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Statement of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

September 29, 2022

Statement of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to consider S. 4884 to establish a joint natural infrastructure science program

S. 4884, the Natural Infrastructure Act, would establish a Joint Natural Infrastructure Science Program to be implemented by the USGS in coordination with the Forest Service. The legislation would authorize funds to be awarded to academic researchers to develop and disseminate science on natural infrastructure to a community of users, including local government, industry, and engineers. A stakeholder advisory body would be established to advise the agencies on implementation of this program. The bill also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to assess the efficacy of natural infrastructure projects.

USGS research programs have considerable capacity to contribute research on natural infrastructure as a nature-based solution that augments or mimics natural processes and that can contribute to a variety of conservation goals. The USGS has conducted integrated, multi-disciplinary research on a variety of natural, constructed, and managed systems, ranging from terrestrial uplands to aquatic and wetland systems to coasts, as well as grey (constructed) infrastructure within the context of ecosystems that provide a variety of services.

The USGS is conducting research on the interaction of wildland fire, climate change, invasive species, and carbon budgets in relation to the Department’s land management mission. Lands managed by the Department have the capacity to serve as a nature-based infrastructure solution to capture more carbon or serve as a major source negatively affecting climate change goals. In addition, nature-based infrastructure often costs less than built infrastructure, is cheaper to maintain, and is more resilient to climate change. The USGS's recently released Wildland Fire Science Strategic Plan lays out a roadmap of needed science to understand and address factors supporting natural infrastructure and in collaboration with necessary partners.

S. 4884 and the continuing coordination between the Department and the Department of Agriculture and their bureaus is likely to support the growth of a restoration economy and associated jobs. The USGS and academic scientists have been studying the size and growth of the green economy, specifically the restoration economy, and detect a growth trend and opportunities for job creation, particularly in rural areas.

The Department supports the bill’s goal to facilitate and spur additional natural infrastructure research, as it is timely in the face of climate change impacts. S. 4884 would support a research program but not individual natural infrastructure projects, and the Department would like to work with the Committee to enhance the legislation by ensuring the research program would support development of natural infrastructure solutions through collaboration among Federal and academic researchers.