The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) encourages Congress to
provide the United States Geological Survey (USGS) with at least $1.3 billion for fiscal
year (FY) 2009. From this amount, we encourage you to provide at least $230 million for
the programs and functions of the Biological Resources Discipline (BRD).

The NSC Alliance is a nonprofit association that supports natural science
collections, their human resources, the institutions that house them, and their research
activities for the benefit of science and society. Our members are part of an international
community of museums, botanical gardens, herbariums, universities and other institutions
that house natural science collections and utilize them in research, exhibitions, academic
and informal science education, public service, service to governmental entities such as
public health, agriculture, homeland security, defense, natural resource conservation, and
outreach activities for the betterment of society.

The USGS provides independent research, data, and assessments needed by
public and private sector decision-makers. A unique combination of biological,
geographical, geological, and hydrological research programs enable USGS scientists to
utilize innovative interdisciplinary research techniques to answer important questions.
For instance, USGS data are essential to informing our understanding of how species and
ecological systems may respond to climate change and how ecological systems may be
able to help ameliorate the effects of environmental change. Moreover, the USGS collects
data that other federal agencies and nongovernmental scientists do not collect. We cannot
afford to sacrifice this information; rather, we should increase our investments in this
work for it is vital to scientific, social, and commercial advancement.

Natural resource managers demand reliable, relevant, and timely information. The
Biological Informatics Program develops and applies innovative technologies and
practices to the management of biological data, information, and knowledge. For
instance, the NSC Alliance has worked with USGS personnel to try to identify barriers to
the digitization of data associated with the tens of millions of specimens in natural
science collections. Such specimens become increasingly valuable each year as new
techniques permit the vast storehouse of information locked in these specimens to be
accessed for scientific research. These efforts offer the potential for USGS and academic
researchers to use these data to improve our understanding of the distribution and habitat
requirements of species, thus improving our ability to efficiently and effectively develop
conservation and management policies.

Increased funding for the USGS would enable the Biological Informatics Program
to continue on-going activities and begin to implement initiatives that the resource
management and research communities have identified as priorities. For example, the
National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) program within the Biological
Informatics office provides scientists and managers access to existing data. In the
President’s FY 2009 budget request, NBII was cut by $2.9 million. This cut will have a
significant negative impact on this important program. Full funding for NBII would
permit the establishment of a more interconnected and accessible information system and
would provide for the continued operation of important efforts, such as the National
Framework for Early Detection, Rapid Assessment, and Rapid Response to Invasive
Species (EDDR). The National EDDR framework would assist scientists and resource
managers in correctly identifying invasive species, which are estimated to cost the United
States $138 billion each year in health care, lost income, and environmental
consequences.

USGS scientists work collaboratively and are vital members of the research
community. Through offices and science centers located in every state and through
partnerships with more than 2,000 federal, state, local, tribal, and private organizations,
the USGS has built the capacity to leverage additional research expertise. For example,
through the Cooperative Research Units program USGS scientists are stationed at many
universities. This proximity to academic researchers heightens the intellectual and
technical resources devoted to answering biological and natural resource questions.
Moreover, Cooperative Research Units are a vital component of our nation’s education
and training infrastructure, helping to develop the skills that graduate students need to
become the natural resource professionals that government agencies require.

Biological science programs within the USGS gather long-term data not available
from other sources. Such data have contributed in a fundamental manner to our
understanding of bird migratory patterns and the status and dynamics of biological
populations, and have improved our understanding of how ecosystems function. This
array of research expertise not only serves the core missions of the Department of the
Interior, but also contributes to management decisions made by other agencies and
private sector organizations. In short, we need to increase our investments in these
important research activities.

The USGS is uniquely positioned to address many of the nation’s biological and
environmental challenges, including energy independence, climate change, water quality,
endangered species, introduced pest species, emerging diseases, and conservation of
biological diversity. USGS research in biology and ecosystem science provides data on
the potential impacts to ecosystems that could result from global climate change or from
particular land management practices. Additional studies conducted by the USGS related
to global change indicate that sea-level rise will continue to impact coastal areas. These
studies will provide critical data for resource managers as they develop adaptive
management strategies for restoration and long-term use of the nation’s natural resources,
including its coastlines.

Funding for the USGS has remained flat for nearly a decade. The situation is even
more critical when the budget is adjusted for inflation. The President’s FY 2009 budget
request for the USGS is $969 million, $38 million below the FY 2008 enacted budget and
more than $6 million below the FY 2008 operating plan. Despite inadequate budget
requests from the present and prior Administrations, Congress has demonstrated its
recognition of the importance of USGS science by restoring proposed cuts. In response,
the USGS has made every effort to be responsible stewards of public funds and has
sought to leverage its limited human and financial resources to the greatest extent
possible.

There is growing concern from within the government and from outside that
funding for the USGS must improve if it is to continue to serve its mission. Without an
increased investment in USGS science, core missions and national priorities will suffer.
Thus, any effort that Congress can make to fundamentally improve funding for the USGS
will be appreciated.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request.
To download a copy please click here: Senate Testimony for USGS