The National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC's) Committee onEnvironment and Natural Resources (CENR) has recognized a high priorityneed to integrate and coordinate environmental monitoring and researchnetworks and programs across the federal government. This effort will allowa comprehensive evaluation of our Nation's environmental resources andits ecological systems. It will provide an integrated scientific informationbase to support natural resource assessment and decision-making. Many oftoday's monitoring programs are designed with the goal of providing informationon single- agency missions. They also tend to focus on a single resourceor issue. By integrating these monitoring and research activities, theNation can begin to assess the status of resources and their multiple usesin the context of entire ecosystems. Integration will add value to existingprograms by linking broad-based survey, inventory, and monitoring informationto research on environmental mechanisms.
The Vice President described environmental monitoring as "the foundationfor the scientific information necessary to make wise decisions key tomeeting the twin goals of continued vigorous economic growth and preservationof our magnificent natural heritage for generations to come." He challengedagencies to "work with the scientific community and other interested partiesto produce a "report card" on the health of the Nation's ecosystems by2001." In accepting that challenge, the initiative is committed to collaboratingwith the full range of stakeholders.
All federal agencies that have major environmental monitoring and relatedresearch networks are involved in this cooperative venture. This initiativeis an effort to improve the integration, and thus the effectiveness, ofalready-funded programs. A fully integrated and coordinated network canprovide a better understanding of our environmental resources and producegreater cost-effectiveness, while continuing to meet each agency's mission.The initiative also provides direct scientific support for policy recommendationsof the President's Council on Sustainable Development and interagency effortsin ecosystem management.
As an initial step, an interagency working group was established inJuly of 1995 and charged to develop a national framework for integrationand coordination of environmental monitoring and related research by buildingupon existing networks and programs. This team of scientists and programmanagers produced a hierarchical design for integration of monitoring activities.The design linked together synoptic remote sensing schemes, stratifiedsampling schemes, and intensive monitoring and process-based studies ata few sites.
The hierarchical design is described in the CENR publication,A Proposed Framework.
This conceptual framework was the subject of discussion at a Mid-AtlanticRegional Workshop which brought together federal and non-federalstakeholders from that area in April of 1996. This workshop laid the basisfor a pilot demonstration project that is testing the approach detailedin the framework document.
A National Workshop was held in September of 1996 to reviewthe overall vision for an integrated monitoring and research system andto build the broadest possible foundation for cooperation in integratinga national effort. The objectives of the national workshop were to: a)identify the science questions that are related to policy goals and needto be addressed to evaluate the health of our Nation's ecosystems; b) reviewthe potential of current monitoring and research programs to answer thescience questions; and c) recommend the best techniques for measuring thekey parameters that address the science questions and policy goals. TheVice President's "report card" challenge was delivered to participantsat this workshop.
Three major action items were recommended by consensus at the nationalworkshop:
Complete within 18 months, a draft national assessment that will iterateto the 2001 report card and derive from existing monitoring and research;
Initiate a series of regional pilot projects, starting with the Mid-Atlanticregion, to take monitoring and assessment to a more detailed level andaddress institutional issues;
Develop a pilot study to explore the capability of a national networkof index sites.
The CENR Environmental Monitoring Steering Committee has accepted theserecommendations and is directing efforts to implement them.
The Steering Committee has also endorsed the concept of proceeding withthe "report card" effort in concert with an impartial, non-governmental,not-for-profit organization or group of organizations which would combinefederal efforts with those of state and local governments, industry, academia,and environmental groups.
An Internet home page that includes maps and other information aboutmajor monitoring and related research networks and programs has been established.This site also contains the documents mentioned in this fact sheet as wellas other information about the initiative. The Internet address for thissite is http://www.epa.gov/monitor/.
The NSTC is a cabinet-level council established by President Clintonin November of 1993. It is the principal means for coordinating scienceand technology across the federal government. The CENR is charged withcoordinating activities related to the environment and natural resources.Participants in this initiative include the Departments of Agriculture,Energy, Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration,the National Science Foundation, and others.
For additional information contact:
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
FAX (202) 456-6019
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