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AAG Policy Analysis

The American Association of Geographers continues to monitor, intervene, and update you on key issues that have a clear impact on geography or in which our discipline can serve as a valued stakeholder in shaping viewpoints and policy outcomes. If you have any questions, please contact AAG Government Relations Manager Michelle Kinzer. Below is a list of recent activities and responses by the AAG, and also information to help you take action within your communities:

AAG Supports Geographer Defending Scientific Integrity Before House Committee

Long-time AAG member, Maria Caffrey, testified before the full House Natural Resources committee for an oversight hearing entitled "When Science Gets Trumped: Scientific Integrity at the Department of the Interior." She released an op-ed in The Guardian explaining her story in advance of the hearing.

Caffrey testified on scientific integrity violations by the current administration on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Specifically, Caffrey was working under a contract with the National Park Service on a study that explored the risks of rising sea levels on our national park properties. The report predicts the probable effects of sea level rise at 118 coastal national park properties in 2030, 2050, and 2100, based on four scenarios of global greenhouse gas emissions. Working with multiple scenarios was important because the rate of sea level rise will depend on how much people reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most of which result from burning fossil fuels.

As reported in one of a series of stories by Elizabeth Shogren on the NPR Program “Reveal” (February,14, 2019), Caffrey resisted efforts by federal officials to remove all references to human causes of climate change in her report. Caffrey’s contract expired, and the National Park Service informed her that she would not be hired for a new project. Although the National Park Service denies it, Caffrey’s experience matches the other 194 examples of the federal government censoring, hindering, or sidelining climate change science since President Trump took office, as reported by the Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

The AAG stands in full support of Maria Caffrey's efforts to provide science-based information to be used in policy decision-making, and urges that reprisals against her and others under contract with the federal government be stopped. With the prompt support of our AAG colleagues Dick Marston and Carol Harden, the AAG issued a letter of support into the record for Rep. Raul Grijalva, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The above statement is largely reflective of that letter.

View the testimony

House Approves Additional $10M for Geospatial Mapping to Address Water Quality, Hazard Resilience

The AAG recently signed onto a statement in conjunction with MAPPS, NSGIC, and ACEC regarding an increase in FY20 Department of Interior funds to support enhanced 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) coverage of the Great Lakes region. This continued mapping work, managed by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), will provide essential data for better understanding of the region's most pressing areas of environmental concern. Since this statement's release, the FY20 funding bill was passed on June 25th by the full House of Representatives as part of a five-bill appropriations package.

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AAG Announces Passage of the Geospatial Data Act

The AAG is pleased to announce that the Geospatial Data Act (GDA) passed on Oct. 3, 2018, absent damaging exclusionary procurement provisions that were previously in the bill. AAG has been monitoring and providing expertise regarding the GDA for several years at the request of Congressional members.

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GIS Day Resolution

Under the leadership of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) the Senate passed a resolution officially designating November 15th as National GIS Day. Sen. Hatch recognized the GIS Day Resolution, as well as the successful passage of the Geospatial Data Act in a recent press release, which includes the following statement from Doug Richardson on behalf of the AAG: "The American Association of Geographers thanks Senators Hatch and Warner for the opportunity to work together to shape and pass the Geospatial Data Act (GDA). This legislation will save US taxpayers millions of dollars as it allows government agencies to better coordinate with one another, to prevent duplication, and to procure geospatial expertise, technology, services, and data from across the full range of the dynamic and rapidly growing US geographic and geospatial community.”

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Tim Walz: Former Geography Teacher, Minnesota’s Next Governor

Congressman and former high school geography teacher Tim Walz (D-MN) concluded a hard-fought campaign during the 2018 election and was successful in his bid for governor of Minnesota. He will assume statewide office in January 2019 with a strong history of support for geography and education broadly. During his six terms in Congress representing the southern part of Minnesota, Rep. Walz championed a number of bills to bolster public education policy. The AAG has been proud to count Rep. Walz as an ally of geography in Congress and we look forward to following his career of continued service. Congratulations, Governor-elect Walz!

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AAG Supports NAIP Funding

The AAG has signed onto a letter supporting funding for the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP). This important program produces significant geographic data and is valuable to researchers and for many other purposes. Funding for NAIP has been threatened under recent federal budgets.

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House Appropriations Bill Provides Significant Increases for NSF, Census

Legislation approved in May 2018 by the House Appropriations Committee includes big funding boosts for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Census Bureau. The annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) bill contains 5.2 and 71 percent increases respectively for the Foundation and Census. The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to finalize its proposals for CJS funding for Fiscal Year 2019.

The Census Bureau, which is in the process of ramping up for the 2020 Decennial Census, received an appropriation of $4.8 billion in the Committee’s bill. This is $2 billion above the FY 2018 finalized budget of $2.8 billion and $1 billion more than the Trump Administration had requested. If enacted, the increased funding will enable the Bureau to begin major field operations for the 2020 Census, including address canvassing and final preparations for 2020 data collection.

The Committee provided $8.2 billion for NSF, which is up from $7.8 billion this year and is well above the Administration’s request of $7.4 billion. Coupled with last year’s 4 percent increase, the Foundation appears poised for consecutive years of budgetary growth after several years of level funding. The bill does not include specific figures for NSF’s Geography and Spatial Sciences Program – those will be available once FY 2019 appropriations are enacted.

The AAG has long supported funding increases for NSF and the Census Bureau and we are pleased with the Committee’s action. We will continue to provide key budget updates for agencies and programs of importance to geographers and GIScientists.

AAG Announces Support for Geospatial Data Act of 2017

This vital legislation recognizes the growing importance and would ensure Congressional oversight of the government’s rapidly-expanding geospatial programs and assets.

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Congressmen introduce bills to standardize agencies’ geospatial data

Congress introduces Geospatial Data Act to the delight of GIS advocates

GDA Bill Reception on GIS Day

Invited guests discussed new Geospacial Data Bill at Capitol Hill reception on Nov. 15, 2017, hosted by the AAG, Esri and NSGIC.

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Omnibus Appropriations Bill Includes AAG-Supported Increases for Research Agencies

New legislation provides increased appropriations for many programs of importance to geographers. The AAG has repeatedly supported robust funding for federal science agencies, and we will continue to promote the value of research programs as Congress moves on to consideration of 2019 budgets.

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AAG Opposes Taxing Graduate Student Tuition Waivers

The AAG has been monitoring this issue in recent weeks and has endorsed sign-on letters opposing the House graduate student provision.

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March for Science Sign-On Letter About the Graduate Student Tuition Waiver

Senate Bill Omits Taxation of Graduate Student Tuition Waivers; Next Steps Uncertain

Administration Issues New Travel Ban; Order Blocked by Federal Judges

The administration's third proposed travel ban has been blocked by decisions from federal district judges in Hawaii and Maryland.

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AAG Statement on the U.S. Withdrawal from UNESCO

The AAG weighs in on the Administration’s decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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AAG and Others Urge Congress to Enact a Permanent Fix for the DACA Program

Many organizations endorsed the AAG's letter urging Congress to quickly enact legislation that would make the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program permanent.

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AAG Statement on Charlottesville Tragedy and White Supremacy

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The New Plot to Hijack GIS and Mapping

A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate could effectively exclude everyone but licensed architects, engineers, and surveyors from federal government contracts for GIS and mapping services of all kinds — not just those services traditionally provided by surveyors.

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AAG Statement on the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

The American Association of Geographers (AAG) opposes the Trump Administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Climate change constitutes a major threat to the Earth’s environment and to the well-being of people in all nations and there is a substantial body of evidence that global climate change is driven by human-induced causes.

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AAAS, AAU, and Many Others Endorse AAG Letter Urging President Trump to Appoint OSTP Leaders

58 scientific organizations, universities, and others endorsed a sign-on letter organized by the AAG that asks President Trump to “quickly” appoint “highly-qualified individuals” to serve as Director and in other senior leadership positions in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). These key roles have been vacant since January 20.

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AAG Opposes Cuts to Federal Science Agencies in FY 2018 Budget

The Administration released its full budget on May 23, including cuts to Federal science agencies. In response to appropriators, the AAG stressed further insights into the detrimental affects of those reductions.

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Administration Releases FY 2018 Budget

The Trump Administration’s budget proposal, which was released on May 23, includes sharp cuts for Federal science agencies. The document is the first step in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process, and many bipartisan Senators and Representatives have taken issue with multiple aspects of the proposal.

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Federal Research Agencies Avoid Cuts in 2017 Budget Deal

On May 5, President Trump signed into law a budget deal that will fund the federal government through September 30. The bipartisan deal has generally been viewed favorably by science advocates, as it maintains or increases funding levels for most agencies that provide research support.

Under the deal, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will remain level funded at $7.472 billion. The National Institutes of Health, meanwhile, receives a $2 billion increase to $34.1 billion, $352 million of which is targeted for the 21st Century Cures act that was enacted late during the Obama Administration.

In March, the AAG sent a letter to Congressional Appropriators urging them to reject cuts proposed by the Trump Administration to numerous agencies. We have also joined our friends in the wider science community in sending several sign-on letters to Capitol Hill in support of robust federal investment in science. While the AAG letter related to Fiscal Year 2018 and this enacted compromise is for the remainder of FY 2017, it is likely that consistent communication from research advocates helped stave off cuts in this latest deal.

The agreement paves the way for Congress to spend the next several months focused on health care, tax reform, and appropriations for FY 2018, which commences October 1.

AAG Opposes Federal Budget Cuts

The AAG opposes the Administration’s Budget which includes numerous proposals that would devastate the EPA, NIH research, and essential work being done at America’s colleges and universities (and by scientists and educators in other settings).

The American Council of Learned Societies cited on their website the AAG's recent policy statement.

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AAG Opposes NOAA Funding Cuts

AAG signed on to a letter by the Ocean Conservancy opposing the Administration's proposed budget cuts of nearly $1 billion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Fiscal Year 2018.

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AAG Continues Strong Partnership with March for Science

During the past year, the AAG has continued its strong partnership with March for Science through its endorsement of sign-on statements and letters organized by MfS.

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AAG Encourages Geographers to March for Science

The AAG encourages its members to take part in the March for Science – a multi-location event that will be held in Washington, D.C., and in nearly 300 satellite locations around the world, on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.

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AAG Partners with March for Science

AAG has entered into a formal partnership with the March for Science, a multi-location event that will be held in Washington, D.C., across the U.S., and internationally on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. The AAG Washington office will serve as headquarters for marchers from across the nation.

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NAACP Endorses AAG Letter Opposing Restrictions on Geospatial and Racial Disparities Data

NAACP and 26 other prominent national organizations signed on to a letter written by the AAG expressing concerns about proposed bills (Senate Bill 103 and House Bill 482) that could impose restrictions on the use of and access to geospatial data related to racial disparities.

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Why We Need to Protect Map Databases In the Age of Trump

Slate released an article detailing the threats to access to information in the Lee/Gosar bills.

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Creating and Preserving Actionable and Policy-Relevant Geography by Glen MacDonald

AAG President Glen MacDonald talks about the important role of geographers and geography in addressing the challenges that lie ahead in his February 2017 column.

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Geography and the New Administration:
An AAG Twitter Chat

The AAG (@AAGPolicy and @theAAG) hosted a Twitter Chat discussion in which policy and communication staff shared perspectives on the active role the organization has played in responding to several noteworthy recent policies.

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Actions Undertaken by the AAG to Support International Travelers to the 2017 Annual Meeting

The AAG has taken multiple steps to prepare foreign members and others for their travel to the AAG Annual Meeting and to identify resources should issues arise before and during the Meeting

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AAG Condemns Trump Administration Travel Bans

The American Association of Geographers (AAG) condemns, in unequivocal terms, the recently revised Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump. The new Executive Order, like the original one issued in January 2017, perpetuates an unsubstantiated targeting of people from certain countries and unjustly restricts their ability to enter or return to the United States.

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AAG Statement on First Executive Order

Statement from AAG’s Glen MacDonald and Doug Richardson about Executive Order 13769 that restricts the ability of AAG members and the broader geography community from certain countries from being able to enter or return to the United States.

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AAG Joins AAAS on Travel Ban Statement

AAG has also joined with other organizations lending unified support to address the U.S. travel ban issues.

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AAG is also working with other organizations. 

AAG Supports Meeting Attendees with Travel Restrictions

  • AAG supports those from countries affected by the U.S. travel restrictions.
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  • AAG provides a formal invitation letter to help with your visa submission process. Fill out the form, then print a copy to keep with your travel documents for when you arrive in the U.S.
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  • AAG highlights helpful legal resources available for international travelers who encounter difficulties upon arrival at Boston Logan International Airport.
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AAG Policy on Meeting Refunds for Those Voluntarily Withdrawing From Boston Meeting Due to US Immigration Policies

The AAG has already announced a Full Refund Policy and measures that allow presentations by surrogates or electronically by citizens of the six (previously seven) countries impacted by the recent US travel ban. Please see AAG To Support Geographers from Countries Affected by Trump Travel Ban.

For other meeting registrants who feel they cannot attend the Boston Meeting out of solidarity with those directly impacted by the travel ban the AAG will offer a full refund of the conference registration fees if notified by March 10, 2017. Alternatively, the AAG also offers the option for these registrants to donate their fees to the AAG Developing Regions Program; in this case 100% of your donated fees will go directly to support geographers in the six nations most affected by the travel ban. Your donation also would be tax-deductible in the US.

The AAG respects the decisions by its members, but also feels there is greater strength in standing together and directly taking part in the meeting, sessions and the formal and informal discussion on how we, as an organization and as individuals, can best move forward in these difficult times. In this vein we encourage all members who can to join us in Boston.

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A Letter to Our Members about the Recent U.S. Election

Letter sent to AAG members in November 2016 about the impact of the U.S. election and the concern for the values of free, thoughtful expression and mutual respect.

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Letter to Senator Michael Lee in response to Senate Bill 103

The Senate introduced a bill regarding Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations and geospatial data, which could have far-reaching consequences on federally-sponsored research, services and programs.

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Letter to Congressman Paul Gosar in response to House Bill 482

The House of Representatives introduced a bill regarding Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations and geospatial data, which could have far-reaching consequences on federally-sponsored research, services and programs.

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Follow Through with Your Own Views on These Issues

Positive change can be magnified greatly by contacting your local Congressional representatives to express your own views. 

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Stay Informed Via Our Social Media Channels

You can also follow and respond to AAG activities through our @theAAG Twitter account and Facebook page

This page will continue to be updated with activities taken by the AAG.