the organization of the CESUs around
ecoregions makes scientific sense. Like the USGS' own place-based science programs, an ecoregional scientific team can achieve a much more comprehensive assessment and understanding of the component systems of the region. To the extent that USGS is already engaged in the CESU process, it is to be lauded. we encourage USGS to fully participate in the CESUs and to see the CESUs as the norm, rather than as an adjunct to USGS' programs.
If USGS can fill such functions, it may find that even those who question the need for a USGS will have to recognize that USGS really does serve a purpose that is not otherwise filled by the scientific research community.
The gap in meeting research needs
We also encourage USGS to make information transfer and application a high priority. We know that USGS has been hearing the calls for this service from the NGO community, including the Coalition for Science-based Land Management. We know that USGS has been hearing the call for ground-level science application from the land managers and from the Department of Interior management. However, USGS' responses, to date, have been patchwork at best. Research grade scientists are now encouraged to provide technical services and their evaluations are now to include an assessment of this "in service" work. To the extent that such work is actually valued is an open question. Some scientists say that their superiors are, in fact, rewarding such work and others report that their performance reviews do not actually give credit for technical assistance. In any case, asking research grade scientists to routinely undertake and be primarily responsible for technical assistance is inappropriate. Field biologists must spend time in the field, and their field research schedules are dictated by nature. They many not be readily available to come to the aid of a land manager on a timely basis. The expertise needed to address a particular question may not be available in the region - or may be available only from someone stationed at a distant science center or field station. Not only would this increase the travel budgets, which are already limited, but it could also require that the research grade scientist leave a field site during a research season. But the most significant problem with this approach is that the research-grade scientific corps is too small to meet even the basic research needs of the agencies and write the papers required of research-grade scientists, much less provide technical assistance.
Instead, USGS should consider the creation of a technical assistance corps, consisting of non-research grade scientists. Their role would be to search for existing information - in the literature, on databases, and elsewhere - and to interpret that information for the land managers. They would be available for field consultations and might even be stationed in the field, particularly where there are clusters of federal lands.
The need for such a corps is apparent. Not only have the land management agencies asked for this kind of service (Mike Soukup of the National Park Service has been making this suggestion for years), but it is apparent from the kinds of questions land managers add to the list of research needs. When a land manager is asking about the effect of the overabundance of white-tailed deer on understory organisms, or the management of agricultural lands for grassland birds, it is obvious that they simply do not have access to the very substantial bodies of scientific literature on these subjects. Or, if they have access and the time to study it, they may not know how to apply those research findings at the ground-level. Further, the USGS is creating extremely sophisticated electronic resources such as the National Biological Information Infrastructure, which has the potential to be a highly valuable resource management tools. As the 1995 PCAST report pointed out, we have vast quantities of information that we cannot access efficiently. This forces us to re-investigate many questions. With limited funding and a limited population of scientists, and with growing and increasingly urgent demands for information, we cannot afford the luxury of re-investigating certain questions again and again. In addition, much valuable older data is lost if it cannot be retrieved efficiently. However, using a resource of this nature requires both scientific and information science expertise to develop a query that will generate appropriate and useful results. And then, a science interpreter is needed to help the manager use those results in an appropriate manner. It may be that the conditions at a particular refuge or park differ significantly from those where studies were conducted, and management techniques must be adjusted appropriately. In fact, we believe that NBII will not be a useful tool for land management if these services are not provided. It is unrealistic to think that land managers will have the time and expertise to use NBII effectively.
It should go without saying that the technical assistance corps is needed to help land managers identify their research needs. Tinkering with the process by which the bureaus seek research from the USGS has been fruitless. Time and again, both USGS and the bureaus have acknowledged that many land managers do not have sufficient scientific training to identify and prioritize research needs. As a result, the list of needs that USGS is asked to address -even after it has been refined by regional managers - may not really serve to address the management needs of those agencies. The process is further attenuated because the researcher who actually conducts the research may have little or no contact with the managers who requested the research. These problems could be minimized, if not eliminated, if the managers had available to them scientists who could help identify research needs and act as a liaison between the land manager and the researcher. That is not to say that research-grade scientists should avoid contact with managers. However, they should not be primarily responsible for technical assistance.
Finally, there is a need for modelers and statistical analysts to assess monitoring and other data generated by land managers and others, to determine the effects of management regimens. Indeed, this is the touchstone of adaptive resource management. It is one thing for an ICEBIRG conference to say this is needed. It is another to actually accomplish it. If USGS truly wants to meet the science needs of the land and natural resource agencies, it will give serious thought to the creation of a technical assistance corps.
If USGS meets the legitimate complaints of the land and natural resource management agencies with whole-hearted, thoughtful responses, rather than simply fiddling with the existing processes, the USGS may even rid itself of the need to fend off persistent efforts to disband the Biological Resources Division.
Extending capacity through external funding mechanisms
Finally, we would again like to suggest to USGS that it establish more cooperative funding mechanisms and grant programs. Again, USGS' limited research capability cannot meet all the research needs of the federal agencies, much less expand to the state, local, and private level - much as we laud USGS for attempting to do so. Instead, USGS could extend its capacity by making research funding available to outside researchers. We are not suggesting a program like those run by the National Science Foundation, which funds investigator-driven research. Instead, we are suggesting that USGS could meet its research needs with "hired help." For instance, the Requests for Proposals now circulated to USGS biologists would also be open to outside researchers. Not only would this extend USGS' capacity, but there are other potential benefits. For instance, a wider group of proposals might yield more interesting ideas for addressing a particular question. A researcher with expertise not represented in USGS might submit a proposal. The National Institutes of Health might be an appropriate model for USGS. While NIH has a small intramural research staff, most of its funding is extramural. The staff researchers identify research priorities, contract with cooperators in multi-center studies, and conduct limited amounts of their own research.
We join with the many others who have called for the creation of a scientific advisory board for the USGS. The initiation of annual listening sessions is highly laudable, but this should be a continual dialogue, rather than a single day of interaction. As USGS has no doubt come to recognize, the scientific, conservation, management, and academic communities are very supportive of USGS, and would like the opportunity to make a more meaningful and effective contribution. As we prepared these comments, we realized that we have been raising the same concerns and suggestions for some time. We acknowledge that USGS is a large agency that has undergone very substantial restructuring in recent years. We know that change takes time. And, of course, we know that some of the ideas we propose may not be feasible, or may not be the best solution. However - perhaps because of the intermittent nature of these dialogues - we do not see progress in meeting what we perceive to be significant challenges for USGS. As noted above, we have seen some adjustments that attempt to address these challenges, but we have not seen the initiation of the systemic changes that may prove necessary for truly effective resolution.
Secondly, we suggest that USGS continue to develop focused research initiatives that build on national conservation and management programs, such as the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. As a public-private partnership, built on four bird conservation programs that are also public-private partnerships, NABCI is a framework for a scientifically-based, landscape-wide system of conservation efforts at all scales (species, taxon, habitat, ecosytem), for all species in all habitats. As such, it requires a very substantial research effort - one that would be ideally filled by the adaptive resource management model now in development by USGS. Further, NABCI constitutes a program with substantial, broad-based support from the conservation community, natural resource managers, state and local governments, federal agencies, the scientific community, and the private sector. It will be around for a long time. NABCI provides USGS the opportunity to undertake both of the suggestions made above - to provide direction and leadership for science (rather than trying to do all the research itself), and to provide much-needed technical assistance to land and natural resource managers.
We hope these comments are useful to USGS. We appreciate having the opportunity to share our view and ideas with USGS leadership.Rachel Carson Council
We appreciate this opportunity to comment on the work of USGS scientists. Data from the USGS is very special and valuable. It is created outside of involvement with regulations and those being regulated. The studies of water contamination with pesticides and other chemicals are integrated with information about the complete hydrologic system. USGS has the advantage of applying uniform scientific methods for a number of sites across the country so that the results from different geographic regions can be compared. The monitoring of our nation's waters needs to continue and to be expanded.
More information is needed on groundwater and surface water contamination with pesticides. In 1987 it was estimated that the cost to the US for monitoring of wells and groundwater for pesticide contamination was $1.3 billion. We would like to know the cost of such monitoring today. Could we have a current estimate from USGS?
More information is needed on plants that bioaccumulate pesticides and the type of pesticides that they concentrate. We would appreciate having more reliable data on movement of ultra low volume sprays. We would also find useful more data on pesticide levels in fog and how inversion weather conditions affect pesticides applied from planes or trucks.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment and for the important contributions from USGS scientists.
The Wildlife Society appreciates the opportunity to provide ideas about the future roles and opportunities of the US Geological Survey. The suggestions and recommendations provided here, while not exhaustive, identify some key contemporary biological research and management needs that should be considered seriously by USGS. The Wildlife Society is the association of wildlife biologists and managers dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education.
The Society supports the USGS's role of synthesizing a diversity of natural science information and making it available to agencies, policymakers, non-governmental organizations and the public for addressing critical resource issues. To strengthen this role and better serve your customers in the future, we present the following recommendations.
· The USGS should enhance its ability to respond to the research needs of federal and state land management agencies. This will require increased interagency communication, budget flexibility and an effective strategy for prioritizing and responding to customer needs.
· The USGS should continue full funding for the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit Program. This program is the archetype of the working partnership sought by the USGS. The units conduct research used in natural resource decisions, educate future resource professionals and provide technical assistance to interested parties. Maintaining support of this program would meet the NRC report recommendations of strengthening partnerships, using science to address societal needs and balancing data acquisition with information management.
· The USGS should provide adequate funding for its science and technology centers throughout the country. These centers require sufficient resources to recruit and maintain a diverse and experienced staff, as well as to fund research, monitoring and outreach projects. The USGS cannot fulfill its role of integrating science and information in public policy if it cannot ensure the adequacy of its workforce and the quality of its data.
· The USGS should initiate an aggressive gender and ethnic diversity strategy.
In terms of specific scientific problems, The Wildlife Society advances the following recommendations that affect public policy and decision-making.
· The USGS should increase its capability to address declining wildlife populations. Loss of biological diversity, the listing of threatened and endangered species and the myriad causes of species decline are an increasing social concern. In addition, the issue becomes more relevant as agency appropriations decline and citizen lawsuits increase the financial stakes. By enhancing programs such as the Cooperative Wildlife Research
Units, the USGS can play an important role in finding solutions to this problem.
· The USGS should increase its capability to investigate the causes of and solutions to the problems associated with overabundant wildlife populations. Property damage, human/wildlife interactions and nuisance conflicts become more prevalent with expanding human populations and increased development. Devoting greater resources to understanding and resolving these problems will allow the USGS to take a leadership role in an issue with strong social relevance.
· The USGS should investigate how to manage diseases that may be transmitted between wildlife and domesticated animals. Brucellosis, foot and mouth disease, and tuberculosis are some of the diseases that are of major concern.
· The USGS should expand efforts to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of private lands conservation programs associated with the Farm Bill such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
· The USGS should identify appropriate performance measures that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of federal land management activities in conserving wildlife.
Thank you for providing this opportunity for us to present views of wildlife professionals as you evaluate the future role of USGS science in society. We look forward to working with you to ensure our recommendations are considered by the USGS.
U.S. Department of the Interior
The Bureau of Land Management appreciates the opportunity to provide comments regarding the future direction of the USGS.
What is the new century mission of the USGS in meeting societal needs for science?
In priority order, the USGS's mission should be to:
Make existing and new science more readily available to the user. We encourage the USGS to focus on providing the results of scientific investigations in a way that are usable to the manager and specialist. This may require presenting the information in a style that addresses the application and use of the results by managers and specialists.
Emphasize applied science. Assist managers and specialists by identifying and bringing the best and most relevant science to the "decision making table." Many of our decisions need to be made with scientific information that is currently available and cannot wait for new investigations to be completed. Applied science should also recognize short-term investigations (less than 1 year) to fill in information gaps to support resource decision making.
Anticipate future management actions and develop long-term (strategic) science programs designed to predict and address both the fundamental and applied science needs of future land and resource management actions. Coordinate regularly with resource managers to focus efforts and results around themes most likely to be relevant to managers over the long-term.
What are the emerging scientific issues relevant to the mission of the USGS?
We believe that this question can be best addressed by focusing on the emerging management issues that require scientific information to resolve them instead of focusing just on scientific issues. The following are a representation of some of the management issues that the Bureau will be faced with in the future.
Development of sustainable energy resources including fossil fuels and renewable energy sources and delivering the energy to the consumer. This issue is closely tied with work being done by the Department of Energy, and we believe that there is a significant opportunity for collaboration with USGS.
Development of land use practices that are compatible with the protection and recovery of candidate, threatened, and endangered species. The focus should be on the restoration of entire biological communities (i.e., ecosystems) and not on individual species.
Preventing the loss of land productivity and habitat loss due to invasive species. The focus should be on rapid detection and eradication of new populations of invaders, preventing the spread of existing populations, and developing techniques for rapid reclamation of areas following the eradication to prevent reinfestation.
Assisting with the development of new land and resource management methods in response to changing population patterns in the western United States that cause a change in the public's perception of federally managed lands and their uses (a movement from consumptive to non-consumptive values).
Providing information and assistance in understanding problems related to water quality, quantity, and allocation to meet the changing demographics and values of the west.
Helping the Bureau understand the implications of international unrest as it relates to the pubic lands as a source for domestic energy, minerals, and fiber resources.
How can the USGS improve its partnerships and forge new alliances in related science fields of health, medicine, and space?
The USGS should continue its well-established focus on acquiring new knowledge of earth sciences, water sciences, and biological sciences; information important for managing the nation's lands and resources and needed to facilitate sound decisionmaking. Other organizations in the Federal Government have primary responsibility for health, medicine, and space. The USGS should be a cooperator, when appropriate, but not the lead organization for these areas.
How does the USGS achieve a balance between data acquisition and information management, regional studies, fundamental research, and international interests?
First and foremost, listen to your customers carefully. They will express priorities in very clear messages. Each of the four areas are important. The USGS has long been a leader in certain areas such as natural hazards and geology. Focus on these areas of leadership in all four areas that are relevant to the mission of the Department of the Interior - i.e., understanding and managing the Nation's lands and resources. The work that is done in any of the four areas is only valuable if it is relevant to USGS customers' needs. Determining the relevance of the work will dictate how to strike a balance. In other words, those initiatives that are most relevant to the customer should gain priority and those less relevant should be subordinate. USGS customers should determine the relevancy.
Data acquisition and information are very important and valuable especially if in a usable format for the customer. Making data and information more useable to its customers should be of highest priority for the USGS.
Regional studies that address well-defined management issues are critical to land managers. Studies that can be completed and the results provided to the customer in a reasonable time frame should be a cornerstone of the USGS mission.
Fundamental research, while important, should be left largely to the academic community except where the USGS has established itself as a national or worldwide leader in the discipline.
Finally, international activities have long been a foundation activity of the USGS. These should be continued where the USGS is the worldwide leader (i.e., volcanology, seismology, etc.).
Again, we appreciate the opportunity to offer our views regarding the mission of the USGS in the years to come.
U.S. Department of the Interior
The National Park Service values its partnership with USGS, and appreciates the invitation to comment on future roles and opportunities for the USGS at the recent customer listening session. The following summarizes strengths and specific successes of our partnership, summarizes a few NPS concerns, and suggests some mutual steps that might build on our success.
Some strengths of that partnership:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the USGS Customer Listening session held on October 11. We found the meeting to be very informative and would like to take this opportunity to share our comments and recommendations for consideration by the USGS Leadership Team. Our initial comments are organized to correspond to the four questions posed to the participants. Additional comments have been provided on page 5 that address specific data use and access issues.
What is the new century mission of the USGS in meeting societal needs for the science?
Global climate changes
Broad ecosystem changes
Water quality and flow conditions in smaller drainage areas
Re-establish stream gauges where they have been abandoned
Establish more stream gauges in targeted smaller drainage areas
In published glossy paper format
In a variety of formats available for viewing and downloading from the web
All products should be available as hard copy and digital versions (web, download, CD-ROM, etc.).
Consider end user needs for hard copies, PDA versions, CAD versions PC versions, those for handicapped and electronic book versions
Some published products should also be available in non-English version depending on the user demographics.
What are the emerging scientific issues relevant to the mission of the USGS?
The perceived overlap and duplication of effort with other federal agencies, several federal agencies have similar missions, examples follow:
NRCS: To provide leadership in a partnership effort to help people conserve, improve and sustain our natural resources and environment.
USGS: The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological energy and mineral resources and enhance and protect our quality of life. NOTE it could be said that USGS does not manage land but provides science and information for wise management.
USBR: The mission of the BR is to manage develop and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public.
USACE: Provide quality responsive engineering services to the nation including: planning, designing, building and operating water resources and other civil works projects. Designing and managing construction of military facilities for the Army and Airforce and providing design and construction management support for other defense and federal agencies.
BLM: Sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations
USEPA: Protect human health and to safe guard the natural environment - air, water and land upon which life depends.
ARS: Conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agriculture problems of high national priority and provides information access and dissemination to ensure high quality, safe food and to other agricultural products, assess the nutrition needs of Americans, sustain a competitive agricultural economy, enhance the natural resources base and environment, and provide economic opportunities for all citizens, communities, and society as a whole.
CSREES: In cooperation with our partners and customers, CSREES provides the focus to advance a global system of research extension and higher education in the food and agriculture sciences and related environmental and human sciences to benefit people communities and the nation.
USFS: caring for the land and serving people.
Others include NASA and the NWS.
How can the USGS improve its partnerships and forge new alliances in related science fields of health, medicine and space?
Spatial data bases are important in providing information on the occurrences sources amelioration and tracking of health problems and disease.
Develop an applications "bureau" of experienced multi-disciplinary staff who can assist health experts to integrate and extract information from geospatial data analysis.
How does USGS achieve a balance between data acquisition and information management, regional studies, fundamental research, and international interests?
Collect data in places where data are lacking and are needed
Collect data where currently collected to support trending analysis
Interpret data in layman's terms as well as with scientific defensible peer reviewed reports
Improve access to data and interpretations
Integrate geospatial data with multiple thematic products - for example;
Mating the national dams inventory with the reservoir sedimentation data a(RESIS)
Mating SSURGO digital soils map data with digitized geology maps from the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program
In addition to addressing the specific questions above, we would like to also offer the following comments that relate directly to our data production and delivery needs in support of our field operations.
Ideally, USGS would maintain and serve data to users over the Internet rather than CD and or tape. Data would be time stamped and users would thereby know if local data needed to be updated. Presently, NRCS receives thousands of DOQQ's on CD each year from USGS. NRCS maintains a media library of the data as does the Aerial Photography Field Offices of the Farm Services Agency. Consequently the data is stored multiple times within USDA and it is often difficult to identify the most recent products and sources of data.
We strongly encourage USGS to develop seamless data covering broad geographic areas to facilitate use in GIS. NRCS has recently contracted out the process of stripping DRG collars to generate seamless products for internal analysis needs. Though NRCS has done this work, maintaining the products with accurate and uptodate tiles is a challenge. Though we anticipate continued work in this area in order to support our 2,600 field offices, we would strongly encourage USGS to generate and maintain seamless national products, which can be accessed by its many customers. Additional products would include NED, DEM and hydro.
We would encourage USGS to migrate spatial data repositories to seamless national projected coverages in SDE. This would minimize or eliminate the need for users to download data in SDTS, merge and join the data and consequently minimize end user processing.
Though NRCS supports the ability to access data on the USGS net in real-time, we also have a need to download the data for local processing. In these cases the ability to download data greater than 10MB in size would be helpful, as would the ability to re-project the data prior to download.
NRCS encourages USGS to facilitate the development of a regularly maintained federal land ownership layer at a scale of 1:24,000 or smaller.
Again, thank you for this opportunity. We are aware that funding and resources are limited and these are but a few of the many suggestions and recommendations that USGS will receive.
Provide regular (5-year) assessments of global land-cover using Landsat satellite imagery and other relevant datasets.
NOAA-Department of Commerce
I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to provide input to your listening session. My name is Dr. James P. Thomas, senior scientist for the Office of Habitat Conservation of NOAA/NMFS.
Our need is for:
1) seabed habitat characterization and mapping,
2) visualization of these data (3-D and for GIS),
3) understanding and quantification of natural versus anthropogenic effects on seabed habitats, including characterization change over time,
4) help in understanding the linkages between seabed geology and geologic processes, and the distribution and abundance of seabed associated living marine resources,
5) the prediction and identification of vulnerable areas of the seabed to anthropogenic effects,
6) analysis with NOAA that will allow extrapolation of local studies of fishing gear effects to broad areas over which fisheries are managed, and
7) help identifying areas and characteristics of the seabed that should be protected.
Why? The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 which was passed as an amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act has two relevant provisions -- essential fish habitat (EFH) and the charge to minimize to the extent practicable adverse effects of fishing activities on EFH.
Regarding this matter, we are conducting a joint symposium with the USGS on the Effects of Fishing Activities on Benthic Habitats in November 2002, in Tampa, Florida. Many of NOAA's and USGS' researchers will present results at the symposium. Dr. Peter Barnes (USGS/Menlo Park) and I are co-conveners. Dr. Suzette Kimball (USGS/Leetown) is on the Steering Committee and Dr. Gary Brewer (USGS/Leetown) and Dr. Page Valentine (USGS/Woods Hole) are on the Program Committee. The
USGS is supporting the symposium financially with us. The symposium is sponsored by the American Fisheries Society, the Ecological Society of America, USGS, and NOAA and will be international in scope. The USGS has developed an excellent home page for the symposium, well worth examining later this month.
NOAA's role is to develop information and understanding necessary for the management of human activities to conserve resources for their sustainable use. As a consequence we also must ensure that ecosystem function and services are maintained to have sustainable resources.
NOAA and USGS have complementary strengths. NOAA has ships as well as technical and research personnel with 30+ years of biological stock assessment experience over the Continental Shelves and Slopes of the U.S. The USGS has truly outstanding geologic, biologic and mapping expertise and personnel in seabed characterization and data analysis and visualization as well as research capability and knowledge of seabed physical and biological processes.
NOAA and USGS also have a joint initiative for substrate studies and research related to benthic habitats that we are presently operating with you on an ad hoc basis. Dr. Andy Kemmerer, our former Office Director and now retired, briefed you on that initiative at last year's listening session. We would be happy to brief you in more detail at your convenience. Regarding this initiative -- I do wish to draw attention to the outstanding work that Dr. Page Valentine is doing with our Northeast Fisheries Science Center over Georges Bank. NOAA is providing the shiptime and biological sampling. The USGS is doing the geological characterization (data collection and analysis). We have been able to link the cod spawning areas to the gravel areas over the Northeast Peak of Georges Bank, a very important understanding for the management of these stocks. The geology is a major factor controlling the distribution of these spawning stocks.
I propose that NOAA and USGS put together a joint initiative well beyond what we have done, heretofore, around the country on an ad hoc basis. The effort has never gotten to the highest levels in a coordinated way. NOAA's effort failed at the OMB level. Jointly, we have briefed several of you on the initiative in detail. I believe we need each other's help. We have different OMB examiners and appropriations committees. A coordinated front is needed. Heretofore, NOAA has gone after dollars to support its part of the initiative and USGS has done the same. However, it is the combined strengths of our agencies that are needed to gain the necessary understanding for appropriate management of our natural resources.
From 1983-89 the outer portion of the U.S. EEZ was surveyed (the GLORIA data) as part of a joint NOAA - USGS effort. The Continental Slope and Shelf shoreward of 500 to 200m was never surveyed, except for very small areas in different years, often with different methods. While the Gloria data are good, they provide a very coarse picture of bottom environments in deep water. Since Gloria methods have greatly improved. However, cost of collection and analysis of higher resolution benthic data have significantly increased. More importantly, the shallow (less than 500m) area, unsurveyed by Gloria is most important for fisheries. In particular, we need the understanding and linkage of biology and geology in this area. NOAA would like to work with USGS management on such a joint initiative.
NOAA-Department of Commerce
The National Weather Service (NWS) has shared a very productive relationship with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for more than 30 years. The USGS mission to provide measurements of height and flow for rivers and streams supports the NWS mission to provide river and flood forecasts at over 4,000 locations on major rivers and small streams.
The NWS has a need to infuse new science into its hydrologic services program and operations. This is occurring through the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services (AHPS) program. The AHPS product suite includes: hydrographs, providing near term river height and flow forecasts; probabilistic forecasts, providing graphical forecasts from days to months into the future; and flood inundation maps, providing a graphical display of forecasted flood areas. To ensure success for AHPS, the NWS needs USGS data and wants to cooperate with water-related research.
The NWS and USGS have partnered in both domestic and international projects. A recent example of this type of activity is with technology transfer for Central America reconstruction following Hurricane Mitch. The NWS proposes to continue joint international projects with the USGS.
In summary, the NWS seeks a stronger, better defined partnership with the USGS to increase support of NWS river forecast system research, development, and technology transfer activities and to reduce potential conflicts.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Provide regular (5-year) assessments of global land-cover using Landsat satellite imagery and other relevant datasets.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
It is a pleasure to appear before you today. I am Dr. Ken Olden, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). It is our mission to reduce the burden of environmentally associated diseases. Diseases with an environmental component include cancer, birth defects, infertility, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson's disease, and respiratory diseases such as asthma. Our mission, then, is quite broad. Fulfilling our mission is virtually important because identifying and eliminating environmental causes of diseases results in early prevention, thus providing cost-effective ways of ensuring the health of our citizens.
Human health and human disease arise from the complex interaction of our environment, our underlying susceptibilities to environmental exposures, and the age or stage of life at which these exposures occur. Environmental factors include industrial and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of combustion, pharmaceuticals, industrial products, natural compounds such as earth metals and nutrients in our food, and lifestyle and socioeconomic factors.
One of the major environmental challenges we face is that of exposure assessment - that is, defining exactly what chemicals are in our environment. This information is vital in helping the NIEHS determine what chemicals need to be assessed for human health effects and, just as importantly, what combinations of chemicals people might commonly be exposed to. An example of how this information can be used lies in the field of Parkinson Disease research. Recent twin studies have shown that environmental factors account for the majority of late-onset Parkinson Disease. There has also been evidence that some herbicides can adversely affect the dopaminergic system, the part of the nervous system that is affected in Parkinson Disease.
An NIEHS-supported researcher was studying the herbicide, paraquat, which acts adversely n the dopamine system. By looking at a USGS database on pesticide usage, she noticed that paraquat shared and extensive geographical overlap in use with other agrochemicals, particularly certain fungicides. When paraquat and the fungicide, maneb, were jointly administered to mice, the combined exposure decreased motor activity, increase dopamine turnover, and reduced other measures of dopamine effect at levels far greater than when the same chemicals were administered singly. That fact that combined exposures, such as would be found in real-world applications, can potentiate the adverse effects on the dopamine system raises important possibilities for multiple environmental risk factors being associated with Parkinson Disease development, and provides important information to better direct our future research.
This type of information is invaluable to the NIEHS in designing relevant epidemiologic and laboratory studies that can determine the types of effects that can arise from environmental exposures. The types of databases we need include information on pesticide usage, ground water contamination, fate and transport of chemicals in water, air, and soil, and geographic information systems of exposure. Ideally we would like to see geographic exposure systems that could be overlaid with geographic disease incidence data, providing clues to possible environment-disease connections. These are areas in which the biomedical community and the USGS could productively collaborate.
Currently we have a number of useful collaborations with the USGS. In the area of breast cancer, the NIEHS and National Cancer Institute (NCI) are using USGS databases to model historic exposures to pesticides and PCBs and determine their possible influence on increased breast cancer incidence in Long Island.
We have also, under the auspices of the National Toxicology Program (NTP), used the expertise of the USGS in helping design studies to address potential human health effects from exposures to toxins excreted by blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria.
Our grantees, particularly those funded under the Superfund Basic Research Program, have made extensive and productive use of USGS databases in exploring the distribution, migration, and ultimate consequences of common toxicants such as arsenic, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). For example, one Superfund grantee at Mt. Sinai University is collaborating with the USGS on the multiagency Hudson River Estuary Project. The Hudson River flows through a highly populated area and has had multiple industries in its basin since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. These two conditions have inevitably led to a highly polluted state for areas of their river basin. The multiagency coalition is monitoring contaminants and sediment in the Hudson River. Tasks have been efficiently divided, with the USGS doing monitoring and analysis and Mt. Sinai providing quality assurance and quality control for this project.
Another example comes from our superfund program's research on arsenic in drinking water. Dartmouth University is involved in the development and support of the New Hampshire Arsenic Consortium. This Consortium brings together university scientists and the New Hampshire Departments of Environmental Sciences and Health and Human Services and the USGS. Formation of this group has led to increased communication among the agencies and has resulted in the design and undertaking of inter-agency projects to collect data to support risk assessments. The Arsenic Coalition has successfully raised the level of awareness of the issue of arsenic in drinking water, resulting in greater testing of private wells by the public and enhanced awareness of potential health impact. Another arsenic research program where one of our grantees is working with the USGS comes from Columbia University, where arsenic in drinking water is being studied in Bangladesh, Maine and Connecticut. All of these efforts will be critical in the ongoing debate regarding the risk assessment for arsenic in drinking water.
The NIEHS fully intends to expand its collaborations with the USGS in the future. For example, we are meeting this month to discuss collaborations on U.S./Mexico border environmental health issues. We see great potential in accessing the USGS expertise in biology, microbiology, wildlife health, ecology, geology, hydrology geography, remote sensing, and geographic information systems. Of particular value to us is the fact that USGS can provide data that are consistent over large spatial and temporal scales. Retrospectively recreating exposures, which we are often called upon to do, is made infinitely easier by the resources available at the USGS.
The USGS offers a strong resource for the biomedical research community. It is my prediction that our need for this resource will increase as we move into an era of multidisciplinary research where numerous scientific fields must be brought to bear on environmental health issues. I have been encouraged by the willingness of the USGS to help us in the past ad look forward o even more collaborations in the future.
The Department of State interacts extensively with the USGS, both as a producer of data for USGS use, and as a consumer of USGS analyses and services. Our annual collaboration on the Resources Reporting Officer course for Foreign Service Officers presents an invaluable opportunity to forge ties to several Sections of the USGS, to establish contacts with the private sector, and to familiarize State officers with key aspects of natural resources and commodities. Our officers overseas and in Washington routinely provide information and analyses to USGS regional and commodity specialists. These data have at times proven essential to accurate analyses of developments within foreign countries and in international commodities markets. State Department officers likewise benefit greatly from USGS expertise in these areas, and thereby better understand, interact with, and influence foreign interlocutors. Perhaps most importantly, close and continuing State Department/USGS collaboration allows US Embassies abroad to build stronger ties to, and improve technical capacity in foreign countries by facilitating training, seminars, visits, and exchanges of data and interpretations between host government and USGS scientists and policymakers.
One of the cornerstones of State's relations with USGS, and in particular with the USGS International Minerals Section, is the Resources Reporting Officer Course, held for two weeks each year in Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado. The primary aim of this course is to prepare Foreign Service Economic Officers to understand, analyze, and influence developments in the natural resources sector. An important element of this responsibility is the opportunity to advocate on behalf of U.S. investors in natural-resource-related activities abroad. By providing both knowledge of the sector and contact with industry experts, the course prepares officers to advocate successfully for U.S. interests.
This course continues to be important because energy and natural resources security touches every aspect of the U.S. and global economies. Furthermore, primary natural resource production remains a key component in the economies of many developing countries and economies in transition. Understanding the physical and commercial realities of the natural resources and energy sectors assists economic and commercial officers in better appreciating the scope of the multi-million dollar investment and export promotion opportunities these sectors offer the U.S. companies. By placing Foreign Service Officers on the frontlines with U.S. companies on their home soil, the course gives officers perspective on the U.S. commercial and economic interests we serve abroad.
More broadly, this course also explores externalities of resource sectors: environmental impacts; effects of operations on local communities; revenue management; corporate social responsibility; anti-corruption; and contribution to sustainable development. Conversations on these topics provide a chance for USGS and State Department officials to exchange views on these important themes, and also provide an entree into discussions of other important USGS operations. In recent courses officers have met not only with the International Minerals Section, but also with USGS experts in environment, specific commodities and sectors, seismic research and monitoring, and disaster preparedness and prevention. This approach has already yielded dividends. Officers have a better appreciation for the many activities USGS undertakes, and are therefore better able to represent the USGS abroad, and to suggest exchanges or other joint activities with the USGS to the host country governments.
This brings me to my next important point: the close ties between State Department officers in the field and the USGS International Minerals Section's experts. This has proven to be a mutually beneficial relationship, with each side contributing crucial expertise and data. A few recent examples serve to illustrate the breadth of these activities:
Officers don't just provide input to USGS, they also receive analyses and other products from USGS, which they can use to better understand and interpret developments in their respective countries. A number of U.S. Embassies, most recently those in Australia and Costa Rica, have been in contact with the International Minerals Section of USGS seeking such support. Many others benefit from published IMS products, such as the benchmark Mineral Commodities Summaries that are available on the Internet or are shipped in bound form to posts.
Finally, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the goodwill generated by sharing these data and analyses with experts and senior-level government officials overseas. State Department officers work closely with USGS to arrange data sharing, technical advice, visits by experts, and training for host country officials. Such efforts improve the capability, efficiency, and transparency of regulatory and other natural resources agencies abroad. This not only directly benefits the country itself, but indirectly benefits the United States as well, through higher quality data and better statistical reporting. Free flow of data can improve the investment climate by lowering investor risk, and helps stabilize markets overall. In some cases, technical assistance --such as with landslide, volcano, and earthquake programs -- can also benefit the environment, and even save lives.
I would close with the following thought. The U.S. remains highly dependent on many imported commodities for its national security and prosperity. These resources must be acquired through commodities markets that are increasingly international, dynamic, and competitive. The Department of Defense, in its decision to liquidate much of the Defense National Stockpile of Strategic and Critical Minerals, recognized this evolution of commodities markets towards a more open, trading-based regime. However, while soundly anchored in economic principles, that decision made the United States dependent upon the smooth functioning of these commodities markets for its survival. As with all markets, smooth functioning of the commodities markets is predicated on all stakeholders having access to all available information. Without it, the U.S. could be subject to poor purchasing decisions, declining profits, price volatility, or worse. That is why the work carried out by the USGS International Minerals Section to provide this information -- by collecting and analyzing production, consumption, and other market data -- is more crucial now than ever.
I wish to thank the USGS for its strong record of support for USG efforts overseas. The Department of State looks forward to continuing our work with USGS in all of these areas. Thank you.
As the water monitoring coordinator for EPA Region 7, it is my job to be familiar with and work with our states on water monitoring issues. Having done so for over 20 years, I feel I can summarize the problem with water monitoring as, "We cannot comprehensively and confidently characterize the condition of the water resources in our states." An important root cause of this problem (but not the only one) is the fact that the states and EPA have limited resources devoted to monitoring. While investments in monitoring by EPA and the states clearly need to be made, I see no greater potential to solve the above stated monitoring problem than establishing a true monitoring partnerships with USGS at the national level. It is in fact this potential, that drove my own interest and participation in the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC). I therefore, welcome and am excited to have the opportunity to provide these comments to this "listening session".
Our water monitoring strategy in EPA Region 7 is to create state and Regional monitoring partnerships which, are focused on solving this monitoring problem. These partnerships include all interested parties including and especially USGS. However, despite some Regional successes we've had in creating these partnerships, our success in attempting to partner with USGS has been rather limited. I believe the primary reason for this limited success is due to preset and therefore somewhat inflexible work loads, monitoring objectives and the subsequent funding restrictions imposed by the national monitoring programs such as NAWQA which, are not coordinated at a national level with EPA monitoring objectives. This inflexibility does not permit the USGS state and district offices have to have the freedom to create and/or participate to a significant extent in comprehensive Regional or state driven monitoring partnerships even though the two monitoring efforts may have very similar interests. Consequently and alternatively, the USGS offices are frequently limited to participating in monitoring partnerships as a contractor rather than as a true partner.
I believe the creation of a joint set of national monitoring objectives between EPA and USGS is the way to create the overall vision, work flow and flexibility to permit the states, EPA and USGS to all work together to solve this monitoring problem. These objectives can be very basic in nature (although admittedly their execution would be complicated) but, we need to look no further than the Clean Water Act to derive them
(e.g.,characterize the condition of all waters, list all impaired waters, protect biological integrity). Additionally, I also suggest that the most relevant spatial scale for these joint objectives is at the watershed (or HUC) scale since management decisions should ultimately be made at this scale.
Lastly, I'd like to bring to your attention that a couple of the original recommendations of the Interagency Task Force on Monitoring (ITFM) (the predecessor to the current NWQMC) was, "better integration of water quality monitoring activities" and, "an establishment of a coordination partnership that links organizations at national and regional levels." At next year's NWQMC meeting in Madison, WI, we will honor Elizabeth Fellows, one of the ITFM founders. I submit to you that the best way to honor Elizabeth is for all of us to work together to achieve those recommendations and fulfill the original vision and purpose of the ITFM. In my opinion, construction of a set of joint national monitoring objectives between EPA and USGS would do a lot to make that happen.
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