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Ellen Paul

USGS Biological Survey Unit may escape the chopping block

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This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 11 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including Ornithology Exchange and the Ornithological Council!


Over the past several months, scientific organizations, including the American Ornithological Society and the Ornithological Council, have expressed concern and objected to the planned closure of the USGS Biological Survey Unit, housed at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian. The planned closure was premised on the FY18 budget proposed by the Administration which called for drastic cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. Every agency was told to determine how it would meet these drastic reductions, including program closures. The USGS Ecosystems program marked the Biological Survey Unit, among others, for closure. The American Ornithological Society joined with the American Society of Mammalogists in protesting this plan, via a letter published in SCIENCE. The Ornithological Council and other scientific organizations voiced objections to USGS leadership.


Nonetheless, the Ecosystems program initiated actual measures to close the program and re-locate the staff. Meanwhile, the Ornithological Council continued to protest, pointing out that no actual budget cuts had yet occurred. Indeed, a few weeks ago, a budget resolution was enacted that raised non-defense discretionary spending caps by more than $100 billion. 


The Omnibus appropriations bill for FY18 (what's left of it) that is likely to include a small increase (about 1%) for USGS. No decrease.*** 


Another plea to the Ecosystems leadership pointing out that there would likely be no decrease brought a positive response! The Ornithological Council was informed that if funds are in fact available, the Biological Survey Unit WILL be restored!


***This is a very "top-line" number. What Congress appropriates to any particular agency does not necessarily translate into an increase for each unit of the agency or for every program. The next stage in the process is called a "current year plan" in which the appropriated funds are actually apportioned within the agency. 


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