The Vice President described environmental monitoring as "the foundation for the scientific information necessary to make wise decisions key to meeting the twin goals of continued vigorous economic growth and preservation of our magnificent natural heritage for generations to come." He challenged agencies to "work with the scientific community and other interested parties to produce a "report card" on the health of the Nation's ecosystems by 2001." In accepting that challenge, the initiative is committed to collaborating with the full range of stakeholders.
All federal agencies that have major environmental monitoring and related research networks are involved in this cooperative venture. This initiative is an effort to improve the integration, and thus the effectiveness, of already-funded programs. A fully integrated and coordinated network can provide a better understanding of our environmental resources and produce greater cost-effectiveness, while continuing to meet each agency's mission. The initiative also provides direct scientific support for policy recommendations of the President's Council on Sustainable Development and interagency efforts in ecosystem management.
As an initial step, an interagency working group was established in July of 1995 and charged to develop a national framework for integration and coordination of environmental monitoring and related research by building upon existing networks and programs. This team of scientists and program managers produced a hierarchical design for integration of monitoring activities. The design linked together synoptic remote sensing schemes, stratified sampling schemes, and intensive monitoring and process-based studies at a 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-Atlantic Regional Workshop which brought together federal and non-federal stakeholders from that area in April of 1996. This workshop laid the basis for a pilot demonstration project that is testing the approach detailed in the framework document.
A National Workshop was held in September of 1996 to review the overall vision for an integrated monitoring and research system and to build the broadest possible foundation for cooperation in integrating a national effort. The objectives of the national workshop were to: a) identify the science questions that are related to policy goals and need to be addressed to evaluate the health of our Nation's ecosystems; b) review the potential of current monitoring and research programs to answer the science questions; and c) recommend the best techniques for measuring the key parameters that address the science questions and policy goals. The Vice President's "report card" challenge was delivered to participants at this workshop.
Three major action items were recommended by consensus at the national workshop:
Complete within 18 months, a draft national assessment that will iterate to the 2001 report card and derive from existing monitoring and research;
Initiate a series of regional pilot projects, starting with the Mid-Atlantic region, to take monitoring and assessment to a more detailed level and address institutional issues;
Develop a pilot study to explore the capability of a national network of index sites.
The CENR Environmental Monitoring Steering Committee has accepted these recommendations and is directing efforts to implement them.
The Steering Committee has also endorsed the concept of proceeding with the "report card" effort in concert with an impartial, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization or group of organizations which would combine federal efforts with those of state and local governments, industry, academia, and environmental groups.
An Internet home page that includes maps and other information about major monitoring and related research networks and programs has been established. This site also contains the documents mentioned in this fact sheet as well as other information about the initiative. The Internet address for this site is http://www.epa.gov/monitor/.
The NSTC is a cabinet-level council established by President Clinton in November of 1993. It is the principal means for coordinating science and technology across the federal government. The CENR is charged with coordinating 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