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Council on Environmental Quality: Katie McGinty, Chair
Department of Agriculture: James R. Lyons, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment
Department of the Army: John Zirschky, Assistant Secretary for Civil Works
Department of Commerce, Kate Kimball, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere
Department of Defense: Sherri W. Goodman, Deputy Under Secretary for Environmental Security
Department of Energy: Susan Tierney, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Program Evaluation
Department of Housing and Urban Development: Andrew M. Cuomo, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development
Department of the Interior: Bonnie Cohen, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget
Department of Justice: Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources
Department of Labor: Joseph A. Dear, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health
Department of State: Elinor G. Constable, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Department of Transportation: Frank Kruesi, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy
Environmental Protection Agency: David Gardiner, Assistant Administrator for Policy, Planning and Evaluation
Office of Management and Budget: T.J. Glauthier, Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science
Office of Science and Technology Policy: Jack Gibbons, Director
Department of the Interior: James Pipkin, Counselor to the Secretary of the Interior
Department of Agriculture: Dr. Diane Gelburd, Regional Conservationist for the East, Natural Resources Conservation Service
INTERAGENCY ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT TASK FORCE
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION
PRINCIPLES OF THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
IDENTIFYING ISSUES IN IMPLEMENTING THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
ISSUE GROUP FINDINGS
Chapter 2: BUDGETING FOR THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
FEDERAL MEASURES TO FACILITATE THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
Chapter 3: INSTITUTIONAL APPROACHES
EMERGING INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
Chapter 4: PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
MOVING TOWARD AN ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
Chapter 5: SCIENCE AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT ISSUES
ROLE OF SCIENCE AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT IN THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
HOW SCIENCE IS CONDUCTED AND SCIENTISTS INTERACT
INTERACTION AMONG SCIENTISTS, MANAGERS, AND THE PUBLIC
Chapter 6: LEGAL AUTHORITIES
INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
INTERAGENCY ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT WORKING GROUP
|CBEP||Communitybased environmental protection|
|CENR||Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources|
|CEQ||Council on Environmental Quality|
|CERCLA||Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilities Act|
|Corps||U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (U.S. Department of Defense)|
|CRP||Conservation Reserve Program|
|CWPPRA||Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act|
|CWA||Clean Water Act|
|CZMA||Coastal Zone Management Act|
|EIS||Environmental impact statement|
|EPA||Environmental Protection Agency|
|ESA||Endangered Species Act|
|FACA||Federal Advisory Committee Act|
|FLPMA||Federal Land Policy and Management Act|
|FOIA||Freedom of Information Act|
|GSA||General Services Administration|
|HCP||Habitat Conservation Plan|
|ISTEA||Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act|
|NCP||National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan|
|NEEA||National Environmental Education Act|
|NEPA||National Environmental Policy Act|
|NMSA||National Marine Sanctuaries Act|
|NOAA||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S. Department of Commerce)|
|NSTC||National Science and Technology Council|
|O&C||Oregon and California|
|OMB||Office of Management and Budget|
|OPA||Oil Pollution Act|
|RAP||Remedial Action Plan|
|SEP||Supplemental Environmental Project|
|USDA||U.S. Department of Agriculture|
|USGS||U.S. Geological Survey|
|WRDA||Water Resources Development Act|
Return to Table of Contents
Vice President Gore's
National Performance Review recommended that federal agencies
adopt a proactive approach
to ensuring a sustainable economy and a sustainable environment
through ecosystem management.
The link between a healthy economy and a healthy environment
has highlighted the need to actively maintain our natural infrastructure
before problems arise, as we do with our highways and bridges.
The Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force was established
to implement an ecosystem approach to environmental management.
PRINCIPLES OF THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
An ecosystem is an interconnected community of living things,
including humans and the physical environment with which they
interact. As such, ecosystems form the cornerstones of sustainable
economies. The goal of the ecosystem approach is to restore and
maintain the health, sustainability, and biological diversity
of ecosystems while supporting sustainable economies and communities.
Based on a collaboratively developed vision of desired future
conditions, the ecosystem approach integrates ecological, economic,
and social factors that affect a management unit defined by ecological not
Because ecosystems do not follow administrative boundaries (such
as the borders of national parks or forests), working to maintain
or restore ecosystem sustainability involves a perspective that
crosses those artificial boundaries. This entails a shift from
the federal government's
traditional focus on individual agency jurisdiction to a broader
focus on the actions of multiple agencies within the larger ecological
boundaries. Just as collaboration is important, finding ways
to increase voluntary cooperation with state, tribal, and local
governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations and the
public, is key to an effective ecosystem approach.
The Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force has developed
a set of common principles for federal resource management and
regulatory agencies to follow in implementing the ecosystem approach
(Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995, volume 1):
IDENTIFYING ISSUES IN IMPLEMENTING THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
Many factors, such as interagency conflicts, incompatible data
bases, an incomplete understanding of ecosystem functioning, inconsistent
planning and budgetary cycles, and differing agency organizational
structures, have hampered development of a coordinated approach
to actively maintaining or restoring the health of ecosystems.
The Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force, acting through
its Working Group, examined major issue areas that influence the
effectiveness of the ecosystem approach and made recommendations
for improvements. Areas chosen for examination were:
The Working Group chose interagency groups to study each issue.
Groups consisted of from 9 to 18 representatives of federal agencies.
Agencies represented on one or more issue groups included the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau
of Mines, U.S. Coast Guard, Council on Environmental Quality,
Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Administration,
Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, National
Biological Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
National Performance Review, USDA Natural Resources Conservation
Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service), Office of Management
and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Smithsonian
Institute, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Energy,
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department
of the Interior, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department
of Transportation. Although agency representation varied from
group to group, it broadly reflected the makeup of the Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force and Working Group.
Issue groups based their findings on efforts across the nation
to implement the ecosystem approach, particularly on seven case
studies conducted by interagency survey teams. The Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force selected seven ecosystems for
The Interagency Ecosystem Management Working Group commissioned
interagency teams to survey each ecosystem selected for study.
Primarily through interviews with interested parties in each
ecosystem, teams identified opportunities for, and
constraints to, interagency
coordination of the ecosystem approach (see volume 3, Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995). Issue groups drew on these
findings to identify and discuss key issues related to implementing
the ecosystem approach.
ISSUE GROUP FINDINGS
Issue groups found that federal agencies have launched efforts
to implement aspects of the ecosystem approach in many parts of
the country. Obstacles encountered have led to mixed success.
Budgetary measures that federal agencies are taking to help implement
the ecosystem approach include discretionary spending requests
and interagency budget coordination in ecosystems around the country.
In addition, federal agencies are creating ecosystem accounts
in their budgets and providing more flexibility to budget structures.
Obstacles to interagency cooperation include differences among
the congressional committees that authorize and appropriate funds
for the various federal agencies. Lack of future funding certainty
can impede implementation of longterm projects. Agency
mandates impose limitations on the kinds of projects that agencies
can undertake. Differences in agency budget structures and difficulties
in pooling and transferring funds seriously impede interagency
coordination. Moreover, some agencies may have little experience
in cooperating with nonfederal partners, and agency staff may
be reluctant to coordinate with other agencies.
Obstacles to intraagency reform include traditional budget
priorities, which may block efforts to fund the ecosystem approach.
Time limitations imposed by Congress on use of funds, narrow
funding controls, and constraints on reprogramming of funds may
prevent programs from being implemented that might otherwise contribute
to the ecosystem approach.
Institutional arrangements to expedite the ecosystem approach
depend on the following: a shared vision for the ecosystem in
collaboration with all stakeholders; adaptive management; an appropriate
organizational structure; performance measures and accountability;
information accessibility, usability, and communication; and suitable
training and education. The institutional issues group found
that in each of these regards, federal agencies are making substantial
progress in implementing an ecosystem approach in some ecosystems
around the country.
The group found that in some cases, agency missions and mandates
hamper development of shared visions for ecosystems. Highly functional
agency approaches may interfere with a broad ecosystem approach,
as do agency jurisdictional boundaries that rarely coincide with
ecosystems. In general, information required for the ecosystem
approach is difficult to acquire and use, and may be sensitive
or proprietary. Finally, agency personnel may lack training in
collecting, analyzing, using, and communicating ecosystem information,
particularly when it is unclear what information should be collected.
Successful implementation of the ecosystem approach depends on
involving all stakeholders in planning, decision making, and implementation.
The public participation issues group found that federal agencies
in many cases are providing public access to information on planning
and technical documents, developing educational programs on environmental
concerns, and engaging the public in dialogue at various stages
of projects, both before and during implementation.
The group also found considerable room for improvement, particularly
in the following areas: facilitating early and continuous public
input into decision making; empowering a public not always privy
to expert technical information; incorporating the human dimensions
of environmental problems into the ecosystem approach; ensuring
that planned efforts accord with public expectations; and providing
constant feedback throughout the course of a project.
Science and Information Management
Agency programs in science and information management contribute
to the ecosystem approach in several ways: by increasing the
potential for interagency collaboration and helping to involve
nonfederal stakeholders; by raising the credibility of science
and information as the basis for decision making; by making information
available to decision makers, scientists, and the public; and
by developing new ecosystemoriented adaptive management
strategies. In order to break down traditional sciencerelated
barriers to a systems approach, the National Science and Technology
Council, through the Committee on the Environment and Natural
Resources, has developed a process for replacing traditional singleagency,
singlediscipline problem solving with a coordinated multiagency,
interdisciplinary approach that brings together natural and social
scientists, economists, engineers, and policymakers. The Committee
provides leadership for strategic planning, coordination, and
prioritization of research and assessment objectives across all
However, there are several sciencerelated barriers to the
ecosystem approach. Research faces budgetary and political constraints,
in part due to poor relationships of scientists with managers
and the public. Gaps in knowledge about how ecosystems work are
not filled fast enough, partly due to a traditional focus on narrow
topics and limited disciplines. Reporting of research data should
be standardized, and access to data and information should be
structured to better facilitate synthesis and integration for
resource managers and to provide feedback on information gaps.
Finally, federal agencies are not putting enough emphasis on
longterm monitoring and evaluation after projects are completed.
Federal agencies can take advantage of major legal authorities
to implement the ecosystem approach. Authorities such as the
National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean
Water Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act were designed to facilitate
cooperation among stakeholders in protecting habitats and preventing
pollution in ecosystems nationwide. Statutes governing management
of federal lands, such as the Multiple Use-Sustained
Yield Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act, provide the
authority for agencies to protect, sustain, and restore ecosystems
on the lands they manage. Additional statutes are designed to
protect specific ecosystems, such as the Coastal Zone Management
Act and Wild and Scenic River Act. Agencies can use all three
types of authorities to preserve the integrity of ecosystems and
to promote the sustainable communities and economies that depend
on these ecosystems.
Although these statutes may be used in pursuit of goals under
the ecosystem approach, they may also be interpreted in ways that
constrain such efforts. For example, under statutes such as the
Endangered Species Act, agencies may establish regulations and
programs that focus primarily on individual species rather than
on the broader ecosystem context. Such statutes tend to trigger
action only when drastic measures are needed for recovery of a
species or habitat.
Antipollution statutes (such as the Clean Air Act or Clean Water
Act) may focus attention on a single medium, rather than on the
complex interactions among various media across ecosystems and
regions. The number of different permits required for some activities
(a different permit for each medium affected) may create public
confusion and resentment.
Finally, the cornerstone of an ecosystem approach collaboration
among all stakeholders may
have been weakened by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which
has in the past constrained collaboration between federal and
Based on these findings, issue groups recommended ways of addressing
constraints to the ecosystem approach. In general, agencies should
use the ecosystem approach as a tool rather than as an end in
itself. It cannot replace existing measures, rules, policies,
and procedures, but should instead be incorporated into them.
In particular, the ecosystem approach should be implemented as
a process of stakeholder participation, and as a process of planning
that analyzes the interactive effects of all elements in an ecosystem.
Specific recommendations included the following:
Return to Table of Contents
Federal agencies are taking measures to revise budget development
and execution procedures to facilitate an ecosystem approach.
They are beginning to coordinate more with each other, and with
nonfederal parties, on budget planning. Several agencies are
making internal organizational changes that will lead to the development
of budgets that better accommodate ecosystem approaches. Examples
of such changes are provided in the first section of this chapter.
Federal agencies face several budgetrelated challenges to
adopting an ecosystem approach. There is a need for greater coordination
on budget planning and execution, increased flexibility to reprogram
funds in response to changing needs, greater consistency in definition
of budget activities between agencies, and greater expertise in
working with nonfederal partners. These challenges are discussed
in the second section of this chapter, partly based on comments
made by those interviewed by interagency survey teams in seven
ecosystems across the country (see volume 3 in this series, Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995). Recommendations of ways
to address these challenges are provided in the third section
of this chapter.
FEDERAL MEASURES TO FACILITATE THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
The Clinton administration has taken a number of steps to increase
the extent to which budgets and budgetrelated processes
facilitate an ecosystem approach. Coordination among several
federal agencies on budget planning and execution is increasing,
and agencies are making internal organizational changes that will
lead to budget planning and execution processes more focused on
the ecosystem approach. Highlights include discretionary spending
for the ecosystem approach and interagency budget coordination
in seven key ecosystems.
Discretionary spending for interagency implementation of the ecosystem
approach was requested in the fiscal year (FY) 1995 budget. The
FY 1995 budget requested $610 million in discretionary spending
for ecosystem approach initiatives, mostly to support interagency
efforts in the Pacific Northwest and South Florida ecosystems.
Congress supported this initiative by appropriating $680 million.
The Administration's commitment will continue in FY 1996, with
a proposed increase of $42 million over spending requested for
ecosystem approach initiatives in FY 1995.
Interagency Budget Coordination
In seven ecosystems across the nation (the Anacostia River watershed,
Coastal Louisiana, the Great Lakes basin, the Pacific Northwest
forests, Prince William Sound, South Florida, and the Southern
Appalachians, see Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995, volume 3), federal agencies
are beginning to coordinate budget planning or take steps that
could lead to increased coordination. In some of these areas,
agencies are also increasing coordination of budget execution
consistent with budget planning. Other efforts to coordinate
federal and nonfederal budgets on broader scales are also underway.
For example, under the Coastal America Program, federal agencies
are coordinating budgets to complete environmental projects in
the nation's coastal
Anacostia River watershed. Efforts to implement the ecosystem
approach in the Anacostia River watershed have been locally driven.
Although there has been some coordination of local agency budgets,
there has been little central coordination, if any, on the federal
side. However, the July 4, 1994, signing of the Agreement
by Federal Agencies on Ecosystem Management in the Chesapeake
Bay will promote a
coordinated federal ecosystem workplan, which may produce more
budgetary cooperation among federal agencies. The U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers (Corps) will be the lead coordinating agency for
In addition to the Corps'
activities, carried out in close cooperation with surrounding
states and local governments, the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), National Park Service, and U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) also have ecosystem restoration activities underway in
the Anacostia River basin, requiring increased interagency coordination
of budgets and operational activities. These federal activities
can complement local efforts by providing additional expertise
and resources to address concerns affecting both the local Anacostia
watershed and such larger ecosystems as the Chesapeake Bay.
Coastal Louisiana. In Coastal Louisiana, a coordinated
approach to project planning and budgeting is being taken by the
task force established under the authority of the Coastal Wetlands
Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act of 1990, 16 U.S.C. 3951-3956.
The federal agencies involved in ecosystem restoration and protection
have developed the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan,
under which plans have been formulated for each of the state's
nine coastal hydrologic units. Three lists of priority projects
have been prepared, and 4 of 49 priority projects have been implemented.
Great Lakes basin. In the Great Lakes basin, the NortheastMidwest
Institute (a nongovernmental organization) provides recommendations
to Congress for federal funding of agency activities affecting
the Great Lakes. Beyond this effort, coordination of federal
budgets is minimal.
Pacific Northwest forests. In the Pacific Northwest, an
interagency budget has been assembled from budget information
provided by individual agencies, based upon agreements under the
Forest Plan of 1993. This budget is characterized by coordinated
singleagency activities, as opposed to individual tasks
performed together by multiple agencies. In addition to these
interagency agreements to cooperate on forest management issues,
numerous federal and state agencies are coordinating funding and
activities related to endangered salmon recovery programs.
Prince William Sound. Federal and state agencies with
oversight responsibilities for restoration efforts in Prince William
Sound following the 1992 Exxon Valdez oil spill
have formed an interagency team and are working closely together
to administer funds from the Exxon settlement. However, a lack
of clear objectives early in the process resulted in considerable
difficulties regarding fund allocation (see chapter on Prince
William Sound in Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995,
volume 3). This problem is being addressed through the development
of guiding principles, goals, and a restoration plan. Because
the focus of interagency efforts has been on restoring resources
damaged in the aftermath of the oil spill, agencies have concentrated
on areas affected by the spill.
South Florida. In the South Florida ecosystem, agencies
are sharing budget plans for FY 1996 and discussing interagency
funding priorities on an ecosystemwide basis. The Corps
and National Park Service are working together on design of some
projects. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park
Service, both in the Department of the Interior, have coordinated
closely on planning to address water quality issues. Most projects
are funded by single agencies, although the National Park Service
provides funds to the Corps to modify water deliveries in the
Southern Appalachians. The Southern Appalachian Man and
the Biosphere (SAMAB) program is working towards increasing interagency
cooperation in the broad ecosystem along the southern Appalachian
Mountains. The SAMAB has facilitated development of a framework
for interagency cooperation that, once finalized, will form the
basis of an interagency proposal and budget for activities to
implement the ecosystem approach. Although no interagency budget
has yet been developed, eight agencies are cooperating in providing
support to SAMAB and to ecosystemrelated projects that SAMAB
Coastal America Program. Although not an ecosystem, the
Coastal America Program provides another example of interagency
coordination on budget formulation and execution. In this program,
federal agencies work together and in partnership with nonfederal
parties (strongly represented) to identify priorities and issues
concerning land, water, and other natural resources in the nation's
coastal areas. Partners in the program then jointly identify
projects supportable through existing authorities, in accordance
with an agreedupon, locally defined strategy. By empowering
local and private partners, the program far exceeded its goal
of 25 percent nonfederal funding. Indeed, in the program's
first year, federal spending was matched dollar for dollar by
Much of the coordination for this effort is provided by the following
teams: the Principals Group (policylevel federal agency
representatives based in Washington, DC); the National Implementation
Team (midlevel managers, also based in Washington, DC); and Regional
Implementation Teams (based in nine coastal regions of the country).
Revising Budget Structures and Processes
Many federal agencies are revising budget structures and processes
to facilitate an ecosystem approach within the appropriation limits
established by Congress. Federal agencies are reducing the number
of budget line items, creating ecosystem accounts, and providing
more flexibility to budget structures. The Civil Works Program
of the Corps, for example, has long corresponded to river basins
and watersheds, potentially facilitating future efforts to structure
budgets on an ecosystem basis. Other agencies making revisions
include the Bureau of Land Management, EPA, Fish and Wildlife
Service, USDA Forest Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau of Land Management
has been restructured internally in an attempt to facilitate the
implementation of the ecosystem approach, gain flexibility to
respond to changing conditions, and generally improve the efficiency
of agency operations. Major elements of change involve consolidation
of previously segregated program areas, establishment of a team
structure for decision making, and focusing efforts on five overarching
strategic goals, two of which are restoring and maintaining the
health of the land, and improving service to the public while
encouraging sound resource use practices.
In order to better implement these organizational improvements,
the Bureau is implementing a new budget structure to permit allocation
of funds based on overall mission rather than on separate, often
conflicting programs. The new budget structure emphasizes ecosystem
approaches and will save an estimated $4 million annually. It
collapses the agency's
24 accounts for management of land resources into 10 new activity
accounts, and fund controls apply only to these accounts. It
also eases restrictions on reprogramming authority and may make
all operating appropriations effective as noyear
At the field level, the Bureau's
Idaho State Office is making budgetrelated changes as part
of a larger effort to adopt the ecosystem approach. Changes include
restructuring its budget in accordance with ecosystem boundaries
and reducing the number of budget accounts.
Environmental Protection Agency. EPA's
recently drafted FiveYear Strategic Plan lays out seven
guiding principles for strategy development and implementation.
These principles include ecosystem protection through cultivating
the growth of ecosystem management and economic development that
promotes the health and productivity of natural systems. Together,
these principles form on the factors guiding decisions at EPA.
Early in its Strategic Plan, EPA notes that future plans will
be geared toward a set of measurable environmental goals being
developed through EPA's
National Environmental Goals Project. The Project should help
EPA to better focus its efforts on environmental results, including
ecosystem protection. Project goals (such as clean air, clean
waters, safe waste management, and healthy terrestrial ecosystems)
are being used to frame EPA's
budget and are designed to drive future budget decisions. Although
the basic budgeting process is not expected to change, each program
office is required to explain how its budget requests support
each of the environmental goals.
In addition, EPA is piloting multimedia, multipurpose grants in
several states under the performance partnership proposal. These
grants provide for combining air, water, and hazardous wastes
program grants for use in critical watersheds and ecosystems.
By combining and streamlining the administration of these grants,
EPA believes it can obtain greater environmental results at less
Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service
has made a proposal to reorganize its programs and reduce the
complexity of its budget structure in order to enhance its ability
to undertake multidisciplinary ecosystem initiatives. The agency
has adopted an ecosystem team approach to decision making as the
foundation of its budget process. Although the agency will remain
active throughout the country, budget increases and/or resource
shifts will go to benefit those ecosystem units most important
to the agency's trust
resources. The agency will focus on ecosystem units where it
has the greatest likelihood of using its capabilities and tools,
in partnership with others, to bring about the greatest results.
Within each ecosystem unit, ecosystem teams will establish budget
priorities and develop 3year action plans that include the
costs of planned activities. The action plans will guide budget
Forest Service. The Forest Service has made a number of
revisions in its budget structure and related processes, through
changes proposed in the Budget Explanatory Notes for the FY 1995
The additional flexibility gained from these reforms is accompanied
by congressional expectations and requirements for increased accountability
in budget execution (through better accounting for expenditures
and the development, improvement, and use of performance measures).
Approved revisions include:
The fact that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
are making similar budget revisions may advance efforts to implement
the ecosystem approach by making it easier to track, match, and/or
pool interagency expenditures and to address ecological resource
issues that transcend administrative boundaries.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has made organizational
changes to better integrate and facilitate ecosystem approaches.
In 1993, NOAA focused its TenYear Strategic Plan on two
primary missions: environmental assessment and prediction (describing
and predicting changes in the earth's
environment); and environmental stewardship (conserving and wisely
managing the nation's
coastal and marine resources to ensure sustainable economic opportunities).
In accordance with these missions, the agency's
planning, budgeting, and implementation activities are oriented
toward seven strategic goals, providing a new level of unity and
focus to the agency.
In 1994, NOAA conducted an extensive review of its coastal stewardship
activities to determine how better to integrate its resources
to most efficiently and effectively fulfill its coastrelated
statutory mandates. The strategic planning process and review
of coastal stewardship activities have led to significant changes
in the way NOAA plans and evaluates its activities and budgets,
emphasizing broader regional efforts, partnerships, and constituent
participation all key
aspects of ecosystem approaches.
CHALLENGES TO THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
Federal agencies will continue to revise budget planning and execution
procedures to facilitate an ecosystem approach. However, such
efforts face two types of challenges: constraints to interagency
cooperation, and obstacles to intraagency reform. The first
type of challenge includes barriers to increased cooperation among
agencies and between agencies and nonfederal parties. The second
type of challenge includes difficulties that agencies face in
making internal changes to budget processes.
Constraints to Interagency Cooperation
A successful ecosystem approach will be facilitated by the development
of interagency ecosystem budgets based on an ecosystem vision
developed through consensus among stakeholders. Several mechanisms
exist for achieving this. However, even where specific, highpriority
ecosystems have been designated by the Administration, agencies
face significant institutional, legal, and organizational constraints
to interagency cooperation, many of which relate to the reality
of competing interests and objectives throughout the nation.
Congressional committee differences. Division of responsibility
for authorizations and appropriations among congressional committees
can make interagency coordination difficult. Because agency budgets
are appropriated under different congressional committees and
authorities, there is no assurance of consistent perspectives
or priorities, and budget considerations are subject to varying
constraints and competing interests. In South Florida, for example,
the two primary agencies with recovery responsibilities, the Corps
and U.S. Department of the Interior, have different authorizing
and appropriating committees, and EPA has still others. It is
difficult to coordinate among authorizing committees<>the
committees introduce and pass bills as needed, whereas the Corps'
Civil Works projects are committed to a 2year cycle. The
budget flexibility is limited by the requirements of entitlement
programs. There is a reluctance on the part of appropriators
to fund other committees'
Future funding uncertainty. Lack of certainty about future
funding bases makes interagency budgeting difficult. Under the
current structure, efforts to secure multiyear funding for interagency
proposals can be problematic. Due to changing agency and public
priorities, there is no mechanism to guarantee longterm
project funding. Accordingly, if one agency does not receive
funds for a key component of a proposed joint project, the entire
proposal can be jeopardized, frustrating interagency efforts to
Limitations imposed by agency mandates.
The degree to which agencies can collaborate on projects of mutual interest and provide joint funding for them is limited by agency mandates. Several agencies are limited to spending appropriations on activities within authorized physical boundaries. The Forest Service, for example, is limited in its ability to fund activities on private lands, even though activities such as research and monitoring provide valuable information to national forest managers. The Corps' various project purposes are generally spelled out in specific project authorizations and carry different nonfederal costsharing requirements. Adding new purposes to a project after it is authorized is thus legally and practically difficult. However, project authorizations can be modified via section 216 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-611), which authorizes the Chief of Engineers to review the operation of completed projects . . . due to significantly changed physical or economic conditions and report to Congress with recommendations . . . for improving the environment in the overall public interest.
Staff reluctance. In interviews, federal agency employees
indicated a degree of reluctance to initiate and/or adopt the
increased interagency cooperation and interdisciplinary integration
associated with the ecosystem approach. Although some managers
are comfortable with taking the risks
associated with new ways of doing things, others are not. Those
uncomfortable with increased levels of interagency cooperation
and those who perceive little incentive or lack of support at
higher levels will be less likely to pursue interagency budget
coordination. This may be less of a problem for agencies where
seniorlevel managers have sent out clear directives and
priorities to support the principles and practices of the ecosystem
Lack of experience with nonfederal partners. Lack of staff
experience and training in working with nonfederal partners is
an obstacle to an effective ecosystem approach. Many agency staff
members do not have the knowledge and experience necessary to
involve nonfederal partners in decision making (see chapter on
Public Participation). Lack of experience, together with concerns
about restrictions on nonfederal involvement under the Federal
Advisory Committee Act, will affect agency ability to involve
nonfederal partners in the formulation of interagency ecosystem
Difficulties in transferring and pooling funds. Difficulties
in transferring funds among federal agencies were one of the budget
constraints most often cited during survey team interviews. The
ability to transfer funds varies greatly among and within agencies
and departments. For example:
A related constraint faced by federal agencies endeavoring to
establish regional interagency ecosystem offices comes from restrictions
under section 612 of the Treasury and Postal Appropriations Act
for FY 1995, P.L. 103-329.
The Act prohibits interagency financing of boards,
commissions, councils, committees, or similar groups (whether
or not they are interagency entities) which do not have a prior
and specific statutory approval to receive financial support from
more than one agency or instrumentality.
The prohibition is broad enough to be virtually inescapable,
unless there is specific authorization for interagency funding
(such as that provided for the Council on Environmental Quality
Differences in agency budget structures. Differences in
budget structures among agencies can pose a barrier to coordinated
interagency activities to implement the ecosystem approach. For
example, although the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
have similar land management program responsibilities, both have
very different account structures. Similar budget structures
would facilitate better communication of budget priorities and
programs within specific ecosystems as well as make interagency
budget planning and execution easier to accomplish and understand.
Obstacles to IntraAgency Reform
Federal agencies are instituting budgetrelated changes in
order to facilitate the adoption of the ecosystem approach. However,
in revising internal structures and procedures, they face a number
Traditional budget priorities. Agency budgets have traditionally
been based upon previous funding history, ad hoc responses to
crises, and (in some cases) commodities production (in the Bureau
of Land Management and Forest Service, for example) or permit/enforcement
requirements (in EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National
Marine Fisheries Service, for example). Although these factors
must to some extent be considered when formulating budgets, the
traditional exclusion of other factors, such as recreational and
conservation values, is inimical to an ecosystem approach. Federal
agencies have amassed a wealth of baseline social, economic, and
ecological data that, if consolidated and analyzed, could provide
additional information for determining priority needs, both nationwide
and in specific ecosystems. However, these data are not sufficiently
consolidated, accessible, or necessarily compatible (see chapter
on Science and Information).
A related problem is that agencies are having difficulty placing
priority on ecosystemrelated activities approach while simultaneously
coping with traditional resourcespecific priorities and
commitments. Determining which activities have highest funding
priority and how they can be carried out under existing or (in
some cases) growing funding constraints will take some time.
For some agencies, increased flexibility in setting funding priorities
is constrained by additional factors. The Water Resources Council
Principles and Guidelines, for example, are used by the Corps
as an important tool for evaluating potential project options.
Unfortunately, they place heavy emphasis on the National Economic
Development Account and on screening project options largely on
the basis of their potential economic development benefits. Insufficient
emphasis is placed on difficulttoquantify environmental
and social benefits, a constraint noted by interviewees in the
Florida and Anacostia ecosystems.
The Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee recommended
reviewing the Water Resources Council Principles and Guidelines
to establish two new, coequal objectives for water resources projects:
supporting national economic development; and improving environmental
quality (Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee 1994,
p. 85). It is understood that the Administration plans to reexamine
the Principles and Guidelines.
Lag time between budget planning and execution. A significant
lag time (1 1/2 to 2 years) between the start of the budget planning
process and budget execution makes it difficult to anticipate
exact funding needs for specific programs, to communicate changing
priorities, and to shift funds to meet changing management and
Time limitations on use of funds. Time limitations on
the use of funds can hinder agency investment in longterm
activities. Appropriated funds must generally be spent within
a 1 or 2year timeframe. Longterm activities,
such as ecosystemrelated research efforts, often do not
have guaranteed funding for the life of the project.
Narrow funding controls. Budgets traditionally comprise
numerous narrowly defined line items. Existing budget structures
for many agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, EPA,
and Forest Service, have evolved in response to resource management
programs that parallel the interests of important constituent
groups. Over the years, the number of budget accounts has increased,
as has the specificity of each line item, which has discouraged
managers from taking a broad interdisciplinary approach to managing
within a geographic area. In FY 1994, for example, line officers
in the Forest Service were responsible for up to 40 functional
budget accounts. Agency efforts to reduce the number of line
items (including the Forest Service's
attempt to reduce line items in its fish and wildlife program)
have met with resistance from external interest groups, who prefer
more line items and increased functional fund controls.
Constraints to reprogramming funds. A successful ecosystem
approach requires the ability for an agency to shift or reprogram
funds in response to new information about the ecosystem and/or
new input from other agencies or nonfederal parties. Historical
concerns over accountability for expenditures have led Congress
to establish reprogramming procedures that constrain agency ability
to reprogram and respond quickly to changed conditions or unforeseen
For example, although the Forest Service succeeded in getting
expanded reprogramming authority as part of its FY 1995 Budget
Reform initiative, its authority to move funds between budget
line items remains limited to $3 million or 10 percent, whichever
is less. The dollar cap makes this expanded authority difficult
to manage and effectively prevents delegation of any new authority
to field units. Similarly, EPA authority to move funds is limited
to $500,000, and movements of funds may be requested only twice
Agency traditions also constrain reprogramming ability. In survey
team interviews, some agency staff indicated a view of the ecosystem
approach as a new activity
to be funded with new
money, rather than
as an approach to be integrated into existing activities and supported
with existing funds. Staff with such attitudes are reluctant
to shift funds from traditional activities to support a new
Uncertainty of future funding also makes agency staff reluctant
to reprogram funds. For example, when two or more agencies fund
duplicative programs, one may be reluctant to give up its program,
for fear of losing the funds supporting it from its own funding
base, or of sacrificing the activity altogether if the other agency's
project is cut.
Congressional earmarking is yet another constraint to reprogramming
of funds. Funds that are earmarked are locked into specific projects.
Resources must be shifted from ongoing activities, which can
disrupt comprehensive, ecologically based planning.
Federal agency ability to facilitate the ecosystem approach would
be greatly enhanced if the following measures were taken:
Recommendations made below provide a starting point for implementing
these measures. They are based upon considerable discussion,
and on careful review of survey team studies. They include measures
to be taken at the national level, as well as guidelines for agency
efforts at the regional or local level.
Interagency Budget Teams
Interagency budget teams could be formed as a subset of the larger
work group in each ecosystem where agencies are working towards
a more integrated approach. Teams would ensure that federal agency
budgets are designed and activities identified to reflect an established
ecosystem strategy, and to increase agency coordination with other
agencies and with nonfederal parties (including state and local
governments and tribal entities) in identifying resource needs
and priorities. In unusual cases, agencies may seek to integrate
their ecosystem budgets.
A primary role of the teams would be to facilitate federal agency
coordination on budget formulation. The degree and nature of
coordination would vary somewhat from one ecosystem to another,
depending upon the desired level of integration of agency activities
and the history of agency coordination in the ecosystem. In some
ecosystems, agencies may wish to coordinate by sharing planned
budgets and adjusting them to avoid duplication. In others, agencies
may want to go beyond this and develop an interagency budget based
upon a shared vision and strategy for the ecosystem.
Interagency budget teams would be faced with the challenge of
developing a budget that does not rely on budget increases, but
rather revises funding allocations within set budgetary targets.
In ecosystems where interagency budgets are being developed,
budget team members should try to go beyond a budget crosscut.
Ideally, the budget should reflect complementary, coordinated
activities based upon a shared vision and strategy for meeting
the needs of the ecosystem.
A process should be established for selecting highpriority
ecosystems, developing interagency budgets for these ecosystems,
and devising a coordinated interagency strategy to justify these
budgets to Congress. For some ecosystems, coordination at the
regional level may be adequate to develop and support an interagency
ecosystem approach. However, for ecosystems such as the Pacific
Northwest and South Florida, where the resolution of conflicts
requires intervention and/or support from higher levels, a more
formal approach to interagency cooperation may be desirable.
A process for selecting such ecosystems should be instituted,
and the process should allow sufficient time for interagency coordination.
After highpriority ecosystems have been selected, budgets
for them should be devised. Depending upon the nature and complexity
of the ecosystem, formulating and developing these budgets may
Interagency Transfers of Funds
Agencies should identify agency constraints to transferring or
pooling funds and (where appropriate) to establish mechanisms
for overcoming these constraints. In certain circumstances that
is, where agency missions or obligations to congressional committees
are not violated interagency
fund transfers and/or a limited pooling of interagency funds can
help facilitate interagency cooperation in such areas as research,
analysis, and outreach, and in other activities related to the
ecosystem approach. However, the ability of agencies to pool
or transfer funds can be constrained by institutional or administrative
barriers, many of which are specific to individual agencies.
Funding for Priority Ecosystem Needs
Within each federal agency, steps should be taken to ensure that
budget allocations better reflect priority needs under the ecosystem
approach, established in cooperation with stakeholders and in
accordance with baseline data. The Clinton administration has
accepted the ecosystem approach as an appropriate way of doing
business. Federal managers should understand that the ecosystem
approach is a philosophy that drives all natural resources programs
and activities, old and new. Agency budget allocations should
reflect this concept, and budget priorities should be adjusted
An important step being taken by several agencies (including the
Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service,
and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is the revision
of strategic plans to focus on goals under the ecosystem approach,
and the gradual revision of budget priorities based upon strategic
plans. Other agencies should consider this example. In addition,
senior management should stress the importance of the ecosystem
approach and provide guidance on how to ensure that budgets reflect
this approach. Finally, a process should be established for increasing
communication among scientists, managers, and budget staff, so
that linkages between budget allocations and priority resource
needs can be strengthened.
Budget structures and processes should be enhanced to facilitate
a more flexible, interdisciplinary approach. Specifically, federal
agencies should take steps to:
Better Performance Measures
Agencies should broaden efforts to increase accountability (both
for internal purposes and for reporting to Congress) through the
development of better performance measures. The development and
continued refinement of performance measures will facilitate the
process of adaptive management and assist federal agencies in
communicating progress on ecosystem approach initiatives to Congress,
interest groups, and the public.
Recently, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Alice
Rivlin instructed OMB analysts to use
performance information to inform or influence decisions whenever
possible, stating that
future budgets would give increasing attention to program performance
measures. Federal agencies are responding to the requirements
of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 by developing
better performance measures. Agencies are beginning to coordinate
these efforts, although cooperation among land management agencies
and others taking an ecosystem approach should be broadened.
Examples of existing cooperation include Bureau of Land Management
and Forest Service coordination in developing corporate performance
measures (related to annual program proposals, reporting, and
strategic planning goals). The Forest Service has been paired
with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in piloting annual
performance plan development under the Government Performance
and Results Act. The Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation
Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service), and Bureau of Reclamation
are sharing information on goals and measures related to the Act.
Specific efforts are also underway to develop new measures to
communicate integrated resource management accomplishments on
federal and other lands. For example, the Forest Service has
developed new integrated resource inventory measures to facilitate
implementation of the ecosystem approach, and to measure accomplishments
associated with a new ecosystem planning, inventory, and monitoring
budget line item. Forest Service Research is working with other
agencies to develop measures of research accomplishment, including
for research related to the ecosystem approach.
The U.S. State Department and the Forest Service are coleaders
for the United States in an international effort to develop criteria
and indicators for sustainable forest management. Canada is providing
the primary leadership for this effort, which involves many countries
(Australia, Chile, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, and others),
numerous private sector organizations (including the Food and
Agriculture Organization, Global Forest Alliance, and National
Association of State Foresters), and other federal departments
and agencies (such as the Central Intelligence Agency, Department
of the Interior, EPA, Federal Trade Commission, and National Biological
Agency Mandate Review
Agency mandates should be analyzed to determine the extent to
which they permit or impede the ecosystem approach. Agencies
are sometimes constrained by overly narrow authorizations from
cooperating in activities to implement the ecosystem approach
(the Forest Service, for example, is restricted from performing
broadbased assessments in areas including nonForest
New Ecosystem Approaches
New ecosystem approaches should be monitored and evaluated in
terms of their costeffectiveness in attaining agency ecosystem
objectives. Federal agencies should monitor and evaluate actions
taken to implement the ecosystem approach in order to determine
their costeffectiveness and to revise activities accordingly (for more specific recommendations
on costeffectiveness, see chapter on Science and Information).
Return to Table of Contents
The kind and quality of natural resource management depend on
the structure and function of agencies charged with managing the
Accordingly, the implementation of ecosystem approaches to natural
resource management depends on the design and framework of agency
institutions, and the way in which these institutions interface
with natural resources. Some institutional structures support
ecosystem approaches, and others do not.
In this chapter, we explore major barriers to, and opportunities
for, implementation of the ecosystem approach that emerge from
the institutional culture and structures of federal natural resource
agencies. Our ability to utilize the ecosystem approach as a
new approach to federal activities is predicated on the will and
institutional arrangements to make it happen. This chapter identifies
key institutional factors in successful ecosystem management,
indicating their legal, regulatory, and budgetary implications
(which are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this volume).
To illustrate institutional issues, examples are used from case
studies conducted by interagency survey teams in seven key ecosystems
nationwide (see volume 3 of this series, Interagency Ecosystem
Management Task Force 1995). At the end of this chapter, recommendations
are made for institutional improvements to facilitate the ecosystem
EMERGING INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
Institutional arrangements for an ecosystems approach to management
are complicated by the multitude of overlapping political and
geographic jurisdictions among the various federal and nonfederal
institutions in each ecosystem. These jurisdictions conform neither
to ecosystem boundaries nor to each other. For example, the Southern
Appalachians are a welldefined ecological region covered
by a patchwork of jurisdictions, including parts of six states,
various state and national parks and forests, parcels of forest
industry land, and an array of local communities. Despite their
diversity, different organizations in the region have established
a mechanism for working together toward common goals under the
Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere program. Such institutional
arrangements for managing ecosystems despite jurisdictional complexities
are evolving as more is learned about interrelationships among
environmental health, economic prosperity, and broad ecosystem
approaches to natural resource management. Because the nation's
economic and social wellbeing depends on the health of its
natural resources and their continued availability to future generations,
ecosystem approaches to natural resource management will receive
increasing attention in the years to come. Institutional arrangements
must remain flexible enough to address problems at hand and to
integrate the multitude of stakeholder interests, whether governmental
An ecosystem is an interconnected community of living things,
including humans and the physical environment within which they
interact. Ecosystems are not limited to rural areas: they encompass
urban, suburban, and rural environments and all possible interconnections
among them. An ecosystem approach must establish institutional
arrangements that allow all stakeholders to participate in decisions
made by political, economic, and natural resource management organizations
in the ecosystem to assure that all concerns are appropriately
Types of organizations designed to address issues within a welldefined
ecosystem are evolving. Many of the structures examined by survey
teams are extremely successful. Federal land managers are beginning
to utilize broader ecosystem approaches in collaboration with
tribal, state, and local governmental units, as well as with private
property owners. Federal agencies that provide technical assistance
on nonfederal lands make data and information available to a wide
array of private landowners and managers. State resource agencies
maintain essential data bases on ecosystem interrelationships,
as do such private organizations as The Nature Conservancy. Local
governments as well as metropolitan and nonmetropolitan planning
organizations maintain other data bases; increasingly, they are
taking into account larger ecosystem considerations transcending
their own boundaries. Private multijurisdictional organizations
(such as the Alliance for the Chesapeake, a coalition of citizens,
businesses, government officials, scientists, and farmers who
act as a neutral forum to discuss, analyze, and encourage public
involvement in policy making for the Chesapeake Bay; watershed
associations; and other stewards of the land and water) have successfully
brought stakeholders together. These voluntary stakeholder partnerships
are important to the future of natural resource management.
Key factors essential to the ecosystem approach are linked to
six main institutional issues:
As each institutional issue is discussed below, linkages to other
institutional issues are parenthetically indicated in italics
Shared Vision and Leadership
A first step under the ecosystem approach is to develop a vision
for the ecosystem based on desired future conditions what
we want the ecosystem to look like and to produce. All parties
who manage, influence, depend upon, and reside in the ecosystem,
and who must live with decisions regarding it, should participate
in developing the ecosystem vision. Leadership in the process
of developing a vision for the ecosystem demands a broad approach
transcending parochial interests.
Shared vision. Essential to the ecosystem approach is
the ability to envision an overarching whole, and to identify
the role one plays in it. Taking the individual point of view
constrains understanding of the entire ecosystem, rendering problemsolving
efforts inadequate. Still, there is a deepseated reluctance
on the part of many agencies and organizations to develop a shared
vision, due to widespread belief that individual identity is lost
in the process. Protecting home
turf is a common human
response to perceived intrusions, potentiated for federal agencies
by an operating system (see Performance Measures) that
rewards with budget increases and new programs that enhance agencies
capabilities at the expense of others. Parochial responses are
equally common in longstanding organizations, such as the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, and more recently
established agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). The problem is exacerbated by concentrations in each agency
of employees with a special disciplinary focus: foresters in
Forest Service, wildlife biologists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and lawyers and engineers in EPA.
Agency missions have a powerful influence on the ability of federal
employees to think beyond their often narrowly defined roles.
The historical circumstances and conditions that led to an agency's
formation defined its mission for that time. But over time, the
functional nature of agencies, reinforced by congressional direction,
has led to barriers that have narrowed the parameters of thought
and action. For example, the traditional fishandgame
focus of the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to influence
management on national wildlife refuges, even though the agency
has expanded its role to include management of endangered species.
However, current natural resource issues are forcing agencies
to push beyond traditional boundaries and to reassess agency missions,
articulating a new vision for the future. Such factors as decreased
fishery stocks, growing numbers of health advisories on shellfish
and finfish consumption, degraded fish and wildlife habitats,
rising numbers of endangered species, declining air and water
quality, diminishing ground water supplies, and the need for cleanup
of hazardous and toxic waste sites have triggered rising concern
in federal agencies. In addressing these concerns, agencies have
come to recognize the interrelationships among them, and to realize
the need for holistic solutions to environmental problems. The
ecosystem approach has emerged from this reassessment, both within
and across agencies.
Engaging agency employees in defining agency visions and missions
is gaining acceptance as a management tool. In the process, it
is critical that everyone be equal that
every participant be made to feel that his or her thinking is
worthy of consideration. This approach was pioneered by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) at Senior Leadership Conferences
for years, the Bureau of Land Management at its 1994 Nevada summit,
the Forest Service at its 1994 Houston leadership conference,
and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly
Soil Conservation Service) in 1991. In each case, the agency
brought together its entire leadership to discuss its changing
mission and what its role will be as natural resource agency in
the 21st century.
The issue can be summarized as follows:
Shared leadership. Even though different agencies may
use different words to describe an ecological approach to natural
resource management, the underlying concepts are the same. The
principles and guidelines for the ecosystem approach developed
in volume 1 of this series (Interagency Ecosystem Management Task
Force 1995) can provide a common framework within which each agency
can articulate its unique role.
The next step is to identify roles in each ecosystem and to enable
the appropriate agency or organization to provide leadership in
interagency efforts to implement the ecosystem approach. In many
areas, several agencies are able to provide the information base
for natural resource management and could share expertise and
leadership. But will ego allow leadership to be shared? Equally
importantly, does the current reward system (see Performance
Measures) encourage us to share leadership? Finally, will
managers learn to share authority? Leadership does not mean being
but rather showing the way through actions that lead others to
want to participate. The move toward consensusbuilding
in government, reflecting changing attitudes among federal managers,
provides a major impetus in this direction.
Examples. Citizens and public officials in the 35 communities
that cover the Charles River watershed in Massachusetts developed
a shared vision for the watershed, based upon wetland acquisition
as the preferred means of flood control. The Corps had recommended
that the last 10 miles of river be put in a concrete channel to
control periodic flooding, primarily in the Boston metropolitan
area. In cooperation with public officials and others, the Corps
identified the need for hydrological studies that finally affirmed
that the wetland approach was a feasible and economical alternative
to channelization. The wetland approach cost $17 million, compared
to $30 million for the proposed channelization (in mid1960
dollars). Saving the wetlands produced additional benefits, including
maintenance of ground water levels for municipal well supplies.
The flood control controversy resulted in formation of the Charles
River Watershed Association in 1965. The association has successfully
monitored water quality and promoted recreational activities throughout
the watershed. A planning process is now being initiated to address
water supply and other needs as the watershed deals with the impact
of further urban growth.
Experiences in the Anacostia River watershed illustrate the need
for coleadership by major governing bodies in an ecosystem
and for sharing of information to contribute to a common vision.
Through a federal and state partnership early in the planning
stages, many problems that have occurred could have been avoided,
such as difficulties in obtaining Clean Water Act section 404
permits for ecosystem restoration projects. The Metropolitan
Washington Council of Governments played a key role in helping
to integrate urban planning concerns with natural resource planning,
and in providing technical expertise on an intergovernmental basis
encompassing the entire watershed. The survey team concluded
that the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Committee<'s
SixPoint Action Plan provides focus, but is not comprehensive
enough, failing to include federal efforts until 1991. However,
it remains an effective mechanism for developing a shared vision
for watershed restoration.
The bottomup approach is exemplified in both Coastal Louisiana
and the Great Lakes basin. In the latter, the common goal based
on a shared vision, is
established through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
Under the umbrella of this agreement, local goals are established
through Remedial Action Plans involving agencies, citizens, and
stakeholder groups, realizing the vision on a practical level.
A similar process was developed for Coastal Louisiana through
establishment in 1980 of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana,
which led in 1990 to enactment of the Coastal Wetland Planning,
Protection and Restoration Act.
In the Pacific Northwest, the interagency survey team found that
development of a shared vision for the future was mentioned most
frequently as an essential ingredient to the success of ecosystembased
management. Unlike several other ecosystems studied by survey
teams, the Pacific Northwest had seen no organized effort to consider
the entire region until development of the President's
Forest Plan in 1993. Until then, the area was known for conflict
among agencies and organizations, not for interagency cooperation.
Efforts tied to Forest Plan implementation are helping to develop
a shared vision for the ecosystem, although the litigationdriven
process in this region reflects the weaknesses of any topdown
directive (weaknesses avoided in bottomup approaches based
on mutual agreement to cooperate). Similarly, until the Exxon
Valdez oil spill emergency, cooperation in Alaska's
Prince William Sound was limited to the local level and focused
on discrete projects rather than addressing the entire ecosystem.
Adaptive management is an iterative approach to decision making
involving a cycle of planning, implementation, monitoring, research,
and subsequent reexamination of management decisions based on
new information that may alter existing plans and priorities.
Adaptive management necessarily cuts across ecosystem management
issues, including budget issues (such as funding for monitoring),
institutional issues (such as guidelines for decisionmaking
processes), science and information issues (such as access to
applicable and reliable scientific information), and legal issues
(such as statutes that hinder or facilitate adaptive processes).
(For further discussion of the role of science in adaptive management,
see chapter 5.)
Approaches. An adaptive approach recognizes that ecosystems
are inherently changing and unpredictable. Longterm management
of such multifaceted systems requires an ability to evaluate present
and future management choices based on past results. The ecosystem
approach and sustainable development involve decision making based
on the recognition that all information needed for complete evaluation
of alternatives may not be available. Adaptive management is
an iterative process of learning from past experience and applying
the lessons learned to current decision making in order to implement
management practices under changing and often uncertain conditions.
Acknowledgment of uncertainties in the decisionmaking process
is at the heart of the ecosystem approach. Adaptive management
copes with these uncertainties by monitoring decisionmaking
results and reexamining choices in light of these results and
of new information that becomes available.
In its simplest form, adaptive management is a process made up
of a series of feedback loops that provide managers with information
on results of past management decisions and on present conditions.
The intent is to help managers assess the impact of past actions
on current decisionmaking options. Unfortunately, an adaptive
approach to decision making has not been implemented as broadly
and frequently as possible, in part because (1) the information
feedback loops on which the process depends may not exist, (2)
existing feedback loops may be easily obstructed, (3) existing
feedback loops may not provide useful information, (4) agencies
may not be willing to reevaluate management decisions with the
available information or necessary frequency, and /or (5) no (or
very limited) budgets are provided for the monitoring required
for adaptive management. In some cases, legal requirements related
to the decisionmaking process (for example, requirements
of the National Environmental Policy Act) have been perceived
as barriers to an adaptive approach. In addition, there is confusion
and apprehension about who should be involved in management decisions
at ecosystem scales in the first place, and how and when decisions
should be made. This has further complicated questions about
who should be involved in monitoring, assessment, and possible
reevaluation of management choices in the future, and how and
when these processes should occur. Finally, many managers may
not adequately understand the adaptive management process or how
to use it as a management tool (see Training).
Participants in survey team interviews and in regional and watershed
management efforts recognized that (1) management decisions must
be made with the best information possible, (2) monitoring programs
should be in place to collect data for assessment of results of
these decisions, and (3) the management process must involve reevaluation
of management practices and future decisions based on past results
and new information. It is hoped that implementation of these
basic steps of adaptive management will set in motion an iterative
process providing the opportunity to learn from our experiences
and refine our ability to manage from a sustainable ecosystem
perspective and to improve the certainty and effectiveness of
The information feedback loop essential to adaptive management is implemented in four steps:
Two of the most difficult problems at this final stage are deciding
how often to make these evaluations, and determining what new
information should compel an adjustment to management strategy.
What threshold should trigger an adjustment? Who decides when
and how to make adjustments? What are the definitions and thresholds
of acceptable results? These questions must be addressed in implementing
an adaptive approach to decision making.
Examples. In Coastal Louisiana, the Coastal Wetlands Planning,
Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) established an interagency
task force to coordinate restoration efforts. The Act stipulated
that funds for longterm monitoring of restoration efforts
and results had to be planned into project budgets. Because adaptive
management requires monitoring of management actions to determine
results of past decisions, its success depends on adequate monitoring.
Unfortunately, monitoring is frequently one of the first casualties
of budget tightening, and even when funding remains, monitoring
programs may not be designed carefully enough to provide information
of the kind or in the form most useful for evaluating past actions
and aiding in future decision making.
The CWPPRA process requires that 5 percent of funding for each
coastal wetland restoration project go to monitoring of results
for 10 years. Because monitoring is so essential to adaptive
management, participants in the CWPPRA process regarded this measure
as a very positive step toward institutionalizing funding for
monitoring. After funds were provided, questions remaining were
how well the monitoring programs were designed, whether they would
provide the information needed to make wise management decisions
in the future, and how and when this information would be made
available to help evaluate management decisions. Currently, state
agencies assume most responsibility for monitoring CWPPRA projects.
In the future, federal agencies and universities are expected
to participate in monitoring and information transfer to provide
greater closure to this promising adaptive management feedback
loop in the Coastal Louisiana ecosystem.
In the Great Lakes basin, the monitoring program established by
the Lakeside Management Plan for Lake Michigan was highlighted
by interviewees as a successful example of collaborative monitoring
by several state and federal agencies. Common monitoring goals
were established among agencies, and current monitoring efforts
were measured against them to identify gaps and overlaps in monitoring
coverage. Monitoring efforts were then shifted to reduce overlap
and make resources available for coverage of unmonitored areas.
This process allowed criteria to be developed for shifting monitoring
efforts on temporal, spatial, and topical bases to provide the
most efficient coverage during changing seasonal conditions.
Funds for monitoring were not pooled; instead, agencies agree
to fund and implement monitoring activities related to their missions
and programs in order to cover the range of variables or regions
requiring attention. The result was a reduction in overlap and
more efficient distribution of monitoring efforts, producing a
more comprehensive information base for use in the adaptive management
process. Saginaw Bay and other areas in the Great Lakes basin
developed similarly successful monitoring programs.
Adaptive management has been the subject of extensive discussion
in the Pacific Northwest. An interdisciplinary Forest Ecosystem
Management Assessment Team of biologists, ecologists, economists,
sociologists, and others developed a general planning model that
illustrates the adaptive approach to ecosystem management (Forest
Ecosystem Management Assessment Team 1993). The interagency organizational
structure created to implement an ecosystem approach in the Pacific
Northwest illustrates one way of addressing questions on how to
implement adaptive management. Several coordination groups, including
the Interagency Steering Committee, Regional Interagency Executive
Committee, and a Regional Ecosystem Office, were created by a
Memorandum of Understanding for Forest Ecosystem Management, which
establishes a formal procedure for interagency coordination.
These groups provide a framework for addressing when and how new
information may affect management plans and practices. The Regional
Ecosystem Office in particular is responsible for evaluation of
major modifications arising from the adaptive management process
as well as for formulation and implementation of data standards.
The Office has no decisionmaking authority, but rather
makes recommendations to the Regional Interagency Executive Committee,
which is responsible for implementing Interagency Steering Committee
Monitoring and information transfer components of an adaptive
management feedback process are a focal point of restoration efforts
in the Prince William Sound ecosystem. Although implementing
the ecosystem approach was not one of the primary purposes for
establishing the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council,
it is one of the basic policies set forth in the Council's
plan for restoring resources in Prince William Sound following
the oil spill. The plan emphasizes not only restoration and habitat
protection, but also the research and monitoring needed to produce
broadbased information on how the Prince William Sound ecosystem
functions. This information is crucial for future management
of resources and assessment of environmental impacts.
Efforts are underway to ensure that information from monitoring
and research is made available as quickly and efficiently as possible
to a broad range of interested parties. The Trustee Council established
an Oil Spill Information Center to lead these efforts and to function
as a repository for information generated during cleanup, damage
assessment, and restoration efforts. Electronic informationsharing
projects currently being planned or implemented emphasize making
information more accessible rather than defining common data reporting
formats. Immediately after the oil spill, litigation prevented
access to much data and severed the feedback loop necessary for
adaptive management. However, current efforts to make data accessible
and responsive to a broad range of managers and stakeholders hold
Such efforts are clearly facilitated by the substantial funds
available from court settlements for restoration of Prince William
Sound. Some of these funds will be set aside in a longterm
reserve for future projects as new needs and goals become apparent.
This longterm reserve, which will include funds for future
research, sets aside money for future use without specifying how
it will be spent.
In the Southern Appalachian region, many groups are trying to
find ways to integrate a more adaptive management process into
their activities. Operating regulations for many agencies do
not permit quick adaptation to changing conditions (such as realignment
of funds, staff, and policies). Although it is often desirable
to have one agency take the lead in certain areas and direct expenditure
of pooled funds, administrative procedures make it difficult to
transfer funds from one agency to another.
One measure facilitating adaptive management in the Southern Appalachians
is use of an ad hoc committee to deal with a sudden outbreak of
the dogwood anthracnose disease, a specific problem that crossed
agency jurisdictions and required immediate attention. Survey
participants noted that it was difficult to get funds and staff
focused on this problem, which hit the entire region very quickly.
Administrative procedures made it difficult to transfer money
to one lead agency when needed by another. The ad hoc committee
was formed as an independent body that could cooperatively assign
tasks, readily share data and information, and continue to develop
a strategy for dealing with the disease.
For the federal government to implement the ecosystem approach
nationwide, the hurdles presented by its organizational structure
must be overcome. Organizational structure presents barriers
to communication, coordination, interdisciplinary hiring and training,
ecosystem budgeting, and public participation. Agency structure
is interconnected with other institutional barriers to the ecosystem
approach, including those pertaining to shared vision and leadership,
performance measurement and accountability, and training and education.
Performance within the organization is naturally oriented to
the structure and mission of the agency (see Shared Vision).
Structural barriers. Some agencies (such as EPA) were
set up to handle a specific mission, and others (such as the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development) were designed to
deal with a group of closely related needs. Federal agencies
are authorized by specific legislation and budget authority to
pursue particular missions. The narrow agency focus that often
results does not conform to the interdisciplinary, collaborative,
cooperative nature of the ecosystem approach and impedes the sharing
of a vision across office or agency boundaries. Moreover, the
organizational subunits of an agency have even more narrowly defined
roles or missions. These structural barriers are reinforced by
agency accountability before Congress: agencies, and even subunits
of agencies, are accountable to different congressional authorizing
and appropriations committees, and particular issues often fall
under the jurisdiction of many committees with varied concerns.
The budget process directly reinforces the organizational status
quo by creating competition among offices and agencies for funding,
especially in times of tight or shrinking budgets. Agency and
departmental guidance is reinforced by the Office of Management
and Budget, which reviews agency budgets in a functional, nonintegrative
manner. This competition can create a zerosum game, where
any change in program direction or funding can lead to losses
in programs or personnel, and thereby to loss of influence and
status within the culture. All of this is inimical to the shared
vision and collaborative efforts needed to implement the ecosystem
The isolation of agency subunits from one another leads to poor
communication. It is not uncommon for multiple environmental
impact statements to be filed for individual agency actions, even
though the activities occur in the same region or even at the
same site. This lack of coordination can lead to missed opportunities
for cooperation in activities important to the ecosystem, or for
mitigation of environmental impacts. Separate studies may be
redundant, and can become quite expensive. However, some sites
and agencies are developing programmatic environmental impact
statements to deal with these issues.
Agency structure may pose a barrier to public communication by
baffling citizens who seek environmental information or coordination
and funding for ecosystemrelated activities. Often, parties
outside (and even within) the federal government cannot find out
where to go or whom to contact. The difficulty may be compounded
as agency boundaries blur with the move to an interagency ecosystems
approach to natural resource management (see Information Accessibility).
The structure and mission of an agency determine its skills mix,
which may be inadequate in certain disciplines for the needs of
the ecosystem approach. Typically, an agency will hire specialists
needed to fulfill its narrowly defined mission, in addition to
the support personnel required to make a bureaucracy work. For
most agencies, however, the need for systematists or generalists
was not often envisioned when the agency mission was defined.
For example, the negotiation skills critical to attaining consensus
on contentious issues are not usually part of the toolkit the
scientist or manager brings to the job (see Training).
Land boundaries and jurisdictional differences among agencies
also create structural barriers to an ecosystem approach. Moreover,
agencies use several valid but quite different systems for classifying
ecosystems in the United States (see chapter on Science and Information
in this volume). Finally, most agencies have geographically defined
subunits, which tend to develop their own objectives and missions,
and their jurisdictional boundaries rarely coincide with ecosystem
boundaries. Implementation of the ecosystem approach will require
use of natural and changing boundaries, with cooperation among
artificially defined subunits. In an attempt to address these
barriers, the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and Natural
Resources Conservation Service are developing a common map of
ecological units to facilitate communication and coordination
in regions of mutual interest and authority.
The issue can be summarized as follows:
Examples. In practice, many organizational barriers can
be overcome. For example, federal wetlands regulation proved
unacceptable to many interested parties (landowners, federal regulators,
commercial interests, state and local governments, and others),
but each party was dissatisfied for a different reason. Their
conflicting viewpoints produced gridlock, preventing any major
changes to federal wetlands policy since the 1977 Clean Water
Act amendments. In June 1993, vowing to break the gridlock, the
Clinton administration convened the Interagency Working Group
on Federal Wetlands Policy. Chaired by the Office on Environmental
Policy, the group included participants from nine agencies. It
sought the views of all sides, including members of Congress,
representatives of state and local governments, environmentalists,
developers, agricultural interests, and scientists. The group
then identified the major issues to be addressed, wrote options
papers, and decided on policy positions. A report was issued
in August 1993. The group then worked with Congress on legislative
language for initiatives requiring legislation. Federal agencies
have begun the process of developing appropriate regulations and
implementing nonregulatory actions.
The U.S. Department of Energy provides an example of organizational
barriers to a collaborative ecosystem approach embedded in agency
structure. In the Department of Energy, separate offices are
responsible for lands, facilities operations, cleanup activities,
economic development projects, environmental research parks, public
participation, and other activities. A welter of mission priorities
for the Department and its individual offices has overwhelmed
Recognizing these structural barriers, the Department of Energy
is pursuing ways of overcoming them within the department. Enthusiastic
work at the staff level, and innovative, imaginative leadership
by some office managers and by the Secretary's
office are moving the department toward a solution. The Department
is developing collaborative, integrated planning for land and
facilities management, a process that incorporates principles
of the ecosystem approach in the form of requirements to be met.
Department planning for land and facilities operations will take
into account the needs and desires of local communities, integrating
them into the Department's
mission in accordance with the needs of the nation to ensure continued
ecosystem health. This integrated policy builds upon many disparate
initiatives within the department.
The Coastal Louisiana survey team study illustrates the value
to federal agencies of traditional missions and patterns of organization.
The team found that traditional roles help to clarify where centers
of expertise lie, and to foster the esprit de corps necessary
to retain the valued employees and institutional knowledge needed
to effect longterm management. Preserving traditional roles
helps to identify where gaps in expertise lie.
The Great Lakes survey team study uses the term "institutional
ecosystem" to describe
the cooperative and collaborative organizational structure that
has been put together (along with partnerships with industry and
private citizens) to manage the Great Lakes ecosystem. This structure
is based on recognition of the fact that sustainable development
in the Great Lakes basin depends on taking a holistic approach
to natural resources: resources must be seen not as distinct
elements, but rather as parts of dynamic and interdependent communities
and ecosystems. Taking an ecosystem approach means that all partners, government
and privatesector alike, must
understand the implications of their actions and strive to avoid
unintended adverse effects on the environment.
The Pacific Northwest survey team study found that the Intergovernmental
Personnel Act of 1970 provides a useful tool for overcoming organizational
barriers. Under the Act's
provisions, the experts needed to implement the ecosystem approach
can be drawn from multiple agencies and offices and located in
a single office. The Prince William Sound survey team study noted
an additional factor needed for success: the regional coordinating
body in the Prince William Sound ecosystem was able to hire a
fulltime staff, including a director and scientists, contributing
to its success. Because staff members owed allegiance to no particular
agency, they were able to facilitate consensus building within
the decisionmaking body.
Performance Measures and Accountability
Performance measurement and accountability link ecosystem goals
to actual changes in public and private behavior that enhance
ecosystem health. Performance accountability provides the framework
for measuring program and policy outcomes against a common standard
and organizes information for effective use by all stakeholders.
Requirements and barriers. Performance outcomes fall into
two broad categories: accountability related to agency and employee
actions, and accountability related to ecosystem functions. The
ecosystem approach is seriously impeded when performance measures
are missing, and when there are no corresponding incentives to
encourage ecosystem management and coordination at the federal,
departmental, agency, subunit, and employee level. Implementation
of the ecosystem approach requires a set of universally accepted
ecosystem health indicators. Without them, collaboration among
federal and nonfederal stakeholders is difficult, and programs
and projects may work at crosspurposes, sending conflicting
signals to landowners and resource managers.
At the administrative level, the federal government must measure
the performance of agencies that directly or indirectly affect
ecosystems in their activities. The Government Performance and
Results Act of 1993 set forth new standards for measuring the
performance of government agencies. The Act requires federal
agencies to develop measurable objectives for selected programs.
Several agencies have been asked to create pilot programs that
emphasize this approach in budget acquisition. In general, the
federal performance accountability incentive system should be
changed to encourage the following:
At the ecosystem level, without a set of clearly defined, scientifically
sound, fieldtested indicators, measurable success under
the ecosystem approach is problematic. Ecosystem health indicators
serve two prominent roles in the ecosystem approach: first, they
provide concrete guidance to practitioners, landowners, and other
stakeholders, enabling them to determine jointly when goals of
environmental protection and sustainable production have been
achieved; and second, they serve as proxies for complex, often
poorly understood processes that depend on numerous variables
and functions involved in the ecosystem approach.
Without ecosystem health indicators, measurement of public and
private performance in environmental protection is difficult:
in some cases, no measures are available, and in others, different
groups use different measures. Use of common indicators encourages
better communication, reduces conflicts, and accelerates program
implementation. Ecosystem health indicators help to ensure that
all federal initiatives are based on national standards, that
resource concerns are not ignored, that problems are more clearly
defined, and that the public is given consistent recommendations.
Specific barriers to establishing performance accountability include:
Examples. There are many specific instances where performance
measurement and accountability could encourage government and
private efforts to improve ecosystem health. In the Pacific Northwest,
for example, inconsistencies in various land management statutes
have impeded coordinated land management planning and made it
difficult to establish performance accountability measures that
are consistent across agencies. Specifically, prior Administrations
assumed that differences between the Oregon and California Revested
Lands Act (governing some Bureau of Land Management lands) and
the National Forest Management Act (governing Forest Service lands)
made consistent standards impossible. However, appropriate incentives
could lead to cooperation between the agencies and more rational
land management standards.
The lineitem (or program) budget model further illustrates
how the ecosystem approach is affected by a performance accountability
system. For example, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
lack the budgetary flexibility needed to meet ecosystem management
challenges as they arise. Both agencies use budget line items
by program, leading to conflicts among programs. The Forest Service
practice of tying budgets to a single resource or function also
creates problems: as timber sales decline, agency budgets decrease,
despite a growing need to pursue conservation, restoration, and
other nontimber objectives in managing the national forests.
Linking Forest Service budget levels to an ecosystembased
performance accountability system rather than to the single function
of timber production could help solve this particular problem.
Current activities in response to the Government Performance
and Results Act are defining new outcomeoriented performance
Ecosystemwide coordination among federal agencies is hampered
by disparate agency missions (see Shared Vision) and separate,
lengthy planning requirements, all rooted by statute in the federal
land management framework. For example, in the greater Yellowstone
area, adjacent National Park Service and Forest Service lands
in the same ecosystem have been managed with very different objectives,
in part due to funding incentives for Forest Service timber harvesting.
A performance accountability system could be devised to allow
consistent management across the entire ecosystem, either under
current authorities or by providing direction in regulatory amendments.
In October 1993, a workshop at Yale University on the ecosystem
approach found numerous barriers to building effective partnerships
across ownership boundaries. Participants concluded that federal
land management agencies, together with federal, state, and local
regulatory agencies and tax authorities, often operate in ways
that do not support the ecosystem approach, and in many cases
impede it. Often, private landowners do not establish desired
ecological conditions in an area because there are no incentives
for them to do so. Specifically, federal and state income and
inheritance taxes and regulatory provisions do not generally distinguish
between landowners who go to considerable expense to achieve federally
identified ecological goals and those who do not. Not only are
technical and financial assistance inadequate, there are not enough
marketbased approaches to solving problems. A performance
measurement and accountability system that monitored and rewarded
formation of ecosystemwide partnerships, involvement of
private landowners in the ecosystem approach, and modification
of private sector incentives would considerably enhance ecosystem
Problems with the New York City water supply illustrate how lack
of performance accountability measures and incentives to reward
coordination can impede implementation of management plans. In
1990, New York City issued a discussion draft of revisions to
its watershed regulations as part of the New York State Public
Health Law. The draft regulations limited runoff from pastures,
prohibited discharge of contaminants from barnyards, and proscribed
application of manure and fertilizer within "limiting
distance" of a watercourse.
The agricultural community maintained that the proposed regulations
threatened the viability of farming. Because New York City believed
that agriculture was the preferred longterm land use, it
established an ad hoc task force to recommend programs and regulations
to protect the New York City water supply while sustaining agriculture.
As a result of the task force's
efforts, the city adopted a Whole Farm Planning approach based
on community planning principles. This approach will be reviewed
in 1997, and if Whole Farm Planning is not adequately protecting
the water supply, the watershed communities and the city have
agreed to use alternative measures, including regulations.
In urbanizing areas, however, permits for new houses and businesses
were severely limited, a solution unacceptable to local communities,
which challenged New York City's
control over development in court. Putnam County estimates that
the regulations would cost it 3,190 jobs and increase taxes by
16 percent by the year 2000. In this case, there was little of
the systemwide coordination evident in the city's
approach to the agricultural sector: Adaptive Management principles
were not employed, Organizational Structure was ignored,
Performance Measures were not established, and there was
no Shared Vision. Performance accountability criteria
at the state and local level could have helped to ensure that
the urban component of the watershed plan would have been implemented
more effectively and efficiently.
The South Florida survey team found that agricultural support
and flood insurance programs were thought to exacerbate the Everglades'
environmental decline. Specifically, USDA sugar price supports
and import restrictions promote sugar production in environmentally
sensitive areas, and the National Flood Insurance Act encourages
development in environmentally sensitive areas. The team noted
the need for broadening agency coordination to cope with these
and other problems. Here again, performance accountability measures
designed to coordinate programs across agencies could substantially
enhance ecosystem health.
Other survey team studies also revealed deficiencies in performance
accountability in accomplishing resource management objectives.
The Pacific Northwest survey team noted that agency budget and
appropriations processes reflect a long history of rewarding commodity
production at the expense of conservation activities. The Coastal
Louisiana survey team found that wetland restoration could be
enhanced through consensus on a set of ecosystem health indicators,
and the Southern Appalachian survey team concluded that federal
agencies spend resources on projects that conflict with one another.
However, it is clear that increased emphasis on ecosystem sustainability,
including sustainability of the human community, is redefining
performance objectives for all agencies.
Information Accessibility, Usability, and Communication
Implementing an ecosystems approach to management requires an
understanding of how ecosystems function, together with an awareness
of resources in each particular ecosystem, their interactive processes,
and threats to the ecosystem as a whole. However, our ability
to understand how ecosystems function is restricted by lack of
data and models, limited access to existing data because of technical
and administrative barriers, and lack of expertise in interpreting
existing information. Similar problems obstruct our understanding
of particular ecosystems; and the fostering of partnerships is
impeded by poor flow of communication, especially on a peertopeer
level between partner organizations.
Needs and constraints. Provision of information is the
point where nature, science, policy, politics, and public involvement
intersect. Therefore, information must be accessible across agency
boundaries and to the public. For stakeholders to reach an enduring
consensus on management strategies, they must have access to empowering
information, and information sets must be compatible so that they
can be appropriately integrated, analyzed, and understood. Information
accessibility is not an end in itself, but rather a means to foster
interagency cooperation and public empowerment, support the design
of measurable performance criteria, assist in defining training
needs, and facilitate adaptive management.
Important keys to information accessibility include development
of standard data protocols and creation of ways to integrate information
through techniques such as geographic information systems and
network technologies (including Gopher, Mosaic/World Wide Web,
and Wide Area Information Servers). Significant barriers to information
accessibility and usability and to the free flow of communication
include the following:
Examples. Electronic information networking is a rapidly
evolving means of improving our capabilities to meet the needs
of ecosystembased management. Dramatic changes are occurring
in our ability to access and use information and to communicate
with each other. Vice President Gore has been a national leader
in the initiative to create the National Information Infrastructure,
also known as the "information
National Information Infrastructure is now being thought of as
the U.S. component of a global information infrastructure. The
media refer constantly to the information highway, and jokes about
and "toll booths"
abound, a sure sign that
the concept is pervasive. Internet, the federally established
information network designed as precursor to a full National Information
Infrastructure, has more than 20 million users and is growing
at the incredible rate of about 10 percent per month.
The Administration has created the Information Infrastructure
Task Force, which has identified environmental information empowerment
as a key area of potential application for the National Information
Infrastructure. The National Performance Review has created a
program that is building interagency electronic networks to facilitate
implementation of National Performance Review recommendations.
Electronic mail is increasingly used in federal and many state
agencies to share information, ask and answer questions, and identify
Researchers have built new tools (foremost among them Gopher,
Mosaic/World Wide Web, and Wide Area Information Servers) that
make it relatively easy for suppliers to publish and customers
to find, access, and use information over Internet. The Fish
and Wildlife Service has placed the National Wetlands Inventory
and lists of threatened and endangered species on information
servers on Internet, where they are accessible to millions of
users, including thousands of agency employees. Pilot interagency
networks for the ecosystem approach have been built for the Gulf
of Mexico, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, and elsewhere.
The National Performance Review's
NetResults team has built about 10 interagency networks and endorsed
the creation of a new network to support the ecosystem approach.
Vice President Gore has begun the Global Learning and Observations
to Benefit the Environment initiative, under which thousands of
schoolchildren will collect standard environmental data sets and
share the information over Internet. This initiative would help
to educate and engage people in ecosystem studies, and could conceivable
collect information useful to natural resource managers. The
U.S. Geological Survey is leading development of a National Spatial
Data Infrastructure designed to provide essential spatial data
sets needed under the ecosystem approach, and the National Biological
Service is leading creation of a National Biological Information
Infrastructure. The Office of Management and Budget and the Smithsonian
Institute have proposed establishment of a National Biodiversity
Information Center. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration
is building the Global Change Data and Information System, which
will help provide access to relevant data. The National Science
and Technology Council's
Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has created an
Observations and Data Management Task Force to help coordinate
On the international front, the Australians have shown global
leadership with their Environmental Resources Information Network,
which provides Internet access to key national data sets needed
to understand and manage ecosystems. The Biodiversity Information
Network in Brazil has built an international consortium of researchers
and managers cooperating to exchange information to support Biodiversity
conservation. And the World Conservation Monitoring Center in
the United Kingdom has emerged as another international leader.
In the Southern Appalachians, data management constraints are
felt throughout the region. The size of the region and the voluminous
amounts of information already available require extensive computer
management of data, which is hard to achieve. More attention
to data administration is needed as agencies and landowners attempt
to utilize existing data for planning and management direction.
Longterm maintenance of data bases is a real problem, largely
due to a lack of dedicated funds. Lack of consistency among data
standards and data sets continues to impede the ability to create
common data bases and to share existing data.
Similar issues have been raised in the Pacific Northwest, emphasized
during the recent exercise to craft the President's
Forest Plan for the region. Participants in the Pacific Northwest
survey team study recognized that inadequate data exchange between
federal agencies and managers, regulators and land managers, and
federal and nonfederal entities fosters distrust, inhibiting an
effective, creative evaluation of problems and development of
possible solutions. Emphasis was therefore placed on a greater
need for standardization, on establishment of common technical
data sets, and on collection of data on broader spatial and temporal
scales. Lack of consistency and compatibility in data collection
and storage is a major problem. Differences in data, analysis
methods, and historical records make comparison difficult.
Alaska maintains Public Information Centers distributed throughout
the state to provide planners and developers with all necessary
information on permits. In both Prince William Sound and the
Anacostia River watershed, survey teams found a widespread desire
for "onestop shopping"
for regulatory information, a
single set of data on federal permits and regulatory processes.
Training and Education
For an ecosystem vision to be shared and for principles of the
ecosystem approach to be effectively implemented, employees must
not only understand ecological systems and the relationships among
ecological, social, and economic systems, they must also acquire
the interpersonal skills to effectively participate in twoway
communication. An ecosystem approach to natural resource management
differs from traditional approaches, requiring training in dealing
with change itself. Many federal agencies are aware of increased
training needs in ecosystem approaches and are taking action.
However, because the ecosystem approach requires us to think
and act differently, there are barriers to getting the job done
effectively. Barriers are of two types: lack of training in
general, and the unique challenges presented by training specifically
in the ecosystem approach.
A need for general training in the ecosystem approach has been identified in many areas. For example, survey team studies found a need for more ecosystemrelated training in the Anacostia River watershed and Great Lakes basin, and federal employees who lead training efforts in their respective agencies have also called for more training. Lack of training could easily be remedied through training programs, but the federal workforce is rapidly shrinking, and as more and more employees leave the federal workforce, remaining employees must assume a growing workload. Shortstaffed managers are reluctant to devote additional employee time to increased training, and shortages in fiscal resources make it difficult to afford increased training. Despite such constraints, some agencies are maintaining their emphasis on training and continued education. For example, in a September 1994 speech to the Society of American Foresters, the Forest Service Chief announced, "I have given out the word that we can't cut back on training."
As a discipline, understanding ecological theory presents additional,
unique challenges in the realm of training. Because the ecosystem
approach cuts across agency functions and geographic areas, federal
agencies must conduct training in a coordinated fashion and incorporate
the concept of crosstraining. For example, Fish and Wildlife
Service employees need training in forestry, and Forest Service
employees need training in wildlife management. Given the complexities
of ecosystem functions and the integration of ecological, social,
and economic factors in ecosystems, no single discipline can provide
all necessary expertise. Interdisciplinary teams must be organized
and trained to implement the ecosystem approach. Coordinated
training efforts and joint training will require substantially
more planning within and among federal agencies in order to minimize
redundancies and to ensure development of effective training programs.
Some of this coordination is already underway. One important
ongoing effort to promote interagency cooperation in training
is conducted by an ad hoc group, the Interagency Ecosystem Management
Training Group, started in 1994 with representatives from 14 agencies.
This group is trying to coordinate efforts in ecosystem approach
training, without formal
blessing from agency heads.
Each of the federal agencies in the ad hoc group conducts some
type of training in the ecosystem approach. The Bureau of Land
Management has a large program at the National Training Center
in Arizona. Each year, more than 300 courses on a variety of
topics (including the ecosystem approach) are offered to federal
employees from many different agencies and to nonfederal employees
(including representatives from state agencies and the private
sector). The Natural Resources Conservation Service is developing
a program to teach its employees how to integrate ecosystem concepts
into ongoing programs. This training program will use satellite
technology to reach as many employees as possible in a costeffective
manner. Recently, the Forest Service Chief announced that all
employees will receive some form of training in the concepts of
the ecosystem approach, and the agency has a task force working
to implement this training across the entire agency. A critical
challenge in developing this program will be deciding what level
of training in the ecosystem approach each employee should receive.
The holistic educational effort needed includes training in the
social sciences: the human dimension of the ecosystem approach
is too often overlooked. More training is needed in conflict
resolution and in problem solving in difficult situations. The
Forest Service and other agencies are focusing on training top
leadership in techniques for collaborative planning. These techniques
provide tools for crafting solutions to difficult problems through
thorough, facilitated dialogue among discussion participants.
Under this approach, consensus is only a partial solution: the
ultimate goal is to reach a higher level of problem resolution
through collaboration. An example of collaborative planning in
action is the Colorado Roundtable, composed of representatives
of grazing and environmental groups trying to solve range problems
in the Rocky Mountains.
Traditionally, those trained in the biological and physical sciences
have lacked experience in relating to the public and in making
technical information easily understood. One reason is that "experts"
often feel privileged as authoritative repositories of knowledge
to which the public has nothing of value to contribute. There
is clear evidence that many people, especially those who live
and work in or near rural areas, have a deep (albeit often nontechnical)
understanding of ecosystems.
Listening more intently is important in our efforts to involve
the public in the ecosystem approach (see chapter on Public Participation
in this volume). We must recognize that our technical elitism
may impair our listening abilities, constraining our ability to
facilitate meaningful public participation. For example, the
Forest Service dampens enthusiasm for effective public participation
when it presents a management plan for a national forest to the
public as a fait accompli. Often, the preferred alternative is
presented, giving the correct impression that the agency already
knows what it wants to do and is requesting public input only
Training natural resource managers in principles of the ecosystem
approach is really only part of the solution: public education
must also be provided. A knowledgeable public can be of enormous
assistance in getting things done in the field: resistance to
federal land management techniques is reduced, and the quality
of public involvement dramatically rises. However, federal managers
need training in public education techniques. For example, they
must learn to present the ecosystem approach not as a goal or
end in itself, but rather as a means to sustain natural ecosystems
and the human communities that depend on them. We have not focused
enough on why we take an ecosystem approach; the concept of the
ecosystem approach is more understandable when presented with
the goal in mind of improving the quality of human life.
The need for basic understanding of ecosystem approaches is not
unique to federal personnel: education and training of federal
workers reach only some of the players in the partnerships necessary
for successful implementation of the ecosystem approach. Training
should also be made available to nonfederal parties at local,
state, and regional levels, whose decisions concerning use and
conservation of public and private resources can significantly
affect the outcome of even the best planned management programs.
Basic primers in the ecosystem approach should be developed for
public officials, planners, and the general public.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Federal agency ability to facilitate the ecosystem approach would
be greatly enhanced if agency structures were modified to address
key institutional issues: shared vision and leadership; adaptive
management; organizational structure; performance measures and
accountability; information accessibility, usability, and communication;
and training and education in the ecosystem approach. The following
observations are based on considerable discussion, and on careful
review of survey team studies (see Interagency Ecosystem Management
Work Group 1995, volume 3). Recommendations are intended to provide
a basis for discussion of institutional improvements to facilitate
the ecosystem approach.
Shared Vision and Leadership
Effective vision and leadership depend on:
An adaptive approach to natural resource management should include:
The ecosystem approach can be improved through:
Performance Measures and Accountability
The ecosystem approach can be facilitated through:
Information Accessibility, Usability, and Communication
Information on ecosystems can be made more accessible and usable
by developing electronic networks to enhance communications, information
exchange, collaboration, and empowerment among agencies involved
in ecosystemrelated activities. Networks should build upon
existing efforts rather than compete with them. The Council on
Environmental Quality should facilitate the development of an
efficient ecosystem data access, including full coordination with
the Federal Geographic Data Committee (a geospatial data clearinghouse),
the National Biological Information Infrastructure, and other
data networks, such as the Committee on Environment and Natural
and Data Management Task Force and the Global Learning and Observations
to Benefit the Environment initiative.
Training and Education
Measures to enhance training and education in the ecosystem approach
Return to Table of Contents
The federal government depends a great deal on public input in
making decisions, especially under the ecosystem approach. The
principles of this approach, outlined in volume 1 of this series
(Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995), address the
need for give and take, with responsibilities for both the federal
government and the public. Under the ecosystem approach, a shared
vision of the desired ecosystem is developed, taking into account
existing social and economic conditions, and identifying ways
in which all stakeholders can contribute to, and
benefit from, achieving
ecosystem goals. Where possible, federal agencies work collaboratively
with state, local, and tribal governments to address mutual concerns,
and with private landowners to accomplish shared goals while respecting
The public has a right to expect the government to establish a
mechanism for reviewing issues or potential actions and for presenting
those with farreaching effects to the public for discussion.
At the same time, the public must be aware of and able to use
that mechanism to raise issues that it considers important. The
federal government must ensure that issues, proposals, or projects
are presented systematically, fairly, and clearly to sectors of
the public that might be interested or affected. Issues that
are most farreaching and have the greatest impact should
receive the most attention.
Public input can be varied and conflicting. For example, those
who live in local communities directly affected by management
decisions on public lands may have a different perspective than
taxpayers at the national level. Federal agencies must weigh
public input from local, regional, and national stakeholders, including
those in commerce and industry, and
balance them carefully against each other in making management
All survey team studies in volume 3 of this series (Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995) stress the importance of
public education, public access to information, and public participation
in decision making. Equally important is the need for better
communication and coordination among federal agencies in attempting
to include the public in the ecosystem approach. Involving the
public early and maintaining public involvement throughout the
decisionmaking and implementation processes are fundamental
to a successful ecosystem approach. To be effective, agencies
must consider public perceptions and understand public values
concerning ecosystems, and they must provide education about the
relationship between public health and the health of the ecosystems
in which we all live.
Public participation in the ecosystem approach can take several
forms. First, members of the public can help agencies with the
immense task of grasping the human dimensions of problems in ecosystems,
and of gathering biological and physical information across various
geographic scales. The public helps identify problems, define
goals and opportunities, and design possible scenarios for the
future. Their input provides the credibility and acceptability
of projects and programs. The broader the participation and the
more diverse the information included, the more likely it is that
a project will address problems fairly and successfully.
Second, public participation can build longterm relationships
among tribes, agencies, and citizens. These relationships, developed
for a wide variety of reasons, are essential if goals under the
ecosystem approach are to be realized.
Third, public participation keeps expectations realistic. Public
participation provides opportunities for give and take on information,
so that we can move forward with a shared understanding. The
more public participation there is in decision making, the less
possibility of surprises.
The first part of this chapter offers examples of what agencies
and organizations are doing to include the public in the ecosystem
approach, drawn in part from interagency survey team studies in
seven key ecosystems nationwide. The second part of the chapter
delineates barriers to public involvement in the ecosystem approach
and opportunities for sustaining and potentiating public participation
in ecosystem approaches. Finally, recommendations are offered
for overcoming barriers and taking advantage of opportunities
to ensure public input into the ecosystem approach so that it
enjoys full public support.
MOVING TOWARD AN ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) formalized
the requirement that federal agencies submit a wide array of proposed
federal actions to the public for consideration. Although NEPA
has greatly helped to institutionalize public participation in
federal programs, stakeholders expect even more participation
in the decisionmaking process. NEPA requires public involvement
prior to an action; today, however, the public expects to be consulted
long before a proposed action has been developed. To successfully
meet this demand, federal agencies must decide how best to provide
a variety of participation opportunities, given time, funding,
and other constraints.
For years, federal agencies have held public meetings and circulated
draft documents to gather comments on proposed plans. Now there
is more emphasis on involving the public at the beginning of a
process, the point when
problems are defined, data is gathered, and relationships with
stakeholders are established. This new emphasis is based on recognition
that knowledge grows out of shared experience, and that nontechnical
information that reflects people's
desires, experiences, and opinions is vital to any successful
Typically, there are three types of efforts to involve the public
in federal programs: facilitating access to information; providing
educational opportunities; and soliciting public input through
Public Access to Information
Providing access to information includes making planning and other
documents available, conducting public comment periods, and establishing
personal contact with the public. Federal agencies have improved
substantially in their efforts to make technical documents more
understandable, to provide materials in other languages, and to
ensure that planners and technical experts are able to communicate
with the public. For example:
Federal agencies provide the public with opportunities to learn
about ecosystems and federal activities to implement the ecosystem
approach. Educational programs place environmental issues in
their broader political, social, economic, and biological contexts,
promoting public sensitivity to environmental problems and federal
efforts to address them. They are designed to elicit informed
public input into federal activities under the ecosystem approach,
and to generate interest and involvement on the part of previously
excluded groups, such as lowincome and minority communities
(through paid job and volunteer programs). Besides supporting
volunteer programs, educational efforts include developing curriculum
materials in partnership with school districts or state agencies,
and distributing interpretive materials on restoration efforts
(such as those in the Chesapeake Bay). Current educational opportunities
Although federal agencies now do a better job than ever before
of engaging the public in dialogue, citizen input is typically
limited to contributions at public meetings and to written comments
on proposed federal actions. Federal agencies continue to wrestle
with the problem of getting public input early in the process,
and of ensuring its careful consideration by decision makers.
However, federal and state agencies are making strides in both
regards. For example, citizens participated early in the process
of defining problems and making decisions related to a Corps study
in South Florida. Similarly, citizens were able to define their
own development goals before the state of Alaska's
Department of Community and Regional Affairs.
Examples of efforts by federal agencies to facilitate citizen
input include the following:
ACHIEVING AN ECOSYSTEM APPROACH
The importance of early and continuous public participation was
a predominant theme in discussions with federal, state, local,
tribal, and nongovernment stakeholders in all seven ecosystems
studied by survey teams. Stakeholders pointed to the need for
better coordination and communication among federal agencies involved
in the ecosystem approach as a prerequisite to good twoway
communication with the public. Several principles or common themes
emerged from survey team interviews and other projects and studies:
the importance of public access to information and public input
into decision making; the need to empower a public not always
privy to expert technical information; the importance of incorporating
the human dimensions of environmental problems into the ecosystem
approach; the need to be fair with the public; the need for good
communication; the necessity of staying in close touch with the
public; and the importance of early and continuous public involvement.
Information Access and DecisionMaking Input
Public involvement can be greatly stimulated by opening the process
to the greatest number of participants possible representing the
widest range of interests feasible. However, opening the process
depends on overcoming real and perceived barriers. In locations
such as Coastal Louisiana, for example, where legislation and
grassroots efforts produced large federal programs, the public
expected to have a larger hand in the process, and many federal
efforts have been perceived and criticized as management from
the top down rather than from the bottom up. According to interviewees
at some of the sites, no attempt was made to develop an overall
vision for the area with the public before federal agencies started
to plan projects.
Federal efforts to implement the ecosystem approach can also conflict
unnecessarily with state and local goals, in spite of a desire
among many federal employees to work more closely with states
and local governments. More flexibility and less rigidity are
needed in planning processes if agencies are truly to collaborate
with states and communities.
Interviewees at some sites voiced frustration with the cumbersome
process of dealing with federal agencies. For example, several
interviewees complained that one must go to too many places for
project approval, and that a single repository of information
or permitting authority that provides onestop service is
Many interviewees complained that information on a project is
difficult to get after the planning phase is over. Accessibility
can be improved in several ways: by opening most meetings to
the public; by developing a list of key contacts to be notified
of meetings; by gathering information from the public; and by
disseminating timely information through personal contact, mailing
lists, the news media, the Internet, and the Federal Register.
In many instances, thirdparty sponsorship of public meetings
by oversight groups or notforprofit foundations (such
as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation) has succeeded in drawing more
The National Environmental Policy Act provides very important
ways of getting the public involved and of disseminating public
information. The Act requires federal agencies to assess and
disclose the full consequences of their actions (including biological
and human health impacts beyond their jurisdictions), thereby
encouraging all interested and affected stakeholders to become
involved. Regulations require that federal agencies "to
the fullest extent possible . . . [e]ncourage and facilitate public
involvement in decisions which affect the quality of the human
must provide opportunities for public comment at the scoping stages
of a project, and at preparation stages for draft and final environmental
impact statements. Environmental impact statements must contain
a discussion of "inconsistencies
of [federal agencies']
proposed actions with State or local plans and laws."
When fully implemented, the National Environmental Policy Act
can be an important tool for supporting the collaboration and
consensusbuilding essential to the ecosystem approach.
This support could include bringing stakeholders together to develop
a shared vision for an ecosystem, recognizing problems as shared
problems, looking past stereotypes and false impressions that
can divide stakeholders, engaging in joint data collection and
analysis, and arriving at creative and innovative solutions to
ecosystemwide problems. Additionally, the Act could be used proactively
to improve ecological and socioeconomic impact assessment, interagency
coordination, and nonfederal involvement as a framework for planning
under the ecosystem approach.
Leveling the Playing Field
The enormity of ecosystem issues and the technical knowledge required
to fully understand them can be overwhelming. Lack of adequate
information, competing demands on people's
time, and the failure of federal agencies to explain the relevancy
of issues may prevent the parties involved in an ecosystem from
understanding each other's
needs and perspectives and arriving at agreedupon solutions
to basic environmental problems. Even the term ecosystem approach
can mean different things to different people. The lack of a
common definition that most people find compelling increases confusion
and breeds conflict. Ensuring that people are provided with the
same definitions and information can help to correct power imbalances
among groups and to establish a basis for cooperation in realizing
goals under the ecosystem approach.
Several interviewees mentioned the inconvenience of meeting locations.
The need to travel great distances discourages attendance at
public meetings to discuss environmental problems and plans, undermining
meaningful public involvement. For example, attendance at regional
meetings is a problem, according to some, who maintained that
planners must go to local communities in order to reach the public.
When planning meetings, agencies must take into account the barriers
of distance and time, and the reality that many people cannot
afford to participate. Such methods as teleconferencing, establishing
distribution networks, and scheduling meetings at convenient times
and various places would greatly improve the situation. Moreover,
the nature and timeliness of meetingrelated information
pose a problem for some. Interviewees complained about the length
and complexity of ecosystemrelated documents, often received
just before an important meeting or comment period deadline, with
little time for review.
Many agencies have done a good job of identifying and contacting
stakeholders, but need to work more at building longterm
relationships. Relationship building requires huge amounts of
time, and it may take years for some agencies to gain public trust.
In many areas, more proactive and substantial outreach efforts
are needed to address the complexity of the issues, the scope
and importance of possible outcomes, and the high level of interest
shown by unaffiliated sectors of the public.
The Federal Advisory Committee Act was repeatedly criticized for
its chilling effect on public participation in federal decision
making (see chapter on Legal Authorities). The Act places restrictions
on nonfederal committees that advise federal agencies. Some committees
that were formed without a charter have had to be dissolved, while
others have struggled on, with little or no funding. Some groups
have concluded that advising federal agencies is futile due to
interminable delays in obtaining a charter to provide input that
will not be used. Some federal interviewees are equally frustrated,
fearing that many activities designed to obtain public input (such
as charrettes, Delphi techniques, and regular meetings with stakeholders)
run a risk of violating the Act.
The ultimate source of the problem remains uncertain: it may
lie in the excessive breadth of the law itself, in its conflicts
with other laws, or in its misinterpretation and misapplication
by federal agencies. Resolution of issues pertaining to the Federal
Advisory Committee Act can begin with a better understanding of
the law. Improved implementation of the Act would help to reconcile
the need for a more collaborative process of federal planning
with the assurance of an open process of federal decision making.
Human Dimensions of Environmental Issues
In the interest of scientific credibility, we often limit ourselves
to a scientific or technical approach to ecosystem management.
But the public is usually concerned with the human dimensions
of ecosystems, which must be carefully considered by federal agencies
if their projects and programs are to enjoy public support. Because
the ecosystem approach is a human construct, it must incorporate
socially defined goals and management objectives.
Federal agencies have often been criticized for ignoring the human
dimensions information that the public considers vital. In one
survey team study, interviewees observed that agencies seemed
nervous about drawing on public opinion, averse to the risk of
incorporating human dimensions information into activities traditionally
based on "the best science
to some interviewees, agencies appeared to harbor a hidden agenda
that made them suspicious of private industry and unresponsive
to academics and private industry representatives with innovative
ideas to offer. Moreover, agencies seemed reluctant to communicate
how project plans are designed and decisions made. Public education
has been most effective when federal agencies have formed teams
with state agencies, schools, NGOs, and others to produce videos,
hold workshops (such as the recent marsh management workshop in
New Orleans, sponsored by EPA and others), and enlist volunteers
in monitoring, data collection, and restoration work.
Federal outreach efforts were criticized by some local government
and NGO interviewees as inadequate and unfair. Others, who appeared
to be key stakeholders who know the right people and how to get
information, expressed greater satisfaction with the public participation
process. Tribal government representatives, such as those in
the Pacific Northwest, voiced frustration with the Federal Advisory
Committee Act and with the tendency of federal agencies to underemphasize
or ignore governmenttogovernment relationships in
decision making, even though Executive Order 82198 accords governmenttogovernment
recognition to tribal governments. In the Anacostia River watershed,
interviewees complained that ecosystem planners are unfamiliar
with the culture and particular needs of lowincome communities
in the area.
To encourage fairness, agencies should involve other agencies,
local governments, NGOs, and the public early in the process of
developing plans and milestones for public participation, thereby
ensuring that planned efforts are in line with stakeholder expectations.
At the same time, it should be made clear that historical relationships
with interest groups are important parts of the ecosystem approach
and should be integrated into it.
Some federal interviewees voiced frustration with fluctuations
in public responses to their outreach efforts. Substantial efforts
to involve the public at early stages in certain projects met
with apparent disinterest, but at later stages, agencies were
suddenly hammered by negative public opinion and even by litigation
from interest groups.
Communication problems have plagued many interagency ecosystem
approach efforts from the beginning. In some cases, there seemed
to be no overall plan for communication with the public. Some
interviewees noted that public meetings they attended were almost
entirely informational (featuring slide shows, presentations by
planners, and similar items), with little time for exchanging
views. Citizens often believe that their comments are ignored
and that public input functions only to validate a predetermined
decision. Public meetings normally do not foster broadbased
exchange, because they tend to focus on parochial concerns defined
by geography or local interest.
Efforts can be made to encourage those with strong views and conflicting
opinions to meet with each other by traveling to public meetings
in other areas or with other interest groups. In South Florida,
for example, those representing agricultural and environmental
interests traveled to other areas to express their opinions.
A response technique used at the meetings gathered information
from 60 to 70 percent of those attending, rather than merely the
10 to 15 percent of those who usually speak. Time was set aside
for diverse groups to share their views informally, rather than
only during the oral comment period.
Interagency efforts should include a communication strategy and
dedicated staff to ensure its implementation. Communication strategies
should be based on systematic, structured research, and constantly
revised as the effectiveness of a program is monitored. Communication
products that have been reviewed by focus groups representing
the intended recipients will better address the needs of both
communicating agency and recipient group. Communication strategies
should outline techniques and approaches for bringing the public
into the planning process; they should be developed with public
participation and widely publicized. Agency personnel responsible
for outreach programs should be well trained in public interaction,
and especially in proactive approaches.
Interagency communication is becoming the established way of doing
business in areas where there are interagency efforts to take
the ecosystem approach. Some interviewees said that interagency
programs (such as those in Coastal Louisiana) have gotten agencies
together for the first time, and that other programs (such as
the Coastal America Partnership) have provided the opportunity
for regular meetings in which representatives from various groups
can exchange information on their activities. Although some problems
remain to be resolved, agencies have made real headway in working
Accountability and Keeping in Touch
The public is more likely to be engaged if it understands how
to get involved. Federal agencies could provide better outreach
and encourage more public participation through early notification
and clear explanation of the steps involved in specific efforts
guided by the ecosystem approach.
After initial outreach, agencies often seem to vanish without
ever telling the public how its input was used in decision making,
or even what the decision was. It is vital that the public get
feedback on how its comments and suggestions affect agency decisions
and actions. The outcome of efforts, including research results,
should also be communicated to the public. In South Florida,
information gathered during the first round of public meetings
was analyzed and addressed during a second round of meetings to
show how public concerns had been incorporated into the objectives
and constraints of the project.
Early and Continuous Involvement
Private property issues were particularly controversial at many
sites visited by survey teams, and adherence to tribal treaties
was also a vital concern. Many interviewees complained that federal
agencies failed to consult with landowners early in the decisionmaking
process and to obtain specific information from them, such as
when and where they needed to have access to the decisionmaking
process. According to many interviewees, agencies tended to take
already prepared plans to landowners for rubberstamping. This
problem can be remedied by soliciting public input early enough
in the process to assist in defining the problem and in designing
Some interviewees complained about decision making delays and
the failure of federal agencies to respond quickly to urgent public
issues. However, building relationships with stakeholders takes
considerable time, and the integrated processes needed for effective
public participation often encompass several geographical and
temporal scales. Moreover, agencies are often constrained in
working with the public by budgets and timeframes imposed by statute
Scientists and researchers must be steadily engaged from the outset
in federal efforts under the ecosystem approach. The antiresearch
bias of some federal and state managers was pointed to in survey
team interviews as a serious problem. Already treated with suspicion
by some government stakeholders, scientists were sometimes brought
into the process too late, when frustration was already high.
To avoid negative perceptions and to convey information effectively,
public affairs specialists should work closely with scientists
to help translate technical information into understandable language.
Survey team studies revealed active public participation in federal
programs in all seven ecosystems, although there was often room
for improvement. Federal agencies should strive to improve coordination
of public participation, enhance federal communication programs,
organize public participation programs within agencies, and implement
effective mechanisms to improve public participation. The following
recommendations are not meant to provide a complete list of steps
to take to ensure public participation, but rather to provide
a basis for increased federal commitment to involving the public
in the ecosystem approach.
A common constraint to public participation is lack of specialized
staff able to devote full time to the duty of involving the public.
Federal agencies should ensure that sufficient staff are dedicated
to this task, and that a better mix of technical and science specialists
is available to advise federal agencies. These specialists should
include social scientists and others who see the big picture.
Agency personnel responsible for outreach programs should be adequately
trained in public interaction, especially in proactive approaches.
Agency personnel who interact with the public should be dedicated,
well trained in public participation skills, and well versed in
the provisions and application of the Federal Advisory Committee
Act. Training in public participation might be offered in a particular
region and attended by federal and state employees, NGO members,
and other stakeholders.
Because many ecosystems are of nationwide and even international
concern, there is a need to educate and to facilitate dialogue
among stakeholders at the national level, including members of
Congress, representatives of industry, and those from conservation
groups, private property rights groups, and other organizations.
A great deal of concern was expressed in survey team studies about
how Federal Advisory Committee Act requirements affect citizen
advisory groups, which are frequently formed under legislative
or judicial directive. Although these committees can be effective
in representing the views of selected interests, they do not necessarily
represent the views of the public. Where a citizen advisory group
is used, other means of informing and educating the public and
of soliciting public input should also be expected.
The CEQ should examine NEPA in order to develop recommendations
and guidance for more uniformly and systematically facilitating
public involvement. Because public participation in environmental
assessments is not clearly required under its current regulations,
the CEQ should review current guidelines, particularly with regard
to environmental assessments performed at the regional ecosystem
scale, but also with regard to sitespecific environmental
assessments, and consider prescribing procedures to enhance public
participation and make it more collaborative. The CEQ should
solicit public input and feedback from federal agencies in the
course of its review. In addition, the role of NEPA in facilitating
public participation should be publicized in order to encourage
wider public involvement, especially by groups or individuals
who do not yet know that this opportunity exists.
Federal agencies should recruit employees skilled at facilitating
public participation and at implementing programs that popularize
science. Technical specialists and public affairs specialists
must work together to articulate in everyday language the problems,
plans, benefits, and costs of the ecosystem approach.
Federal programs should strive to include other stakeholders.
For example, funds could be allocated for technical assistance
to landowners. More technical assistance and information could
also be provided to the general public, especially by utilizing
existing programs (such as the Wetlands Reserve Program). Education
and outreach efforts should be included in budget considerations
for projects to implement the ecosystem approach. For increased
efficiency, federal agencies could work with 4-H
Clubs, universities, and other entities in developing and disseminating
education materials to the public. Interpretive materials could
be developed on completed projects and projectsinprogress
to provide information about what is going on. Citizens have
a high level of awareness of problems and issues pertaining to
local ecosystems, and agencies should take advantage of this by
organizing campaigns in the schools and among adults, or by forming
partnerships with schools, landowners, corporations, the tourism
industry, and other local residents and stakeholder representatives.
|Develop consensusbuilding techniques. Use facilitated negotiation and consensusbuilding techniques to establish a common vision and to resolve conflicts among various interests.|
|Employ new and imaginative public participation techniques. Use a variety of public participation techniques that go beyond public hearings, comment periods on environmental impact statements, and other traditional methods. The townhall approach can be used, with hightech tools where appropriate (such as radio and television, satellite downlink, spatial imagery, 1-800 numbers, and Internet). Another idea is to organize regular public forums to discuss ongoing ecosystem efforts. Emphasis should be placed on persontoperson communication, through doortodoor campaigns, surveys, booths at fairs, and similar techniques.|
|Involve the public in decision making. Involve the public in a wide spectrum of decisions related to the ecosystem approach, including identifying resource needs and priorities, and planning and implementing longterm ecosystem goals.|
|Establish onestop information centers. Where resources allow, establish onestop information centers in rural areas to allow local residents conveniently to obtain and provide ecosystemrelated information. Federal agencies could coordinate in establishing such centers, staffing them with people trained to respond to a wide variety of questions on resourcerelated issues that affect local landowners. Staff should also be able to transfer technology and/or explain environmental publications.|
|Get broad public input. Go to where people are: to churches, union halls, community centers, and other local community facilities. Whenever possible, assemble those with divergent views so that people can hear what others have to say. Bring together landowners, conservationists, resource users, residents of lowincome and minority neighborhoods, representatives of cultural and historical organizations, and the widest possible variety of others in informal, nonthreatening settings with a lowkey agency presence.|
|Provide public feedback. Ensure that the public gets feedback on its comments and suggestions. In addition, the outcome of efforts, including research results, should be disseminated to the public.|
|Use clear language. Ensure that informational materials are written in plain English, easily understood by the public and, when necessary, translated into other languages.|
Return to Table of Contents
Policy and management decisions are highly dependent on the quality
and quantity of information and science available to produced
a desired outcome or event. The ecosystem approach means using
skill and care in handling integrated units of organisms and their
environments to achieve a desired outcome, the
shared vision for the ecosystem. Developing the foundation for
the ecosystem approach requires not only sound science,
but also the right science, knowing
and understanding how major ecosystems function, how they support
and tolerate human use, and how policies and management decisions
affect resource use, environmental impacts, and recovery.
Better scientific knowledge can greatly improve the development,
implementation, and assessment of policies and programs. Agency
managers need this information in order to implement more effective
policies. Decision makers are turning to science more frequently
for credible technical guidelines to resolve management and policy
problems. In addition, an increasingly involved and informed
public is challenging the technical credibility of conservation
plans and decisions, making it critical that the most scientifically
sound information is available to all stakeholders.
A sound science that is the right science, this
provides the basis for the ecosystem approach. The ecosystem
approach is not a linear, highly standardized, or certain means
to identify the one right way to manage resources. Instead, it
aids in the development of better options and sustainable solutions
by incorporating human needs and values with our best understanding
of the environment, while recognizing that science alone has not
and will not produce a single "right"
answer for resource use and management objectives. Instead, decisions
will continue to be a complex blending of social, economic, political,
and scientific information and interests, as illustrated in Science
Success Story 1.
The Science and Information issues group has identified opportunities
for and constraints to the use of science for the ecosystem approach,
and developed recommendations to increase agency science, technology,
and information efforts to improve:
The group's approach
was to: (1) identify general phases and activities for collecting,
managing, assessing, delivering/displaying, and augmenting information
relevant to the ecosystem approach; (2) articulate preferred strategies/solutions
for addressing those phases and activities that facilitate common
approaches wherever possible; and (3) develop a framework for
research and development for the ecosystem approach. The effort
of this issues group was closely linked to the efforts of the
National Science and Technology Council's
(NSTC's) Committee on
the Environment and Natural Resources (CENR). The group examined
priorities for the science and information management necessary
for the implementation of the ecosystem approach and links them
with priorities developed in the NSTC/CENR process. The research
strategies and implementation plans developed by the NSTC/CENR
subcommittees and crosscutting issue groups address policy relevant
to science priorities in their respective areas.
In preparing this chapter, the Science and Information issues
group carefully reviewed seven case studies in the ecosystem approach
(see volume 3 of this series, Interagency Ecosystem
Science Success Story 1. Ouachita Ecosystem Management Research
Objective: To generate public acceptance, management innovation,
a productive research environment, and research support for the
ecosystem approach in the interior highlands of Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Background: In August 1990, the Forest Service discontinued
clearcutting as the primary tool for harvesting and regenerating
shortleaf pine and shortleaf pine-hardwood
forests on the Ouachita National Forest. To evaluate new management
methods for this ecosystem, a unique partnership of researchers
and managers was formed, the
Ouachita Mountains Ecosystem Management Research Team.
Collaborators: Managers and researchers from the Ouachita
and Ozark National Forests and the Forest Service's
Southern Forest Experiment Station.
Implementation: The project is being conducted in three
phases: a standlevel demonstration project; a standlevel
research program; and a landscapelevel application of results
obtained from the research.
Learning Points: Managers learned about the constraints
necessary to maintain scientific rigor and the limits of legitimate
scientific inference. Researchers learned about the legal and
budgetary constraints managers face. Both realized that working
collaboratively, but toward different goals, can produce creative
In the process, the area of detailed descriptive ecology was identified,
encompassing the analysis of soils, water, invertebrates, avian
populations, and other ecosystem elements. To managers, this
information may be necessary to supplement published studies,
yet few managers have the time or expertise to rigorously design
and analyze complex data. Generally, researchers have not been
eager to fill this role, because the results are rarely publishable.
(Management Task Force 1995).
This chapter summarizes the group's
impressions and analysis of comments made by interviewees during
the case studies. Recommendations based on these interviews are
presented at the end of this chapter.
Why is science important? Sound ecosystem science supports sound
ecosystem policy. Gaps in the science base undermine federal
policies and decisions, creating a critical situation as our environment
becomes less resilient to impacts. The science base must be able
to withstand legal challenges and should be objective and independent
in the development of policy or management alternatives.
It must assess ecological, social, and economic considerations
in order to successfully support the ecosystem approach.
What are the roles of science? It is expected to contribute technical
answers and insights and suggest reasonable solutions that recognize
uncertainty so that responsible resource policies and management
solutions can be developed and implemented (box 1). However,
uncertainty surrounding environmental issues abounds and new questions
are continuously generated. This uncertainty must be built into
policymaking, planning, implementation, and management. It is
important that scientific investigation be relevant to policy
and management needs, but it is also essential to continue to
support some fundamental science and to recognize that science
will not always have the answers.
Ecosystem science is complicated by the need to integrate expanding
information on a myriad of biological, physical, and social aspects
related to an ecosystem and its associated attributes. A sound
technical information base is essential for developing resource
policy that best blends competing interests so that economic development
and resource conservation are sustained. Science is needed to
assess and monitor resource conditions, and to develop and recommend
ways to manage ecosystems at various spatial and temporal scales.
New management systems and resource policies must also be monitored
and evaluated so that they can be adapted to achieve their purpose.
Science plays a key role in the implementation of the ecosystem
approach (see box 2). The importance of these issues identified
in the case studies is illustrated by their potential roles in
the ecosystem management process (table 1).
Box 1. Critical Roles of Science in the Ecosystem Approach
A sound science base helps decision makers improve their understanding of:
Box 2. Steps Under the Ecosystem Approach Requiring Sound
Scientific support for ecosystem management decisions requires
much more integration than is currently common within the scientific
community. This integration must take place between scientists
in different disciplines (including the social and economic sciences
as well as the physical and biological sciences) and in different
agencies, between scientists and managers or decision makers,
and between the data and information systems used by both groups.
This need parallels that for greater collaboration among the
various sectors and parties involved in ecosystem management and
Several infrastructure-related issues reduce the quality, quantity,
or relevance of current scientific efforts to the ecosystem approach.
These include the current skills mix within the federal science
establishment, which may reduce the ability to focus on new issues;
and the historic undervaluing of long-term monitoring and assessment,
which hinders developing a long-term perspective on human and
natural change that is critical to the ecosystem approach. All
of these issues were identified as potential problems in implementing
the ecosystem approach in the seven case studies (see volume 3
of this series, Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995).
An ecosystem approach requires that natural resource managers,
scientists, and the public share a vision for the future of a
world in which societal and economic decisions are consolidated
with an increasingly comprehensive, integrated understanding of
the environment. Essential to this approach is ensuring that
economic development in the United States is managed to maintain
biodiversity and long-term productivity for our nation's
natural resources and ecosystems. Partnerships among federal
and state agencies can help integrate management operations into
an ecosystem-wide approach, collaborate in monitoring efforts
and assessments to give better information to decision makers,
provide education and outreach to increase public understanding,
and take a more proactive approach to understanding and maintaining
Need for Collaboration
In order to move toward this vision, the paradigm for managing natural resources and ecosystem health must shift from a fragmented to an integrated multidisciplinary approach, from a site-specific to an ecosystem-wide (spatial/landscape) context, and from a reactive to a proactive mode. To implement this approach, comparative ecosystem (i.e., regional, watershed) management activities that will reduce the cumulative effects of ecosystem stress must be undertaken. Initially, attention should be focused on a limited number of key ecosystems to demonstrate the capabilities and benefits of a science-based integrated ecosystem approach. By 1999, several representative ecosystems should be included.
Several tasks that are part of the ecosystem approach must be
addressed more vigorously, tasks
that are now limited in knowledge and resources: (1) nonpoint
source management strategies; (2) assessments and forecasts
of economic conditions, land use patterns, contaminant sources,
habitat management needs, and ecological resources at risk; (3) development
of comprehensive regional information systems to support decision
making at the ecosystem level; (4) development of protocols
and technologies for monitoring at the ecosystem level; (5) development/enhancement
of the ability to construct predictive and management support
models at multiple scales; (6) involvement of the public
and decision makers in designing research and monitoring projects;
(7) active translation and dissemination of new information
to the public, as well as to management and policy officials,
to ensure that economic development can be pursued without sacrificing
ecosystem health; and (8) implementation and field testing
of management strategies.
The need for better management of natural and manmade landscapes
is inescapable. Ludwig and others (1993) have observed that "there
is remarkable consistency in the history of resource exploitation:
resources are inevitably over-exploited, often to the point of
collapse or extinction."
Several reasons were given for this consistency, including wealth
or prospect of wealth-generating power, the difficulty in reaching
a consensus on scientific understanding, and the enormous complexity
and inherent variability of natural systems. One of the key recommendations
offered by Ludwig and others (1993) for future natural resource
management principles is to include human motivation and responses
as part of the system to be studied and managed. Although these
aspects are critically important, the scientific approach must
be coupled with the development of improved management strategies
in order to fully sustain vital ecological systems. Efforts by
the Ecological Society of America to set research priorities for
the next decade resulted in the setting of research priorities
for the next decade in "Sustainable
Biosphere Initiative: An Ecological Research Agenda"
(Lubchenco and others 1991). This agenda identified three priority
areas for ecological research: global change, biological diversity,
and sustainability of ecological systems. An important caveat,
however, is that science-based management studies and policies
will be useful only if they include the involvement of all players,
such as decision makers, economists, sociologists, and user groups.
Uncertainty or lack of information inhibits both management and
political action (see Science Success Story 2).
Constraints to Collaboration
The ecosystem approach faces several science-related constraints
to collaboration: tenuous relations of scientists with managers
and the public; nonscience factors that impede a management-oriented
science; scientific priorities that are driven by politics and
public pressure; and the scarcity of a truly management-oriented
Poor relations. There are poor or tenuous connections
between managers and scientists, and between scientists and the
public, due to the following barriers:
Nonscience variables. Management-oriented science is impeded
by nonscience variables, including federal budget and funding
processes, legal concerns, and lack of adequate public education.
Funding barriers. Of the many budget-related barriers
to the ecosystem approach, lack of interagency cooperation in
budget planning for scientific programs is often mentioned. In
addition, overall funding for environmental trend analyses is
sparse, and it is difficult to secure funds for large-scale restoration
and ecosystem management projects. Agencies should develop coordinated,
long-term budget initiatives that focus on science oriented toward
the ecosystem approach. Increasing agency support of investigator-initiated
research (that is, basic research supported through grants) would
seem, on its face, to facilitate the needed defensible and credible
science. On closer inspection, however, the grants mechanism
may not be designed to meet the need for research driven by the
critical issues and problems faced by managers and decision makers.
Legal barriers. Legal concerns include the Federal Advisory
Committee Act, which restricts the ability of federal agencies
to solicit and receive collective advice from nonfederal parties.
Among other things, an advisory committee as defined by the Act
must be organized under a charter, balance its membership, notice
its meetings in the Federal Register, hold open meetings, take
minutes of meetings, and provide transcripts of meetings upon
request. The federal government cannot achieve its goals without
integrating its activities with other key federal and nonfederal
players in the ecosystem. Coordination is also critical to information
sharing and joint scientific research. The lack of routine and
formalized communication between federal and nonfederal parties
is one of the biggest barriers to efficient ecosystem restoration
Educational barriers. A strong public education program
will help private landowners understand the ecosystem approach's
role in determining the health of ecosystems encompassed within
their private lands, and the connection between their lands and
those outside of their property. Private landowners vary in their
willingness to permit inventory and monitoring activities on their
lands. They fear that information about their lands could become
public against their will and that remote sensing could be used
to survey their lands without their knowledge or consent. Lack
of information about private lands could hamper the ability to
perform cumulative effects analyses that are important for effective
decision making under the ecosystem approach. Education and implementation
of demonstration sites on public lands may ease the transfer of
conceptual plans into prototype management programs on adjacent
nonpublic lands within the ecosystem management unit. The true
test of our ability to monitor and model biological responses
to human activities will be their adoption by federal and state
agencies who manage public lands, industry, and private landowners
who manage private lands.
Politics and public pressure. Politics and public pressure
drive priorities of science support and resource management policy.
Barriers include fragmentation and regionalization in agenda
setting, evaluation and acceptance of risk and uncertainty by
nonscientists, and the need to balance science with other issues.
Fragmentation and regionalization. Single-objective, single-site
management often results in fragmentation of larger scale objectives.
Natural resource decisions traditionally have emphasized achieving
the management goals of a particular agency, organization, or
interest group in addressing particular human needs (such as timber,
water, fisheries, or recreation) in a particular management unit
(such as public rangelands or water management districts). In
recent years, the limitations of this approach have become obvious
as competition for available resources has increased. Scientific
evidence has cast doubt as to the sustainability of many current
natural resource uses and management practices. The need for
greater public participation and cooperation among all affected
parties, federal, state,
and local government; academic institutions; private industry;
and interest groups, in
developing and implementing natural resource use and management
goals is fundamental to designing and achieving sustainability
and protecting natural ecosystems.
Ecological risk assessment. We must develop criteria and
indicators for ecological risk assessment that are commensurate
with broad policy goals, including protecting environmental health,
stewardship, and the sustainability of current and future ecosystems
and their services. Indicators for the criteria should be amenable
to measurement and prediction, and should reflect structural and
functional interrelationships within ecosystems. Risk assessment
must better account for the ecological value that is lost or maintained
as a result of human activities.
Balancing issues. Many of today's
arguments for integrating economic concerns into species conservation
decisions focus only on the short-term and local tradeoffs. We
must develop balancing mechanisms that are capable of considering
both long-term and geographically comprehensive consequences.
It also seems important to spread the risks of species conservation
more broadly, so that local communities and landowners do not
incur the sometimes heavy burden of conservation requirements
that are intended to benefit the entire nation. It behooves us
to consider and adopt innovative, progressive approaches, such
as the ecosystem approach, when
trying to find this balance.
Rarity of management-oriented science. There are several
barriers to management-oriented science: lack of interdisciplinary
teams; the fact that applied research and technical development
are not a priority within the research community, and a lack of
incentives for scientists to do technical transfer; the fact that
commitments to long-term monitoring and assessment are exceptions;
and the fact that focused management-oriented research is generally
reactive instead of proactive.
Interdisciplinary teams. In order to protect and manage
our natural resources, we must understand the interaction between
natural factors and human activities so we can determine changes
in biota and the ecosystems on which they depend. This requires
a team approach to research questions rather than a narrow, single-discipline
focus. Teams must provide the scientific basis for explaining
trends in biological diversity. We must increase efforts to understand
the environmental, ecological, and evolutionary processes that
generate and maintain biological diversity, sustain viable species
populations, and support ecosystem structure and function. These
efforts will produce a clearer picture of how natural factors
interact with human activities at landscape to regional levels
to determine status, change, and trends in biodiversity and ecosystem
function. Through selected biological and ecosystem indicators,
these research efforts will also help determine what roles individual
species and species diversity play in ecosystems.
Applied research and technology transfer. To advance technical
development, scientists must be encouraged to conduct applied
research and at least partially evaluated for their technology
transfer efforts. To facilitate the incorporation of new and
existing knowledge into management and policy decisions, we must
provide user-friendly information and validated analytical models
that can be used to explore the possible consequences of alternative
management and policy decisions. Ultimate goals of all of these
studies and activities will be: to obtain (and improve) the scientific
bases required for a sound ecosystem approach; to develop practices
and policies for responsible prospecting for and utilizing biodiversity;
and to develop methods, including improved ecological risk assessment,
to conserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics in
compromised ecosystems. The full spectrum of data and information
needed to better understand and conserve biodiversity and ecosystem
processes must be available and accessible to scientists, decision
makers, and the public.
Monitoring and assessment. Much of the earth's
diverse biota and ecological processes remain undiscovered and
undescribed. For those species that have been described, we know
little about the broad-scale trends in their abundance and distribution.
To address these deficiencies, we need national and international
efforts to discover, describe, inventory, and monitor the world's
organisms to provide the fundamental information base for monitoring
and surveying biological diversity. We will be more capable of
explaining observed biotic and ecosystem trends when we have a
scientific and statistically reliable picture of them across large
Proactive management-oriented research. The understanding
and models produced by the efforts described above will be useful
in predicting how a wide range of species and other indicators
of ecosystem status will respond to alternative management and
policy decisions. Models are never perfect, and resource managers
will be hesitant to adopt unproved models for real-world application.
The true test of our ability to monitor and model biological
responses to human activities will be when the federal and state
agencies who manage public lands, and industries, and private
landowners who manage private lands adopt these models and their
modifications. Such a model should be initially used in the context
of an adaptive management loop, where it is viewed as tentative
and the management decisions are viewed as experimental tests
of the models. The models predict trends of population and ecosystem
indicators, which are then monitored and compared to model predictions.
Based on the discrepancies observed, a model is continually updated,
refined, and used as the basis for additional management decisions.
Adaptive management accepts the fact that the information used
in making decisions is imperfect and that, as decisions are implemented,
there must be an established method for gaining better information
and adjusting the implemented action accordingly. This structure
consists of models, special studies, and monitoring that are used
as coordinated, supportive tools.
Feedback between managers and scientists and between the public and scientists is a fundamental component of the adaptive management strategy, and periodic assessment is its operational foundation. In adaptive management, models and monitoring are applied within the framework of an assessment protocol, which helps focus monitoring efforts and define how models will be applied at various stages in management. Ecological indicators are used to evaluate and, when fed into appropriate models, help select among management alternatives. A baseline condition is determined for the same indicators, using monitoring before management strategies are implemented. Then the same indicators, which continue to be monitored after the new management strategies are in place, are used to assess the effect of a management action. To be effective, ecological indicators must be practical, sensitive, and capable of being both monitored and modeled.
It is almost a truism that any important policy decision is better with stronger information behind it. Three main factors have inhibited the integration of science into the decision-making process: (1) decision makers have not always been aware of how or when research might be useful to them; (2) in the past, decision makers have been reluctant to ask researchers for help because it meant acknowledging uncertainty, or worse, relinquishing some power by reducing the range for their discretion; and (3) basic research is not always designed to answer management and policy questions. Science makes two significant contributions to the decision-making process. First, it allows decisions to be based on past experience and knowledge. Second, ignorance can be confronted because it has been explicitly recognized. Because of this, policy must be cautious and flexible (maybe even reversible). Programs that result from the policy could be designed specifically to capture the knowledge that is needed. Policies relating to such a difficult concept as biodiversity must have an iterative adaptive management strategy that permits feedback and modifications. Incorporating evaluation mechanisms that allow policies, programs, and performance to be assessed encourages agency officials to be prudent and responsive. Using scientific information tends to push decision makers towards moderation and towards policies and programs that are more likely to work.
In an adaptive management approach, the challenges to justifying
and designing experimental management programs are:
Adaptive management is a continuing process of active planning, monitoring, evaluating, and adjusting that aims to improve the implementation and achievement of desired goals and outcomes. The process itself is straightforward and simple: new information is identified and evaluated, then strategy or goals are adjusted accordingly. The core of any regional program for in situ conservation is a long-term inventory, research, and monitoring effort that in turn informs adaptive management.
Whereas the concept of adaptive management is relatively straightforward,
applying it to complex management strategies requires answers
to several critical questions:
Adaptive management under the ecosystem approach depends on a
continually evolving understanding of cause-and-effect relationships
in biological, physical, and social systems. It proposes to treat
policies as experiments, and collect information so that the execution
of policy can help identify surprises, improve operations, and
gauge the policy's success
while it is implemented. Uncertainty creates the need for flexible,
adaptable institutions that are capable of incorporating and responding
to a diversity of new information. Adaptive management has large
implications for the resource planning process. Management activities
must be designed so that everything can be evaluated. Plans should
have no tenure, i.e., the focus should be on endpoints and on
developing a set of working principles. Milestones should be
developed to assess progress to those endpoints. Resource monitoring
must answer the questions we want answered and those questions
dealing with compliance issues. Adaptive management strategy
calls for the development of risk assessment methodologies that
determine the limits of uncertainty used for triggering actions
that reach threshold levels.
The key features in an adaptive approach are:
As prescribed in the President's Forest Plan, in the Pacific Northwest adaptive management is the structure through which research, management, and cooperators work to achieve the general Plan objectives. The Forest Plan proposes 10 adaptive management areas, in which opportunities are provided for federal, state, and local officials, industry, community and environmental organizations, tribes, and others to work together to develop innovative management approaches. Examples include the Applegate Project, the Douglas Project, and the Central Cascades Adaptive Management Area in Oregon, and the Hayfork Adaptive Management Area in northern California. These areas provide for intensive experimentation, development of innovative ways to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives, and local involvement in defining the future. Their overarching objective is to improve our knowledge of how to implement the ecosystem approach by using an iterative refinement of management strategies that is closely monitored over time.
A Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team working group has
developed the adaptive management process to the point that it
is now ready for prototype testing on sample watersheds. Researchers
must be deeply involved in the monitoring program for the successful
implementation of the Forest Plan. They are helping to develop
protocols and implement monitoring plans, helping to develop information
storage systems, and providing systems and/or expertise to synthesize
and evaluate the information as it is collected. Monitoring programs
are being approached with caution to ensure that they are both
scientifically and legally defensible, and are adequately funded
over their life to ensure reliability of results. Research is
helping to define the sideboards of what is possible in order
to give managers the bounds of their decision space.
In order to support the ecosystem approach, it is necessary to
understand how ecosystems work and have knowledge of ecological
structure, process, natural variability, vulnerability to stress,
and potential for recovery, at multiple scales in space and in
time. The narrow focus of most ecological research conducted
over short periods and on very localized, site-specific scales
has created a fundamental gap in understanding the way that larger
systems function over longer periods of time. Such knowledge
is crucial to a long-term, sustainable ecosystem approach. Adaptive
management, which permits action while concurrently increasing
our scientific understanding, is necessary because of our current
limited understanding of large ecosystems.
Science Issues and Gaps
Although the seven ecosystems that were studied are very different
(see Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995, volume
3), the issues concerning their supporting science are similar.
In addition to the limitations of scientific understanding, methods,
and technology, there are other contributing factors for the gaps
in the science base. Budget constraints, political and organizational
influences, conventions of higher education, and inadequate communications
influence and shape the strengths and weaknesses of the ecological
science base. The lesson learned through this observation is
that, whereas it is important to identify key scientific gaps,
the barriers and the solutions to these problems often may be
more social or institutional than scientific in nature. Following
are some of the recurrent science issues encountered in the interviews.
Ecology on multiple scales. There is a well-known discrepancy
between the typically very small scale of species or habitat-specific
ecological research projects and the larger geographic scales
upon which ecosystems are managed. More than 70 percent of published
ecological research has been conducted on sample sites of a square
meter or less, yet environmental management in general focuses
on geographic units such as whole watersheds, coastal zones, or
national forests or parks. Highly localized studies are necessary
for understanding some of the functions of larger ecosystems,
but there is also a need to understand ecosystem processes on
greater scales. This situation, however, is changing through
the pronounced increase in applied research in areas such as watershed
analysis and landscape ecology. Federal agencies have the opportunity
to guide research in these fields toward the directions most needed
to support the ecosystem approach, and some of these opportunities
are already being exploited.
Multiple species science. There is a great deal known
about the biology of single species, but very little about the
interactions between species, groups of species, and the habitats
that support them. Managing for a single species, such as for
maximum harvest for food or fiber, has often harmed other species
and ecosystem functions. To improve our ability to model the
effects of possible management decisions on wildlife and fish
populations requires a much better understanding of what determines
habitat quality; how it is created, maintained, restored, and
destroyed; the timing and effects of natural variability; and
how human activity alters habitat suitability (see Science Success
Monitoring and evaluation. Ecological monitoring is an indispensable part of the ecosystem approach because it provides periodic feedback on how management policies and techniques are working, whether there is regulatory compliance, and when adaptive management changes should occur. However, there are several shortcomings to ecological monitoring methods and data. Problems with methods include a shortage of accepted monitoring protocols and the limited applicability of existing monitoring programs to whole ecosystem health and sustainability on middle to large scales. The limited investment in baseline monitoring restricts our ability to observe trends in degradation or recovery, and our ability to predict future ecosystem condition and responses to management actions.
Better monitoring science has been limited by the minimal recognition
of its importance by decision makers and subsequent underfunding.
Other barriers include limited interest from the scientific community
as compared to research, and the relative difficulty of fitting
monitoring into the typical graduate degree program. Managers
and decision makers must understand the critical role of ecological
monitoring. There should also be cooperation with educational
institutions and the scientific community at large to improve
the monitoring infrastructure. Key roles for monitoring should
include determining whether restoration projects are designed
according to specifications, whether the project or management
measure is functioning as expected, whether adjustments for unforeseen
circumstances are needed, whether a different management approach
is necessary, and trends in indicators of ecosystem conditions.
of ecosystem conditions. There is a shortage of information
and methods for comparing degraded ecosystems with fully functional
ecosystems. These "benchmarks"
include fully functional reference sites, measurable indicators
of ecosystem conditions, and ways to measure progress under the
ecosystem approach and to determine the need for modifications.
Indicators and measures of progress are crucial for research
and development. Because there will be regional differences in
indicators of ecosystem health, research must be regionally specific
and probably often best collocated with a local center of ecosystem
management activity. Too often a benchmark is mistaken for a
fixed value, so it is essential to get a measure of its variability.
When monitoring, this is the only way to assess if a change from
the baseline is statistically significant and worth a reaction.
For example, often the annual variation in an environmental parameter
is very large and indicates less about ecosystem status then it
does about climatic fluctuations.
Socioeconomic sciences and valuation. The ecosystem approach
is complicated by the need to integrate information on myriad
biological, physical and socioeconomic concerns. Sound yet innovative
documentation and evaluation of ecosystem socioeconomic elements
are essential for developing management strategies and making
decisions that weigh all relevant, competing interests and balance
ecosystem functions and economic activities. A primary barrier
has been the markedly different perceptions of natural resource
commodities evident in traditional and ecological economics.
At the heart of the conflict over natural resource management
is the difficulty in determining values that different individuals
and groups assign to various resources. Research needs in this
area include: economic and noneconomic benefits; demographic
measures; formation and modification of values; and costs/pricing
techniques. Moreover, even though there have been exhaustive
arguments for supporting science, the necessary support has not
been forthcoming. With increases in funding and level of interest
in valuation methods and principles, this can become a more influential
facet in the development of principles and practices under the
ecosystem approach. We need to demonstrate the use of these methods
in evaluation and decision making.
Human dimensions of natural resource use. Ecosystem approach objectives must integrate multiple resource use objectives. As we look to the future of natural resource management, it is clear that people are at the center of the debate, because human needs drive the use and misuse of these resources. Our efforts to understand how people think about and act on the natural environment have been minimal, yet most controversies and shortages are the result of human activity. Continued human population growth and increases in production, use, and disposal of resources are not matched by corresponding growth in the land base available to meet those demands under traditional resource management approaches while sustaining desired levels of environmental quality. Cooperative efforts between natural and social scientists are few. We have an excellent opportunity to increase our knowledge and solve problems if we accelerate research on human-natural resource interactions and if we better understand the social ecology of these resources.
In the past, it was often possible to devise purely physical and
biological solutions to many of the natural resource issues faced
by land management agencies. Increasingly, however, the nature
of these challenges in the United States is changing. Questions
of conflicting values and interests, desired future conditions
for the nation's public
lands, and the social and economic tradeoffs of various land management
options require a thorough understanding of the human dimensions
of natural resource use. These include:
Ecological restoration technology development. An effective
ecosystem approach may restore impaired ecosystem functions (see
Science Success Story 4), although restoration science is considered
by many to be in its infancy because there has been a limited
market for its use. This situation is likely to change. For
example, effective riparian restoration technologies are needed
to protect the anadromous fish-bearing waters of the Pacific Northwest,
and Coastal Louisiana needs innovative wetland restoration techniques.
Also, we need unique restoration technologies to address urban
ecosystems such as the Anacostia River basin. Funding research
programs in restoration technology and improving the economic
arguments associated with restoration of specific ecological functions
in high-priority ecosystems will help the growth of restoration
businesses and increase the contributions they can make to the
ecosystem approach. In many cases, restoration efforts have focused
only on the restoration of structure and composition, merely inferring
that essential ecosystem functions will follow. Seldom have restored
systems been monitored to confirm that functions are back on line.
This is the central logic used when allowing one wetland to
be drained in return for flooding another. There may be no net
loss of area, although there may be a significant loss of function.
Funding available for restoring ecosystems will be finite. Priority
should be given to projects where ecosystem processes can become
self-perpetuating after initial investments are made.
Quantifying uncertainty and assessing risk. Science can
make a major contribution to the ecosystem approach by explaining
cause-and-effect relationships. In addition, scientific data
can answer a management question and a measure of that answer's
certainty. In communicating scientific data to nontechnical managers
and the public, however, the measures of certainty are often lost
or overlooked. Assessing the relative likelihood of an adverse
ecological impact is another situation in which quantitative science
sometimes falls short of a desirable level of certainty. In environmental
crises, it is impractical to invest the time and funding to reduce
uncertainty before taking immediate action on the basis of best
professional judgement and limited data. The ecosystem approach
usually involves timeframes that allow for midcourse correction,
and actually should require increasing the known levels of scientific
certainty underlying key management assumptions, actions, and
The costs of quantification and not recognizing these data as
essential make handling uncertainty and risk in management more
difficult. In overcoming these obstacles, we must emphasize the
clear communication of the importance of quantifying the uncertainty
underlying key scientific data, and placing high priority on supporting
research that will reduce this uncertainty.
Modeling. In order to support prediction, planning, and
decision making on an ecosystem basis, scientists and managers
require models that are sensitive to how modifications to land
or water affect habitat and ecosystem functions. These models
must incorporate a much wider array of factors than are addressed
in most current models. They must link landscape changes, changes
in water use, observed changes in selected ecological indicators,
multiple species responses, and changes in ecosystem condition
and function. They must be field-tested to determine their "real-world"
The limitations of modeling to support the ecosystem approach
are related to geographic scale; most ecological modeling has
been very localized. Development of comprehensive models for
several of the major ecosystems in the United States has been
limited by funding as well as by inexperience in modeling on larger
scales. Several actions, however, can enhance what modeling has
Detailed models dealing with ecological processes and with variations
in species populations over very small areas should be linked
and extended to watershed/landscape and regional scales. Simulation
models should be developed to predict future ecosystem function
and productivity caused by changes in land and water use or in
management approach. There should be particular emphasis on the
development of "warning
systems": models that
indicate when thresholds of ecosystem degradation are being approached,
help predict potential improvements, measure progress, and assist
managers in identifying appropriate responses. Another important
role for models is on the front end of option development where
they can be used to determine knowledge gaps, research needs,
and the relative importance of various factors in an ecosystem.
Many agencies need improved computing capability to support complex
and data-intensive landscape change simulation models, as well
as larger and more complex ecosystems models.
Adaptive management process. Adaptive management is essential
because our understanding of ecosystems is not, and may never
be, complete. Because the ecosystem approach must rely upon the
best science available, there must be a way for managers to incorporate
new knowledge as rapidly as it becomes available so they can modify
their management approaches. Although it shows promise as an
emerging concept, adaptive management still must become a clearly
defined and broadly tested framework or family of processes.
Without such a guideline, ecosystem managers may be prone to reactive,
trial-and-error learning instead of proactive planning for continual
incorporation of better scientific knowledge. Trial and error
may have to be accepted for a while until ecosystem functions
and responses are better known. Precisely because of this, adequate
monitoring programs are needed to gain as much knowledge as quickly
There may be several barriers to developing this framework. There
is no current government-wide or cross-organizational structure
under which to assemble a working group to tackle this task.
Reconciling the different perspectives of contributing scientists
will be a challenge, especially if the development process is
not given sufficient time to mature and gain acceptance. Nevertheless,
if the goal of such an effort is to develop a broadly applicable
and flexible framework for action, a consensus product may be
possible. The key elements of the framework should include:
establishing goals; planning for unanticipated outcomes; recognizing
appropriate time frames for resource management, recovery and
sustainability; systematically reducing uncertainty in critical
areas; the roles of assessment, modeling, and monitoring; general
procedures for reconciling conflict; and general procedures for
modifying policies and management approaches using new scientific
Fragmentation of Scientific Efforts
Regional or ecosystem information is often unavailable because
there is no mechanism for identifying, locating, or assessing
it, or of determining its nature and quality. Because of the
lack of institutions and mechanisms for collaboration, the development
of regional or ecosystem perspectives that have multiple issues
and factors remains difficult and is often simply not attempted.
For example, data bases that might, if integrated, show patterns
among or between stressors and biological effects, or between
population trends among different species, remain uncompared or
It should be emphasized that in most cases, development of regional
or ecosystem data systems does not imply development of major,
centralized data bases or facilities. Current technology can
easily support a fully distributed data management strategy, in
which individual entities are responsible for collecting, updating,
maintaining, and making data available to others through sharing
and electronic transfer.
Developing regional geographic information systems may involve
bringing data from many sources into a central location or system.
However, the concept of distributed stewardship still applies,
since periodic information updates are still performed best by
agencies with specific mandates, expertise, or resources. It
should be stressed that what we need is information management
and that data management is a necessary component. Most managers
will not use data, but are desperate for information that can
be or is integrated.
Barriers to development of regional ecosystem information include
Often, there are several agencies and institutions undertaking
scientific activities within a region, yet there is often no forum
for sharing plans or results, or for comparing, synthesizing,
or inte- grating available information. It is crucial to use
mechanisms such as the electronic forum recommended here and to
rely upon regional fora as fully as possible. Such mechanisms
can be used to identify new scientific priorities, but also to
target areas of lower priority so resources can be re-directed
to more important questions. Barriers to coordination of regional
efforts include the following:
Scientists often focus on relatively narrow disciplines or issues,
with few opportunities, incentives, or mechanisms for working
on broader scale interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary issues.
Science agencies must be prepared to share information about
their allocation of resources, and management agencies must be
prepared to identify higher and lower priority information needs.
The narrow focus of scientific disciplines and education is a
barrier to interdisciplinary approaches. Addressing complex,
broad issues requires interactions with more scientists and from
different scientific cultures, working at different geographic
or time scales, and focusing on different aspects of an issue.
Opportunities to be published are greater within a discipline
than across disciplines.
Lack of Standardization
There is a lack of standard terms and procedures for conducting
research and monitoring. As a result, there have been few attempts
to synthesize and integrate currently available information.
Barriers to standardization include the following:
Insufficient Translation of Results
There is insufficient translation of scientific findings into
products that are usable by managers or language that is understandable
by managers and the public. Barriers to translation of results
include the following:
Issues Relating to Scientific Focus
In the current mix of federal scientific efforts, long-term monitoring,
observation, and evaluation are underrepresented. Moreover, research
managers often lack the ability to respond to new issues or increase
the emphasis on new disciplines.
Long-term monitoring. Federal, state, private, and academic
institutions undervalue long-term monitoring, observation, and
evaluation; there are few incentives and little peer support for
this work. Monitoring efforts come and go as often as new issues
arise. When new efforts are developed, they involve different
sites, different parameters, and different sampling designs without
regard for long-term continuity or comparability.
In part, this results from the fact that past efforts were often
not designed with statistical rigor, and were focused on narrow
issues. In part, it may result from the fact that design, development,
and implementation of monitoring systems is not, in itself, valued
by scientific culture or government reward systems as highly as
analyses of results from such systems. Thus, their long-term
"care and feeding"
Response to new issues. When new issues arise, the mix
of scientific disciplines in the current workforce may not be
appropriate to address them. The personnel structure of much
of the federal science establishment makes it difficult to shift
disciplines as these new issues arise. Federal scientists are
generally career employees. Addressing a specific issue in a
specific region involves hiring scientists of specific disciplines.
Changing circumstances may demand different disciplines, or a
different regional allocation of resources. This is particularly
difficult when such changes involve relocation of staff or reductions
Information Management Issues
The speed, capacity, and complexity of information systems have
improved at an unprecedented rate during the past decade. Although
these advances have made possible more sophisticated and efficient
information storage, retrieval, analysis, and integration, information
management is not without issues and barriers. The following
are some of the recurrent information management issues encountered
in survey team interviews.
Information systems hardware and software. In the past
few years, rapid advances in information science and systems have
considerably improved the capability for supporting a large-scale
ecosystem approach. These improvements will continue as technology
advances. Two general shortcomings, however, still affect the
ecosystem approach. First, data consistency and comprehensive
coverage are more limiting than information systems capability;
it is frequently necessary to fill gaps in data production to
adequately characterize an ecosystem. For example, although geographic
information systems have a well-demonstrated potential as an environmental
and socioeconomic analysis and data base management tool, many
of the fundamental data layers necessary for a national spatial
data infrastructure still need some work to be completed. Second,
scientific information systems are by and large still the realm
of computer specialists and present barriers the public and to
noncomputer-oriented managers and decision makers. Translating
scientific data for broader understanding is only a partial solution
that must be augmented by user-friendly access to some ecosystem
Syntheses of the state of knowledge. Despite the proliferation
of scientific studies and data bases in numerous locations and
organizations, comprehensive information syntheses for an ecosystem
of interest are relatively uncommon. In these situations, the
"weight of evidence"
remains uncertain and scientists may duplicate efforts, miss opportunities
to use relevant data, and perpetuate uncertainty or controversy.
A comprehensive approach to the ecosystem approach is often hampered
by the logistical difficulties of seeking data from far-flung
sources, then attempting to create a clear picture from these
sources. To some extent, this is a necessary evil in order to
involve the all parties that can contribute to an ecosystem's
science base and management. However, it can be balanced successfully
through a planned, major synthesis of the most important information
instead of reactive attempts to compile relevant information from
event to event. The Alton Jones Foundation assessment of Coastal
Louisiana, for example, was an independent activity that concentrated
on a comprehensive review and synthesis of the state of existing
science; as a result, the assessment has improved insight into
controversial areas before the weight of evidence was compiled
The need for scientific information as a foundation for resource
management decisions continues to increase dramatically. Changing
public expectations and increased public involvement have challenged
traditional management policies and practices. Often these public
expectations are in conflict. The interface between social, economic,
physical-biological, and ecological models must be improved.
The ability to quantify social demands for both consumptive and
nonconsumptive goods must be perfected. These demands must then
be weighed against the need to maintain ecosystems and their attributes.
We need innovative ecosystem approaches and technologies that
will accommodate these demands while maintaining healthy ecosystem
There is a pressing need to assemble and format new and existing
research results into packages that are usable by managers and
decision makers. Efforts to synthesize science, identify information
voids, and set priorities should be increased.
Long-term observations of biological systems are invaluable in
providing information on their responses to human-induced and
natural changes and in providing necessary understanding for predicting
the future of these systems. Research on computer-based decision
support models and expert systems shows that there can be an effective
interface between management and research. We must be able to
reasonably predict the future condition of resources resulting
from management options. A comprehensive program (see box 3)
of integrated basic and applied ecological, social, and economic
research would provide:
The lessons learned through this study are that, whereas it may
be important to identify key scientific gaps, the barriers and
their solutions may be more social or institutional than scientific
in nature. We have the following recommendations:
Return to Table of Contents
This chapter serves four purposes: (1) to identify major
legal authorities that are directly relevant to federal agencies'
implementation of the ecosystem approach; (2) to encourage
agencies to devise creative ways (either under existing authority
or requiring new legislation) to implement the ecosystem approach;
(3) to identify for policymakers federal barriers to the
ecosystem approach (including gaps in authorities); and (4) to
make both general and specific recommendations about how agencies
can utilize their legal authorities, seek further authorities,
or improve upon current tools to practice the ecosystem approach.
Following an Introduction and Summary, this chapter discusses
the twin goals of the ecosystem approach, maintaining
ecosystem health and promoting sustainable economies and communities.
In the following sections, legal authorities are explored in
relation to important elements of the ecosystem approach: working
and coordinating on an ecosystem scale; developing partnerships
with private landowners; communicating and working with stakeholders;
coordinating with other governments; and using adaptive management.
Recommendations are interspersed throughout the chapter and summarized
in the final section.
The federal government currently has significant statutory authority
available to take an ecosystem approach to federal activities
and to pursue collaborative efforts with state, tribal, and local
governments and private parties. No single federal statute contains
an explicit, overarching national mandate to take an ecosystem
approach to management, and Congress has never declared that a
particular federal agency has the ecosystem approach as its sole,
or even primary, mission. Each agency operates pursuant to specific
mandates that govern the particular lands that the agency manages,
the environmental media (such as air and water) that it regulates,
or the development projects that it builds or finances. However,
many federal statutes provide agencies with opportunities to take
an ecosystem approach, and a surprising number have been drafted
with whole ecosystems in mind.
Because the ecosystem approach is an emerging paradigm, and because
agencies are still experimenting with translating the paradigm
into management policy, the statutory limits on the ecosystem
approach are not yet entirely clear. At this point, progress
towards greater use of the ecosystem approach depends more on
continuing institutional, regulatory, and policy changes than
on statutory change. Although federal law contains some impediments
to holistic management efforts on larger scales, none impose an
insurmountable barrier to incorporation of ecosystem approaches
as agencies exercise their discretion within the law. This discretion,
and the management tools that government agencies have developed
over the years, give agencies the room to act creatively to promote
ecosystem and community sustainability.
The legal authorities issues group reviewed federal legal authorities
with two basic questions in mind. The first was: Does federal
law, as a substantive matter, provide the opportunity to maintain
healthy ecosystems and to promote sustainable economies and communities,
the two fundamental goals of the ecosystem approach? The second
question was: Does federal law provide the agencies that administer
it the wherewithal to work effectively at local and regional ecosystem
scales, to operate based
on ecological principles, to coordinate with each other across
broad landscapes, to facilitate input from various stakeholders
and the public, and to engage in adaptive management?
Substantive Goals of the Ecosystem Approach
The ecosystem approach is possible where there are basic statutory
authorities to protect ecosystems, namely
the authorities to protect the environment, and the authorities
to ensure sustainable economies.
Maintaining healthy ecosystems. The federal statutory
structure contains a number of laws whose purpose is to protect
the environment and public health. The body of pollution control
laws that has developed over the last 25 years demonstrates a
desire on the part of Congress and the public to protect the nation's
air, water, and land, and, in many cases, associated ecosystems.
Other laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),
Endangered Species Act, and federal land management laws, show
congressional intent to conserve additional natural resources,
and to seek a balance between conservation and sustainable management
and use of natural resources. NEPA, for example, requires that
federal agencies analyze the effects of their significant activities
on the components, structures, and functioning of affected ecosystems.
Congress has sometimes chosen specific types of ecosystems or
even specific places as the focus of legislation. This can work
extremely well to encourage regional and local cooperative efforts.
Coastal and estuarine ecosystems, because of their fragility,
importance for commercial fishing, and environmental significance,
are often the subject of this type of legislation. Laws such
as the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Clean Water Act's
National Estuary Program are effective because they establish
a requirement for coordinated planning on an ecosystem basis and
a structure for doing so. As a result, they support, encourage,
and help direct state and/or local planning efforts.
Laws like the state and federal New Jersey Pinelands statutes
are effective for similar reasons. The statutes governing the
Pinelands require rational, sensitive development in accordance
with a comprehensive plan. As a result, key natural resources
are preserved at the same time that sensible economic development
can go forward. Other discrete ecosystems such as coastal Louisiana
and the Florida Keys have also been the subject of congressional
efforts. There may be other priority areas in the nation for
which this type of state and/or federal legislation would be beneficial.
Where federal land is not designated for a specific purpose, use
of lands can promote sustainable economies by allowing multiple
uses, such as range, mining, timber and fisheries management,
tourism, recreation, sport hunting and fishing, military activities,
and scientific study. Most multiple-use statutes vest the agencies
with wide discretion to provide the best mix of uses. These statutes
have not always been administered to ensure that the uses of the
land are integrated with the need to maintain healthy, productive
ecosystems, and have been criticized for reducing long-term community,
economic, and resource sustainability.
Some federal laws promote environmentally unsound practices.
For example, the Mining Law of 1872 promotes mineral extraction
over other uses, generates little return on important public assets,
and has necessitated public expenditure for such impacts as acid
mine drainage reclamation. Other laws provide federal subsidies
for agricultural practices that have a detrimental effect on the
environment, and for benefits like flood insurance that encourage
development in fragile areas. In the absence of statutory change,
these impacts can best be addressed through coordination of existing
ecosystem protection authorities and public education.
Sustainable economies. Federal laws, including environmental
laws, promote this second goal of the ecosystem approach by discouraging
some activities that damage ecosystems and by providing opportunities
to promote economic development and community stability. In general,
natural resource management in the United States, even management
whose purpose is environmental protection, is not undertaken in
disregard of economic consequences. The National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA) requirement that agencies analyze the social
and economic consequences of environmental impacts is one example.
The NEPA analysis for the recent Pacific Northwest Forest Plan,
for instance, was used not only to ensure protection of forest
ecosystems, but to guide job relocation programs. An analysis
of economic trends provided information on viable local industries
and helped direct federal resources towards assisting the region
in making the transition to a more sustainable economy. Federal
environmental reviews would benefit from greater use of such socioeconomic
Many federal laws that are directed to natural resource management
expressly take into account economic factors. One of the primary
purposes of a number of U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department
of the Interior authorities is to provide for sustainable use
of federal resources, with an emphasis on assistance to local
economies. Some laws, such as the Oregon and California Railroad
and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act, can be read to give priority
to economic development, although they have not been found to
override modern environmental statutes. Of course, prudent management
must respect the limits to which resources can be exploited and
the effect on ecosystem sustainability.
This chapter does not analyze the array of statutes, other than
primarily natural resource or environmental statutes, that can
contribute to sustainable economies. An analysis of the economic
development statutes (for example, Community Development Block
Grants) and the role they should play in increased use of the
ecosystem approach would be useful. To be effective, an ecosystem
effort must be based on an understanding of local economies and
communities, and must provide for economic development that maintains
functioning ecosystems over time.
In sum, federal law, sometimes acting in conjunction with state
law, provides a range of authorities (and mandates) for considering
or protecting ecosystems, and for encouraging sustainable economies
and communities. What is required is a balance between
the twoCa challenging
and complex goal, especially in a world where ecosystems and economies
are constantly changing. To achieve this balance, agencies must
have available under existing law a diverse array of practical
Tools for the Ecosystem Approach
The ecosystem approach requires agencies to do several things:
to coordinate planning and management where appropriate, even
where agencies operate under different mandates; to plan and manage
on an ecosystem scale, that
is, with ecological, not just administrative, boundaries in mind;
to protect the rights of private landowners; to ensure early and
active stakeholder participation; and to use adaptive management, to
adjust their activities as applicable scientific principles evolve
and as new information becomes available. Again, although federal
laws were generally not written with the ecosystem approach in
mind, creative use of them can take agencies a long way towards
wider implementation of the ecosystem approach.
Working and coordinating on an ecosystem scale. From a
federal standpoint, one of the biggest challenges of the ecosystem
approach stems from the recognition that ecological boundaries
and the interconnections within them are critical to management,
and that agencies must therefore seek to better coordinate their
activities based on ecological boundaries. Although the ecosystem
approach is a relatively new framework for federal agencies, there
are numerous useful models for coordinating on an ecosystem scale
already expressed in, or authorized by, federal law.
Interagency coordination. Federal law mandates or provides
a framework for interagency coordination in a variety of contexts,
including generally applicable statutes like the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA), statutes specifically directed at particular
ecosystems or types of ecosystems, and regulations that establish
coordination structures in contexts not directly related to the
National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA provides a ready-made
framework, as well as a mandate, for interagency coordination
regarding proposals that may significantly affect the environment.
As part of its direction to agencies to consider the ecological
impacts of their activities, NEPA requires agencies to consult
with other agencies and to take their views into account in several
ways. It mandates consultation, at various stages of developing
an environmental impact statement (EIS), with any federal agency
that has jurisdiction or special expertise with respect to any
environmental impact involved, and it provides that "affected"
federal and nonfederal agencies must be notified of the proposed
action and afforded an opportunity to comment on the proposal.
An EIS must address possible conflicts between the proposed action
and the objectives of, among other things, state and local land
use plans and policies in the area at issue.
In addition, the NEPA process could be used more proactively as
a framework for the ecosystem approach through regional interagency
ecosystem-based EISs. Benefits from this approach would include:
tailoring the analysis, including cumulative effects analysis,
to a regional or local ecosystem scale; improving interagency
coordination, including information and resource sharing, and
collaboration with state, tribal, and local governments; improving
public participation in decision making; and establishing coordinated
monitoring and adaptive management approaches, where appropriate.
A federal court recently upheld the federal government's
authority to do this type of planning in the context of the President's
Pacific Northwest Forest Plan.
Federal land management statutes. Federal land management
statutes such as the National Forest Management Act and Federal
Land Policy and Management Act authorize, and often require, coordination
of planning and management initiatives with other federal agencies
and nonfederal governments. The provisions can be read to authorize
or direct coordinated land management at regional or local ecosystem
scales, as appropriate and consistent with other agency mandates.
Other frameworks and models. In some cases, Congress has
expressed a legislative desire for interagency coordination where
specific ecosystems are involved. For example, the Clean Water
Act's National Estuary
Program requires, for certain designated estuaries, the convening
of a management conference, which includes all interested federal
agencies, as well as other governmental and private parties.
The federal Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration
Act, which governs the restoration of wetlands in Louisiana, requires
five federal agencies (along with the state of Louisiana) to coordinate
their approaches to wetlands restoration.
Other laws or mechanisms provide potential models for coordination
among federal, state, and local officials. For example:
Each of these examples of interagency coordination, whether explicitly
or implicitly mandated by Congress, can be considered a model
for future ecosystem efforts. Agencies can learn from past or
existing coordination structures or relationships, and transfer
them to new situations where agencies must work together. In
general, improved interagency coordination depends much less on
new legislation than on creative and concerted efforts by agencies
to take a broader view that considers a balance among their respective
Budget issues. Probably the most significant legal barrier
to effective interagency planning and implementation on an ecosystem
scale is in the budget structure. As discussed in the chapter
on Budgeting for the Ecosystem Approach, agencies that need to
work together are faced with the following difficulties: authorizations
and appropriations from different congressional committees; congressional
funding commitments that are usually short-term or decreasing;
and, in some instances, agencies statutory prohibitions from spending
appropriated funds outside of their geographical jurisdiction,
or from transferring funds to other agencies.
Planning. Especially where large amounts of federal land
are at issue, the question is often raised whether different agencies'
planning processes or regulations make it difficult to coordinate.
In addition to budget problems, inefficiencies result from the
fact that some agencies'
planning processes are slow, and can impair other agencies'
ability to do their own planning. For example, the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers (Corps) civil works program, which requires
a lengthy and complex process whenever the Corps considers a water
resources development or restoration project, has been criticized
as rigid and time consuming. Among other things, the Corps must
return to Congress for new authorizations when there are significant
changes in a project. Other agencies involved in Corps projects
must adjust their own planning to the Corps'
timetable and funding restrictions.
Mission agencies. It is important to note that the "mission
agencies"such as the
Departments of Transportation and Defense (including the Corps), can
play an important role in protecting ecosystems, and their ability
to coordinate with other agencies, whose mission is more directly
related to environmental protection, is paramount. For example,
many Department of Defense installations, under the authority
of the Sikes Act, have entered into cooperative agreements with
the Department of the Interior and host states regarding conservation
of fish and wildlife. NEPA provides mission agencies, such as
the Corps and Department of Transportation, with a structure for
coordinating and cooperating with other agencies on the environmental
effects of their projects.
Information sharing. Finally, as noted in the chapter
on Institutional Approaches, the ecosystem approach by federal
agencies cannot succeed without the agencies'
commitment to share their knowledge and expertise with each other.
An enormous amount of specific, targeted knowledge exists within
each agency, but truly integrated management requires all those
involved to have a better understanding of the full range of attributes
of, and effects on, an ecosystem. Although there is some express
statutory authority for interagency technical assistance (such
as EPA's mandate to
provide NEPA assistance or the Corps'
authority to provide technical assistance), this work has been
undervalued. The main barriers to increased information sharing
appear to be funding and agency "turf"
issues. There is a critical need for an interagency data base
of ecosystem information to facilitate agency compliance with
information requirements, such as cumulative effects analysis
under NEPA, and to ease compliance with agency coordination requirements.
Ecosystem scale. Although planning on an ecosystem scale
is relatively new, agencies already have a range of authority
and a variety of models to choose from. Just as it has issued
express instructions to federal agencies to coordinate with one
another, Congress has also instructed the federal government to
manage, or to work with state or local governments in managing,
designated areas on an ecosystem scale. The New Jersey Pinelands
state and federal legislation is a successful example of this
approach. And NEPA directs agencies to assess the ecological
effects of their actions.
Representative examples of agency efforts to implement their authority
using the ecosystem approach are:
These varied tools demonstrate that there is room in existing
law for agencies to creatively exercise their authorities on an
ecosystem scale. There is considerable opportunity for agencies
to borrow these concepts from other agencies, or to expand them
to different programs. Perhaps NEPA provides the best framework
for an ecosystem approach. The procedures developed under NEPA
could be used more frequently for programmatic environmental impact
statements or other strategic programmatic planning on a regional
In this regard, some agencies have been criticized for disregarding
the implications of their own actions for resources beyond their
jurisdiction. The ecosystem approach recognizes that land and
resource management decisions affect, and are affected by, activities
in surrounding areas. The recently proposed Forest Service National
Forest Management Act regulation addresses this, recognizing that
ecosystems often cross many ownerships and jurisdictions. The
principles of this new regulation also address the need to respect
private property rights and coordinate planning with other agencies.
Aside from budget constraints, there do not appear to be significant
legal barriers to consideration by agencies of activities beyond
their boundaries when they contemplate their own activities.
Other agency efforts, such as pollution control efforts, could
be coordinated with overall ecosystem planning and coordinated
more with state, local, and private planning efforts. Opportunities
are many. The natural resource damage authority under several
environmental statutes allows agencies to recover funds in enforcement
actions and to use them to restore injured resources on an ecosystem
basis. Supplemental Environmental Projects, which are environmentally
beneficial projects undertaken by defendants in EPA administrative
or civil enforcement actions in exchange for favorable penalty
consideration in settlement, can be developed with ecosystem considerations
in mind. EPA has already launched a project to use geographic
targeting to focus pollution prevention and enforcement activities
on the protection of sensitive ecological and recreation areas.
Coordination with nonfederal governments. Because ecosystems
transcend political boundaries in addition to interagency boundaries,
collaboration between the federal government and state, tribal,
and other national governments is critical to broader application
of the ecosystem approach. Many of the statutory models for coordination
described above provide for participation of states and tribal
governments as well as more than one federal agency. A number
of states, moreover, have already incorporated the ecosystem approach
into administration of state programs. With respect to tribes,
unique issues arise where off-reservation treaty-protected resources
are located in ecosystems on state or federal lands. Finally,
as discussed below, the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)
has presented some impediments to intergovernmental communications.
A recently enacted exemption to FACA should help address these
The ecosystem approach often has an important international component.
The management of some ecosystems, such as the Great Lakes, inevitably
raises international issues because the ecosystem itself spans
international borders. Thus, taking an ecosystem approach in
border regions will typically require the cooperation of the neighboring
nation. In addition, the health of an ecosystem that is defined
as entirely within the one nation (such as the Chesapeake Bay)
can be critical to the health of an ecosystem in another nation
where species integral to both ecosystems migrate between the
two. Similarly, ecosystem management efforts on U.S. territory
may affect the environment of other nations or the global commons.
The United States is party to a number of binding and nonbinding
international instruments that address particular ecosystems,
such as wetlands generally, or international boundary areas, or
are generally pertinent to environmental issues.
Partnerships With Private Landowners
Taking an ecosystem approach requires that federal agencies pay
close attention to the needs and views of private landowners and
seek their voluntary participation in collaborative efforts.
Federal activities must be predictable and their effects on private
lands foreseeable, and federal regulations must be straightforward.
Increased efforts should be made to administer federal laws and
programs to facilitate these goals.
Existing programs include the P.L. 566 Watershed Program, which
authorizes the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide
funding to local sponsors for watershed protection works such
as riparian habitat restoration, land conservation, and flood
prevention. Other programs provide incentives to restore wetlands,
such as the Wetlands Reserve Program, which provides technical
and financial assistance and an easement payment to landowners
who restore wetlands. The Conservation Reserve Program provides
similar benefits for fragile lands, particularly those that are
Other types of incentives, such as tax incentives to preserve
land, exist but have not been extensively woven into federal activities
and planning. Federal agencies should explore these arrangements.
Finally, agencies can also assist private landowners indirectly,
for example by reducing the burden on private landowners to conserve
habitat. In the context of Endangered Species Act implementation,
for example, the Departments of the Interior and Commerce recently
announced policies to facilitate economic use of private land
by placing additional federal lands in protection, acquiring military
lands when bases are closed, and arranging for purchases of Resolution
Trust Corporation lands.
The ecosystem approach can also involve private landowners at
its most fundamental level, where laws or agency policies allow
for agreements between landowners and federal agencies in which
landowners ensure that environmental goals are met in exchange
for certain benefits. For example, the Corps'
wetlands mitigation banking policy, described above, gives landowners
greater flexibility in selecting development locations in exchange
for a commitment to restore, create, or preserve valuable wetlands.
The Endangered Species Act's
Habitat Conservation Plan authority allows the Secretary of the
Interior to enter into agreements with private landowners under
which the Secretary permits "incidental
takes" of listed species,
and landowners agree to develop long-term, private conservation
programs to protect listed species. In both of these programs,
arrangements can be structured in a way that takes ecosystem considerations
into account while meeting individual landowner objectives.
Finally, federal agencies are beginning to institute policies
to assure private landowners that applicable federal requirements
will retain a greater degree of predictability. Again, an example
of recent progress is Endangered Species Act implementation.
The Departments of the Interior and Commerce have policies that:
When landowners can better predict the consequences of future
uses of their land, they can plan more effectively and with more
certainty. This certainty plays an important role in ecosystem
planning, which is most effective when participants have a high
level of trust in each other and take a long-term view of the
ecosystem, its desired condition, and socioeconomic issues.
Communicating and Working With Stakeholders
Since a cornerstone of the ecosystem approach is the active involvement
of stakeholders, the ecosystem approach depends upon timely and
widespread public participation. A number of federal statutes,
including generally applicable statutes such as the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA), and more specific statutes such as National
Forest Management Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management
Act, explicitly provide for public input into federal decision
making that can take place at an ecosystem scale.
National Environmental Policy Act. The NEPA process encourages
the involvement of interested and affected stakeholders. The
NEPA notice and comment process as currently implemented, however,
is often not conducive to the collaboration and consensus-building
with stakeholders that is essential to a successful ecosystem
approach. Beyond scoping and public comment, the ecosystem approach
seeks to: bring stakeholders together to develop a shared vision
for an ecosystem; recognize problems as shared problems; engage
in joint data collection and analysis; and arrive at creative
and innovative ways to maintain ecosystem sustainability and to
achieve socioeconomic goals. One way the NEPA process could help
achieve these ends would be through voluntary interagency regional
ecosystem management environmental impact statements developed
in close collaboration with nonfederal governments and the public.
Similarly, Council on Environmental Quality guidance could be
developed with a view to making the NEPA process more supportive
of active and collaborative stakeholder involvement, both where
agencies act individually and where they are planning together.
Other mechanisms. In the context of litigation and rulemaking,
alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are becoming increasingly
popular, and lend themselves well to supporting cooperative ecosystem
approaches. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act authorizes
alternative means of resolving disputes in court; another law
encourages negotiated rulemakings to reach consensus and prevent
litigation later on. These means of working out problems are
often less expensive in the long run and more convenient for members
of the public.
Congress or the executive branch has occasionally seen fit to
establish dispute resolution schemes tailored to particular geographical
regions. For example, the International Joint Commission was
formed to assist the United States and Canada in protecting water
quality in the Great Lakes basin. The United States and Mexico
are parties to the International Boundary and Water Commission,
which has served for many decades as a forum for resolution of
water allocation and other binational resource issues. This type
of dispute resolution body has the advantages of increasing the
likelihood of focused participation and consensus among the members,
especially if discussions are facilitated by a trained neutral,
and of providing structured procedures for public involvement.
In addition, several statutes provide federal agencies with authority
to create and fund educational programs. These can be used to
educate stakeholders about the ecosystem approach generally or
about particular issues. The National Environmental Education
Act gives EPA general authority to fund educational projects on
the environment, and specific statutes like the Clean Water Act
provide EPA more limited educational grant authority. The Forest
and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act provides the Department
of Agriculture specific authority to establish programs that expand
public knowledge of the ecological relationships between forest
resources and human communities.
Federal Advisory Committee Act. The law that has been
most consistently cited as a barrier to the ecosystem approach
is the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which imposes procedural
requirements on federal agencies in certain circumstances when
they solicit and receive collective advice from persons who are
not full-time federal employees.
FACA was enacted to eliminate unnecessary advisory committees,
limit the formation of new committees to the minimum number necessary,
keep the function of the committees advisory in nature, and hold
the committees to uniform standards and procedures. The General
Services Administration has published regulations establishing
minimum requirements and providing guidance to agency management
on the establishment, operation, and administration of advisory
committees subject to FACA.
In addition, the Clinton administration has imposed stringent
limitations on the creation and use of FACA advisory committees.
Executive Order 12838 (February 10, 1993) directs each
executive department and agency to terminate at least one-third
of its advisory committees subject to FACA. The Executive Order
also prohibits creation or sponsorship of new advisory committees
subject to FACA except where (1) required by statute, or
(2) the agency head finds that "compelling
considerations necessitate creation"
of the committee, and the Director of the Office of Management
and Budget approves the advisory committee. The Administration
has also announced a policy of opposing legislative language that
"establishes new advisory
committees or seeks to exempt groups from the requirements of
the Federal Advisory Committee Act."
Because the ecosystem approach depends upon the input and participation
of a wide range of individuals and interests other than the federal
government, FACA issues often arise. The Act has presented particular
problems with respect to state and tribal contacts. With varying
success, several federal ecosystem management efforts have been
challenged as violating FACA, including the President's
Forest Plan for the Pacific Northwest, restoration efforts in
South Florida, and federal efforts to protect salmon in the Pacific
There are several ways to ensure that the provisions of FACA do
not unduly hinder efforts to implement an ecosystem approach.
First, section 204 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995
creates a FACA exemption for meetings between federal officials
and state, local, and tribal officials for exchanging views, information,
or advice related to shared responsibilities. Amendments like
this one should relieve the burden of complying with FACA restrictions
in the context of government-to-government collaborative activities.
Second, the scope of FACA has sometimes been incorrectly construed
by litigants or by agencies themselves. Agencies should train
employees involved in ecosystem activities on sensitivity to FACA-related
issues, and on the content and requirements of the Act, to make
them aware of the situations under which contacts are appropriate,
and methods for conducting contacts consistent with FACA.
Third, agencies should consider more extensive use of FACA-chartered
advisory committees when seeking to collaborate closely with nonfederal
stakeholders on a regular and systematic basis. Even though it
is Administration policy to minimize the number of advisory committees,
a chartered advisory committee may be the most effective way to
obtain broad public participation in implementing the ecosystem
Other barriers. Besides FACA, a concern commonly voiced
during Task Force surveys was that, despite statutory administrative
procedures to allow for public input into many federal and state
environmental and land management decisions, agency officials
often fail to establish the type of interactions with and among
community members that leads to the consensus-building that is
critical to the ecosystem approach. There is a tendency for officials
to accept input, but not to encourage the constructive dialogue
that can lead to collaborative solutions. Generally, beyond possible
changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process,
the answer to these problems lies in institutional, rather than
legal, change. Guidance under NEPA, as well as expanded use of
the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, can help alleviate these
Monitoring and Adaptive Management
Adaptive management is a continuing process of planning, monitoring,
researching, and adjusting to achieve management goals for an
ecosystem. Good science and the flexibility to accommodate information
about ecosystem and socioeconomic changes are both fundamental
components of the ecosystem approach. But the need for systematically
adapting agency practices in accordance with new scientific information
has not traditionally been a major component of federal resource
management, and applicable federal legal authorities have not
been written with adaptive management in mind.
Once again, NEPA provides a good framework for addressing this
component of the ecosystem approach. NEPA regulations provide
significant opportunities for interagency cooperation, reduction
of paperwork, and incorporation of the best existing environmental
information into agency decisions. NEPA has proven to be an important
starting point for adaptive management through its emphasis on
monitoring and requirement for supplemental analysis when an agency
finds significant new circumstances or information. It also allows
agencies to make use of information collected by other agencies
and under other statutes, such as water quality data gathered
under the Clean Water Act. To the extent that a federal action
may affect threatened or endangered species, the Endangered Species
Act also supports the ecosystem approach with strong requirements
regarding new information.
In this area, however, a number of barriers exist, some institutional.
The NEPA process has not always effectively ensured that the
environmental information gathered by agencies is verified over
time or communicated to others in a form that is usable for future
analyses. Moreover, NEPA does not mandate agency monitoring,
although agencies must establish a monitoring program where applicable
for any mitigation. Nevertheless, expanded interagency use of
NEPA may form an appropriate basis for interagency agreements
regarding monitoring and data base sharing to ensure that monitoring
is carried out by federal agencies and nonfederal entities in
an ecosystem or a region. To ensure that agency efforts are not
wasted on environmental analysis that comes too early or late
for a given decision, an interagency, programmatic NEPA approach
can be used to prepare for site-specific proposals and new information,
and to establish a system for interagency coordination.
Doorway to New Opportunities
Some commentators have advocated changing statutes to promote
the ecosystem approach, including enacting laws that explicitly
endorse the ecosystem approach (e.g., Keiter 1994). It is
always helpful for agencies to have the benefit of express congressional
authority to pursue what they believe is good government. But
despite some specific impediments, the federal statutory scheme
contains no overarching barrier to the ecosystem approach, and
in fact existing authorities provide agencies with broad flexibility
to implement the ecosystem approach. The broad discretion that
agencies enjoy should not be a barrier to the ecosystem approach,
but rather a doorway to new opportunities.
The substantive goals of the ecosystem approach are to maintain
the health of ecosystems and to contribute to sustainable communities
and economies. The executive branch currently has authority under
federal law to make great strides towards achieving this goal.
However, existing laws have not been consistently or fully administered
to promote ecological and socioeconomic sustainability. Moreover,
federal authorities at times operate at cross-purposes with efforts
to achieve goals of the ecosystem approach.
Restoring and Maintaining Ecosystem Health
Congress has provided direction to the executive branch through
numerous laws to protect ecosystems or their individual elements
and processes. Although many of these laws are broadly framed
in terms of protecting (or taking into consideration) "the
environment" as a whole,
Congress has also frequently recognized the importance of protecting
the environment at an ecosystem level. Similarly, where Congress
has granted them administrative flexibility, agencies have sometimes
taken an ecosystem approach. Congressional direction to restore
and maintain the health and diversity of ecosystems can be found
in three types of federal statutes: (1) laws that apply to all
ecosystems; (2) laws that govern management of federal lands;
and (3) laws that specifically apply to congressionally designated
Laws that apply to all ecosystems. Several federal laws
that apply to all ecosystems provide federal agencies with significant
authority to maintain ecosystem integrity. Such statutes include
the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act,
pollution control laws such as the Clean Water Act, and resource
protections laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Many
of these cross-jurisdictional statutes affect federal, state,
local, and private lands; however, efforts could be made to ensure
that they are administered in a more coordinated, consisted manner
to maintain healthy ecosystems.
Section 102(2)(C) of NEPA requires federal agencies to assess
the environmental impacts of major federal actions. "Effects"
are defined by the White House's
Council on Environmental Quality in its regulations for implementing
NEPA as including "ecological"
impacts, "such as the
effects on natural resources and on the components, structures,
and functioning of affected ecosystems"
(40 CFR 1508.8).
NEPA thus requires agencies to consider the ecological impacts
of their actions, and expands the factors that agencies are authorized
to consider in taking action; however, NEPA does not compel agencies
to act on these factors, nor does it expand the range of actions
agencies may take beyond their existing statutory authorities.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) more directly promotes goals
of the ecosystem approach by protecting native plants and animals, components
of ecosystems, that are
at risk of extinction. An explicit purpose of the ESA is "to
provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species
and threatened species depend may be conserved"
(16 U.S.C. 1531(b)).
Under the ESA, federal agencies must ensure that their actions
are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed
endangered and threatened species or to adversely modify the designated
critical habitat of such species (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2)).
Federal agencies are also directed to utilize their authorities
listed species, which includes supporting their recovery so that
they can be removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered
species. In addition, federal and nonfederal entities and individuals
are prohibited from unauthorized "taking"
(including harming or killing) of listed species (50 CFR 17.3). Despite these directives, the emergency-room nature of
the ESA, in the absence of other preventive efforts, has limited
its effectiveness in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem health.
To move toward more flexible, cost-effective preventive management,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
Service recently established a policy to take an ecosystem-oriented
approach in administering the ESA.
Pollution control laws provide additional legal foundation for
achieving goals of the ecosystem approach. For example, the Clean
Water Act (CWA) grants the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
authority to promote the integrity of aquatic ecosystems when
approving state water quality standards (see, e.g., CWA
mandates consideration of use of a body of water for propagation
of fish and wildlife). Section 303(c) of the CWA also authorizes
adoption of site-specific water quality standards to take into
account considerations unique to particular ecosystems. The CWA
also directs EPA to develop water quality criteria that reflect
the latest scientific knowledge of "the
effects of pollutants on biological community diversity"
to guide states as they establish their water quality standards
Several other pollution control statutes allow for or mandate
the protection of ecosystems:
Numerous other federal statutes provide significant authority
to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function across a broad
range of ecosystems, including forest, terrestrial, aquatic, and
marine systems. For example, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16
U.S.C. 703 et
seq.) protects migratory birds, and related laws provide for
acquisition of habitats. The Lacey Act and Lacey Act Amendments
of 1981 (18 U.S.C.
42(a)(1) and 16 U.S.C. 3371
et seq.) prohibit the importation into the United States
of wildlife that might deplete stocks of domestic wildlife or
damage wildlife resources. The Fish and Wildlife Coordination
Act (16 U.S.C. 661
et seq.) requires that wildlife concerns receive equal
consideration and be coordinated with other aspects of water resources
development. The Non-indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Control Act
(16 U.S.C. 4701(b)(1))
provides authority to avoid stresses arising from the introduction
of exotic species into aquatic ecosystems. The Marine Mammal
Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361
et seq.) places a moratorium on taking and importing all
marine mammals (with some exceptions), and authorizes regulations
to protect rookeries, mating and feeding grounds, and other significant
habitats for some stocks. In accordance with the Federal Power
Act (16 U.S.C. 791
et seq.), the FERC must adequately and equitably protect,
mitigate damages to, and enhance fish and wildlife affected by
Finally, general direction to contribute to the protection of
ecosystem integrity can be found in the organic statutes governing
the activities of "mission"
agencies. For example, the Intermodal Surface Transportation
Efficiency Act requires statewide planning of transportation projects
and integration of transportation issues with social, economic,
and environmental concerns. The Water Resources Development Act
(WRDA) of 1990 ( 306)
makes environmental protection one of the primary missions of
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in planning, constructing,
operating, and maintaining water resources projects. The WRDA
of 1986 ( 1135), as
amended by the WRDA of 1990 (
304) and 1992 ( 202),
gives the Corps the authority to modify the structures and operations
of projects to improve the quality of the environment. In addition,
individual project authorizations can include environmental restoration
Statutes governing management of federal lands. Federal
land management laws provide clear authority to maintain ecosystem
integrity on federal lands. The Multiple Use-Sustained
Yield Act includes a mandate to administer national forests "for
outdoor recreation,watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes"
as well as for range and timber purposes (16 U.S.C. 528).
The National Forest Management Act requires that the Forest Service
"provide for diversity
in the multiple-use context"
(16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(B)(1988), see
also 36 CFR 219.19,
which requires the maintenance of viable, well-distributed populations
of native and desired nonnative vertebrate species). Forest planning
must follow guidelines that, among other things, "provide
for the diversity of plant and animal communities based on the
suitability and capability of the specific land area in order
to meet overall multiple-use objectives"
(16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(B)).
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) requires that
the Bureau of Land Management manage its lands for multiple uses,
but avoid "permanent
impairment of the productivity of the land and the quality of
the environment with consideration being given to the relative
values of the resources and not necessarily to the combination
of uses that will give the greatest economic return or the greatest
unit output" (43 U.S.C.
also declares a policy of management to protect scientific, scenic,
ecological, environmental, and water resource values.
Other statutes provide for the protection of large reserves.
The purpose of the Wilderness Preservation System is "to
assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding
settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify
all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving
no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural
condition" (16 U.S.C.
the express intent of the Wilderness Act includes maintaining
conditions that can contribute significantly to sustaining the
health of the ecosystems of which wilderness areas are a part.
The National Park Organic Act requires the National Park Service
to administer the national park system to conserve scenery, natural
and historic objects, and wildlife, and to provide for public
enjoyment while ensuring that the parks are left "unimpaired
for the enjoyment of future generations"
(16 U.S.C. 1
et seq.). Similarly, the Alaska National Interest Lands
Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 3101
et seq.) reserves vast acreage in Alaska for wilderness
and multiple uses. The National Park Service has in the past
relied upon existing legal authority to respond to activities
outside the parks that threaten to degrade parklands.
Several acts governing the National Wildlife Refuge System provide
for the preservation of land areas needed for refuge purposes,
including the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
(16 U.S.C. 668dd
et seq.), Refuge Recreation Act (16 U.S.C.
460k et seq.), and Refuge Trespass Act (18 U.S.C.
41). Wildlife refuges
are managed primarily for the benefit of wildlife, particularly
endangered and threatened species and waterfowl. All uses of
refuges must be compatible with the primary purpose of the refuge
designation. To date, the Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed
a wide variety of uses under this provision, including military
activities, mining and other extractive industries, and livestock
The national park, refuge, and wilderness laws seek to maintain
the ecological health of protected areas, but these lands generally
do not encompass entire landscape ecosystems. In some cases,
particularly when establishing national parks, Congress has delegated
its Property Clause power to protect national reserves from external
threats. In addition, the reserved water rights doctrine authorizes
land management agencies, where they have senior rights, to protect
federal reserved lands from extraterritorial activities (particularly
water diversions) that are inconsistent with the reserves'
Existing public land law thus provides numerous opportunities
for pursuing the goal of maintaining ecosystem health and biodiversity.
To take advantage of these opportunities, appropriate coordinated
modifications of regulations, policies, and guidance could be
made to incorporate these goals more clearly into agency procedures.
Statutes aimed at congressionally designated ecosystems.
Federal statutes provide direction to restore and maintain the
integrity of specially protected or specifically designated ecosystems.
In these statutes, Congress either establishes relevant boundaries
itself or directs agencies to do so. Several statutes provide
protection for particular ecosystem types:
In addition to special ecosystem types, federal statutes also
provide protection for designated ecosystems. For example, to
facilitate protection of the New Jersey Pinelands, Congress created
the Pinelands National Reserve in 1978, specified guidelines for
its protection, and authorized the establishment of the Pinelands
Commission. The Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration
Act establishes a task force comprised of federal and state representatives
to develop a "comprehensive
approach to restore and prevent the loss of coastal wetlands in
Louisiana" (16 U.S.C. 3951-3956).
Furthermore, several Clean Water Act provisions allow for research
programs and collaborative watershed or ecosystem plans to be
established for the protection of wildlife, aquatic life, and
biological resources in specifically named ecosystems. The Clean
Water Act calls for protecting "living
resources" in Chesapeake
Bay ( 117) and "aquatic life and wildlife"
in the Great Lakes ( 118),
and for developing plans to maintain the chemical, physical, and
biological integrity of estuaries nominated by states as estuaries
of national significance ( 320).
Although the statutes and regulations discussed above all support
goals of the ecosystem approach, many were promulgated years ago
and could be administered more effectively if used consistently
to restore and maintain the biodiversity, health, and sustainability
of ecosystems. To take better advantage of these authorities
under existing law, agencies could review their current regulations
and policies to ensure that they are fully utilizing their discretion
to do so.
In addition, although all of the federal laws described above
can contribute to ecosystem protection, ecosystems throughout
the country can be adversely affected by other federal activities
and financial incentives, see,
for example, the Secretary of the Interior's
report to Congress on "The
Impact of Federal Programs on Wetlands"
(1994). The adverse impacts of federal programs in water development
and management, agriculture, infrastructure, local development,
and housing could all be reviewed to identify ways to ensure that
they do not impair long-term ecosystem health. Similarly, federal
programs and tax incentives that promote unsustainable resource
use, extraction, and development could be reviewed for possible
Promoting Sustainable Communities and Economies
Several federal statutes provide federal agencies with the authority
to promote sustainable economic development and community stability.
Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Congress
declared a national policy "to
use all practicable federal means and measures to harmonize human
activity with environmental conditions to fulfill the social,
economic, and other requirements of present and future generations
of Americans" (42 U.S.C.4331(a)). Regulations
of the Council on Environmental Quality promulgated under NEPA
provide for consideration of cultural, economic, and social (as
well as ecological) effects of agency proposals (40 CFR 1508.8).
In addition, under these regulations agencies must consider indirect
effects of their proposals, including induced growth, changes
in land use, and population density and growth (40 CFR 1508.8).
On February 11, 1994, President Clinton signed Executive Order
12898 ("Federal Actionsto Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income
Populations"). The Order directs federal agencies to make environmental justice part
of their missions by identifying and addressing, as appropriate,
disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental
effects in minority communities and low-income communities. As
highlighted in the presidential memorandum issued with the Order,
the Order is designed to focus the attention of federal agencies
on the human health and environmental conditions in these communities
in order to realize the goal of environmental justice. The President's
memorandum accompanying Executive Order 12898 directed federal
agencies to use the NEPA process to identify and address, as appropriate,
disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental
effects in minority and low-income communities.
Addressing or avoiding disproportionately high and adverse health
or environmental effects on minority populations, low-income populations,
and Native Americans will contribute to the ecosystem approach's
goal of promoting sustainable communities. Similarly, ensuring
that the natural infrastructure and capital of these communities
is not disproportionately weakened over time will contribute to
the short- and long-term sustainability of their economies. Overall,
NEPA and executive policy provide a sound basis for agencies to
more thoroughly evaluate regional demographic and economic trends
and other factors pertaining to quality of life.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department
of the Interior have specific authorities to promote sustainable
economies and communities on and off federal lands. The multiple-use
and sustained-yield directives in the Multiple Use-Sustained
Yield Act, National Forest Management Act (NFMA), and Federal
Land Policy and Management Act provide an opportunity for promoting
sustainable economies and communities. NFMA contains provisions
that facilitate the ecosystem approach, such as requirements concerning
public participation, resource inventories, intergovernmental
coordination, monitoring of resource condition, and conservation
of diversity of plant and animal communities in the multiple-use
context. NFMA and its regulations also require the agency to
devote resources to forecasting commodity production, including
estimation of allowable timber sale quantity, timber sale schedules,
rangeland grazing suitability, recreation demand, and future mineral
development. Communities, businesses, and financial institutions
have in the past relied on such data from forest plans in their
decisionmaking. Some have challenged federal land managers'
efforts to create ecosystem-based land management plans. These
organizations look to forest plans for long-term stability in
commodity production. However, the ecosystem approach works best
when plans can be rapidly altered to respond to unforeseen circumstances
or new information. Thus, there is some tension in the NFMA between
commodity production and the ecosystem approach. Nonetheless,
the use of ecosystem plans under NFMA should lead to more ecologically
informed and sustainable decisions regarding commodity production.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) requires the
Bureau of Land Management to develop Resource Management Plans
to govern federal land management, but is largely silent on their
content. This flexibility may assist the agency in promoting
elements of an ecosystem-based approach to managing resources.
First, FLPMA provides authority for preparing and maintaining
an inventory of public lands and resources, giving priority to
areas of critical environmental concern. Second, in developing
land use plans, the Bureau of Land Management is to use an "interdisciplinary
approach to achieve integrated consideration of physical, biological,
economic, and other sciences."
Third, Congress emphasized the need for land use planning, including
coordinated planning with other federal and state planning efforts.
Fourth, Congress added that "management
[should] be on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield unless
otherwise specified by law."
These goals are based on recognition that "the nation's need for domestic
sources of minerals, food, timber, and fiber"
must be considered and reconciled with a policy to "protect
the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental,
air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values,"
and, "where appropriate," to "preserve and protect
certain public lands in their natural condition,"
providing "food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals,"
and also providing "for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use."
Thus it appears that the FLPMA's
multiple-use, sustained-yield focus is consistent with an ecosystem
approach to land management. The focus of current planning regulations
is not to assign priority to any use, but rather to provide for
the management of lands with the widest range of beneficial uses
achievable without undue environmental degradation, risk to health
or safety, or other undesirable consequences. To the extent that
certain decisions can be implemented only through a land use planning
process and must be consistent with a land management plan, making
rapid changes can prove awkward when agencies are practicing adaptive
management and coordinating and working with other resource-managing
agencies and stakeholders. Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management's
authority to manage lands may also be constrained when land is
dedicated to a specific use according to other provisions of law,
in which case the land is managed in accordance with such law.
In a few cases, lands are also managed under specific statutory
mandates that may constrain land management options. For example,
the Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant
Lands Act (O&C Act) provides for "permanent
forest production" on O&C lands designated as timberlands in Oregon and California.
It also provides for the leasing of O&C lands suitable for
grazing. Money derived from the O&C lands is to be covered
into a special fund, part of which is paid out to the counties
in which the O&C lands are located. The O&C Act provides
that timberlands shall "be managed . . . for permanent forest production, and the timber
thereon shall be sold, cut, and removed in conformity with the
principal [sic] of sustained yield for the purpose of providing
a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating
stream flow, and contributing to the economic stability of local
communities and industries, and providing recreational facilities
[sic]." This language suggests opportunities for an ecosystem approach to management:
although timber production has been interpreted to be the "dominant
use" designated by the Act, it is clearly not the only use. Moreover, notwithstanding
its traditional interpretation, the Act itself does not state
that timber production is its primary purpose. It does not define
permanent forest production, but rather leaves this up to the
Secretary of the Interior, vesting the Secretary with wide discretion
in determining sustained yield and how to achieve it.
The National Forest Dependent Rural Communities Economic Diversification
Act of 1990 includes a provision for the establishment of "rural
forestry and economic diversification action teams,"
which would "prepare an action plan to provide technical assistance to economically
(7 U.S.C. 6613). Action plans would provide financial as well as technical assistance.
Other cooperative forestry assistance programs designed to foster
sustainable communities and economies include the USDA Forest
Service's Forest Stewardship Program, Stewardship Incentive Program, and Forest Legacy Program.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has authority
to provide assistance to and advise private landowners on numerous
natural resource planning and conservation issues, including water
supply, crop regulations, and land use planning.
The need to balance coastal economic development with protection
of coastal ecosystems is a major focus of the Coastal Zone Management
Act, 16 U.S.C. 1451
et seq. The Act has specific provisions for Special Area
Management Planning, one of the management tools that state coastal
programs can use to address issues that require more intensive
planning and interagency coordination for areas of conflicting
land and water uses, such as ports, harbors, waterfronts, and
urban coastal areas.
Finally, pollution control statutes frequently allow or require
agencies to consider socioeconomic costs and benefits. Barriers
may exist to ecosystem-level application of many of these provisions,
however, because they involve national standards or industrywide
considerations. Nevertheless, agencies could seek to address
regional or local circumstances more routinely, where appropriate
and consistent with existing law.
General guidance for promoting community stability, sustainable
economic development, and the productive potential of ecosystems
could help shape agencies'
efforts to implement the ecosystem approach. Through guidance
from the Council on Environmental Quality, the socioeconomic analysis
requirements of NEPA could be readily adapted to encourage agencies
to consider whether their actions promote sustainable economies
and communities. Principles or general criteria for assessing
important issues, such as community stability or maintaining the
productive potential of ecosystems, could help inform agencies'
socioeconomic impact analysis. Guidance could also set forth
common mitigation opportunities, alternatives, and available tools
for considering whether agency actions promote sustainable economies
and communities. Such guidance could also help minimize litigation
risks in this area.
A fundamental tenet of the ecosystem approach is that planning
and management must be based on or account for ecological boundaries.
Generally, laws in the United States that affect environmental
management have been developed in an uncoordinated, piecemeal
fashion. They often apply nationally or (in the case of land
management) to lands within a particular agency's
jurisdiction, with little consideration given to how regional
or local ecosystems function. Still, there are crosscutting authorities
that provide for an ecosystem-scale approach to management. Moreover,
some state and federal statutes are written to create efforts
to implement the ecosystem approach in designated areas. These
latter statutes are regarded as particularly effective.
One of the most important ways to achieve an efficient, effective
ecosystem approach is through interagency coordination. The Vice
President's Report of
the National Performance Review cited improved coordination among
federal agencies as a major purpose of the ecosystem approach,
and a major tool for achieving it. Nevertheless, the vast majority
of federal statutes were not written with interagency coordination
in mind; and the federal agencies'
differing missions further complicate coordination.
This section describes existing authorities that may be used to
promote an ecosystem orientation and practical problems that need
to be resolved to make such an approach effective. Four types
of legal authorities are discussed: (1) statutes that apply
in all ecosystems; (2) statutes that govern the approach
to managing federal lands; (3) statutes that include coordination
mechanisms for specific geographic areas and specially protected
ecosystems; and (4) other legal mechanisms relevant to achieving
an ecosystem orientation.
A number of federal legal authorities are available for use in
implementing the ecosystem approach in all ecosystems nationwide.
Such statutes include the National Environmental Policy Act,
laws protecting elements of native biodiversity (such as the Endangered
Species Act), pollution control and cleanup statutes (such as
the Clean Water Act), and the authority of mission agencies.
National Environmental Policy Act. The National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the effects
of their actions at the ecosystem scale. The most familiar NEPA
mandate requires every proposal for a major federal action that
significantly affects the human environment to be accompanied
by a "detailed statement,"
which typically takes the form of an environmental impact statement
(EIS). The coordination needed to prepare an EIS can be a major
source of interagency exchanges of information on ecosystems and
impacts of federal actions on them.
NEPA and its corresponding regulations from the Council on Environmental
Quality (CEQ) call for consideration of ecosystem-level effects,
alternatives, and mitigation opportunities across environmental
media and jurisdictions (42 U.S.C. 102(2)(C)
and (E), and 40 CFR 1502.14(f)
and 1502.16(h)). NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the
ecological consequences of their actions, including impacts not
related to their organic statutes. The CEQ's
regulations require agencies to consider the direct, indirect,
and cumulative effects of their actions and connected actions.
Indirect effects include "growth-inducing
effects and other effects related to induced changes in the pattern
of land use, population density or growth rate, and related effects
on air and water and other natural systems, including ecosystems"
(40 CFR 1508.8).
Importantly, "effects" also include "ecological" impacts, "such as the
effects on natural resources and on the components, structures,
and functioning of affected ecosystems" (id.). NEPA requires that closely related actions be evaluated in a single impact statement, and allows agencies to conduct broad
impact analyses to evaluate multiple proposals that are related
geographically or have similar impacts (1502.4).
At the beginning stages of developing an EIS, NEPA requires federal
agencies to consult with any other federal agency that has "jurisdiction
by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental
impact involved" (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C)).
Furthermore, "affected" federal and nonfederal agencies must be notified of the proposed
action and afforded an opportunity to comment on the proposal
(40 CFR 1501.7).
An EIS must include a discussion of "possible
conflicts between the proposed action and the objectives of Federal,
regional, State, and local . . . land use plans, policies and
controls for the area concerned" (40 CFR 1502.16(c)).
Finally, CEQ regulations require agencies to obtain comments
on draft EISs from any federal agency with jurisdiction over any
environmental impact involved, to request comments from other
stakeholders, and to respond to all substantive comments (40 CFR 1503). Courts
have interpreted the consultation provisions under NEPA to require
agencies to give careful consideration to the concerns voiced
by other agencies. The CEQ mediates and issues recommendations
and findings where interagency disagreements lead to a referral
from another agency (see 40 CFR 1504.1-1504.3).
CEQ regulations require designation of a lead agency to supervise
preparation of an EIS, if more than one federal agency is involved
in the same proposal or in actions that are related by functional
interdependence or geographic proximity ( 1501.5).
Federal, state, and local agencies may act as joint lead agencies
where there is at least one federal agency; CEQ regulations provide
a detailed framework for the designation of lead and cooperating
agencies. A lead agency is responsible for organizing the joint
environmental analysis, requesting participation by other agencies,
and using the analysis and proposals of cooperating agencies (1501.6(a)). Where requested by the lead agency, cooperating agencies must normally participate in the NEPA process, providing staff
at the lead agency's request and assuming responsibility for environmental analysis
in their particular areas of expertise ( 1501.6(b)). However, this approach to environmental analysis
may be underutilized because lead agencies are not required to
designate cooperating agencies.
The National Performance Review suggested the use of interagency
teams for implementing the ecosystem approach. Regional and subregional
ecosystem assessments, planning, and goal setting could be carried
out by these teams and/or in other appropriate fora, as has occurred
in the Pacific Northwest and South Florida. There are several
options for most effectively performing such assessments and formulating
goals for the ecosystem approach. The NEPA process could be used
proactively as a framework for ecosystem planning through interagency
environmental analyses that address regional and subregional issues
pertaining to the ecosystem. Interagency cooperation could also
increase if agencies took greater advantage of NEPA authority
to prepare joint EISs and/or to enter into regionally based Memoranda
of Understanding to integrate their NEPA activities. Memoranda
of Understanding and joint EISs could be established among federal,
state, tribal, and local governments.
In some cases, programmatic EISs may be required under NEPA for
activities to implement the ecosystem approach on a regional scale.
Whether a programmatic EIS is required as a legal matter for
ecosystem-based plans depends on the scope of the impacts evaluated
and whether the proposed action is a "program"
(see Kleppe v. Sierra Club, 427 U.S. 390 (1976),
including extant NEPA analyses). Agencies may also decide to
conduct voluntary interagency programmatic NEPA analyses of planning
efforts, even though they are not required by NEPA. Such interagency
ecosystem analyses may be organized along regional ecosystem boundaries
or in high-priority smaller ecosystems. Through a system of coordinating
all federal environmental analyses in a region, agencies and the
public could receive a clearer picture of federal actions in the
region than is currently provided by the piecemeal development
and public distribution of site-specific NEPA documents. The
"tiering" of site-specific analyses to programmatic EISs could allow agencies
to conduct site-specific NEPA processes more quickly and efficiently
by incorporating analyses already discussed in programmatic documents
(40 CFR 1508.28). For such an approach to work, agencies would need to agree on
the type and format of environmental information to be contributed
and made readily accessible.
Other benefits that could accrue from programmatic interagency
NEPA analyses include: ensuring consideration of cumulative effects
and management strategies at ecosystem scales that may be overlooked
in site-specific NEPA documents; allowing agencies to share resources
and expertise, and minimizing agency work at cross-purposes; creating
a baseline for sharing information; reorienting environmental
impact assessment towards proactive, preventive efforts in anticipation
of issues before concrete federal proposals are made and before
management and flexibility are reduced by species endangerment
or other crises; and establishing coordinated monitoring approaches,
and avoiding duplicative or ineffective monitoring at site-specific
levels by different agencies.
Some agencies already use NEPA as a general planning framework
for the ecosystem approach through programmatic EISs. For example,
the Tennessee Valley Authority, a government corporation with
multiple mandates and a variety of authorities, has used NEPA
to guide its Sound River Management strategy for operating its
reservoir and navigation system and for environmental restoration
in the Tennessee River watershed. The Tennessee Valley Authority
has no direct environmental regulatory authority over the impairment
of water in the Tennessee River watershed, but it uses its water
quality monitoring programs and interagency/public involvement
through the NEPA process to develop solutions to problems like
point and nonpoint source pollution.
It may not always be to an agency's advantage to perform voluntary programmatic EISs in establishing
plans for implementing the ecosystem approach. For example, some
agencies already go through multiple levels of NEPA documentation,
and an additional level may be an inefficient or ineffective use
of resources. Agencies have also expressed the concern that because
information regarding the appropriate ecological scale and the
importance of ecosystem attributes is continuously evolving, programmatic
EISs can be of limited usefulness and vulnerable to legal challenge.
This concern underscores the need for a method of environmental
assessment that can be continually and efficiently updated and
adapted to changing conditions. However, methods of approaching
problems of new information and supplementation under NEPA are
discussed in the adaptive management section below.
One alternative to performing interagency programmatic EISs under
NEPA is for agencies to voluntarily conduct strategic environmental
analyses to improve and coordinate federal plans, programs, and
resources in accordance with NEPA policies. These analyses would
incorporate NEPA's goals and policies, but would not be subject to the CEQ's
regulations because they would not evaluate a proposed action.
Instead, they would serve as guide during consideration of ecological
values and impacts early in agency planning processes and would
not limit future agency options or prejudice ultimate agency decisions.
Preparing plans for implementing the ecosystem approach without
using the conventional NEPA process has disadvantages. The action
agency, other agencies, the public, tribes, and nonfederal government
bodies may not become as rigorously involved in the impact assessment
process as they would under the NEPA process, which is established
and familiar to agencies and stakeholders. In addition, NEPA
requirements often go into effect when agencies subsequently contemplate
proposals for action; at this point, agencies would not be able
to "tier off"
voluntary strategic analyses, as provided under CEQ regulations.
Where an action is part of a program that has been evaluated
in a programmatic EIS, "tiering" allows the action's
EIS or environmental assessment to concentrate on the issues that
are specific to the particular action, and to offer no more than
a summary of the issues discussed in the programmatic EIS (40
CFR 1502.20). Although information gathered for strategic plans could be incorporated
into subsequent NEPA analyses, the information and analysis would
be subject to NEPA's coordination and public comment process. If issues are adequately
addressed in a programmatic ecosystem-based plan prepared under
NEPA, agencies may avoid unnecessary duplication of that analysis
when addressing site-specific actions or impacts.
One concern raised in several survey team studies is the complexity
of ambitious ecological impact analysis, particularly at multiple
scales. Coupled with a lack of adequate information, this may
place the analysis in doubt, creating litigation risks. NEPA
addresses the problem of incomplete or unavailable data by requiring
agencies to obtain information essential to a reasoned decision,
provided the cost of obtaining it is not exorbitant (40 CFR
1502.22). Where impact information is incomplete or unavailable, the agency must
acknowledge this gap, explain the relevance of the missing information,
summarize the scientific evidence available, and evaluate the
potential impacts based on methods or approaches that are generally
accepted in the scientific community. This approach was used
successfully in developing the interagency Forest Plan in the
Pacific Northwest. The Forest Plan EIS acknowledged the numerous
uncertainties about many of the relationships between, and
conditions of, the wildlife,
forests, economy, and communities of the Pacific Northwest. The
federal district court that reviewed the Forest Plan found that
the agencies had adequately explained why conducting a particular
owl population viability assessment was not feasible, and upheld
the agencies' finding that the EIS provided sufficient information to make a reasoned
In addition, if agencies follow current or expanded CEQ guidance
on ecological impact assessment, litigation risks should be further
reduced, because CEQ's views are entitled to substantial deference in the courts. To
improve implementation and reduce litigation risk, CEQ could issue
regulations or guidance, building upon its recent report on incorporating
biodiversity into NEPA analysis (CEQ 1993). Among other things,
the regulations or guidance could identify important ecological
assessment techniques and core ecological issues, including multiple
ecological scales and long-term ecological timeframes.
Apart from EIS requirements, NEPA's
provisions require federal agencies to "initiate
and utilize ecological information in the planning and development
of resource-oriented projects" and to ensure that the natural and social sciences are systematically
used in all decisions that "may have an impact on man's
environment" (NEPA 102(2)(A)
and (H)). These NEPA provisions may be cited as the authority
for incorporating ecosystem information in a broader range of
decisions than simply those that require an EIS. The NEPA process
also provides a significant opportunity for interagency coordination
and consultation on individual agency proposals. However, despite
the opportunities it creates for interagency collaboration, NEPA
has not generally been used as a basis for coordinating federal
activities on an ecosystem-wide scale. The processes of NEPA
could be more effectively used to promote collaboration and consensus-building
among agencies, and could serve as an important procedural mechanism
for federal agency coordination in implementing the ecosystem
Laws protecting elements of native biodiversity. In addition
to NEPA, there are various legal authorities that apply in all
ecosystems and could be used to implement the ecosystem approach.
They include statutes that allow for consideration of native
biodiversity, such as the Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife
Coordination Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Magnuson Fishery
Conservation and Management Act.
Endangered Species Act. One of the purposes of the Endangered
Species Act (ESA) is to "provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered or threatened species depend may be conserved"
(ESA 2(b), 16 U.S.C. 1531(b)). The ESA
provides a variety of authorities to protect and recover endangered
and threatened species, a necessary component of which is addressing
declines in ecosystem health that have led to species decline
and listing. It also authorizes agencies to protect species before
the ESA management restrictions become necessary.
Single-species protection is an important aspect of the ESA.
But the ESA also allows for an ecosystem-oriented approach to
species conservation through group listings of species that inhabit
the same ecosystem and through interagency consultation on "a
number of similar individual actions within a given geographical
area" (40 CFR 402.14(b)(6)). For example, in preparing the President's
Forest Plan, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological
opinion covering activities on 24 million acres of federal land.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's (NOAA's) National Marine Fisheries Service have recently adopted a formal
policy to utilize ecosystem approaches more comprehensively. The
Notice of Interagency Cooperative Policy for the Ecosystem Approach
to the ESA (59 Fed. Reg. 34,273 (1994)) establishes a policy
to "incorporate ecosystem considerations in [ESA] activities"
concerning listing, interagency cooperation, recovery, and cooperative
efforts. Under this joint policy directive, group listing decisions
are made on an ecosystem-wide basis where possible, interagency
ESA cooperation is directed at ecosystem restoration, and recovery
plans are developed for entire ecosystems where multiple listed
and candidate species occur. In addition, the habitat conservation
planning option for nonfederal agencies under ESA section 10 allows
for protection at the ecosystem level by facilitating multispecies
conservation plans. Candidate and other nonlisted species may
also be included in such plans on a voluntary basis to prevent
their possible endangerment and listing in the future.
Although the ESA's focus
has recently been broadened to incorporate an ecosystem approach
more rigorously, in rare situations the ESA may constrain efforts
to implement the ecosystem approach: under some circumstances,
the needs of listed species may be inconsistent or difficult to
reconcile in the short run with long-term ecosystem health and
biodiversity goals. For example, the snail kite, a listed species,
lives in altered habitat in the Everglades area. Efforts to restore
the ecosystem's health, though beneficial to most species, adversely affected the snail
kite in the short term (see South Florida survey team study in
volume 3 of this series, Interagency Ecosystem Management Working
The ESA's interagency consultation requirements have proven effective in ensuring that
the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service
are involved in other agencies' decisions that may affect listed species. However, this approach
is by nature reactive and resource intensive: agency resources
have often been committed or options limited by the time consultation
is required, and consultation on significant proposals takes at
least 5 months. In part to address this problem, 14 federal agencies
recently signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding to
promote more efficient, effective administration of the ESA.
The Memorandum, among other things, commits the agencies to establish
regional interagency working groups that will identify geographic
areas within which agencies will cooperate and coordinate their
activities. The agencies also agreed, as appropriate, to identify
critical threats to native species and ecosystems in the geographic
areas where they work. Another interagency Memorandum of Agreement
among five agencies establishes a framework for cooperation to
conserve unlisted but at-risk species through conservation agreements
for groups of species and specific ecosystems.
Survey participants noted that the Fish and Wildlife Service and
National Marine Fisheries Service spend much of their limited
budget and personnel resources fulfilling consultation duties,
making it difficult for them to participate in interagency efforts
on a large scale. The Fish and Wildlife Service has found that
participation in an interagency information-sharing group in the
Southern Appalachians has allowed it to better inform agencies
about potential effects of contemplated actions before formal
consultation becomes necessary. Finally, the National Environmental
Policy Act requires that, to the fullest extent possible, draft
environmental impact statements be prepared concurrently with
biological assessments and consultation under the ESA (40 CFR
1502.25). However, more emphasis should be placed on consulting with the Fish and
Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service from the
outset in order to explore meaningful alternatives and to avoid
potential ESA conflicts.
Involving these two agencies early in an ecosystem approach planning
process may help avoid actions that would adversely affect protected
species, but it may not obviate the need for additional consultations
on individual federal actions at the site-specific level (50 CFR 402.16). The Fish
and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service should
work with other federal agencies to define the appropriate approach
to consultation in the context of the ecosystem approach and to
supplement their regulations or issue guidance to support this
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. Under the Fish and
Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. 661
et seq., federal permitting and licensing agencies must
consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries
Service, and relevant state resource agencies, as appropriate,
concerning potential impacts on fish and wildlife, and possible
mitigation measures. Additionally, agencies planning federally
authorized projects (such as dams and channels) must solicit the
views of the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries
Service, and those of the relevant state agencies. Federal permitting,
licensing, and planning agencies are not required to adopt the
recommendations of these agencies, but must give full
consideration" to their views in deciding whether to issue or condition a permit or modify
proposed project plans. These requirements provide the Fish and
Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service with an
opportunity to make recommendations reflecting agency efforts
to take an ecosystem approach in the vicinity of the proposed
Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Marine Mammal Protection
Act (MMPA) provides for conservation and management of marine
mammal species and stocks by placing a moratorium on taking and
importing all marine mammals, with limited exceptions for purposes
of public display or scientific research, to enhance the survival
of species or stocks, or for reasons incidental to other lawful
activities. The MMPA mandates that all stocks in U.S. waters
be assessed and that efforts be made to restore them to optimum
sustainable population levels, where consistent with the primary
goal of maintaining the health and stability of marine ecosystems.
Administration of the MMPA is split between the National Marine
Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service.
Historically, management has focused on individual animals, stocks,
or species, not on overall habitats or ecosystems. Interactions
between marine mammals and fishery stocks and the effects of habitat
degradation and pollution on marine mammal populations have been
largely ignored, as have the effects of climate and regime changes.
Amendments to the Act in 1994 allow regulation to protect rookeries,
mating and feeding grounds, and other significant habitats for
some stocks. They also highlight and emphasize preexisting authority
to alleviate by regulation the impacts of habitat destruction
on strategic marine mammal stocks, consistent with the MMPA's
primary goal of maintaining the health and stability of marine
ecosystems. In addition, the 1994 amendments require studies
to be conducted to evaluate several different marine ecosystems
or ecosystem aspects, such as the Gulf of Maine and Bering Sea,
or the effects of California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals
on the coastal ecosystems of Washington, Oregon, and California.
These studies will be designed to identify research and management
measures to restore or maintain the health and stability of marine
Broader authority to require regular assessments of ecosystem
health in those systems in which marine mammals are present would
further the ecosystem approach. Additional focus is also needed
on marine mammal predator-prey interactions to determine how fisheries
affect availability of food for marine mammals.
Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The
Magnuson Act authorizes the National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) to conserve and manage fisheries in the Exclusive Economic
Zone and anadromous fish throughout their range. The Act establishes
eight Regional Fishery Management Councils and charges them with
preparing Fishery Management Plans, which are then implemented
by the NMFS through regulation, and it requires the NMFS to conduct
a comprehensive program for fisheries research. Areas of research
include the interdependence of fisheries or fish stocks, the impact
of pollution on fish populations, and the impact of wetland and
The Magnuson Act provides many opportunities for an ecosystem
approach to management. It emphasizes fishery management on a
regional basis, in coordination with states. Key to the Act are
the Fishery Management Plans developed by Regional Fishery Management
Councils consisting of federal, regional, state, and local interests.
Plans must include a description of the significance of habitat
to the fishery and the effects that changes to that habitat may
have upon the fishery. The Plans may also incorporate relevant
fishery conservation and management measures of the nearest coastal
Fishery Management Plans can establish broad, uniform policies
and practices for entire fisheries, transcending state boundaries,
and may more appropriately address management decisions across
natural ranges of fish populations. These plans provide a way
to facilitate coordination of fisheries and to enhance compliance
with other statutes, such as the National Environmental Policy
Act and the Endangered Species Act. Although Regional Fishery
Management Councils may not have authority to regulate all activities
that affect fishery resources, the ecosystem approach would provide
an opportunity for the Councils to establish a better working
relationship with agencies that have other expertise and regulatory
authorities. This would require well-defined working relationships
between management agencies whose actions affect fish managed
under a Fishery Management Plan. An example is the current effort
to restore stocks of salmon that spawn in the Pacific Northwest.
The existing fishery management structure can facilitate the ecosystem
approach from other perspectives as well. National Marine Fisheries
Service regulations under the Magnuson Act may provide the most
direct way to reduce ecosystem damage from such fishing activities
as bottom trawling in the Bering Sea. Fishing regulations may
also affect basic ecology. For example, fishing levels for groundfish
off the northeast coast may be affected by the knowledge that
if all groundfish are harvested, they may be replaced by dogfish,
which are of lesser value. Accordingly, groundfish management
may be modified to prohibit fishing beyond certain limits so that
other species do not displace the target species. Conversely,
in the Hawaiian lobster fishery, environmental productivity was
high in the 1970s, but declined with worsening environmental conditions,
requiring changes in fishery management. These situations do
not require extensive interagency cooperation, but rather enhanced
knowledge of species interactions and a willingness to integrate
ecological information into the fishery management process.
A major barrier to use of the Magnuson Act for the ecosystem approach
is the single-species focus of Fishery Management Plans, despite
the Act's call for conservation
measures. Even in multispecies Fishery Management Plans, there
is generally no ecosystem perspective, such as an in-depth analysis
of predator-prey relationships.
Pollution control and cleanup statutes. Existing law provides
the federal government with many tools for working and coordinating
at an ecosystem scale to address pollution stressors. Nevertheless,
efforts to implement existing law consistent with the goals and
principles of the ecosystem approach could be expanded.
EPA media authorities and community-based environmental protection.
EPA's media authorities provide significant opportunities for efforts at an ecosystem
scale. National standards established under these authorities
set a baseline of protection for ecosystems across the country.
However, to complement these standards and tailor its programs
to the needs of particular communities and places, EPA is seeking
to translate its success at collaborative ecosystem-based efforts
in the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, and elsewhere to other areas
around the country through community-based environmental protection
(CBEP). The goals of CBEP are to protect and sustain healthy
human and ecological communities through collaborative processes
that develop common goals based on sound science, and that empower,
inform, and equip those who make, participate in, and live with
environmental management decisions. In its recent 5-year strategic
plan, EPA committed to "upgrade
its ability to protect, maintain, and restore the ecological integrity
of the nation's lands and waters, including human health, urban areas, and plant and
animal species, by adopting a place-driven focus."
Although statutory barriers in some cases prevent establishing
standards or technology requirements on other than a nation- or
industry-wide level, EPA authorities offer numerous opportunities
for providing community-based support to regional and local efforts
to implement the ecosystem approach, as the following examples
EPA continues to move toward implementing Clean Water Act programs
on a watershed basis, including its water quality criteria/standard
setting and point source permitting programs. In addition to
ecosystem-based programs such as the National Estuary Program,
the Clean Water Act contains a promising process for setting "total
maximum daily loads" for pollutants on an ecosystem-wide basis. The total maximum
daily load provision allows for development of a long-range plan
using the best science available for achieving pollution reductions
that consider all sources in a water body. In addition, under
the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Sole Source Aquifer Program, which
provides protection for aquifers that serve as critical sources
of drinking water, is inherently place-based and includes regional involvement at the
federal, state, and local levels.
Because of the discretion available to EPA in allocating resources
for hazardous substance cleanups and the Comprehensive Environmental
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act's (CERCLA's) broad statutory
language, the Superfund program can also be used to support work
and coordination at an ecosystem level. Most significantly, ecological
impacts could be considered to a greater extent in setting priorities
for use of resources under CERCLA. In issuing Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act permits to hazardous waste management facilities,
potential impacts on a targeted ecosystem could be considered
to a greater extent in determining whether, or under what circumstances,
to permit a facility in a particular location, or in developing
permit conditions. Plans for implementing the ecosystem approach
could be used in setting priorities for issuing permits, including
corrective-action and postclosure permits, and for designing appropriate
corrective action measures. Existing rules on facility management
could also be modified to focus more on environmental impacts.
The Clean Air Act contains several provisions that provide opportunities
for supporting a regionally based ecosystem approach. In "nonattainment"
areas, pollution sources must obtain a permit to construct or
modify a major stationary source. The state permitting authority
must determine that the benefits of permitting the proposed source
significantly outweigh the environmental and social costs imposed
as a result of its location, construction, or modification. This
gives states flexibility to require alternative sites, processes,
and control techniques (42 U.S.C.
173(a)(5)). A similar provision appears in the Prevention of
Significant Deterioration program, where a preconstruction permit
is required for any new major stationary source or modification
proposed in an attainment area ( 165(a)(2)).
In addition, the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program
for "Class I"
areas provides clear opportunities for maintaining the ecological
integrity of specified national parks and wilderness areas. Finally,
as a general matter, if a pollution source or combination of sources
presents "an imminent
and substantial endangerment to public health or welfare, or the
environment," EPA may
bring suit, issue an order to stop the emissions, or take other
necessary action ( 303).
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act,
EPA may act to prevent "unreasonable
adverse effects on the environment"
(including effects on ecosystems) by prohibiting or restricting
the use of a pesticide in a specific geographical area (7 U.S.C.
136a; cf. 136(bb), where
"unreasonable adverse effect" is defined to
take into account social and economic factors). EPA may also
specify the data necessary to determine whether a pesticide has
an unreasonable adverse effect on a particular ecosystem and require
submission of the data for registration or reregistration of that
product (7 U.S.C. 136a(c)(2)(B)).
Registrants are also under an ongoing obligation to submit information
that becomes available after registration regarding unreasonable
adverse effects (7 U.S.C. 136d(a)(2)).
The Toxic Substances Control Act provides broad authority to collect
information that may be useful in determining whether the manufacture,
processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of a "chemical
substance" or "mixture" presents an unreasonable adverse risk of injury to an ecosystem
(15 U.S.C. 2603, 2604, 2607, 2609, and 2610). In addition, with some restrictions,
the Toxic Substances Control Act provides authority to take action,
by rule, to protect against such risks, including action limited
to a specific geographical area (15 U.S.C. 2604 and 2605).
Finally, the principal opportunities for using authorities under
the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (42 U.S.C.
11001 et seq.) to advance regionally based ecosystem protection lie
in affecting the chemicals identified for reporting, using information
on toxic releases, and taking ecological concerns into account
in developing emergency response plans.
EPA's watershed approach. The Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C.
1251 et seq., authorizes EPA to undertake permitting, enforcement,
and funding activities to achieve the Act's objective of restoring and maintaining the "chemical,
physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." Based on years
of collective experience in state and federal agencies, including
the successes of the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Clean Lakes,
Puget Sound, and National Estuary Programs, EPA has established
the "Watershed Protection Approach" as the conceptual
foundation for its many Clean Water Act programs. The Watershed
Protection Approach, an early incarnation of the ecosystem approach,
focuses on a water body's entire watershed, not just on a portion of it or on pollutants
of concern. It is based on a flexible framework of guiding principles
designed to unify existing water programs and to leverage non-EPA
efforts so that management in a watershed is coordinated and system-based.
As with other efforts to implement the ecosystem approach to date,
the key principles of EPA's
approach include: involving stakeholders, including the people
most likely to be concerned or most able to take action; identifying
the primary threats to human and ecosystem health on a watershed
basis; and selecting and taking corrective actions in a comprehensive,
integrated manner, drawing on the full range of available methods,
tools, and willing organizations.
In different watershed projects, EPA's
role varies considerably, from convener or coordinator to approver,
promoter, supporter, or implementor. In addition, several state
agencies and EPA regional offices have taken steps to institutionalize
the Watershed Protection Approach as the cornerstone of their
aquatic resource management activities and have begun devising
implementation frameworks. For example, EPA's
Region 10 (which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska)
has identified approximately 35 watersheds in its jurisdiction
and has prioritized them according to ecological importance.
In high-priority watersheds, the region appoints a full-time coordinator,
assem1bles a team of agency specialists to focus on the watershed,
and works with other federal agencies and with state, local, and
tribal governments and interested private parties to address problems
in the watershed. In lower priority watersheds, EPA plays a lesser
role. It may, for example, simply organize or attend local meetings.
In the survey team study on the Pacific Northwest forests, personnel
from EPA Region 10 identified several impediments to EPA's
Watershed Protection Approach. First, the Clean Water Act does
not include an effective program for nonpoint sources such as
agriculture, which are often a major source of water pollution.
As part of the effort to reauthorize the Clean Water Act last
year, the Administration advocated an amendment that would have
required states to expand their existing nonpoint source management
programs to implement best available management measures for categories
of nonpoint sources that cause or significantly contribute to
water quality impairments or threatened impairments. Among other
things, the Administration sought authority for EPA to establish
enforceable minimum nonpoint source controls where a state failed
to develop an approvable program and to take enforcement action
in certain circumstances. Second, development of complex total
maximum daily loads under section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act
often demands significant state and federal agency resources and
therefore may discourage widespread use of those authorities.
For this reason, EPA is promoting the development of less complex
total maximum daily loads where appropriate. A third nonlegal
but resource-related issue is that EPA officials find it difficult
to start up local watershed planning efforts and then not follow
through with funding. After EPA gets involved in a local effort,
it is expected to stay involved and provide funding.
Clean Water Act section 404 program. Clean Water Act section
404 provides the Corps with authority to regulate the discharge
of dredged and fill material into U.S. waters. The section 404
program was established to protect wetlands and other waters,
thereby maintaining key components of the aquatic ecosystem.
In addition, regulatory tools such as wetlands mitigation banking
and other tools are used for the ecosystem approach.
The section 404 permit program. In making day-to-day decisions on permit applications to discharge dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States (including wetlands), the Corps relies in part on substantive environmental criteria developed in conjunction with EPA. These regulations, codified at 40 CFR Part 230, generally provide that no discharge of dredged or fill material will be permitted under the following conditions: if there is a practicable alternative to the discharge that would have fewer adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystem; if the discharge would cause or contribute to violations of applicable environmental standards or jeopardize the continued existence of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act; or if the discharge would cause or contribute to significant degradation of the waters of the United States. In addition, the discharge will not be permitted unless all appropriate and practicable steps have been taken to minimize its potential adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystem. Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act authorizes EPA to override issuance of a permit by the Corps or to prevent the Corps permit if EPA determines that the proposed project will have an "unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning or breeding areas), wildlife or recreational areas."
A fundamental limitation of the regulatory program as currently
implemented derives from the fact that it is usually "reactive"
in nature: the Corps must respond in a timely manner to requests
from many parties for authorization for proposed activities in
or affecting aquatic ecosystems. Consequently, the program typically
deals with activities affecting ecosystems on a piecemeal, case-by-case
basis, limited by jurisdictional barriers, staffing constraints,
and other impediments. One key challenge the section 404 regulatory
program faces is dealing effectively with the cumulative effects
of the many and varied activities authorized under the program.
Given the very limited time and resources available to the regulatory
program (it authorizes tens of thousands of activities yearly),
it is difficult to identify and evaluate the cumulative environmental
effects of each proposed activity when considered in conjunction
with past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future activities
in the relevant watershed. Although the Section 404 regulatory
program can make an important contribution to the ecosystem approach,
it is not enough by itself.
Wetlands mitigation banking and other ecosystem-scale tools.
The section 404 program can complement efforts to implement the
ecosystem approach because it analyzes the potentially far-reaching
impacts of discrete activities that degrade wetlands and other
waters of the United States and provides an opportunity for relevant
resource agencies and other stakeholders to become involved.
The Corps and EPA have used this authority to develop several
watershed-based programs that could serve as tools for implementing
the ecosystem approach. They encourage "mitigation
banking," a practice of wetland restoration, creation, or enhancement to compensate
for unavoidable wetland losses within the same watershed before
those losses occur. Units of restored or created wetland values
are expressed as "credits," and accumulated credits are withdrawn to offset "debits"
incurred at a development site in the watershed. A related practice
is the creation of offsite mitigation projects to compensate for
section 404 violations.
The Corps has also employed the use of programmatic general permits.
A programmatic general permit is developed by the Corps based
on a strong state, regional, or local program that protects the
aquatic environment. The programmatic general permit provides
for a substantial reduction in duplication between the Corps'
regulatory program and the nonfederal regulatory program because
Corps review is expedited in reliance on the nonfederal program.
When the nonfederal agency issues its authorization to proceed,
the Corps quickly provides its approval, unless there is some
aspect of the federal interest that requires additional review
When another governmental agency (part of state, regional, or
local government, for example) develops a comprehensive watershed
management plan, the Corps strives to establish a complementary
programmatic general permit or a regional general permit that
would regulate wetland losses. In either case, the Corps focuses
compensatory mitigation requirements for these permits on wetland
areas identified in the watershed management plan as priority
restoration areas. Ideally, such priority areas for restoration
of wetlands would be the subject of a wetlands mitigation bank.
This would not only focus restoration on priority wetland areas
identified by the nonfederal agency, it would also reduce the
regulatory burden and increase predictability for potential permit
applicants through advance identification of mitigation through
the mitigation bank.
In addition, the Corps has instituted a program of Advanced Identification
of Disposal Sites, under which the agency may engage in advance
planning in an entire watershed, focusing on watersheds where
there is significant development pressure. The Corps, with input
from EPA, designates areas as suitable or unsuitable for discharges
of dredged or fill material, and prioritizes areas within a watershed
for wetlands purposes. This program helps property owners or
prospective buyers determine in advance the likelihood of receiving
section 404 permits in specific areas. Criticisms of this program
include the following: it is cumbersome; it fails to take into
account such factors as water quality and socioeconomic impacts
of wetland determinations; it does not allow for the stay of permit
applications while a comprehensive analysis is being done; and
it requires more resources than the Corps and EPA can usually
devote to it.
Finally, the agencies can work with other federal, state, and
local officials to craft a Special Area Management Plan, or modify
other procedures or general permits to maximize the protection
that the regulatory program can provide.
Restoration and response authorities under the Oil Pollution
Act, Clean Water Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation, and Liability Act. Under the Oil Pollution
Act (OPA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and Comprehensive Environmental
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the federal
government has various tools for environmental response and ecosystem
restoration, including natural resource damage provisions and
national contingency planning.
Natural resource damage provisions. Several federal environmental
statutes authorize federal and state agencies and Indian tribes
to act as trustees for natural resources injured, lost, or destroyed
by discharges of oil or releases of hazardous substances into
the environment (see CERCLA 107(a)
and (f), 42 U.S.C. 9607(a) and (f); CWA
311(f)(4) and (5), 33 U.S.C. 1321(a) and (f); OPA 1002 and 1006, 33 U.S.C.
2701 and 2706). Monetary damages recovered under these statutes
are to be used to "restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of"
resources injured by oil or hazardous substance spills (see, e.g.,
42 U.S.C. 9707(f)(1)). The natural resource damage provisions of the CERCLA and OPA
provide a natural context for implementation of an ecosystem approach
Natural resource damage provisions mandate that funds recovered
in a natural resource damage lawsuit or settlement to be used
for restoration of the affected resources. Damage assessment
is compensatory. This is an unusual and beneficial arrangement,
since ordinarily any funds recovered by the United States in an
environmental lawsuit take the form of penalties, generally are
deposited into the federal Treasury, and are used for actions
other than to restore the injured resource. Under CERCLA and
OPA, restoration must take place in the area injured by the spill.
These statutes are directed at all resources and are not media-specific.
By barring double recovery of natural resource damages, CERCLA
and OPA encourage a cooperative effort among state, federal, and
tribal trustees with jurisdiction over resources in the injured
area or ecosystem.
At several sites, the natural resource damage programs of NOAA
and the Department of the Interior are already based on the ecosystem
approach. One example of how the program can be used to support
the ecosystem approach is Commencement Bay, an urban estuary next
to Tacoma, Washington. Under a settlement with the Port of Tacoma,
natural resource trustees recovered $12 million for damages to
natural resources that will be used to develop and implement an
ecological assessment of Commencement Bay and the watershed that
drains into it. Select projects will be designed to enhance the
functioning of the ecosystem as a whole. Under another settlement
with two private parties, defendants are creating 3.3 acres of
riparian and wetland habitat adjacent to a 1.7-acre area that
is one of the few remaining original mudflats in Commencement
Bay. The defendant who owns the 5-acre site has agreed to place
a restrictive covenant on the deed for the property to allow it
to remain as natural habitat in perpetuity. The natural resource
trustees for Commencement Bay (two federal agencies, NOAA and
the Interior Department; the state of Washington; and the Puyallup
and Muckleshoot Indian Tribes), all of which have some jurisdiction
over the affected resources, have been working together to assess
damages to natural resources in the Bay and to jointly decide
what projects to undertake.
A more ambitious project is under discussion for Elliott Bay,
the urban estuary next to Seattle, Washington, and the Duwamish
River that empties into it. The listing of several salmon species
as threatened or endangered, and its potential impact, have become
issues of enormous public importance in the Pacific Northwest
because of the commercial, recreational, and symbolic importance
of salmon. EPA, NOAA, the Department of the Interior, the state
of Washington, the Suquamish Indian Tribe, and the Muckleshoot
Indian Tribe, in consultation with local agencies, industry, and
citizens, are working on a program for identifying the key factors
limiting production of salmon in the Duwamish watershed. They
will then create a watershedwide plan to help restore the Duwamish
ecosystem and thus the salmon run. In their capacity as natural
resource trustees, NOAA, the Interior Department, the state, and
the tribes will use natural resource damage awards under CERCLA
to help support this program. EPA and the state will use their
enforcement authorities under the CWA and OPA to target violators
in the watershed. This program represents an attempt to begin
implementing the ecosystem approach on an interagency, watershedwide
These examples of interagency ecosystem approaches can be replicated
across the country. The natural resource damage programs of NOAA
and the Department of the Interior, along with existing EPA and
state watershed programs, provide a framework for interagency
cooperation in identifying key problems in watersheds and developing
practical measures to address those problems.
Natural resource damage assessment regulations under the OPA were
published in proposed form by NOAA on January 7, 1994 (59 Fed.
Reg. 1062), and were reproposed on August 3, 1995 (60 Fed. Reg.
39804). Among other things, the regulations allow agencies to
combine funds recovered in several natural resource damage cases
in a given region in order to fund a larger, long-term "Regional
Restoration Plan." For example, because small oil spills are common, several of them
often occur in a single area, and damage recoveries are not large.
It is cost-effective and sensible from a restoration standpoint
to combine these recoveries and plan a restoration over a large
National contingency planning. The CWA and CERCLA mandate
the development of the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution
Contingency Plan (NCP) to provide the organizational structure
and procedures for preparing for and responding to discharges
of oil and releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants.
The NCP, among other things, specifies responsibilities among
federal, state, and local governments and procedures for involving
state governments in the initiation, development, selection, and
implementation of response planning and actions. It establishes
a National Response Team consisting of designated federal agency
representatives, which is responsible for planning and preparedness
activities at the national level, and Regional Response Teams
comprised of designated representatives from each federal agency
at the regional level and from state and local governments. The
NCP also establishes area and local structures for planning and
response and encourages nongovernmental participation in the effort.
Accordingly, the NCP framework can serve as a model for incorporation
of efforts to implement the ecosystem approach. The NCP is designed
to provide for efficient, coordinated, and effective action to
minimize damage from oil and hazardous substance discharges.
Duties and responsibilities include water pollution control and
conservation and trusteeship of natural resources (33 U.S.C.
The NCP thus establishes the integrating mechanism for intergovernmental
planning. It also reinforces federal and state partnerships,
defines agency roles, and requires that necessary budgetary and
personnel resources be allocated to effectuate the Plan. The
NCP offers a management structure that serves to promote cooperation
among the numerous federal agencies with overlapping authorities
and responsibilities. The Plan encourages dialogue among the
numerous governmental agencies to support major planning and response
functions. It also encourages public involvement by recognizing
the interests and capabilities that private individuals, organizations,
and public interest groups bring to the process, and by allowing
for participation of these groups in the process.
authorities. Legal authorities that apply in all ecosystems
include the authorities of mission agencies. The Corps civil
works program, the Federal Aid Highway Program, and the U.S. Department
of Defense's natural resource initiatives all provide the federal government tools
for implementing the ecosystem approach.
Corps civil works program. The Corps is responsible for
planning, designing, constructing, and managing water resources
development and environmental restoration projects, regulating
the disposition of dredge and fill materials in waters of the
United States, and providing technical assistance to state, local,
and tribal governments. Civil works projects include the construction
of locks, dams, channels, and harbors for the purpose of providing
inland waterway and deepdraft navigation, flood control, hydroelectric
power, water supply storage, outdoor recreation, and fish and
wildlife improvement. All water resources projects that the Corps
constructs must be authorized by Congress, either individually
or programmatically. These projects are typically authorized
in biennial Water Resources Development Acts (WRDAs) and are funded
by annual Energy and Water Development Appropriation Acts.
A number of statutory provisions authorize the Corps to consider
environmental protection and restoration in water resources projects.
For example, section 306 of the WRDA passed in 1990 (WRDA 90)
provides that environmental protection is one of the primary missions
of the Corps in planning, designing, constructing, operating,
and maintaining water resources projects. Section 1135 of
WRDA 86, as amended by section 304 of WRDA 90 and section 202
of WRDA 92, provides authority to modify the structures and operations
of projects constructed by the Corps to improve the quality of
the environment. The nonfederal sponsor bears 25 percent
of the construction costs and 100 percent of the costs of
operating and maintaining the project. Section 204 of WRDA 92
provides for the beneficial use of dredged material from Corps
navigation projects. Because the alteration of aquatic systems
for development, flood control, and water supply diminishes their
health and biodiversity, the Corps'
broad environmental authorities create significant opportunities
for supporting efforts to implement the ecosystem approach while
fostering sustainable economies and communities. Individual project
authorizations can also include environmental restoration features
as well as flood protection and navigation projects.
Federal Aid Highway Program. The Federal Highway Administration
provides ongoing financial assistance to states for construction
of highways and related activities described in U.S. Code Title 23.
Funds for this program are apportioned by Congress annually to
each state from the federal government's
highway trust fund, which is supported by the federal gasoline
The Federal Highway Administration administers the Federal Aid
Highway Program, which is a "federally
assisted state program" (23 U.S.C. 145).
By delegation from the Secretary of Transportation, the Federal
Highway Administration determines whether the requirements of
Title 23 and other federal statutes (including the National Environmental
Policy Act and Clean Air Act) have been met before approving the
plans, specifications, and estimates for construction of a project
pursuant to 23 U.S.C.
106, which creates the contractual obligation of the United States
to reimburse a state for the costs of construction. If the Federal
Highway Administration determines that the requirements will not
be met by a project as proposed, federal laws do not apply to
Thus, the Federal Highway Administration's
primary role is to ensure that federal requirements and conditions
have been met when it provides funds for a project. Whether federally
assisted or not, the selection of projects, establishment of alignments,
purchase of real property, and employment of contractors are all
undertaken by the state (or occasionally by its political subdivisions).
The resulting transportation facility is owned, operated, and
maintained by the state. If Federal Aid Highway funds are to
be used, the Federal Highway Administration ensures compliance
with federal requirements during the project development process
pursued by the state. Federal requirements may be of a procedural
nature (i.e., National Environmental Policy Act or metropolitan
and statewide planning under 23 U.S.C. 134 and 135), or they may advance certain federal policies or
interests (i.e., 49 U.S.C.
303 (section 4(f)), the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air
Act, or Davis-Bacon requirements). At a minimum, the National
Environmental Policy Act process for particular projects could
help in analyzing project consequences at an ecosystem scale and
in assessing project effects on any ecosystem approach efforts
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) revised
the process under which state and local agencies must plan needed
highway and transit improvements. Under 23 U.S.C.
134 and 135 and regulations issued by the Federal Highway Administration
and FTA, transportation projects must be planned through comprehensive
statewide and metropolitan planning procedures. These procedures
must integrate transportation issues with applicable social, economic,
and environmental concerns, potentially including issues raised
by efforts to implement the ecosystem approach.
ISTEA also allows states to use Federal Aid Highway funds for
a wider variety of state activities (see especially 23 U.S.C.
133(b), 133(d)(2), and 101), some of which could promote ecosystem approach objectives.
Federal funds may also be used for the "mitigation
of damages to wildlife, habitat, and ecosystems"
caused by federally funded projects (23 U.S.C.
133(b)(1)), and for wetlands banking (23 U.S.C. 103(i)(13) and 133(b)(11)).
Department of Defense natural resource initiatives. The
Department of Defense is investing in natural resource inventories
and moving from a species-by-species management approach toward
a more holistic ecosystem approach. Several Defense Department
ecosystem approach initiatives are underway, including:
In addition, the Army has developed the Integrated Training Area
Management Program to enhance its management of training lands.
The program integrates mission requirements with land management.
It includes environmental awareness training and state-of-the-art
Another type of legal authority available for use in implementing
the ecosystem approach applies to approaches used by federal agencies
in land management. Specific statutes govern federal land management,
federal land acquisition, and federal coordination with states
in coastal zone management.
Land management statutes. Forest Service management authorities
evolved from the 1897 Organic Act (30 Stat. 34-36),
which established an agency "to
improve and protect"
the federal forests and vested it with broad authority "to
regulate [the forests'] occupancy and use and to preserve the forests therein from destruction"
(30 Stat. 35). The Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C.
528-531) made express the Forest Service's
authority to manage the national forests for multiple uses and
to determine the balance of uses that best meets public needs
and makes the most judicious use of forest resources. Finally,
the National Forest Management Act of 1976 directs the Forest
Service to use a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to conduct
land and resource management planning in order to provide for
multiple uses and sustained yield of forest resources (16 U.S.C.
1604). Forest planning
must follow guidelines that, among other things, "provide
for the diversity of plant and animal communities based on the
suitability and capability of the specific land area in order
to meet overall multiple-use objectives"
(16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(B)).
Forest Service regulations provide detailed requirements for
the development of Land and Resource Management Plans for individual
units of the National Forest System, but also provide for planning
on a regional level (36 CFR 219.8 and 219.9). The regulations further direct that forest
planning must "recogni[ze] that the National Forests are ecosystems and their management
for goods and services requires an awareness and consideration
of the interrelationships among plants, animals, soil, water,
air, and other environmental factors within such ecosystems"
(36 CFR 219.1(b)(3)).
The Bureau of Land Management manages federal lands under a variety
of authorities, including the Federal Land Policy and Management
Act (FLPMA) of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.). FLPMA confirms the Bureau's
authority to manage federal lands for multiple uses and sustained
yield. It declares a policy of management to protect scientific,
scenic, cultural, recreational, ecological, environmental, and
water resource values. FLPMA requires the Bureau of Land Management
to develop Resource Management Plans to govern federal land management,
but is largely silent on their content. The agency also manages
certain forest lands in the Pacific Northwest under the Oregon
and California Lands Act, which provides that these lands will
be managed "for permanent
forest production . . . for the purpose of providing a permanent
source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating stream
flow, and contributing to the economic stability of local communities
and industries, and providing recreational facilities"
(43 U.S.C. 1181a).
Land management by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act's
requirement to consider the effects of proposed management on
ecosystem components, structure, and function (40 CFR 1508.8).
Other significant federal lands include the National Wildlife
Refuge System and the National Park System. The National Park
System is managed under a national park planning statute that
requires all uses to be compatible with the mission of the National
Park Service to conserve the scenery, natural and historic resources,
and wildlife of National Park System units for the enjoyment and
recreation of current and future generations.
The U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy are also significant
landowners. The Department of Defense manages more than 25 million
acres of land in the United States pursuant to statutes discussed
in this chapter, including the Endangered Species Act and National
Environmental Policy Act. Although the Department manages its
properties primarily in accordance with its national defense mission,
it recognizes its responsibility to conserve and protect natural
resources on the property it controls. An ongoing challenge for
the Department of Defense is to integrate its stewardship responsibilities
with its prime mission of national defense. The Department is
also subject to the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C.
670a). Pursuant to this Act, Defense Department installations
are authorized to enter into cooperative agreements with the Department
of the Interior and host states, as appropriate, regarding conservation
of fish and wildlife. Many installations have entered into such
agreements. Department of Defense Directive 4700.4, codified
at 32 CFR Part 190 (Natural Resources Management Program)
implements the Sikes Act. Amendments to the Sikes Act under consideration
would expand its scope from fish and wildlife conservation to
all natural resources and would also increase oversight by the
Department of the Interior. The Department of Defense has testified
before Congress that it supports the goals of the proposed amendments.
Typically, federal landowning agencies have independently managed
their lands for individual agency purposes, without coordinating
with other landowners in the same regional or local ecosystem,
not even with adjacent federal landowners. Examples of incompatible
uses by neighboring land managers exist in many forms and at many
landscape scales; timber harvests on national park boundaries
are perhaps the most graphic example. The General Accounting
Office recently concluded that the federal land management agencies'
efforts to coordinate their activities within ecosystems are also
hampered by "separate, lengthy planning requirements"
(General Accounting Office 1994, p. 54).
To better incorporate the principles of the ecosystem approach
into national forest planning, the Forest Service has proposed
changes to its National Forest Management Act (NFMA) regulations
to simplify, clarify, and otherwise improve the planning process
(see Proposed Rule, 60 Fed. Reg. 18886-18932
(Apr. 13, 1995)). These changes are based in part on a comprehensive
study of the NFMA planning process that found current forest planning
procedures to be detrimental to meaningful communication with
the public and with other agencies, and to increase the time and
cost of plan completion. The Forest Service also recognized the
need to change its standardized analysis so that its managers
could tailor national forest planning to the needs of a particular
forest and to address ecosystem components. The proposed regulations
would eliminate the lengthy 10-step planning process required
for both significant amendments and revisions of forest plans,
and the automatic requirement for an environmental impact statement.
Instead, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures
would both guide the process of plan amendment or revision and
determine the type of NEPA document to be prepared.
To avoid administrative disruption, the proposed rules would not
attempt to redraw national forest boundaries to reflect ecosystems.
However, new regulations would mandate that planning efforts
be coordinated between forests that share ecological characteristics,
and would require that management practices in adjacent national
forests be consistent with each other, taking into account common
ecosystems across administrative boundaries. In addition, national
forests could take ecosystems into account through simultaneous
amendment or revision of forest plans to respond to changing conditions,
with public disclosure of the changes and effects under NEPA.
To support adaptive management and agency accountability, an
annual monitoring and evaluation report would be required. Finally,
the ecosystem approach would be implemented because forest plans
are based on analysis and decisions made at any appropriate scale
or covering any area of federal land, regardless of administrative
boundaries (60 Fed. Reg. at 18898).
The Bureau of Land Management is working to restore and maintain
the health of rangelands in cooperation with those who depend
on these ecosystems. Building on existing Federal Land Policy
Management Act rules, the Bureau is setting up Resource Advisory
Councils in all Western states to provide for broader public involvement
in the public land management process (60 Fed. Reg. 9894
(Feb. 22, 1995)). With the help of these Councils, the Bureau
will identify acceptable or best grazing management practices
needed to achieve rangeland health.
In several ecosystems, the federal government has successfully
coordinated individual agencies'
planning requirements in the context of interagency initiatives.
For example, many of the issues regarding coordination of federal
land management activities at an ecosystem scale were identified
and addressed in the development of an interagency plan ordered
by the President to ensure the coordinated management of Bureau
of Land Management and Forest Service lands in the Pacific Northwest.
This Forest Plan and programmatic environmental impact statement
were developed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management,
as lead agencies, with the Fish and Wildlife Service, National
Marine Fisheries Service, and EPA acting as cooperating agencies.
The Forest Plan was designed to ensure preservation of the Pacific
Northwest forest ecosystem and of more than one thousand plant
and animal species associated with it. The interagency plan established
a coordinated system of protected areas and timber harvest as
well as an aquatic ecosystem protection strategy that applied
to both Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands within
the Pacific Northwest forest ecosystem.
On December 21, 1994, the federal district that had previously
enjoined all old-growth timber harvesting within the range of
the northern spotted owl issued a decision rejecting all legal
challenges to the Forest Plan. The court's
order marks the first time in several years that these forests
are being managed under a lawful plan, and "the
first time that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
have worked together to preserve ecosystems common to their jurisdictions"
(Seattle Audubon Society v. Lyons, Order at 2).
In that decision, Judge William L. Dwyer found that the government
had the authority to adopt an interagency plan on an ecosystem
basis. Reviewing the disparate statutes that govern the federal
forestlands, and the agencies'
common authority under the National Environmental Policy Act and
Endangered Species Act, the court concluded that "[g]iven
the current condition of the forests, there is no way the agencies
could comply with the environmental laws without planning
on an ecosystem basis" (Opinion at 32, emphasis in the original).
To ensure that land management agencies coordinate more routinely
in shared ecosystems, a review of agency planning processes should
be undertaken to identify opportunities for increased cooperation,
consistent with existing mandates.
Land acquisition authority. Federal land management agencies
have several authorities allowing for acquisition or exchanges
of land targeted by collaboratively developed ecosystem plans
or to ensure the long-term health and productivity of existing
public lands. The authorities also allow exchanges of land between
federal agencies and nonfederal entities.
Section 205 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act authorizes
the Secretary of the Interior to acquire lands or interests in
lands through purchase, exchange, donation, or eminent domain
(under specified conditions), provided that the acquisitions are
"consistent with the
mission of the department involved and with applicable departmental
land-use plans" (43 U.S.C. 1715). The
Act, as amended by the Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act
(43 U.S.C. 1716), authorizes an exchange when the Secretary determines "that
the public interest will be well served by making that exchange."
The Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act establishes the general
process for proceeding with a proposed intrastate exchange. The
Bureau of Land Management already has acquired several thousand
acres of critically important lands through exchanges, and it
currently is considering a number of land exchanges designed to
bring into federal ownership lands that could become preserves
for endangered and other species.
Forest Service land exchanges are discretionary, voluntary real
estate transactions between the Secretary of Agriculture (acting
through the Forest Service) and private owners, states, and other
nonfederal entities (36 CFR 254). Authorities for the exchange of National Forest System
land and interests therein include the Weeks Act of 1911 (16 U.S.C.
516), the General
Exchange Act of 1922 (16 U.S.C. 485
and 486), and the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937 (7 U.S.C.
1010 and 1011(c)).
The acquisition of property from voluntary sellers is also provided
for by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1277)
and Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1134).
These two authorities provide opportunities for the Forest Service
to acquire lands that can anchor efforts to maintain the health
and productivity of Forest Service lands and waters, and to maintain
and protect ecosystems.
Both the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and
Liability Act and the Oil Pollution Act provide authority for
federal trustee agencies to "acquire
resources using funds recovered in natural resource damage actions
where there has been loss, injury, or destruction of natural resources.
Trustees can use this authority to acquire land, taking ecosystem
factors into consideration. In the area around Prince William
Sound, state and federal trustees have acquired lands with funds
collected from the settlement of the Exxon Valdez oil spill
litigation. Land acquisition is proceeding on a willing-seller/willing-buyer
basis, with an ecosystem approach in mind.
Land acquisition can serve several strategic purposes, including
buffering for sensitive areas (The Nature Conservancy 1991, 5-19).
Agencies can make use of private organizations, including conservation
groups, to assist where an agency acting alone would not be able
to meet landowner needs. For example, where an agency identifies
property it wishes to buy to support a community-based ecosystem
effort, but for budget or other reasons cannot do so immediately,
a private organization can purchase the land and convey the property
to the government when it is able to purchase it. Private organizations
can also assist in negotiating, expediting appraisals, and other
activities related to land acquisition (The Nature Conservancy
1991, 3-56). There are some disadvantages to land acquisition as a method for the
ecosystem approach. All acquisitions by the federal government
must comply with uniform appraisal standards, and the federal
government does not ordinarily purchase land with restrictions
on it. In addition, land acquisition can be expensive; land requires
maintenance after acquisition; and it is sometimes difficult to
get landowners to sell their land in fee.
Congress has enacted several statutes that direct agencies to
protect certain ecosystem types, and other statutes that protect
specific geographic areas. Compliance with many of these statutes
requires interagency coordination.
Marine and coastal protection authorities. Statutes designed
to protect coastal and marine ecosystems provide important authorities
for interagency work and coordination on an ecosystem-wide basis.
These statutes include the Coastal Zone Management Act, National
Marine Sanctuaries Act, National Estuary Program, and National
Coastal Monitoring Act.
Coastal Zone Management Act. The Coastal Zone Management
Act (CZMA), 16 U.S.C. 1451-64, seeks to protect the nation's
coastal zones through a cooperative federal-state
effort. It gives the states primary responsibility for developing
coastal resource management programs, through the development
and implementation of coastal management plans. These plans must
provide (among other things) for the following: protection of
natural resources; management of coastal development; priority
consideration of coastal-dependent uses and orderly processes
for siting major facilities related to the national defense, energy,
fisheries, recreation, and ports and transportation, and (to the
maximum extent practicable) to location of new commercial and
industrial developments; public access to coasts for recreation
purposes; coordination and simplification of procedures to ensure
expedited governmental decision making; continued consultation
and coordination with affected federal agencies; and timely and
effective notification of coastal management decision making,
as well as provision of opportunities for public and local government
participation in decision making.
NOAA has authority to approve or disapprove state programs. The
coastal states have an incentive to obtain that approval: the
federal government offers monetary assistance to participating
states, which enjoy greater control over certain federal activities
occurring in or outside of their coastal zones. The CZMA requires
that all federal agency activities, or activities requiring federal
authorization or receiving federal assistance, that affect the
coastal zone be carried out in a manner that is consistent with
the enforceable policies of approved state management programs.
Applicants for required federal licenses or permits to conduct
activities that affect the coastal zone must certify that the
proposed activity complies with the enforceable policies of the
state's approved program.
The CZMA also establishes the National Estuarine Research Reserve
System to designate areas as biogeographic and topological representatives
of estuarine ecosystems for long-term research and education.
The Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, 16 U.S.C.
1455b et seq.,
require states with approved coastal zone management programs
to develop coastal nonpoint pollution control programs, or else
lose portions of funding received under both the Clean Water Act
and the CZMA. Programs are geared to protecting coastal waters
from sources of nonpoint pollution, including agriculture, forestry,
urban development, hydromodification, and marinas.
The opportunities provided by the CZMA for the ecosystem approach
However, the ability of state governments to regulate activities
affecting ecosystems may be limited by other federal laws. Federal
agencies are excused from their obligation to conduct activities
in a manner consistent with state coastal management plans when
another federal law prevents such consistency.
National Marine Sanctuaries Act. The National Marine Sanctuaries
Act (NMSA), 16 U.S.C. 1431
et seq., authorizes the designation of national marine
sanctuaries to protect and manage areas of the marine environment
that are of special national and (in some instances) international
significance. Under the NMSA, NOAA's
Sanctuaries and Reserves Division develops sanctuary-specific
management plans to achieve comprehensive and coordinated conservation
and management of resources, and to facilitate all public and
private uses of the resources in these marine areas, to the extent
compatible with the primary purpose of resource protection.
Marine sanctuaries can protect and allow management of marine
ecosystems. The NMSA requires inclusion of a resource assessment
report, developed in consultation with other federal agencies
where appropriate, in each environmental impact statement prepared
for a sanctuary. The report documents present and potential uses
of the area, including commercial and recreational fishing, research
and education, minerals and energy development, subsistence uses,
and other commercial, recreational, or governmental uses. The
NMSA authorizes cooperative agreements to carry out its purposes,
including agreements with nonprofit organizations. By their nature,
sanctuaries are limited geographic areas, in some cases large,
in others small. Each management plan is tailored only to the
specific area of the marine environment designated as a sanctuary.
In order to protect resources within their boundaries, sanctuaries
generally prohibit only a narrow range of activities. Therefore,
the NMSA may not be sufficiently multiobjective or multipurpose
to be used as a model for the ecosystem approach, although it
may be a partner.
On November 16, 1990, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
and Protection Act, 16 U.S.C.
1433 note, Congress designated the entire marine area around the
Florida Keys as a National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA is currently
developing a comprehensive management plan to address land-based
water quality problems as well as physical threats to coral reefs
and other sanctuary resources. The purpose of the Act is to protect
sanctuary resources and facilitate multiple use of the sanctuary
and its resources consistent with the resource protection mandate.
NOAA's sanctuary program
is working with the state of Florida, EPA, and other agencies
to coordinate resources and efforts to manage the sanctuary and
National Estuary Program. Section 320 of the Clean Water
Act establishes the National Estuary Program and requires, for
11 specified estuaries and others designated to participate in
the program, the convening of a management conference (consisting
of representatives from federal, state, tribal, and local entities
as well as from industry, academia, and the general public) for
the purpose of developing a comprehensive conservation and management
plan. Each plan is intended to recommend priority corrective
actions and compliance schedules to address point and nonpoint
sources of pollution to restore and maintain the chemical, physical,
and biological integrity of the particular estuary addressed.
The management conference is also charged with developing plans
for the coordinated implementation of the plan by state as well
as federal and local agencies and to monitor the effectiveness
of the actions taken pursuant to the plan. Section 320 also directs
the management conference to review federal assistance and development
projects for consistency with the comprehensive conservation and
National Coastal Monitoring Act. The National Coastal
Monitoring Act (Title V of the Marine Protection, Research, and
Sanctuaries Act) requires the U.S. Department of Commerce and
EPA to jointly develop and implement a comprehensive program for
consistent monitoring of the nation's
coastal environments and ecosystems. The program is to do the
following: include environmental assessments and intensive monitoring
programs in selected coastal regions that are adversely impacted
by pollution; issue national guidelines for field sampling and
analytical procedures; recommend uniform indicators of coastal
environmental quality and ecosystem health; specify protocols
for data quality control and archiving in digital format; and
establish a coastal environmental information system.
Authorities for specific geographic areas. Statutes designed
to protect or restore ecosystems in specific geographic areas
provide opportunities for interagency collaboration in these areas.
Such areas include Coastal Louisiana and the New Jersey Pinelands.
Coastal Louisiana. In 1990, the United States Congress
passed the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration
Act (CWPPRA), 16 U.S.C. 3951-3956. The Act
created a partnership between the state of Louisiana and five
federal agencies (the Corps, EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, National
Marine Fisheries Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service)
and established a six-member task force composed of one representative
from each group. Charged with developing a "comprehensive
approach to restore and prevent the loss of coastal wetlands in
Louisiana," the task force is responsible for developing and implementing priority
coastal wetland restoration projects. The Act made tens of millions
of dollars available for wetland restoration projects on a 75-25 percent
cost share basis, with Louisiana's share derived from its Wetlands Trust Fund, established in 1989.
The CWPPRA is the primary federal legal authority used in Coastal
Louisiana as a vehicle for facilitating a broad-based approach
to coastal wetland restoration. The CWPPRA mandate and institutional
framework facilitate an interagency and intergovernmental approach
to the problem of coastal wetlands loss in Louisiana. The CWPPRA
framework serves as a valuable model and/or nucleus for any additional
activities to implement the ecosystem approach. In April 1995,
the state of Louisiana released a white paper review of its restoration
policies and activities that recommends significant changes in
project focus and administrative and funding mechanisms to ensure
long-term restoration of the coast.
New Jersey Pinelands. State and federal legislation enacted
to protect the New Jersey Pinelands has met with considerable
success and is viewed by some as a national model for regional
management and conservation (State of New Jersey Pinelands Commission
1989). In 1978, Congress created the Pinelands National Reserve,
providing basic guidelines for governments at every level to follow
in helping to shape the area's
future. The state was to take the lead in evaluating the Pinelands'
resources and in planning how best to balance their protection
with new development. The law authorized establishment of the
Pinelands Commission (consisting of state, county, and federal
officials) to carry out these tasks.
In June 1979, the New Jersey Legislature supplemented the federal
law by passing the Pinelands Protection Act. Among other things,
the Act requires that county and municipal master plans and land
use ordinances be brought into conformance with the Comprehensive
Management Plan developed by the Pinelands Commission. The state
law requires consideration of both economic and environmental
factors, restricts development in "preservation"
areas of relatively unbroken forest, and allows somewhat more
development in other "protection"
areas. The law allowed the Commission to divide protection areas
regionally according to land use capability, and to prescribe
land uses for each region, including forest, housing, agricultural
production, regional growth, and rural development. The Commission
has the power to ensure that proposed development projects are
consistent with the Comprehensive Management Plan.
The state law envisioned that local governments would be primarily
responsible for implementing the Plan. To attain that degree
of local involvement and responsibility, the Pinelands Protection
Act set forth a procedure under which county and municipal master
plans and land use ordinances would be made consistent with the
Plan. Although some of the Plan's
provisions are mandatory (such as density limitations and the
requirement that growth areas accept development credits), many
other aspects are intended to give municipalities resource management
goals to work toward as they revise their land use regulations.
The specific means chosen to meet those goals are open to negotiation
between the Commission and local government.
Other legal mechanisms that can be used to promote an ecosystem
approach to natural resource management include interagency coordination
tools (such as Memoranda of Understanding), enforcement mechanisms,
interagency technical assistance, funding for the ecosystem approach,
place-based regulations, and information sharing.
Coordination Tools. Memoranda of Understanding and other
interagency agreements provide tools for agencies to coordinate
their activities without having to go through the regulatory or
legislative process. They can be tailored to a particular region
Pacific Northwest forests. To follow through on the President's
Forest Plan, a cooperative framework that institutionalizes federal
interagency coordination was established through formation of
a Regional Interagency Executive Committee and provincial executive
committees (see chapter on Pacific Northwest forests, volume 3,
Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995). A Memorandum
of Understanding established a regional interagency team as well
as subregional (or province-level) teams. To supervise the monitoring
process that is at the heart of the Forest Plan, the Memorandum
establishes a policy-level Interagency Steering Committee and
a Regional Interagency Executive Committee consisting of regional
representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land
Management, EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and
National Marine Fisheries Service. The Forest Plan also creates
12 "province analysis areas," each with its
own interagency committee, to assure that monitoring will be coordinated
across administrative boundaries.
In addition, to ensure an efficient, effective federal response
to regional declines in salmon and steelhead populations, federal
agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes
"a federal framework
to facilitate the development and implementation of a coordinated
and comprehensive conservation and restoration plan for Pacific
salmon." The Memorandum
of Understanding is intended to avoid unnecessary duplication
of efforts within the federal government and to assist agency
efforts to coordinate with nonfederal stakeholders.
South Florida. The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, convened in June 1993 by the Department of the Interior and subsequently formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding, includes key Interior Department bureaus and representatives from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture, EPA, NOAA, and Corps. This policy-level group is charged with developing federal objectives for restoring the ecosystem as part of the Corps' Central and Southern Florida project, designing an ecosystem-based science program, supporting the development of multispecies recovery plans, and coordinating a variety of specific restoration projects. Its efforts are supported by a field-level working group that provides on-the-ground implementation assistance, project monitoring, and ongoing oversight.
Other interagency agreements. Under the Endangered Species
Act (ESA), coordinated ecosystem approaches can be enhanced by
interagency agreements. For example, the Fish and Wildlife Service
and National Marine Fisheries Service recently agreed to a policy
for enhancing state cooperation in activities pursuant to the
ESA (Notice of Interagency Cooperative Policy Regarding the Role
of State Agencies in Endangered Species Act Activities, 59 Fed.
Reg. 34,274 (1994)). Under the ESA, federal agencies can work
together toward ecosystem health even as it affects protected
species. For example, in January 1994 the Fish and Wildlife Service,
Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service,
and National Marine Fisheries Service issued a Memorandum of Understanding
to "establish a general
framework for cooperation and participation among cooperators
in the conservation of species that are tending toward federal
listing as threatened or endangered"
under the ESA. The Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service
quickly applied this Memorandum by signing a cooperative agreement
to protect a rare species of salamander in the Shenandoah Mountains.
The agreement was designed to stabilize and protect populations
of the salamander so that it will never have to be listed as threatened
Enforcement mechanisms. Mechanisms related to enforcement
of environmental regulations can provide federal agencies with
important means of coordinating efforts to implement the ecosystem
approach. Such mechanisms include targeting ecologically sensitive
areas for pollution control and facilitating Supplemental Environmental
Focusing enforcement and pollution control efforts. EPA
and other agencies have begun to explore focusing enforcement
and pollution control activities in priority ecosystems. For
example, EPA has launched a project to use geographic targeting
to focus pollution prevention and enforcement activities on the
protection of ecologically important areas, such as national wildlife
refuges, national parks, wilderness areas, Areas of Critical Environmental
Concern designated by the Bureau of Land Management, Outstanding
Natural Resource Waters, state-identified areas, and areas of
local environmental concern.
EPA's project is developing
geographic targeting capabilities, such as facility emission
ranking and chemical hazard ranking, to help identify facilities
for source reduction, technical assistance, multimedia inspections,
and compliance activities. National-scale maps of pollution sources
overlayed with regional ecosystems and watershed boundaries will
provide an overview of contaminated hotspots across the country.
Regional-scale maps will rank high-risk emission sources and
portray their distribution in relation to sensitive areas. Local-scale
maps will profile pollution sources that may be impacting specific
sensitive areas. The project will combine two types of geographic-information-system
activities that will be performed simultaneously, the
production of maps and the development of computer applications
for retrieving, formatting, and displaying information on ecological
attributes and stressors. In exercising their considerable enforcement
discretion, agencies could increase the use of such geographic
targeting techniques to more efficiently and effectively further
the overarching goals of the ecosystem approach, as well as specific
objectives established at regional and local levels.
Supplemental Environmental Projects. A Supplemental Environmental
Project (SEP) is defined by EPA as an environmentally beneficial
project undertaken by a defendant in an EPA administrative or
civil enforcement action. The defendant undertakes the project
in exchange for favorable penalty consideration in settlement
of the enforcement action. The project must be something that
the defendant is not otherwise legally required to do; that is,
it must go beyond compliance with the law and correction of the
violation to provide a benefit to the environment or to the human
population that was affected or put at risk by the violation.
Under EPA policies, SEPs may be included in a settlement only
if three conditions apply: (1) the violations at issue in
the case are being (or have already been) corrected; (2) the defendant
is paying a substantial monetary penalty; and (3) there is an
appropriate nexus between the violation and the environmental
benefits from the SEP. Seven categories of permissible SEPs are
public health, pollution prevention, pollution reduction, environmental
restoration and protection, assessments and audits, environmental
compliance promotion, and emergency planning and preparedness.
SEPs provide a potentially useful tool for supporting efforts
to implement the ecosystem approach. When evaluating proposed
SEPs or suggesting possible SEPs to defendants, EPA personnel
should ensure, to the extent practicable, that the projects are
consistent with or complement any relevant efforts to implement
the ecosystem approach. However, because the authority to perform
SEPs is tied to the authority of the EPA Administrator and the
Attorney General to compromise and settle individual cases and
administrative matters, the process of reviewing and approving
SEPs is of necessity conducted on a case-by-case basis. This
means that EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice have somewhat
limited flexibility in using SEPs from multiple cases to support
projects intended to address ecosystem priorities.
Interagency technical assistance. A concrete and necessary
aspect of the ecosystem approach is agencies'
sharing of expertise with other agencies.
Corps technical assistance. The Corps has substantial
expertise in water resources, infrastructure planning and development,
and environmental management and restoration. The Corps often
assists other federal agencies, particularly EPA, the U.S. Department
of State, and international organizations such as the United Nations,
in addressing domestic or international natural resource and environmental
problems. In addition, section 22 of the Water Resources and
Development Act of 1974 authorizes the Corps to cooperate with
any state, at its request, in the cost-shared preparation of comprehensive
plans for water resources development, utilization, and conservation.
However, organizations that request Corps assistance are often
unable to reimburse all of the Corps'
costs. In such instances, the Corps needs a clear source of funds
for costs not covered by the requesting entity. Currently, it
must approach Congress for funding, a way of doing business that
is cumbersome and unpredictable.
Personnel details and exchanges. The Corps recently completed
a "reconnaissance study"
of the Central and Southern Florida Project. As part of this
effort, the Corps hired federal employees on temporary duty to
address specific issues. For example, in order to ensure that
wildlife concerns were addressed at all phases, the Corps hired
a Fish and Wildlife Service employee to work on the project full-time.
Opportunities for productive personnel exchanges will likely
increase with an increase in use of the ecosystem approach. However,
the process has been made more difficult by recent amendments
to the Internal Revenue Code. The Code now provides that any
term of employment away from an employee's
home that exceeds 1 year is deemed to be permanent, rather than
temporary (26 U.S.C. 162(a); Revenue ruling 93-86).
Reimbursement for expenses (such as per diem payments) is thus
considered taxable income for which the employee is liable, and
expenses incurred during the period of employment are nondeductible.
Because of this new rule, the Corps recently had to cut short
an 18-month temporary duty assignment. Disincentives for federal
employees to participate in details or exchanges should be further
analyzed and removed, if appropriate.
EPA National Environmental Policy Act assistance. Under
section 309(a) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7609(a),
EPA reviews and comments on other federal agency actions, including
proposals for legislation, proposed regulations, and proposals
subject to section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy
Act (NEPA), which requires preparation of an environmental impact
statement. Other agencies have a slightly narrower role of review
and comment in the NEPA process (40 CFR Part 1504).
EPA and other agencies with environmental expertise could expand
the technical and other assistance they provide in reviewing federal
proposals by moving toward a more proactive approach that comprehensively
considers principles and plans under the ecosystem approach.
In coordination with other agencies, EPA could develop guidance
for its NEPA reviewers to ensure that federal agencies do the
following: systematically analyze the effects of proposed federal
actions on biodiversity and ecosystem health; explore opportunities
to support sustainable economies and communities; explore opportunities
to coordinate with other federal agencies and the nonfederal community,
on a collaborative basis, at the ecosystem scale; consider previously
established federal or nonfederal ecosystem approach objectives;
rely on sound ecological, social, and economic science; use benchmarks
to monitor and evaluate outcomes, where appropriate; and analyze
opportunities to utilize adaptive management approaches.
Funding for the ecosystem approach. Authorities to provide
funding for the ecosystem approach help to lay the foundation
for interagency work and coordination at the ecosystem level.
Such authorities include statutes administered by EPA and challenge
cost-share programs under the Department of the Interior.
EPA. Statutes administered by EPA contain a wide range
of grant authorities that could be used immediately or adapted
over time to support activities to implement the ecosystem approach.
A limited number of statutory provisions specifically authorize
EPA to award grants to support ecosystem- or place-based research
and management. For example, Clean Water Act section 320(g) authorizes
EPA to make grants covering up to 75 percent of the costs
of developing conservation and management plans for estuaries
under the National Estuary Program. In addition, EPA has broad
grant authorities to support continuing environmental programs
as well as research, development, training, and demonstrations
(Clean Air Act 103(b)(3)
and 105; Clean Water Act 104(b)(3),
105, 106, 109, 205(j)(2), and 319; Safe Drinking Water Act
1442 and 1443(b); Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
3011 and 8001(a); Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide
Act 20 and 23; Toxic Substances Control Act
10 and 28; and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation,
and Liability Act 311). Although these grant authorities are generally restricted
to single media (such as water or air), directed at pollution
control, and limited in their ability to address socioeconomic
sustainability issues, they can potentially be used to fund ecosystem-wide
activities where there is a direct relationship between the funded
activities and the purpose of the single-media authority. Furthermore,
a single grant can be awarded using several of the research and
demonstration authorities to support multimedia ecosystem studies.
EPA also has limited multimedia grant authorities that can be
used to support efforts to implement the ecosystem approach.
These include section 6605 of the Pollution Prevention Act (providing
grants to states for programs to promote source reduction techniques
by businesses), section 6 of the National Environmental Education
Act (authorizing grants to design, demonstrate, or disseminate
environmental education methods), and the National and Community
Service Act (providing grants for service programs addressing
established EPA priorities, 42 U.S.C. 12501
et seq.). Finally, EPA has authority to include in
its diverse grant awards "special
grantees to address concerns of the ecosystem approach where the
conditions directly relate to the goals of the authorizing statute.
As with all federal grants, the primary purpose of EPA grants
must be to support a public purpose authorized by statute, and
not to acquire goods and services for the government. Contracts
must be used to acquire such goods and services.
In addition to making grants, EPA has authority to award contracts
for services, such as ecosystem-related assessments or research
that is consistent with its statutory objectives. EPA may also
enter into agreements to share in the cost of ecosystem projects
with other federal agencies in order to obtain goods or services
from them. Such interagency agreements are authorized by the
Economy Act, 31 U.S.C. 1535, and by provisions of EPA's
media statutes authorizing cooperation with other federal agencies
(such as Clean Water Act 104(b), Clean Air Act 103(b),
and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 6003).
Department of the Interior: Challenge cost-share programs.
Various agencies within the Department of the Interior promote
partnership arrangements designed to aid them in managing resources
and in obtaining voluntary contributions of services, money, materials,
labor, and other expertise. The Department's
challenge cost-share programs exemplify how partnership arrangements
can assist management efforts. The Fish and Wildlife Service
administers one challenge cost-share program designed to manage,
enhance, and restore fish and wildlife resources and to support
wildlife-oriented education programs on lands it manages. For
example, this program has facilitated restoration of tallgrass
prairie and wetlands. Similarly, the Bureau of Land Management
has developed several challenge-cost share opportunities to implement
various recreation and resource management programs, such as its
Cultural Heritage programs. The National Park Service also participates
in challenge-cost share programs, with projects for historical
and archeological site restoration, resources inventory and monitoring
projects, resources management restoration projects, scientific
surveys, rails-to-trails conversion opportunities, and interpretive
and educational programs.
Place-based regulations and delegations of authority.
The U.S. Coast Guard's
Field Regulations provide a possible model for a place-based approach
to regulatory activity. The Coast Guard is charged with controlling
and managing vessel traffic to ensure the safety and security
of ports and waterways of the United States. Many of the issues
that arise in doing so are local in origin: each port presents
unique waterways management issues, and attempting to regulate
all ports using a single set of regulations would not be efficient,
responsive, or economical. The Coast Guard has delegated appropriate
authority to local field commanders to issue regulations and orders
to assist in managing the waterway system.
Under the Ports and Waterways Safety Act, 33 U.S.C. 1221-1232,
authority to control vessel traffic in certain areas was delegated
to local field commanders. In order to implement this authority,
the local field commanders may issue direct orders to individual
vessels, establish safety zones by regulation (which limit entry
of vessels to specific areas for safety and environmental purposes,
usually on an emergency basis), or establish navigation areas
(which set permanent limitations in order to preserve the safety
of adjacent waterway structures, ensure safe transit of vessels,
or protect the marine environment). The statute also mandates
that, at the earliest possible time, the Coast Guard must consult
with and consider the views of the maritime community, ports and
harbor authorities or associations, environmental groups, and
other parties who may be affected by the proposed actions.
Delegation of authority to local federal officials to deal with
local or regional environmental issues would in many cases permit
a more flexible, focused approach to issues. A disadvantage of
this approach is that it would require a certain level of expertise
in field units in order to comply with the National Environmental
Policy Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and other nationally
applicable statutes. Some agencies do not currently allocate
resources on a local level to develop this type of expertise.
Short of fully delegating rulemaking authority, agencies could
(where appropriate and consistent with existing law) seek either
to tailor regulations to local or regional ecological and socioeconomic
conditions up front, or to build flexibility into national regulations
so that they could be readily applied at the local or regional
scale. For example, instead of a single, national numeric criterion
for a pollutant, a permissible range of pollutants could be established
by rule (or policy or guideline), in anticipation that this rule
would be implemented only after review of local circumstances.
Similarly, agencies could ensure that rules are based upon, or
allow consideration of, the full range of ecological and socioeconomic
factors in order to allow for flexible application. Finally,
to ensure that national rules are functional at local and regional
ecosystem scales, agencies could routinely solicit comment from
ongoing efforts to implement the ecosystem approach.
A similar "tool"
for promoting effective federal participation in efforts to implement
the ecosystem approach is ensuring that delegation of decision-making
authority rests with federal employees directly involved in ecosystem
approach initiatives. The ability to award grants or other assistance
in a reliable and timely fashion, for example, may be critical
to the success of early federal involvement. For similar reasons,
the Bureau of Land Management's
Idaho Field Ecosystem-Based Management Strategy increased delegations
from state office down to the district and resource area offices
to place more capability and accountability close to on-the-ground
management activities. To date, the Bureau reports increased
productivity and efficiency within its field offices, as well
as improved customer service.
Information sharing: Freedom of Information Act and proprietary
data. Information sharing is crucial to the ecosystem approach;
important aspects of this issue are discussed in the chapter on
Science and Information in this volume. One legal barrier may
be the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C.
552, which provides that any person has a right, enforceable in
court, to see federal agency records, except to the extent that
those records are specifically protected from disclosure by FOIA's
nine exemptions or three law enforcement record exclusions. The
FOIA exempts from disclosure inter- and intra-agency memoranda
and other documents that are part of a government deliberative
process (5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5)).
However, this exemption is generally inapplicable in protecting
purely factual information or factual portions of otherwise deliberative
The FOIA can be a significant barrier to the collection of information
about the location of species that require strict protection by
federal land managers and by such federal agencies as the National
Biological Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. Depending on
how it is used, such information may be considered purely factual
and therefore unprotected from public disclosure under the FOIA.
The National Park Service, for example, may not be able to protect
information about the location of wild ginseng root, a lucrative
and widely poached plant that inhabits Great Smoky Mountains National
Park. The National Biological Service has found that private
landowners such as timber companies are reluctant to allow it
to survey their lands because public access to the information
obtained may lead to trespassing to take species. Moreover, data
shared with or among government scientists could be appropriated
for use by outside scientists before the originating scientist
can publish his or her findings for professional credit. Among
scientists, the sharing of data is a trust exercise that can be
upset by even the threat of public disclosure.
Another example of this problem, identified in the Great Lakes
survey team study, concerns the Natural Heritage program established
by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with state and provincial
governments. This program brings together various inventories
of biological resources, supplements it with additional surveys,
and then analyzes the data. If this data is passed to EPA, it
may be subject to public disclosure under the FOIA and could then
be used by developers and others to alter environmentally sensitive
areas in advance of any development activity requiring state and/or
Legislative action may be required to effectively address this
problem. Exemption 3 of the FOIA exempts from disclosure factual
or other information that must be withheld under another statute
(5 U.S.C. 552(b)(3)).
A model for such legislation can be found in the Archeological
Resources Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. 470aa
et seq. This Act requires federal land managers to
withhold information concerning the nature and location of archeological
resources, unless that information is needed to protect a site
from destruction or the disclosure would not create a risk of
harm to the resources (16 U.S.C. 470hh).
An ecosystem approach to management requires that federal agencies
pay close attention to the needs of private landowners and seek
their voluntary participation in collaborative efforts. Federal
activities must be predictable, their effects on private lands
foreseeable, and federal regulations straightforward. A variety
of federal laws and agency programs facilitate these goals. First,
there are federal laws that provide for financial and technical
assistance to private landowners. Second, some laws and agency
policies allow for agreements between landowners and federal agencies
in which landowners ensure that environmental goals are met in
exchange for certain benefits. Third, federal agencies are beginning
to institute policies to assure private landowners that federal
requirements will retain a significant degree of predictability.
It is important to stress that the ecosystem approach does not
increase the government's
authority under the regulatory programs it administers. Instead,
the ecosystem approach should result in less contentious decisions
and more predictability. The ecosystem approach emphasizes cooperative
problem solving and is being implemented in a manner that fully
respects property rights while enhancing the government's
and communities' ability to protect human health and the environment.
Various statutes authorize federal agencies to provide assistance
to private landowners and incentives for them to participate in
the ecosystem approach. Agencies provide assistance in conserving
natural resources, preserving wetlands, and managing forestlands.
Natural Resources Conservation Service programs. The Natural
Resources Conservation Service has multiple program authorities
and responsibilities, including watershed planning and implementation,
resource inventory, and assistance to private landowners for resource
protection and enhancement. Providing conservation planning as
well as technical and financial assistance to private landowners
to achieve conservation objectives has been the primary focus
of the agency. Authority for this function was granted in the
Soil Conservation Service Act of 1935 (P.L. 74-46)
as amended, which established the agency (formerly Soil Conservation
Over the years, Congress has added a number of programs and broadened
the authority and mission of the Natural Resources Conservation
Service to provide an increasingly multifaceted approach to conservation
and environmental enhancement. The agency administers designated
programs and provides technical assistance to a growing list of
state and federal programs.
Specific authorities for providing direct conservation assistance
to private landowners are the Soil Conservation Act, Watershed
Protection and Flood Prevention Act (16 U.S.C.
1006-1009), and P.L. 84-1021,
which establishes the Great Plains Conservation Program. The
Natural Resources Conservation Service administers both P.L. 566
and P.L. 84-1021, which provide cost-share assistance as well as technical and planning
assistance to private landowners to carry out conservation treatment
specified in long-term contracts.
The P.L. 566 watershed program provides technical and financial
assistance to local sponsors to develop and implement plans for
watershed protection, flood prevention, agricultural and nonagricultural
water management, and ground water recharge. Through its Watershed
and Flood Prevention Loan Program, the Farm Services Agency has
helped local sponsors in the past to provide the local share of
costs (not to exceed $10 million in any watershed) for drainage,
and it continues to offer funds for watershed protection works,
such as flood prevention and irrigation. The P.L. 566 program
bridges the gap between onfarm conservation practices by individual
landowners and large projects on major rivers by the Corps and
Bureau of Reclamation. The Corps is chiefly responsible for large-scale
projects, whereas the Natural Resources Conservation Service gives
technical assistance and provides cost-sharing programs for watersheds
of 250,000 acres or less. This type of program ensures that
private landowners maintain control over activities on their lands,
and are consequently willing to engage in practices to assure
sustainability of natural resources.
Incentives to protect fragile lands and preserve wetlands.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), authorized by the 1985
Food Security Act (the 1985 Farm Bill), offers rental payments
and cost-share assistance to establish vegetative cover on cropland
that is highly erodible or contributing to a serious water quality
problem. No crops are produced on CRP lands, which are protective
reserves. In the 8 years since its inception, the program has
protected, at least temporarily, 36.4 million highly erodible
acres and other sensitive lands.
The future of the CRP and of the environmental benefits gained
by the program are in question because of uncertain funding to
maintain or expand enrolled acreages beyond current contracts.
As initial CRP contracts begin to expire in late 1995, farmers
can bring that land back into production. The results of a 1993
survey by the Soil and Water Conservation Society show that participants
intend to return a large percentage of their CRP acres to crop
production after contracts expire.
The Wetlands Reserve Program is among the newest USDA conservation
efforts. Authorized by the 1990 Farm Bill, the Wetlands Reserve
Program began in 1993 as a pilot program similar to the CRP, with
initial funding of $46 million to enroll a maximum of 50,000 acres.
Because it offers an optional land use for difficult-to-farm
wet areas (restoring them to wetlands), the program is popular
with farmers. The first enrollment occurred in 1992, with bids
coming in from farmers who wanted to enter their wetlands at five
times the number of acres that could be accepted.
Forest programs. Federal law provides for a number of
cooperative forestry assistance programs, which could all be reviewed
for opportunities and barriers to the ecosystem approach. They
Endangered Species Act policies. The Departments of the
Interior and Commerce recently announced separate or joint policies
Tax incentives. The Internal Revenue Code contains several
incentives to encourage conservation of private land, including
tax incentives for:
Other tools. A variety of other approaches exist to voluntarily
induce landowners to conserve their property, including: land
leases, licenses, and management agreements with conservation
organizations; conservation easements and other less-than-fee
acquisitions; and dedications. Conservation easements are increasingly
popular, because they allow conservation entities to preserve
indefinitely natural resources on private property without having
to acquire full title.
Statutes authorize federal agencies to enter into agreements with
nonfederal landowners to protect sensitive habitats and to offset
habitat losses. Such agreements are integrated into Habitat Conservation
Plans and wetlands mitigation banking arrangements.
Endangered Species Act, Habitat
Conservation Plans. Section 10(a) of the Endangered Species
Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1539, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to enter into conservation agreements with private landowners under which the Secretary permits
"incidental takes" of listed species and landowners agree to develop long-term, private
conservation programs to protect listed species. These Habitat
Conservation Plans (HCPs) generally contain four documents: (1) a "planning
document;" (2) a
contract implementing the agreement; (3) an environmental
assessment or environmental impact statement under the National
Environmental Policy Act; and (4) an ESA section 10
Following issuance of the President's
Forest Plan in the Pacific Northwest, private and state landowners
there have shown a strong interest in becoming parties to HCPs.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked closely with these landowners
to develop a number of agreements. Three agreements have been
made with timber industry landowners in California, Oregon, and
Washington, and a large number of additional agreements are being
prepared with other timber companies in the Pacific Northwest.
Federal officials have found that the HCP process promotes ecosystem
integrity, allowing private and government scientists to join
forces to gather necessary scientific data. Like the agencies,
scientists have taken a multispecies approach to assessing conservation
Large-scale, regional HCPs hold considerable promise as mechanisms
for bringing together stakeholders to plan and craft innovative
solutions at a regional ecosystem level. Regional HCPs involve
multiple property owners, government units, and species. Their
preparation is usually overseen by steering committees made up
of representatives of the major stakeholder groups in the community,
and often chaired by a neutral party such as The Nature Conservancy
(Beatley 1994, p. 20). This opportunity for collaboration
under the ESA should be more fully utilized. The more the HCP
development process includes diverse stakeholders, increases ecosystem
integrity, and accounts for socioeconomic factors, the more it
can be viewed as a ready framework for the ecosystem approach.
However, HCPs are only relevant where one or more species are
already in serious decline, and delaying cooperative efforts until
species are at risk limits management options. Proactive efforts
are needed to maintain ecosystem integrity and promote sustainable
economies before species decline.
Wetlands mitigation banking. Wetlands mitigation banking
involves the restoration, creation, preservation, or enhancement
of wetlands expressly to offset destruction or deterioration of
wetlands due to future activities (such as development). Credit
for performing these environmentally beneficial actions is stored
in a wetlands "bank"
until needed. "Credits"
can be withdrawn from the bank to satisfy the wetland mitigation
requirements of a federal, state, or local regulatory agency.
There are essentially two types of mitigation banks: single-user
banks, which are established and used for mitigation purposes
by a specific organization (such as a state department of transportation);
and general-use banks, which are developed to make credits available
to a variety of potential "debtors,"
that is, permit applicants who may be allowed to obtain mitigation
to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements. This latter
category includes mitigation banks created by private entrepreneurs
for the purpose of making a profit from the sale of credits.
The environmental benefits of wetlands mitigation banking include:
Benefits to private landowners from mitigation banking include:
To facilitate the development of appropriate mitigation banking
arrangements, the Corps, EPA, and other federal resource agencies
recently released draft joint guidance on mitigation banking,
to be finalized soon.
Development Credits. Acting pursuant to state and federal
laws protecting the New Jersey Pinelands, the Pinelands Commission
created "Pinelands Development
Credits" to address
the competing concerns of rising land values in some areas and
the need to limit development in other, more environmentally sensitive
areas. The program works by allocating development credits to
landowners in certain areas where growth is limited. The credits
can be purchased by developers who own land in growth areas and
used to increase the densities at which they can build. A landowner
selling credits retains title to the land and is allowed to continue
using it for any nonresidential use authorized by the comprehensive
Pinelands plan. Credits are sold on an open market in the Pinelands
Development Credit Bank.
Federal agencies are increasingly implementing policies to make
federal activities predictable and their effects on private lands
foreseeable. In addition, federal agencies are taking measures
to facilitate compliance by private landowners with federal regulations.
Endangered Species Act "4(d)
rules." The Department
of the Interior has published several special rules under the
Endangered Species Act (ESA) that allow development of private
lands to proceed and still protect threatened species. A special
4(d) rule developed for the coastal California gnatcatcher avoids
the creation of a separate set of federal ESA requirements by
incorporating by reference the results of a state planning process,
because this process will conserve the gnatcatcher and all other
species that depend on the same habitat, and will allow residential
development to continue. In the states of Washington and California,
the Interior Department has proposed a 4(d) rule that will
generally exempt landowners with less than 80 acres of forest
land from the Act's
prohibition on incidental take of spotted owls. In addition,
the proposed rule would significantly scale back the level of
federal restrictions on more than 5 million acres of nonfederal
land in Washington and California.
Minimizing social and economic impacts. A recent Interior
Department policy directive on recovery planning requires that
any social or economic impacts resulting from implementation of
recovery plans be minimized.
Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook. The Fish and Wildlife
Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have published a
draft habitat conservation planning handbook that is intended
to streamline the HCP process and provide quicker and more consistent
answers to applicants for incidental take permits.
policy. The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine
Fisheries Service are currently promoting Habitat Conservation
Plans (HCPs) as an exemption from the take prohibition otherwise
applicable under the ESA. The HCP process recognizes that permits
of 30 years or more may be necessary to trigger long-term
private sector funding and land use commitments for species and
ecosystem conservation. In addition, on August 11, 1994, the
Departments of Commerce and the Interior declared a policy that
will give more long-term economic certainty to landowners who
negotiate HCPs. Under this "no-surprises"
policy, landowners who obtain approval of an HCP under section
10 of the ESA will not be subject to later demands for a larger
land or financial commitment, even if the needs of species are
found to have changed over time. If additional mitigation measures
become necessary for the conservation of a species protected under
an existing HCP, the wildlife agency will have to show that the
additional measures are required by extraordinary circumstances
and that they do not require compensation or apply to land that
was available for development under the HCP. This "no-surprises"
approach can be utilized to ensure the predictability needed by
key stakeholders where efforts to implement the ecosystem approach
face endangered species concerns.
ESA section 9 policy. The recently established Interagency
Cooperative Policy for ESA section 9 prohibitions is designed
to provide landowners with as much certainty as possible regarding
prohibitions against "taking"
listed species under section 9 of the Act. Under the policy,
the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service
will identify, to the extent known at the time a species is listed,
specific activities that are and are not considered likely to
result in a violation of section 9. For activities where
it is uncertain whether a violation is likely, a contact will
be identified in the final listing document to assist the public
in determining whether a particular activity would be prohibited
under section 9. The ecosystem approach could serve as an
efficient vehicle for further disseminating this information.
Consolidation of permitting. The regulated community faces
an array of federal, state, and local regulatory processes and
permitting requirements, including those pertaining to wetlands,
floodplains, endangered species, air emissions, wastewater discharges,
and waste storage and disposal. It is often time-consuming for
a permittee to find out which permits are required for a given
activity; which federal, state, or local agencies issue the permits;
and which information and documents must be available and/or filed
in order to obtain the permits. In addition, industrial sources
often remedy the problems in one pollutant medium by increasing
pollutant releases into another, and agencies may take inconsistent
approaches to the same ecological or socioeconomic concerns.
One way to address these issues is through "one-stop
permitting," which consolidates
the permitting process, thereby reducing the number of permits
required and agencies to be dealt with. Several states have discussed
or implemented proposals for one-stop permitting, including California,
Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington.
Alaska and California have established statewide public information
centers to provide planners and developers with all necessary
information on federal and state permits. New Jersey has established
the Office of Permit, Information, and Assistance, which helps
new businesses and businesses that are expanding their facilities
obtain necessary permits. Administrators run a preapplication
screening process to identify potential problems with a project,
and also follow up on the permits once the application has been
submitted. This process reduces the amount of time necessary
to get full permitting, because the system is integrated to require
only one public hearing for all emissions.
Numerous federal statutes, including the National Environmental
Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, Federal Land Policy
and Management Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act, make
public participation in federal decision-making processes mandatory.
Although administrative procedures are in place under these statutes
to allow for public input into many federal and state environmental
and land management decisions, agency officials often fail to
establish the type of interactions with and between community
members that leads to the consensus-building sought under the
ecosystem approach. There is a tendency for officials to accept
input, but not to encourage the constructive dialogue that can
lead to collaborative solutions.
National Environmental Policy Act
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process encourages
the involvement of interested and affected stakeholders. Regulations
issued by the Council on Environmental Quality require that federal
agencies "to the fullest
extent possible . . . [e]ncourage and facilitate public involvement
in decisions which affect the quality of the human environment"
(40 CFR 1500.2).
Agencies must allow opportunities for public comment at both the
draft and final stages of preparing an environmental impact statement;
substantive comments received at the draft stage must be addressed
in the final environmental impact statement. The Council on Environmental
also require that as part of the "scoping"
process for an environmental impact statement, the lead agency
shall "[i]nvite the
participation of affected Federal, State and local agencies, and
any affected Indian tribe, the proponent of the action, and other
interested persons (including those who might not be in accord
with the action on environmental grounds)"
(40 CFR 1501.7).
Public hearings or meetings are also called for when appropriate
(40 CFR 1506.6c).
In addition, agencies'
environmental impact statements must contain a discussion of "inconsistencies
of their proposed actions with State or local plans and laws"
(40 CFR 1506.2(d)).
However, as currently implemented, public notice and comment under
NEPA are often not conducive to the kind of collaboration and
consensus-building with stakeholders that is essential to the
ecosystem approach. Beyond scoping and soliciting public comment,
the ecosystem approach seeks to bring stakeholders together to
develop a shared vision for an ecosystem, to recognize problems
as common to all, to look beyond the stereotypes and false impressions
that can divide stakeholders, to engage in joint data collection
and analysis, and to arrive at creative and innovative solutions
to issues at the ecosystem level. One way the NEPA process could
help achieve these ends would be through voluntary interagency
ecosystem approach environmental impact statements. Similarly,
Council on Environmental Quality guidance or regulatory revisions
could be developed with a view to making the NEPA process more
supportive of active and collaborative stakeholder involvement,
both where agencies act individually and where they plan together.
Federal Advisory Committee Act
The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), 5 U.S.C. App.
2, imposes procedural requirements on federal agencies in certain
circumstances when they solicit and receive collective advice
from persons who are not full-time federal employees. The Act,
and the executive branch regulations and policies designed to
implement it, have proven to be an impediment to the ecosystem
Background. Congress passed FACA in 1972 to control the
growth and operation of the "numerous
committees, boards, commissions, councils, and similar groups
which have been established to advise officers and agencies in
the executive branch"
(5 U.S.C. App. 2 2(a)).
The purpose of FACA was to eliminate unnecessary advisory committees,
limit the formation of new committees to the minimum number necessary,
keep the function of the committees advisory in nature, and hold
the committees to uniform standards and procedures (see id.
The FACA places a number of restrictions on the advisory committees
themselves. If a group constitutes an "advisory
committee" for purposes
of FACA, the federal agency soliciting advice generally must,
among other things, organize the committee under a charter, ensure
that the committee's
membership is "balanced,"
and provide for public notice of, and public participation in,
the committee's meetings.
Transcripts of the meetings and copies of all documents considered
by the committee generally must be made available to the public
(for a description of FACA, see Ass'n
of American Physicians and Surgeons v. Clinton, 997
F. 2d 898, 903 (D.C. Cir. 1993)).
Regulations and Administration policies. The General Services
Administration has published regulations setting minimum requirements
for and providing guidance to agencies in establishing, operating,
and administering advisory committees subject to FACA (General
Service Administration Regulations, 41 CFR Subpart 101-6.10).
Among other things, these regulations provide for General Services
Administration review of all proposed advisory committee charters
(41 CFR 101-6.1007).
In addition, the Clinton administration has imposed stringent
limitations on the creation and use of FACA advisory committees.
Executive Order 12838 (Feb. 10, 1993) directs each executive
department and agency to terminate at least one-third of its advisory
committees subject to FACA. The Order also prohibits creation
or sponsorship of new advisory committees subject to FACA, except
under the following circumstances: (1) where it is required by
statute; or (2) where an agency head finds that "compelling
considerations necessitate creation"
of a committee, but only if the Director of the Office of Management
and Budget (OMB) then approves the committee, and OMB approval
is to be granted "only
sparingly and only if compelled by considerations of national
security, health or safety, or similar national interests."
The Administration also has announced a policy of opposing legislative
language that "establishes new advisory committees or seeks to exempt groups from the requirements
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act"
Litigation. In recent years, federal agencies have been
sued for alleged FACA violations in a variety of contexts involving
the management of natural resources. Many of these cases involve
a claim that a federal agency has consulted with nonfederal advisors
without following FACA procedures. For example, in Northwest
Forest Resource Council v. Espy, 846 F. Supp. 1009
(D.D.C. 1994), a judge agreed with the timber industry that the
federal government had violated FACA in developing the President's
Forest Plan for the Pacific Northwest by considering advice provided
by the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, a group that
included nonfederal scientists. In another case related to the
issue of salmon protection in the Columbia River, industry representatives
alleged that meetings between federal officials and representatives
from states and tribes to settle an ongoing Endangered Species
Act lawsuit and to discuss federal agency compliance with the
Endangered Species Act were in violation of FACA. The district
court held that FACA does not apply because the meetings were
part of a court-ordered process to reconsider the federal agency
decisions affecting hydropower operations (Aluminum Company
of America v. National Marine Fisheries Service, No.
(D. Or.), December 7, 1994).
The courts have split on what legal remedies should be available
to litigants who prevail against the government on FACA claims.
In Public Citizen v. National Advisory Committee,
886 F. 2d 419 (D.C. Cir. 1989), the court declined to enjoin federal
decision makers from considering advice obtained in violation
of FACA; but in Alabama-Tombigbee Rivers Coalition v.
Department of the Interior, 26 F. 3d 1103 (11th Cir. 1994),
the federal government was permanently enjoined from using an
advisory report on the Alabama sturgeon prepared in violation
Impacts on the ecosystem approach. A central goal of the
ecosystem approach is to foster stakeholder participation and
to improve coordination between federal, state, and local decision
makers. Moreover, the ecosystem approach frequently requires
federal decision makers to obtain scientific and other advice
from those outside the federal government. For these reasons,
the issue of FACA compliance is likely to arise with growing frequency
as federal managers adopt an ecosystem approach.
In most survey team studies, FACA was identified as the major
impediment to adopting an ecosystem approach. Interviewees reported
Many interviewees recommended adding an exemption to FACA for
federal-state or federal-tribal
communications and meetings. Some tribal representatives maintained
meetings are already exempt from FACA (see chapter on Pacific
Northwest forests, volume 3, Interagency Ecosystem Management
Task Force 1995). In many areas, including South Florida,
state and federal officials asserted that it is critical for them
to have ongoing contacts, which FACA disrupts. Some state officials
feel that they are left out of federal decision making due to
FACA (see chapter on Prince William Sound, volume 3, Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995).
Stakeholders in other areas share these concerns. For example,
the Western Governors'
Association adopted a resolution at its June 1994 meeting stating
that application of FACA to the states "hinders
the free flow of communication between jurisdictions"
and interferes with decision making. The resolution supports
federal legislation that would, among other things, "exempt
committees composed of full-time officers or employees of state
government acting in their official capacities who are directed
by statute to meet with federal officials and employees regarding
programs that are shared by federal, state and local or which
are administered by state governments or delegated by the states
to local governments"
Western Governors' Association).
Significantly, the resolution applies generally to federal-state
coordination; it is not limited to resource management issues.
Addressing the issue under current statutes and regulations.
There are many situations where contact between federal agency
personnel and outsiders is not subject to FACA. Agency personnel
should understand when FACA applies and when it does not. Where
contact between federal personnel and outsiders is not subject
to FACA, it should be used appropriately to pursue ecosystem goals.
Where FACA does apply, informed management and planning can minimize
the burdens of FACA compliance.
Contacts not subject to FACA. The FACA does not apply
to all contacts between federal personnel and outsiders (see Public
Citizen v. United States Department of Justice, 491
U.S. 440, 453 (1989)). Agency personnel should fully understand
the types of contacts that are not subject to FACA, and should
not let "fear of FACA"
inhibit lawful contacts with outsiders. The General Service Administration
(GSA) Regulations (41 CFR Subpart 101-6.10)
identify several examples of contacts between federal employees
and outsiders that are not subject to FACA, and courts have recognized
Outside groups. Interested nonfederal parties can attempt
to influence the federal government's
decision-making processes by meeting with federal officials to
provide their views. When the outside party is not a group "established"
or formed by the federal government, the meeting is not subject
to FACA, provided the federal government is not "utilizing"
the group as an advisory committee. The GSA Regulations define
committee as a group used by the agency as a "preferred
source [of] . . . advice or recommendations"
(41 CFR 101-6.1003).
At one time, courts followed GSA's
approach to the definition of "utilized,"
holding that FACA applies when a federal agency uses an outside
group as a preferred source of consensus advice. However, in
Public Citizen, the Supreme Court's
first FACA opinion, the Court declined to follow GSA's
definition of "utilized"
and held that the Department of Justice's
routine solicitation of advice and recommendations from the American
Bar Association regarding prospective judicial nominees was not
subject to FACA. In reviewing the legislative history of FACA,
the Court concluded that the phrase "utilized"
means a group organized by a nongovernmental organization that
is so closely tied to an agency as to be under agency control.
Among the factors a court may consider in determining whether
a group is so closely tied to the government as to be "utilized"
for FACA purposes are whether it receives funds from the government,
whether such funds were intended for the specific purpose of creating
an advisory committee, whether government employees regularly
attend the group's meetings,
whether government employees control or influence the group's
agenda, and whether the government solicits the group's
advice. However, in the absence of significant federal control
and use of federal funds, citizens'
groups and other organizations established outside the federal
government can provide advice to federal agencies without violating
Committees that perform operational functions. The FACA
defines the term "advisory
committee" as a group
that provides "advice
(5 U.S.C. App. 2 3(2)).
By direct implication, committees that do not provide advice
or recommendations are not subject to FACA. Committees that perform
are one example of such "nonadvisory"
committees. The GSA Regulations define "operational
functions" as "those specifically provided by law, such as making or implementing Government
decisions or policy" (41 CFR 101-6.1004(g)).
For example, in Natural Resources Defense Counsel v. EPA,
806 F. Supp. at 276, the court relied on the"operational
functions" distinction in rejecting the Natural Resources Defense Counsel's
claim that a "Governors' Forum" created by EPA
was subject to FACA.
Committees that provide information. Committees whose
function is the exchange of information rather than the provision
of advice also fall outside FACA's
definition of advisory committee. The GSA Regulations provide
that "any meeting .. . for the purpose of exchanging facts or information"
is not subject to FACA (41 CFR 101-6.1004(k)(1)).
Advice from individuals. The GSA Regulations state that
advice provided by an individual is not subject to FACA (see 41
The Regulations also provide that "[a]ny
meeting initiated by a Federal official(s) with more than one
individual for the purpose of obtaining the advice of individual
attendees and not for purposes of utilizing the group to obtain
consensus advice or recommendations [is not covered by FACA].
However, agencies should be aware that such a group would be
covered by the Act when an agency accepts the group<'s
deliberations as a source of consensus advice or recommendations"
(41 CFR 101-6.1004(i)).
This exclusion was applied in Natural Resources Defense Counsel
v. Herrington, 637 F. Supp. 116 (D.D.C. 1986), where the
court concluded that FACA did not apply to a panel of scientists
convened by the U.S. Department of Energy to provide advice on
the operation of a nuclear reactor, where the panel members would
work independently and report individually.
In practice, these distinctions, between
operational functions, exchange of information, and nonconsensus
advice, on the one hand, and advice and recommendations, on the
other, may sometimes
be subtle. The line between advice and discussion of future operations
is not a sharp one. Similarly, advice can be packaged as information.
When an agency decides to meet with outsiders and rely on one
or more of these three exclusions from FACA, careful, ongoing
guidance and supervision will be required to ensure that the group
does not inadvertently render consensus advice or recommendations,
thereby triggering FACA.
Government contractors. FACA's
legislative history states that the term "advisory
committee" does not
include a contractor or consultant hired by a federal agency (see
Food Chemical News v. Young, 900 F. 2d 329, 331
(D.C. Cir. 1990), citing FACA's
legislative history, and Lonbardo v. Handler, 397
F. Supp. 793, 797-800
(D.D.C. 1975)). The reason for this exclusion, as Judge Ruth
Bader Ginsberg explained in Food Chemical News, is that
government contractors, unlike the groups that prompted enactment
of FACA, are subject to procurement regulations intended to provide
a check against waste and bias (900 F. 2d at 331). Accordingly,
FACA procedures generally do not apply to government contractors
who provide advice to federal agencies pursuant to a government
contract. In addition, government contractors are free to receive
and evaluate advice from other entities, and to relay that advice,
along with recommendations for dealing with the advice, to the
contracting agency. Because the contractor's
meetings with other individuals and entities are not subject to
FACA, the contractor enjoys a level of flexibility and freedom
from procedural burdens that the contracting agency does not.
However, the precise scope of the contractor exclusion is unclear.
Notwithstanding the FACA legislative history and Food Chemical
News case, those who provide advice to the federal government
pursuant to a contract are not automatically exempted from FACA.
In Northwest Forest Resource Council (846 F. Supp. at
1011), for example, although nonfederal members of the Forest
Ecosystem Management Assessment Team performed their duties pursuant
to contracts with the federal government, Judge Jackson nevertheless
held that the Team was subject to FACA. Accordingly, federal
agencies should be cautious in applying this exemption to consultations
that might otherwise be subject to FACA.
Effective use of FACA. Where a statute mandates creation
of an advisory committee subject to FACA, or where agency decision
makers conclude for policy reasons that a FACA advisory committee
should be formed, the responsible agency should give careful consideration
to the organization of the committee and the terms of its mandate.
The goal should be to create a structure that enables the agency
to obtain the advice it needs, is sufficiently flexibility to
respond to changing circumstances, minimizes procedural burdens,
and satisfies all applicable legal requirements.
One organizational model with potentially broad application is what we will call a "master" chartered advisory committee. Under this approach, the master committee receives and evaluates advice from other entities and relays that advice, along with its recommendations for dealing with the advice, to the sponsoring agency (an approach similar to the Food and Drug Administration's use of a contractor to obtain and evaluate advice from third parties, described in the Food Chemical News case). These other entities can be regular working groups or task forces that are formally associated with the master advisory committee, or they can be completely independent. The master committee, of course, may also provide consensus advice to the federal agency based on the expertise of its own members. Because its meetings with other individuals and entities are not subject to FACA, the master committee enjoys a level of flexibility and freedom from procedural burdens that the sponsoring agency does not. At the same time, because the master committee's deliberations on the advice received from third parties are subject to FACA, opportunities for public participation and scrutiny of the advisory committee's actions are preserved. An additional advantage of this approach is that it allows groups or individuals who do not want to be members of a federal advisory committee to nevertheless participate in the advisory process and provide advice to the master committee.
A second, related organizational technique is one we will call
charter. Under this approach, a single committee is chartered;
the charter provides for subcomponents, which function essentially
as subcommittees of the umbrella committee. In many situations,
this type of organization may make sense from a management perspective.
An additional, less substantive benefit of this approach is that
it provides a means of coping with the Administration's
self-imposed limits on the number of nonstatutory advisory committees.
For example, where six independent advisory committees would
be appropriate, but that number exceeds the agency's
quota, the agency can charter one advisory committee with six
subcommittees without technically exceeding the quota.
Both of these techniques appear to be reflected in the committee
structure employed by the government in the implementation of
the Standards and Guidelines for Management of Habitat for Late-Successional
and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the
Northern Spotted Owl (see Standards and Guidelines at E-15
Addressing the issue through regulatory and statutory changes.
Despite FACA constraints, advisory committee assistance in the
ecosystem approach could be expedited by modifying administration
policies on advisory committees. Ultimately, however, the most
effective recourse would be to modify FACA through amendment.
Modifying Administration policies on advisory committees.
Administration policies on FACA create a dilemma for federal
land managers. The ecosystem approach requires numerous contacts
between federal personnel and outsiders, many of which are subject
to FACA. Therefore, federal land managers must either utilize
existing advisory committees or create new committees. But Administration
policy is to reduce the number of nonstatutory advisory committees,
avoid creation of new statutory advisory subcommittees, and preclude
exemption of advisory committees from FACA. It is difficult to
reconcile these limitations on advisory committees with the need
for advisory committees inherent in the ecosystem approach.
Accordingly, the Administration should revise its policies to
ensure that federal land managers have adequate latitude to form
advisory committees when they reasonably believe such committees
are necessary to accomplish their management responsibilities
under the ecosystem approach. This could be accomplished either
by eliminating all numerical quotas on advisory committees, or
by exempting ecosystem approach advisory committees from the quotas.
Alternatively, quotas could be maintained if the relevant federal
agencies were required to set aside enough committee slots to
ensure approval of reasonable requests for ecosystem approach
In addition, the Administration should eliminate unnecessary impediments
and minimize the procedures required to charter, operate, and
renew necessary advisory committees. Opportunities should be
explored for streamlining or eliminating the Office of Management
and Budget approval process, simplifying or eliminating the General
and simplifying and expediting agency approval processes.
Amending FACA to create exemptions. One problem that could
be appropriately resolved by amending FACA is the issue of consultations
between the federal government and state and/or tribal governments,
when the state or tribal representatives are acting in a sovereign
capacity. Federal environmental and natural resource laws and
policies have traditionally been predicated upon close coordination
with state and tribal authorities. State jurisdiction remains
concurrent with federal jurisdiction under numerous federal wildlife
and natural resource statutes, and federal pollution control statutes
such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act include provisions for the federal government
regulatory responsibility to the states. Several natural resource
statutes, including the Endangered Species Act and National Forest
Management Act, provide for consultation between federal and state
officials. In addition, the application of FACA to contacts between
federal officials and treaty Indian tribes may implicate the federal
government's trust responsibilities
to those tribes. Yet FACA does not expressly exempt such consultations
from its coverage.
Several groups representing state and tribal officials have identified
FACA as an impediment to effective coordination with the federal
government, and have advocated an exemption for contacts with
sovereign entities. Legislation exempting consultations with
sovereigns from FACA in certain limited contexts suggests that
there is some congressional support for this as well.
Accordingly, it has been suggested that the Administration propose
legislation amending FACA to exempt contacts between federal officials
and representatives of state or tribal governments acting in a
sovereign capacity. The resolution of the Western Governors'
Association quoted above provides one possible model for such
This legislation may not be necessary in light of the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act signed by the President on March 22, 1995.
Section 204 of Title II of the Act exempts from FACA actions
in support of intergovernmental communications where meetings
are held exclusively between federal officials and officials of
state, local, and tribal governments, and where such meetings
are "solely for the
purposes of exchanging views, information, or advice relating
to the management or implementation of Federal programs established
pursuant to public law that explicitly or inherently share intergovernmental
responsibilities or administration."
Amending other statutes to create FACA exemptions. An
alternative would be to add FACA exemptions to federal laws where
consultations with sovereigns are required or appropriate. Such
statutes include the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental
Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, Fish and Wildlife
Coordination Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Fisheries
Conservation and Management Act. Obviously, this approach would
be more cumbersome and laborious than a single amendment to FACA.
Other Tools for Communicating With Stakeholders
The consensus-building that is needed for the ecosystem approach
can be enhanced through processes mandated by the National Environmental
Policy Act and through constructive approaches to the Federal
Advisory Committee Act. In addition, other tools may expedite
public participation in the ecosystem approach, including alternative
dispute resolution and education.
Alternative dispute resolution. Increased participation
in management of ecosystems by federal, state, and local agencies,
tribes, and the public is a key goal of the ecosystem approach.
However, stakeholder involvement may more sharply define particular
areas of disagreement over vision, goals, priorities, and methods.
Moreover, federal, state, and local governments may be reluctant
to share decision-making authority with other sovereign authorities.
For these reasons, attempts to increase stakeholder participation
should also include mechanisms for resolving disputes. Indeed,
the very existence of a system for resolving disputes will reinforce
the participatory process.
Dispute resolution may involve numerous processes, each with inherent
benefits and weaknesses. Some of these mechanisms may include:
Education. The use of more collaborative mechanisms for
stakeholder involvement alone will not suffice to facilitate the
ecosystem approach. The general public and local stakeholders
need to be informed about the value of maintaining productive
potential for ecosystems and of promoting sustainable economies
and communities. Several statutes provide federal agencies with
authority to create and fund education programs. These statutes
should be utilized to the fullest extent practicable to educate
stakeholders about the ecosystem approach, or to allow stakeholders
to educate others.
For example, the National Environmental Education Act (NEEA) provides
authority for launching ecosystem approach-based education programs
and awarding education grants. In the NEEA, Congress explicitly
recognized that "threats
to human health and environmental quality are increasingly complex"
(NEEA 2). The NEEA
establishes an Office of Environmental Education within EPA to
develop model curricula and education materials and to work with
other federal and nonfederal entities to improve understanding
of "the relationships
between humans and their environment,"
among other things (NEEA
4). The Act also requires the Office of Environmental Education
to assess the demand for professional skills and training needed
to respond to current and anticipated environmental problems,
and to coordinate environmental efforts with other federal agencies
(NEEA 4). In
addition, the NEEA authorizes the EPA Administrator to enter into
contracts or provide grant assistance to support the design, demonstration,
and dissemination of environmental curricula and field techniques,
including assessment of environmental and ecological conditions,
and to promote the development of projects to understand and assess
specific environmental issues (NEEA
6). Several other grant and cooperative agreement authorities
may also be used for environmental education and training under
certain circumstances (for example, see Clean Water Act 104).
The Secretary of Agriculture, in implementing Forest Service programs,
is authorized to "enter
into cooperative agreements with public or private agencies, organizations,
institutions, or persons . . . to develop and publish cooperative
environmental education and forest history materials"
(16 U.S.C. 565a).
Under the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act,
the Secretary of Agriculture, "in
cooperation with the State directors of cooperative extension
service programs and eligible colleges and universities,"
is directed to establish programs to expand public knowledge "of
the ecological relationships and benefits of trees and related
resources in urban and community environments . . . and to conduct
a comprehensive natural resource and environmental education program
for landowners and managers, public officials, and the public,
with particular emphasis on youth"
(16 U.S.C. 1672).
Ecosystem approaches are predicated on consensus-building with
all stakeholders in an ecosystem. Often, stakeholders are agencies
from nonfederal sovereign governments, including state and tribal
governments or governments of other countries. Close coordination
with these governments in arriving at collaborative solutions
to shared environmental problems is vital to an effective ecosystem
approach. In addition to the National Environmental Policy Act
process described above, several authorities may be used to achieve
Good working relations between state and federal agencies are
key to the ecosystem approach. Federal statutes facilitate state-federal
cooperation in several ways: by fostering state-established regional
plans for the ecosystem approach; by mitigating environmental
damage through federal highway programs; by passing federal regulatory
authorities to states; and by exchanging federal agency personnel
with state agencies.
There are three general categories of state laws that may aid
in the implementation of the ecosystem approach: state environmental
laws; programs mandated by federal laws; and state-level land
use laws. Commentators have noted that, with respect to the ecosystem
approach, state environmental laws often have some of the same
pros and cons as their federal counterparts. Several states also
have general biodiversity laws or laws implementing Natural Heritage
Programs. Most state biodiversity statutes consist of statements
of policy and the establishment of research programs. Some states,
such as California and Texas, have more innovative and substantive
laws for biodiversity protection and ecosystem-level planning.
These laws involve, among other things, partnerships with federal
agencies under the Endangered Species Act. States are also required
or encouraged to establish resource protection plans under several
federal laws, including the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Aquatic
Nuisance Prevention Control Act, and legislation regarding floodplain
protection. These programs can be used to help protect ecological
values. Finally, a handful of states, including California, Georgia,
Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, and Rhode Island, have state-level zoning
laws that regulate local planning and land use control processes.
Regional, county, and local zoning laws are also important to
the ecosystem approach. A number of local land use laws may be
relevant to collaborative ecosystem-based management efforts,
including general welfare zoning for environmental and aesthetic
objectives, floodplain zoning, open space preservation, wetland
protection, and sensitive lands protection. In addition, regional
planning statutes exist in various forms in several states. With
some exceptions, regional programs are advisory and do not control
the planning and land use control activities of local governments
within regions. Regional planning agencies have also been established
for critical natural resource areas, including the New Jersey
Pine Barrens. Further discussion of these laws is beyond the
scope of this chapter.
Incorporating state-established regional plans. Some states
have enacted laws to protect natural resources on an ecosystem-wide
basis. Where possible and appropriate, the federal government
can take advantage of flexibility in federal laws to adapt its
activities to conform to state laws or programs. For example,
the Coastal Zone Management Act requires that federal agencies
conduct their activities in a manner consistent with state coastal
management plans (16 U.S.C.
1451 et seq.). However, nothing prevents a federal
agency from proceeding in a similar fashion even in the absence
of a federal statutory requirement.
Another example involves a California law that established Natural
Communities Conservation Planning, under which counties and cities
are encouraged to adopt multispecies and multihabitat protection
plans. Under this law, reserve areas are created that encompass
combinations of imperiled types of habitat adequate to support
sustainable populations of native animals and plants. When the
Fish and Wildlife Service recently listed the California gnatcatcher
as a threatened species, it promulgated a "special
rule" under section
4(d) of the Endangered Species Act to delegate responsibility
for protecting the gnatcatcher to California's
Natural Communities Conservation Planning process. The special
rule provided that if the relevant counties and cities adopted
plans pursuant to scientific guidelines developed by state scientists,
the Fish and Wildlife Service would review and approve the plans
as a substitute for case-by-case, species-by-species review of
every individual landowner plan to develop vacant land that might
harbor a listed species. Under this approach, development could
then proceed in all areas so designated by the plan, even if "incidental
taking" of individual
members of listed species might occur. The special rule provided
that for those jurisdictions making satisfactory progress toward
final plans, limited development could take place during the interim
period, not to exceed 5 percent of the total habitat (subject
to other scientific screening).
As a result of this action, private developers are working with
state, county, and city governments, environmentalists, planners,
and scientists in Orange and San Diego Counties to develop Natural
Communities Conservation Plans. Whether adequate and equitable
means can be found to fund the acquisition or creation of needed
preserve areas remains to be seen. However, this kind of federal-state
cooperation on an ecosystem-wide basis sets a precedent with enormous
potential benefits to species at risk, local government bodies,
State assumption of federal authorities. A number of federal
statutes provide opportunities for states to assume lead authority
to administer environmental programs. For example, under the
Clean Water Act, almost 40 states now issue point source water
pollution discharge permits under federally approved state programs;
many states also have delegated programs under the Clean Air Act
and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Other programs
have been adopted by fewer states; for example, only two states
operate programs under Clean Water Act section 404(g), which authorizes
states to assume responsibility for administering their own programs
for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters
of the United States. Given the significance of these delegations,
agencies such as EPA, NOAA, and the Office of Surface Mining should
work with the states to encourage partnerships that further the
Endangered Species Act implementation. State, tribal,
and local governments have expressed strong interest in greater
utilization of their expertise and in playing a greater role in
the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Clinton
Administration has initiated several reforms to establish a new
relationship to achieve ESA goals. With respect to the states,
this includes several initiatives:
Intergovernmental Personnel Act. The Intergovernmental
Personnel Act of 1970, 5 U.S.C. 3371-3376,
authorizes federal, state, and local government employees to be
temporarily reassigned to offices at other levels of government,
as well as to tribal government and universities, to work on areas
of mutual concern to the organizations involved. The Act could
be a useful tool for the ecosystem approach because it provides
a statutory mechanism for transferring and sharing expertise between
different levels of government.
State and federal resource managers in the Pacific Northwest have
taken advantage of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act to facilitate
implementation of the Forest Plan. An official from the Washington
State Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently on a 2-year
detail (with option to extend) with the Fish and Wildlife Service
to work on habitat conservation planning initiatives under the
Endangered Species Act. To help develop successful Habitat Conservation
Plans and to work with private companies, the Fish and Wildlife
Service needs to coordinate closely and form partnerships with
other government entities, particularly the states and tribes.
The state official's
detail provides an opportunity to benefit the operations of both
the state and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and to ensure close
coordination between governments. The official involved has a
longstanding relationship not only with other state employees
and agencies, but also with many tribal representatives.
Under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, there are other personnel
exchanges in the Pacific Northwest, as well: a tribal biologist
is on detail with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and a representative
from the watershed analysis committee is on detail with the Forest
Service. The biologist has a longstanding relationship with federal,
state, tribal, and industrial employees.
American Indian tribes currently maintain jurisdiction over approximately
56 million acres of land on 278 reservations in the lower 48 states.
Most lands controlled by American Indians are held in trust by
the federal government for both tribes and individual Indians.
American Indian trust lands have a unique status: even though
the United States has fee title in trust lands, it is the American
Indian landholders who have full beneficial rights (and interests)
to those lands. The federal government has a responsibility to
tribes and Indian people to manage and protect trust lands and
environments (including natural resources held in trust) under
treaties, federal statutes, regulations, and/or executive orders.
The governing statutes, regulations, executive orders, and treaties
define the scope of this trust responsibility, which is a federal
responsibility. Federal agencies should coordinate their activities
and authorities to implement it.
Tribal rights and interests in treaty-protected resources based
off the reservation (such as fish and game) have also been recognized.
For example, in the Pacific Northwest, several treaties signed
in the mid-1800s preserve tribal rights to fish in the Columbia
River, its tributaries, and the Puget Sound watershed, and to
hunt on off-reservation federal lands. Tribes have also received
recognition of their rights and interests in and to water resources
that stem from off-reservation sources to ensure that waterflows
and water quality are sufficient to support and/or maintain these
hunting and fishing rights.
Specific issues of contention arise where ecosystems encompass
all or part of American Indian trust lands and part of state or
federal lands, or where tribal off-reservation treaty-protected
resources are located in ecosystems on state and/or federal lands.
For example, representatives of three tribal commissions are
formally involved in implementation of the Pacific Northwest Forest
Plan. However, tribal representatives interviewed in the Northwest
asserted that tribal interests have not been sufficiently considered
in accordance with treaty-based principles. Representatives contended,
among other things, that the government treats tribes as members
of the public rather than as sovereigns or as groups with whom
the government has a trust relationship, and that the government's
planning and implementation processes do not adequately consider
treaty rights to fishing and off-reservation hunting.
In addition, tribes possess sovereignty over tribal lands. Pursuant
to the principle of tribal sovereignty, tribes generally possess
the authority to regulate certain environmental matters on their
lands, as long as that authority does not conflict with congressional
authorizations. Several pollution control statutes, such as the
Clean Water Act, increasingly provide authority for the federal
government to treat tribes in the same manner as states for purposes
of running their own delegated programs. In addition, in the
context of the Endangered Species Act, the Administration recently
announced a policy to provide greater opportunities for tribal
governments in carrying out the Act.
In some cases, there is legal uncertainty regarding when and where
tribal jurisdiction or interests end and state and local interests
begin. The impact of the federal trust responsibility also remains
unclear. Tribal rights and interests in off-reservation resources
are still evolving within the courts, making it difficult to determine
how to address these issues within the framework of the ecosystem
International Instruments and Institutions
The ecosystem approach often has an important international component.
The management of some ecosystems, such as the Great Lakes, inevitably
raises international issues because the ecosystem itself straddles
international borders. Taking an ecosystem approach in border
regions typically requires the cooperation of the neighboring
country that shares jurisdiction over the ecosystem. Moreover,
the health of an ecosystem located entirely within one nation
(such as the Chesapeake Bay) can be critical to the health of
an ecosystem in another nation where species integral to both
ecosystems migrate between the two. Efforts to implement the
ecosystem approach within the United States may affect the environment
of other nations or of the global commons.
The ecosystem approach can be affected by international rights,
obligations, and institutions. International law presents obligations
to protect ecosystems in the context of domestic, transboundary,
or global environmental harms, and tools for meeting these obligations.
International environmental law includes several types of agreements
and commitments: a wide range of binding international, regional,
and bilateral environmental agreements; rules of customary international
law, such as those relating to transboundary pollution; and other
types of commitments or "soft-law"
declarations, such as the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
and Agenda 21, agreed upon by heads of state at the U.N. Conference
on Environment and Development in June 1992. Because relevant
international law can apply at several levels, global,
regional, or bilateral, and
may be ecosystem-specific or general, it is essential to review
international law for relevance with respect to each ecosystem.
International agreements can enhance the ability of the United
States to manage ecosystems and promote ecosystem protection in
the global commons or on a broader regional or global scale.
A number of agreements directly concern particular ecosystems
or a set of ecosystems. For example, the Ramsar Convention on
Wetlands of International Importance, Especially as Waterfowl
Habitat (1971) seeks to stem the loss of wetlands and waterfowl
habitat through identification, listing, and protection in these
areas. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) (signed
but not yet ratified by the United States) establishes comprehensive
rights and obligations with respect to uses of the oceans. Among
other things, it obligates parties to take measures to prevent,
reduce, and control pollution of the marine environment (Art.
194:1) and to take measures "necessary
to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems as well as
the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species and
other forms of marine life"
(Art. 194:5). The Biodiversity Convention, also signed but not
yet ratified by the United States, obligates parties, among other
things, to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems through restoration
The United States is also a signatory (though not yet a party)
to the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Environmental
Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (the "Espoo
agreement, expected to enter into force shortly, requires parties
to take measures to prevent, reduce, and control significant adverse
transboundary environmental impacts from proposed activities,
and to prepare environmental impact assessment documents for specified
activities likely to cause such impacts, including installation
of smelters, pulp/paper operations, major mining actions, construction
of dams, and deforestation of large areas. The assessment shall,
inter alia, describe the proposed activity, reasonable
alternatives, impacts, and mitigation measures, and shall provide
for public participation. "Impact"
includes effects on flora, fauna, soil, air, water, landscape,
or the interaction among these factors.
With regard to U.S. international boundary regions, the 1978 Agreement
on Great Lakes Water Quality between the United States and Canada
significantly restricts the discharge of toxic chemicals into
the Great Lakes. The 1987 protocol to the Agreement calls for
protection of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem through, among other
things, controls on ground water contamination and airborne transport
of contaminants. Other agreements on aquatic systems in border
areas include the Agreement Approving Minute 242 of the IBWC Permanent
and Definitive Solution to the International Problem of the Salinity
of the Colorado River (United States-Mexico)
(1973) and the Ottawa Agreement Regarding the Establishment of
a Canada-U.S. Committee
on Water Quality in the St. John River and Its Tributary Rivers
and Streams Which Cross the Canada-U.S.
The 1993 North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation
(i.e., the NAFTA environmental side agreement) establishes an
excellent framework for supporting comprehensive efforts to cooperatively
manage shared ecosystems with Mexico and Canada. The Agreement
sets forth a list of environmental issues that the parties may
address, including: transboundary environmental issues; the conservation
of plants, animals, and their habitats; and specially protected
areas (Article 10:2). Other agreements relating to ecosystem-based
work with Canada and Mexico include the 1983 La Paz Agreement
on Cooperation for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment
in the Border Area (United States-Mexico)
and annexes, particularly Annex II, Agreement
for Cooperation Regarding Pollution of the Environment along the
Inland International Boundary by Discharges of Hazardous Substances, and
Annex V, Agreement of
Cooperation Regarding International Transport of Urban Air Pollution.
Many other international agreements or commitments, although not
pertinent to specific ecosystems, address environmental issues
of critical importance to the protection and management of ecosystems.
These agreements include: the World Heritage Convention (1972)
(requiring parties to identify and protect listed heritage sites);
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora (1973) (prohibiting and regulating commercial
trade in listed species at risk of extinction); the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992); the Vienna Convention
for the Protection of the Ozone Layer; and the Montreal Protocol
to the Vienna Convention (1978). Of particular interest are agreements
that seek to protect species that inhabit more than one ecosystem
in more than one national jurisdiction. These agreements include:
the Migratory Bird Treaties between the United States and Canada
(1916), Mexico (1936), and Japan (1972); the Convention for the
Regulation of Whaling (1946), and its Protocol (1956); and bilateral
and multilateral fisheries agreements. Some agreements of this
kind may potentially implicate treaty hunting or fishing rights
of Indian tribes (for example, the United States-Canadian
Treaty Concerning Pacific Salmon (1985) implicates treaty fishing
rights of certain Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest).
In addition to creating obligations to protect certain species,
ecosystem types, or natural resources, many international agreements
provide institutional and other means to assist efforts to implement
the ecosystem approach. In addition, many bilateral agreements
that provide for the exchange of technical and scientific information
and personnel can be implemented to benefit the ecosystem approach.
Finally, nonbinding international policy instruments can also
guide implementation of the ecosystem approach. Instances include
the Rio Declaration, which sets forth overarching principles to
promote sustainable development, and Agenda 21, a "blueprint"
for sustainable development, with action plans for (among other
things) managing fragile ecosystems, promoting sustainable agriculture,
conserving biological diversity, and integrating environment and
development in decision making.
A number of difficulties are associated with use of international
instruments to promote the ecosystem approach. International
agreements that focus on a single set of environmental problems
may assist the ecosystem approach in some situations, but may
also impose constraints on the flexibility of ecosystem managers.
For example, the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine
Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter at Sea (the "London
dumping at sea of radioactive materials and industrial waste.
Although this provision may assist efforts to protect marine
ecosystems, it may also foreclose the option of ocean disposal
of waste, potentially putting additional pressure on land-based
waste disposal options.
The usefulness of many international agreements is diminished
by inadequate or qualified means of enforcement. Lack of knowledge
also prevents their use: managers may not understand their provisions,
or even know that they exist. The international legal system
is complex, containing contains hundreds of environmental agreements.
Providing managers with information on these agreements, their
obligations, and their usefulness as tools should be a priority.
In survey team studies, agency representatives frequently noted
that the lack of easy mechanisms for joint expenditures or transfer
of funds under international agreements hindered coordinated bilateral
efforts. A model that has reportedly been successful in this
respect is an agreement between the United States and Canada agreement
establishing the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, under which
funds go to the Commission itself for expenditure on ecosystem-related
activities in either country.
Adaptive management is a continuing process of action-based planning,
monitoring, researching, and adjusting to achieve management goals
for an ecosystem. As explained in the chapter on Science and
Information, a formal process of adaptive management is required
to meet the objectives of the ecosystem approach. At its core,
adaptive management involves the identification, evaluation, and
incorporation of new information into existing or modified management
National Environmental Policy Act
This one overarching statute already provides many of the goals
and processes needed for the ecosystem approach, and is partly
responsible for many of the efforts to implement the ecosystem
approach that were studied by survey teams (Interagency Ecosystem
Management Task Force 1995, volume 3). Why, then, has management
not been more adaptive? The answer may be found in the barriers
to adaptive management identified in survey team studies: lack
of monitoring, failure to convey ecosystem data between agencies
and stakeholders, and failure to incorporate this information
in responsive agency decision making. In short, the NEPA process
has not always effectively ensured that the environmental information
gathered by agencies is verified over time or communicated to
others in a form that is useable for future analyses.
Where an agency or group of agencies has developed an environmental
impact statement, regulations by the Council on Environmental
Quality provide that a monitoring program "may"
be provided "and should
be done for important cases"
(40 CFR 1505.3).
Agencies must adopt monitoring and enforcement programs "where
applicable for any mitigation" (40 CFR 1505.2(c)),
and mitigation and other conditions that are committed as part
of the decision must be implemented by an agency. Upon request,
the agency must inform cooperating or commenting agencies on progress
in carrying out these mitigation measures. Moreover, a supplemental
environmental impact statement must be prepared if the agency
finds significant new circumstances or information, or if it makes
substantial changes in its action that are relevant to environmental
concerns (40 CFR 1502.9(c)).
Although these provisions suggest that agencies should engage
in some form of monitoring, it appears that some agencies do not
gather, monitor, and use ecological information in a systematic
manner. For the great majority of actions, for which only an
environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact
are produced, monitoring is not conducted, though the finding
of "no significant impact"
may be based on assumptions or mitigation that will not be verified
through monitoring. Where monitoring is carried out under the
NEPA process, there is no assurance that monitoring data and approaches
are developed and shared with other federal agencies and nonfederal
entities in the same ecosystem or region.
Guidance could be issued by the Council on Environmental Quality
on the monitoring approaches necessary to ensure that agencies
take an adaptive management approach where appropriate in implementing
federal actions. The Council is establishing accessible data
bases of NEPA-generated information and monitoring at regional
and subregional levels to avoid duplication of effort, improve
coordination, and shape site-specific as well as regional-scale
federal activities. Inventories of NEPA-generated information
are currently being compiled and maintained in the Great Lakes
basin (see chapter on the Great Lakes basin, volume 3, Interagency
Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995).
The requirement to supplement NEPA documents was raised in some
survey team studies as a possible impediment to adaptive management.
New NEPA documents may need to be generated or old documents
supplemented more frequently if significant new information is
more systematically acquired. In cases where an environmental
impact statement or supplemental environmental impact statement
must be prepared, problems may arise due to limited resources
and the need to make timely adaptive management adjustments.
This concern could be addressed, and adaptive management could
be facilitated, through interagency, programmatic NEPA approaches
that provide a coordinated evaluation of the ecosystems of a given
area and federal activities therein, either in the form of an
environmental impact statement or a general environmental assessment.
These approaches could be used to preevaluate a range of modifications
for site-specific proposals when new information is developed,
to preestablish monitoring thresholds within which a tiered environmental
assessment will be appropriate, and to coordinate an interagency
monitoring program that can serve as a data base for future NEPA
analyses. Council on Environmental Quality provisions for tiering
analysis (1502.20) and for planned supplementation of an environmental
impact statement (1502.5(a)) make clear that environmental impact
statement analysis need not be limited to a single decision point,
but rather may be continuously updated using improved computer
technology, and then used in agency decision making. This approach
has the added benefit of encouraging long-term planning and the
establishment of benchmarks, two
essential components of effective monitoring and adaptive management.
To ensure maximum predictability for federal managers and the
public, affirmative steps could be taken to harmonize NEPA's
supplementation requirement with adaptive management. One step
that agencies can take is to lay out in their NEPA documentation
how their proposals will be modified when new information is uncovered
or when preestablished monitoring thresholds are crossed. Of
course, in some cases agencies will not be able to anticipate
program modifications. However, if an agency spells out contingencies
in an environmental impact statement ahead of time, and if stakeholders
have an opportunity to comment, management changes can be made
without further NEPA supplementation, as long as the changes and
associated impacts have already been analyzed under NEPA. Finally,
Council on Environmental Quality guidance could increase the likelihood
that reviewing courts will approve this or other approaches to
supporting adaptive management.
Endangered Species Act
The requirement that agencies utilize their authorities to further
the purposes of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) implicitly authorizes
federal agencies to use adaptive management in their ongoing activities,
consistent with their existing authorities, wherever appropriate
to protect and recover federally listed species and the ecosystems
upon which they depend (ESA
7(a)(1)). Where actions authorized, funded, or carried out by
federal agencies may affect federally listed endangered or threatened
species, ESA requirements are relevant to adaptive management.
At the time of initial consultation between an acting agency
and the appropriate consulting agency (the Fish and Wildlife Service
and/or National Marine Fisheries Service), the agencies may discuss
and jointly develop mitigation measures and alternatives to ensure
that the action is not likely to jeopardize listed species or
adversely modify designated critical habitat. However, when formal
consultation is completed and the action proceeds, "[i]f
new information reveals effects of the action that may affect
listed species or critical habitat in a manner or to an extent
not previously considered,"
reinitiation of consultation is required to ensure careful evaluation
of the information (50 CFR
402.16). Similarly, "if
the action is subsequently modified in a manner that causes an
effect to the listed species or critical habitat that was not
considered," or "if
a new species is listed or critical habitat designated that may
be affected by the identified action,"
then further consultation must occur (id.). These requirements
effectively place a duty on federal agencies to monitor their
actions for such factors after consultation.
In addition, where the consulting agency has authorized the "taking"
(harming or killing) of some members of a listed species, where
the take will not likely jeopardize the species, and measures
have been taken to minimize it, the
agency must report the progress of the action and its impact on
the species to the consulting agency, as specified in an "incidental
take statement" (50 CFR 402.14 (i)).
Moreover, if the amount or extent of the authorized take is exceeded,
the federal agency must reinitiate consultation (50 CFR 402.16).
Because these duties apply where discretionary federal involvement
or control over an action has been retained or is authorized by
law, they require management to be adapted over time to ensure
that takes are documented and that listed species are not subsequently
placed in jeopardy (50 CFR 402.03).
Moreover, in preparing Habitat Conservation Plans, nonfederal
entities and individuals must specify the steps they will take
to monitor impacts, and the procedures they will follow to deal
with unforeseen circumstances; in addition, the Fish and Wildlife
Service or National Marine Fisheries Service may require monitoring
and reporting conditions to fulfill the purposes of the permit
and plan (50 CFR 17.22).
Under current regulations, the Fish and Wildlife Service and
National Marine Fisheries Service are required to "rely
upon existing reporting requirements to the maximum extent practicable"
(50 CFR 17.22).
However, as under the National Environmental Policy Act, current
implementation practices under the ESA may not be fully consistent
with adaptive management, because they are not part of a program
of systematic monitoring and adaptation.
Finally, the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
Service recently declared a cooperative policy for an ecosystem
approach. The policy explicitly endorses the use of adaptive
management as a means of incorporating ecosystem considerations
into activities under the Endangered Species Act. It calls on
agency decision makers to "[p]rioritize
actions and system monitoring schemes to meet specific objectives
for genetic resources, species populations, biological communities,
and ecological processes through carefully designed adaptive management
of Interagency Cooperative Policy for the Ecosystem Approach to
the Endangered Species Act, 59 Fed. Reg. 34,273 (1994)).
Based on careful review of survey team studies, recommendations
were made for beginning to address the legal issues discussed
throughout this chapter. These recommendations are summarized
Agencies should consider, where appropriate and to the extent
permitted by law, the following activities or approaches:
Pursuing the goals of the ecosystem approach. Agencies
Working and coordinating on an ecosystem-wide basis. Agencies
--Directing enforcement activities towards collaboratively developed
ecosystem management goals.|
--Considering ecosystem implications when administering federal
pollution control statutes.
--Integrating EPA enforcement activiies under the Clean Water
Act and Oil Pollution Act, cleanup activities under the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and federal,
state, and tribal natural resource damage programs to develop
restoration programs on an ecosystem basis, where appropriate,
and improve interagency coordination on cleanup decisions.
--Ensuring that Supplemental Environmental Projects are consistent
with or complement any relevant efforts to implement the ecosystem
--Encouraging legislation that would set in motion collaborative,
science-based efforts to manage specific geographical areas identified
as nationally or regionally significant, using models such as
the New Jersey Pinelands legislation or the National Estuary Program.
--Reviewing existing authorities for interagency cooperation,
including impediments in grant-making authorities and interagency
agreements, and proposing revisions to reduce nonstatutory barriers.
Consider recommending legislation to eliminate statutory barriers,
such as Internal Revenue Code disincentives to long-term personnel
Forming partnerships with private landowners. Agencies
Communicating and working with stakeholders. In pursuing
options to ensure consistency with Federal Advisory Committee
Act (FACA) requirements, agencies should:
In pursuing other options for promoting communication and cooperation
with stakeholders, agencies should:
Council on Environmental Quality guidance should be developed
with a view to making the National Environmental Policy Act process
more supportive of active and collaborative stakeholder involvement,
both where agencies act individually and where they plan together.
Promoting adaptive management. Agencies should:
Coordinating with other governments. Agencies should:
Return to Table of Contents
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Strategic Fish and Wildlife Habitat and Recreation Sites: A General
Handbook. Arlington, VA: The Nature Conservancy.
State of New Jersey Pinelands Commission. 1989. A Brief History
of the New Jersey Pinelands and the Pinelands Comprehensive Management
Plan. New Lisbon, NJ: New Jersey Pinelands Commission.
U.S. Department of the Interior. 1994. The Impact of Federal
Programs on Wetlands. A Report to Congress by the Secretary
of the Interior. Washington, DC.
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James Pipkin, Counselor to the Secretary of the Interior
Diane Gelburd, Regional Conservationist for the East, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture
Susan Huke, Coordinator
Science and Information
Robert Szaro, Chair|
Val Chambers, Co-Chair|
|Jim Serfis, Co-Chair|
Mary Anne Young
Louise Milkman, Chair|
Roger Griffis, Chair|
Ann Bartuska, Chair|
Budget Process Issues
Bruce Long, Co-Chair|
|Susan Huke, Co-Chair|
Lynn Martin, Chair|
(Maurice LeFranc, Coordinator; Roger Zimmerman and Russel Rhodes, Local Coordinators)
Roger Griffis, Co-Chair|
|Molly Whitworth, Co-Chair|
Great Lakes basin
(Maurice LeFranc, Coordinator; Christopher Grundler, Romy Myszka and Al Beeton, local coordinators)
Steve Cordle, Chair|
Pacific Northwest forests
James Pipkin, Co-Chair|
|Robert Szaro, Co-Chair
Prince William Sound
(Steve Pennoyer, Local Coordinator)
Roger Griffis, Chair|
(Colonel Terrence Salt and Richard Ring, Local Coordinators)
James Pipkin, Chair|
Susan Huke, Co-Chair|
|Bill Sexton, Co-Chair
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