By Puneet Kollipara – ScienceInsider – March 3, 2015

The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as this week to approve two controversial, Republican-backed bills that would change how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science and scientific advice to inform its policies. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups are pushing back, calling the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry. White House advisers today announced that they will recommend that President Barack Obama veto the bills if they reach his desk in their current form. For full story, click here.

Contact: Justin Fritscher – USDA – February 26, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments on its interim final rule for the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), designed to help producers protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. "Since 2009, USDA has worked with producers and private landowners to enroll a record number of acres in conservation programs. This interim final rule takes into account recommendations from agricultural landowners and conservation stakeholders about how to better streamline and enhance conservation easement processes," Vilsack said. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers ACEP, a voluntary program created in the 2014 Farm bill to protect and restore critical wetlands on private and tribal lands through the wetland reserve easement component. ACEP also encourages farmers, ranchers and non-industrial private forest landowners to keep their private and tribal land in agricultural use through the agricultural land easement component. ACEP also conserves grasslands, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. For full news release, click here.

By Brandon Loomis and Mark Henle – – February 27, 2015 – Video

Black sand gurgled like a mud volcano from the bottom of Clay Springs, pushed aside by crystalline water rising to the desert's surface. Rancher Tom Baker stood in the marshy pasture beside one of the few oases that have kept his family ranching cattle across the Utah-Nevada line just downhill from Great Basin National Park. Cows romped and chewed in the green island surrounded by a sea of brittle brown greasewood. Baker shook his head in disgust. "To think you're going to take all the water out of the ground (to build) a few more blocks in Las Vegas," he said, practically spitting out his words. The urban Southwest has a water problem, and residents of this barely populated valley fear they'll be among the first casualties. For full story and to view video, click here.

Matthew Walk –  Nature –  February 27, 2015

In the southwestern United States, where years of drought are leading water managers to consider drastic measures such as desalination and cloud seeding, entrepreneurs have proposed reviving a water-saving technique that was tried and abandoned half a century ago. They propose to stretch dwindling water supplies by slowing down evaporation from reservoirs with a surface barrier of cheap, non-toxic, biodegradable chemicals just one molecule thick — two-millionths of a millimetre. The technology is far from proven, but it showed some potential in field tests in Texas last year. For full story, click here.

By Sabrina Eaton – –  February 24, 2015 –  Video

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation that orders the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fight the toxic algal blooms that tainted drinking water from Lake Erie last summer. Congress decided to act after Toledo's water was rendered undrinkable for several days when lake algae produced dangerous levels of a toxin called microcystin. EPA doesn't yet have standards that say what levels of the toxins are unsafe. The bill sponsored by Bowling Green GOP Rep. Bob Latta was approved by a 375 to 37 vote margin. It gives EPA 90 days to develop and submit a "strategic plan" to Congress to assess and manage the risks from algal toxins in drinking water. For full story and to view video, click here.