Our nation's diverse ecological systems, or ecosystems, provide us with food, energy, clean water, scientific information, recreational opportunities, and useful materials, like wood. Maintaining healthy ecosystems sustains their productivity and is vital to ensuring a high quality of life for future generations of Americans. To date, the economic development made possible by our country's abundant natural resources has often come with a high ecological price tag. Land development, infrastructure construction, resource extraction, and energy use have resulted in habitat loss, watershed degradation, and deforestation, all of which diminish the health and value of our ecosystems.
The President's recent "Forest Plan for a Sustainable Economy and a Sustainable Environment" (Forest Plan) exemplifies a proactive approach to federal environmental policy known as ecosystem management. In ecosystem management, land and resource managers consider both natural processes and human activities in a given geographic region. Managing ecosystems requires defining resource use and conservation goals for specific ecosystems within geographic regions. Monitoring and assessment are also important components of ecosystem management. They provide necessary information so that management goals and plans respond to new information and changing conditions. In the Forest Plan, ecosystem management planning levels included ecological regions, smaller physiographic provinces, and individual watersheds. Understanding how people and natural processes affect each other at various scales within a region improves managers' (e.g., federal, state, or local officials or private landowners) ability to efficiently and practically meet short- and long-term human needs and expectations.
Federal Agencies and Activities. The federal government's broad responsibilities make it an important participant and leader in this approach to managing our nation's natural resources. The federal government owns approximately one third of the nation's land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more than 60 percent of the nation's federal lands for multiple uses, including grazing, mineral extraction, wilderness areas, and recreation. The Forest Service manages our National Forests, including wilderness areas, for multiple uses, including timber production and wildlife conservation. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), among other things, manages our diverse National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Park Service oversees the National Parks and Grasslands for recreation and preservation. In the major statutes governing all land management agencies except the National Park Service, Congress has basically set a goal to manage federal lands and resources to meet the present and future needs of Americans while striking a balance between resource development and conservation.
Land management agencies, however, are only part of the federal environmental picture. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for waste management along with implementing federal laws to regulate the nation's air and water quality. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) manages our coastal zones and living marine resources. Numerous other agencies, such as the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Bonneville Power Administration run programs with significant impacts on the environment. The Department of Defense has vast land holdings for its military installations and the Army Corps of Engineers has substantial land and water management responsibilities as well. These agencies can also make important contributions to sustaining healthy ecosystems. Agencies and programs previously not associated with ecosystems, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the economic development programs in the Department of Commerce, also affect ecosystem management positively or negatively.
To date, many factors --inconsistent statutory missions, demands of special interests, incompatible data, distinct agency cultures, inconsistent planning and budgeting cycles, and differing agency organizational structures -- have hampered development of coordinated ecosystem management approaches to pursue common goals. To take the simplest example, federal agencies usually have a headquarters office in Washington, D.C., and a number of regional offices. In most cases, regional boundaries differ between agencies, which can further fragment federal management within a given area. Even within the same agency the relative independence of internal organizations or regional offices can present problems by creating significant intra-agency conflicts or inconsistencies.
Within the past two years, two agencies -- the Forest Service and BLM -- have drawn up ecosystem management statements to articulate the future direction of the agency on this issue. However, each was created and operates without the full participation and collaboration of other important agencies. Moreover, the initiatives focus on agency-specific approaches rather than on a consistent federal approach. Other agencies, even offices within agencies, have developed different views on how ecosystem management should be carried out. As a result, federal agencies, even those with similar mandates, are managing the same ecosystems differently, often at cross-purposes.
Recent Ecosystem Management Initiatives Recognition of the importance of governmental management organized around ecosystems rather than political jurisdictions is not new.
Eight state and federal agencies recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a coordinated state-wide biodiversity planning strategy for ecologically similar regions throughout California. This initiative organizes the principal land management agencies in the state under the long-term goal of conserving the natural heritage of each major region in California while sustaining economic growth and development.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is directing an integrated approach to maintain biodiversity based on watersheds, landscapes, and regions involving federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector. The management focus will shift from jurisdictional entities, such as state forests, to ecological land units. An example within this program is the Prairie Stewardship Partnership, which seeks to encourage environmentally sustainable economic development while protecting the health and diversity of ecosystems in the northern tallgrass prairie.
In the mid-1980s, the National Park Service and the Forest Service initiated a process to develop a region-wide ecosystem management policy in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. More than 28 federal, state, and local governments share responsibility for managing parts of the ecosystem. Federal agency policies and programs in the ecosystem were not coordinated and were often conflicting. As elsewhere, agencies had to consider the needs of thousands of private landowners, businesses, interest groups, and users of public lands. Notwithstanding, certain interest groups successfully lobbied to keep the original plan from being implemented, with little resistance from higher levels of the federal government. This early federal experience with ecosystem management points to the importance of high-level support to ensure the success of new initiatives.
Need for Change The announcement of the President's Forest Plan stated that "for too long, contradictory policies from feuding agencies have blocked progress, creating uncertainty, confusion, controversy, and pain throughout the region." It is self-evident that the federal government should do its utmost to ensure the sustainability of our human communities and the ecological systems upon which we depend. Yet, often, the federal government itself has contributed to the degradation of ecosystems -- even those with obviously high value. A large part of the problem has been an absence of the necessary political will to address decisions needed to ensure the long-term health of the environment and a sustainable economy. In closing remarks at the Forest Conference, President Clinton announced that tough decisions will now be made and that the administration will try to end the gridlock within the federal government by insisting on collaboration, not confrontation.
The Importance of Environmental Health to Economic Health. The situation in the forests of the Pacific Northwest is not unique. For example, 80 percent of the coastal wetland loss in the United States has occurred in just one state, Louisiana. One cause of this loss has been the management of the Mississippi River for competing purposes -- flood control and navigation at the expense of the ecological functions of the river. Continued loss of wetlands in the Mississippi delta region may have substantial economic and social costs. The fishing industry in Louisiana, which is directly affected, accounts for approximately $1 billion per year in revenues and jobs.
The San Francisco Bay/Delta is the most human-altered estuary on the west coast of North and South America. A complex array of federal, state, and local agencies, plans, and laws govern activities in the estuary. A one-mile stretch of shoreline may be affected by decisions of over 400 government agencies. Federal water management policies have allowed severe disruptions of the natural hydrology of the Bay and Delta. Among other things, removal upstream of large amounts of freshwater that would otherwise enter the estuary has led to saltwater intrusions which impair the ecosystem's value and natural processes. Additionally, wetlands destruction has been authorized through the granting of federal permits. Eighty-two percent of tidal wetlands, 90 percent of Delta wetlands, and 75 percent of seasonal wetlands have been lost. As a partial result, valuable salmon, striped bass, and oyster fishing industries have collapsed.
The traditional approach to managing ecosystems and the resources contained within them has been piecemeal. Responsibility has been fragmented across numerous federal and non-federal agencies and jurisdictions..An improved federal approach to ecosystem management would be based on ecological, not political, boundaries. It would then seek and consider input from all stakeholders affected by federal responsibilities in the area. Within such a framework, federal agencies, state, local, and tribal governments, businesses, public interest groups, citizens, and Congress could work in collaboration to develop specific strategies, refocus current programs and resources, and better ensure the long-term ecological and economic health of the country.
Inclusion of people and their economic needs is a fundamental part of an ecosystem management vision. Resource problems are in a sense not environmental problems but human problems created under a variety of political, social, and economic conditions. Ecosystem management should bring potential conflicts between human activity and a sustainable environment to light much sooner, when there are more options available to avoid conflicts and satisfy all involved
1. Issue an Ecosystem Management directive by September 1994. (2)
The President should issue a directive that:
**establishes a national policy to encourage sustainable economic development and ensure sustainable ecosystems through ecosystem management;
**states that this policy will be carried out through collaboration between federal agencies and coordination with state, local, and tribal governments and the public;
**calls for phased-in implementation of a cross-agency ecosystem management process for federal actions, beginning with demonstration ecosystems selected by an Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force. This process will be expanded, as appropriate, to include additional ecosystems and to establish suitable management scales for comprehensive ecosystem management;
**establishes specific overarching goals and general guidelines for the cross-agency ecosystem planning and management process; and
**directs agencies to interpret their existing authorities as broadly as possible to implement the ecosystem management policy and process.
2. Establish a high-level Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force to begin development of a number of cross-agency ecosystem management demonstration projects. (2)
The Director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy (OEP) will establish and head an Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force made up of relevant Assistant Secretaries. The task force will select ecosystem management demonstration projects and determine which agency will assume the lead for each project.
3. Conduct management and budget reviews for the ecosystem management projects as part of the fiscal year 1995 budget process. (2)
OMB, in cooperation with the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force, will conduct reviews of selected ecosystem management projects to identify and analyze current and proposed agency plans and activities in the ecosystems.
4. Establish Regional Ecosystem Management Teams for each of the cross agency ecosystem management projects. (2)
By April 1994, the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force should establish cross-agency Ecosystem Management Teams composed of a multi-disciplinary regional staff to develop initial ecosystem management plans and cross-agency budgets for each ecosystem.
5. Develop initial ecosystem management plans for the projects, report on progress, and begin implementation. (1)
By August 1995, the Ecosystem Management Teams should complete the initial ecosystem management plans. Measurable objectives should be built into the plans. State, local, and tribal representatives and the public should participate in the early stages of the ecosystem planning process. Upon completion of the plans, the Ecosystem Management Teams should immediately begin implementation. Beginning in February 1995, the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force should prepare a brief annual report to the Director of the OEP on progress towards ecosystem management, along with suggested improvements for the process.
Cross References to Other NPR Accompanying Reports
Mission-Driven, Results-Oriented Budgeting, BGT06: Streamline Budget Development. Department of the Interior, DOI06: Rationalize Federal Land Ownership.
1. See The Multiple-Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960; The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, as amended by Public Law 94-588; The National Forest Management Act of 1976; and The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. See also U.S. General Accounting Office, National Direction Required For Effective Management of America's Fish and Wildlife, RCED-81-107 (Washington, D.C., U.S. General Accounting Office, 1981).
2. The Department of Defense manages approximately 25 million acres on its military installations and the Army Corps of Engineers has responsibility for an additional 12 million acres.
3. Council on Environmental Quality, "Incorporating Biodiversity Considerations into Environmental Impact Analysis Under the National Environmental Policy Act," Washington, D.C., 1993, p. 9.
4. Clark, T.W., et al., "Policy and Programs for Ecosystem Management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem," Conservation Biology, 5 (3):412-422 (1991).
5. President William J. Clinton, "Closing Remarks: The Forest Conference," April 2, 1993.
6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation, Long-Term Ecological Sustainability and Economic Viability of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Wetlands and Fisheries: Recommendations for the Mississippi Delta Region (1993). (Unpublished report.)
7. The San Francisco Estuary Project, "Who Manages the Bay and Delta?," June 1991, p. 1. (Information sheet.)
9. Ludwig, et al, "Uncertainty, Resource Exploitation, and Conservation: Lessons from History," Science, vol. 260, no. 5104 (1993), pp. 17, 36.
10. The first meeting of the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force was held on August 4, 1993, to discuss implementation of the NPR recommendations.
Improve Environmental Performance at Federal Buildings and Facilities
As a part of Earth Day 1993 activities, President Clinton signed three Executive Orders and called for the preparation of two others that focus on changing the way the federal government does business. The most important element contained in each of these Executive Orders is leadership. In the President's words, "The policies outlined today are part of our effort to reinvent government -- to make it your partner and not your overseer -- to lead by example and not by bureaucratic fiat."
Two of the Executive Orders focus on reducing federal energy use. One commits the federal government to accelerate the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles. The other requires agencies to buy energy-efficient computers. These Executive Orders will help reduce pollution and the demand for foreign oil, as well as strengthen the market for green technologies. The third Executive Order directs federal agencies to change their procurement policies to minimize the purchase and use of substances harmful to the ozone layer.
The two additional Executive Orders are designed to make the federal government a leader in pollution prevention in its daily activities and to promote the use of recycled and recovered products. The pollution prevention Executive Order was signed on August 3, 1993, and the recycled products Executive Order is to be issued in the near future. President Clinton also announced that an energy and environmental audit and upgrade of the White House Complex would be conducted to mark the start of a national effort to promote energy efficiency and waste reduction. This audit will identify opportunities to reduce waste and water and energy consumption. It is expected that when the recommendations are implemented, energy consumption and operating costs will be significantly reduced. The White House audit will act as a model for other federal buildings and agencies, for state and local governments, and for businesses and homeowners.
The way the federal government incorporates environmental considerations in its activities and decisions sends a powerful signal. The President's recent actions have initiated the signal: the National Performance Review (NPR) wants to continue sending it. The following recommendations highlight more opportunities for the federal government to provide environmental leadership and be a force for positive change.
NPR recommends ways for the federal government to increase energy and water efficiency at all federal facilities and to switch to less environmentally damaging forms of energy. Conservation of both energy and water is only one part of the environmental and economic culture change the federal government should undergo. In addition, landscaping programs at federal facilities should consider the local environment in which the landscaping is done and make decisions that complement and enhance it. The NPR recommendations on environmentally sound landscaping provide avenues to save money and ensure that our ecological systems remain healthy by emphasizing the use of native plants, water-conserving techniques, and less use of chemicals.
The NPR's accompanying report on Reinventing Federal Procurement recommends "Streamlining Buying For the Environment." It pursues yet another avenue to reduce the environmental burden of the federal government's decisions. The report recommends specific changes to federal procurement processes and support programs that are designed to preserve the world's natural resources for future generations.
Cross References to Other NPR Accompanying Reports
Reinventing the Procurement System, PROC20: Streamline Buying for the Environment.
1. Executive Order 12844, "Federal Government Use of Alternative Fuel Vehicles," April 21, 1993.
2. Executive Order 12845, "Energy Efficient Computer Equipment Purchasing," April 21, 1993.
3. Executive Order 12843, "Federal Agency Procurement Requirements for Ozone Depleting Substances," April 21, 1993.
4. Executive Order 12856, "Federal Compliance With Right-to-Know Laws and Pollution Prevention Requirements," August 3, 1993.
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