08/05/2011 - THE ENVIRONMENT
Success for Caribbean Effort
The Campaign to End Overfishing in the Southeast recently won a major victory with a decision made by the Caribbean Fishery Management Council. The organization unanimously approved new rules to establish annual catch limits and accountability measures, such as giving the regional administrator the authority to limit fishing in season, for all 35 species of conch, spiny lobster and finfish that are at critically low population levels. This is a big conservation milestone for a region with the most severe documented overfishing problem in the world. The campaign worked closely with the Virgin Islands Conservation Society to demonstrate support for the new rules from some of the largest hotels and dive shops and from local residents—including schoolchildren who drew pictures to show the Council what healthy fish populations mean to them. An op-ed making the case for the new rules, coauthored by senior policy associate Sera Drevenak, a St. Croix native and the society’s executive director, ran in nearly every paper in the region.
The Western Australia state government declared four new conservation reserves, covering approximately 1.3 million acres, in the state’s great western woodlands. This region forms the world’s largest intact temperate woodland ecosystem and has significant global conservation value, with many locally endemic species. The Wild Australia
program’s active engagement with the state government and the mining interests directly resulted in an increase in the size of these declared reserves and the speed with which the government’s decision was made.
Fish Farming Evaluation
With support from the Lenfest Ocean Program
and in collaboration with Pew’s Aquaculture Standards Project
, researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia produced the first global assessment of the environmental effects of marine fish farming
, using the Global Aquaculture Performance Index’s 10 criteria to assess and score environmental impacts. The analysis showed that some of the most economically efficient production practices, such as those used to farm salmon, result in significant environmental degradation at large scales of production.
Ending Overfishing in the South Atlantic
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke gave final approval to a plan to rebuild the severely depleted red snapper population
. The recovery plan includes a moratorium on fishing for red snapper in federal waters from North Carolina to Florida, and it closes 4,800 square miles of ocean where red snapper are most often caught accidentally as fishermen target other species.
U.S. Arctic Program Report on Oil Spills
The U.S. Arctic Program
released a report, Oil Spill Response in the U.S. Arctic Ocean: Unexamined Risks, Unacceptable Consequences
. The analysis is the most comprehensive yet on the challenges of preventing and containing spills along the nation’s northernmost coast. It provides a detailed accounting of how oil spill response plans fail to account for the Arctic’s harsh conditions and remote location. To prevent a disaster in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas, the Pew Environment Group recommended a number of reforms, including comprehensive research on the Arctic marine environment, tailoring spill response to conditions there and enhanced review and oversight of oil and gas drilling. The report’s release was aimed at providing scientifically sound information to government, industry and the public and at guiding the work of two influential commissions: the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the National Ocean Council, both of which are conducting hearings and discussions.
Wilderness on Congress’ Agenda
The Campaign for America’s Wilderness
and its conservation advocacy group partners have succeeded in recruiting sponsors from both political parties to introduce 15 bills in Congress
, which together will permanently protect as a part of the National Wilderness Protection System nearly 1.9 million acres across California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state. Seven of these measures have been moved to markup after having been the subject of Senate subcommittee hearings. With names like Devil’s Staircase, Sleeping Bear Dunes, the Sapphires, Bull Gulch and the Boulder-White Clouds, the areas in these bills include lush old growth forests, rugged cliffs, extinct volcanoes, towering sand dunes, cascading waterfalls, desert grasslands and colorful wildflower meadows.
Win for Oceans North Canada Campaign
Canadian Environment Minister John Baird announced that Ottawa has begun the formal process of designating Lancaster Sound
, a biologically rich region at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, as a national marine conservation area. This announcement was a major step forward for the Oceans North Canada
campaign, which has worked closely with Inuit organizations to build substantial public support for what would be the Arctic’s first national marine park.
THE ECONOMYAnalysis Examines Plans for Fiscal Reforms
The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform
released Getting Back in the Black
, which recommends that policy makers adopt measures to help stabilize the federal debt by establishing fiscal targets, creating automatic budgetary triggers and increasing the transparency of budgetary information and procedures, an idea advanced in the commission’s first report, Red Ink Rising. The Peterson-Pew Commission, a partnership of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Pew and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, has convened preeminent budget experts to make recommendations for how best to improve the nation’s fiscal future.
Energy Subsidies Revealed
published its examination of government spending in the energy sector
, which finds that although the federal role is significant, the amount of money invested in this area is considerably less than other sectors—about $25 billion in fiscal year 2009, or $212 per household. The project also discovered that federal grants to the energy sector quadrupled to over $18 billion in fiscal year 2009, due in large part to stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Likewise, tax expenditures for the energy sector have been growing, with a much larger proportion going to renewable and alternative fuels than fossil fuels.
Program Tracks Tax Spending
released Pew’s Tax Expenditure Database
. This first-of-its-kind online, searchable database allows users to easily view specific tax expenditures from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Joint Committee on Taxation and, in many cases, make side-by-side comparisons of different government estimates of the same tax expenditure. Pew received positive feedback about the database from the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration and the chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation.
HEALTHSymposium on Drug Safety
The Pew Prescription Project
hosted a roundtable conference on improving the safety of the U.S. drug supply. Participants included pharmaceutical manufacturers, retail pharmacy representatives, industry trade associations, medical associations and consumer groups, as well as representatives from the Food and Drug Administration, the Government Accountability Office, state boards of pharmacy, and the U.S. Pharmacopeia, an agency that sets standards for prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Results of the meeting will be incorporated into an upcoming paper by the Pew Health Group, entitled After Heparin: Protecting Consumers from the Risks of Substandard and Counterfeit Drugs
New Funding for Health-Impact Study
On the heels of a new $2.6 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Pew Health Group’s Health Impact Project
successfully launched its second call for proposals
. The grant will fund up to eight organizations in developing a health impact assessment, which is a study that can help policy makers and community members identify and address the potential, and often-overlooked, health implications of policy proposals in a broad range of sectors, including agriculture, urban planning, transportation and natural resource development. In 2009, the foundation awarded Pew $7.2 million to establish the Health Impact Project and fund 11 organizations to conduct health impact assessments.
IN THE STATESCalifornia Designs Creative New Early Learning Model
Before leaving office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill requiring all children who enter kindergarten to be 5 years of age. The measure moves the date by which children must turn 5 to enter kindergarten from December 2 to September 1. The legislation will also create “transitional kindergarten,” a program for children with fall birthdays, who will be too young to enter kindergarten under the new law. Pre-K Now
’s advocacy partners, Preschool California, contributed to this significant policy victory, which will provide 120,000 four-year-olds with high-quality early learning, including approximately 49,000 English-language learners and 74,000 who attend Title I schools—those with large concentrations of low-income students.
Pew Home Visiting Initiative
The Pew Center on the States launched the Pew Home Visiting Inventory
, a Web-based snapshot of home visiting programs, models and funding in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. States made available $1.36 billion to voluntary home visiting programs in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. Policy makers now have a much-needed account of those home visiting investments and program strategies.
Report Details State Tax-Estimate Errors
The Pew Center on the States team released a report with the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government that examined state estimates for three major revenue sources
—income taxes, sales taxes and corporate taxes—from 1987 to 2009, a span that takes in three recessions and three periods of economic growth. The report’s key finding: during downturns, when it matters more than ever for states to get it right, more states have not only gotten it wrong, but also made larger errors.
Smoothing the Path for Voters
The Election Initiatives
team worked with 19 states and the District of Columbia to give voters easier access to official election information
, such as polling place locations and directions, through innovative tools available online and accessible through Web-enabled smartphones. These tools were used more than 10 million times before the November 2 elections. The campaign is continuing outreach to other states, with the goal of having at least 40 states as partners by the 2012 elections.
Success for Dental Health
In a major win for the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign
, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) recently signed into law three bills that will improve the dental health of the state’s children. These measures will enable more kids to receive dental sealants and fluoride varnish treatments. The most significant achievement is the new law mandating that communities with 5,000 or more residents provide optimally fluoridated drinking water to prevent tooth decay.
PHILADELPHIAPhiladelphians’ Views of the City and Its Police
In two reports, the Philadelphia Research Initiative
published the results of its third annual benchmark poll measuring Philadelphians’ outlook on their city. The first survey reported a downward drift in residents’ attitudes about Philadelphia
, reflected in lower approval ratings for the city’s overall direction, specific services and the quality of life in the neighborhoods. The second report found that residents have considerable respect for the Philadelphia police
. But pluralities of African Americans and young people do not think the police use good judgment in implementing the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
New Pew Arts Fellows
Through Pew Fellowships in the Arts, the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage
has announced 12 new fellows
. This year’s recipients, including six first-time applicants to the program, work in a variety of artistic disciplines, from classical Arab music and tap dance to architectural design and jewelry making.