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Lawmaker, scientists challenge Trump officials’ push to disband two key advisory boards

Greg Nash

A California lawmaker along with a group of former committee advisors are challenging the White House’s recent decision to terminate two federal advisory boards that oversee species.

In separate letters sent to the White House and Commerce Department on Thursday, Rep. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) and a group of scientists and academics asked the Trump administration to reconsider eliminating the National Invasive Species Council and the Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee, respectively.

Both committees had been advising the Interior and Commerce departments for more than a decade. The agencies first confirmed the end of the councils to The Hill earlier this week.{mosads}

In a letter to the White House, Harder urged President Trump’s director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland to reconsider the decision to end the National Invasive Species Council  “given the importance of this council for combating invasive species.”

Harder warned in particular that losing the council could have a detrimental effect on his district’s efforts to fight the nutria, a large invasive rodent population overrunning parts of California.

“The ramifications of undermining or slowing down this effort could be costly for the state and federal government. This is an extreme situation,” he wrote. 

“We require the full force of all federal partners in this fight. Disbanding the NISC [National Invasive Species Council] when we face such an imminent threat is imprudent.”

In a separate letter sent to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, 30 former members of the Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee wrote to express their “shock and disappointment” at the move to eliminate the panel and asked for the decision to be reversed.

“The Committee has been reauthorized every two years by successive administrations, including this one just two years ago. We urge you to reconsider this ill-advised decision and to reinstate the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee immediately,” the former members, made up of scientists, academics and others, wrote in the letter.

Members were given only one day’s notice that the committee’s charter was not being renewed, and said they were offered no explanation.

The Commerce Department said the decision to end the council followed a “comprehensive review” of all of the agency’s advisory panels “in an effort to use government resources more efficiently.”

“The Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee provides unique and irreplaceable stakeholder perspectives informing federal, state, tribal and local MPAs, in every region of the United States,” the group of former members wrote. “Why would the federal government unilaterally decide to eliminate input from these national experts?”

The advisors warned that the findings of the group could not be “silenced” without putting marine ecosystems at risk.

“This proven, trusted and unique stakeholder forum cannot be replicated easily, nor can it be arbitrarily silenced without placing the nation’s most treasured ocean ecosystems, and the economies they support, in jeopardy,” the group wrote.

Commerce Department did not offer any new comment. The White House did not immediately return requests for comment.

Tags advisory boards Commerce Department Council Donald Trump Interior Department invasive species marine protected areas NOAA Science White House Wilbur Ross

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