SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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''THE STATE OF THE NATION'S
ECOSYSTEMS,'' THE HEINZ CENTER
REPORT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 24, 2002
Serial No. 10787
Printed for the use of the Committee on Science
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/science
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HON. SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York, Chairman
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
CONSTANCE A. MORELLA, Maryland
CHRISTOPHER SHAYS, Connecticut
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
JOE BARTON, Texas
KEN CALVERT, California
NICK SMITH, Michigan
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
DAVE WELDON, Florida
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
GEORGE R. NETHERCUTT, JR., Washington
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma
GARY G. MILLER, California
JUDY BIGGERT, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
W. TODD AKIN, Missouri
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois
MIKE PENCE, Indiana
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCFELIX J. GRUCCI, JR., New York
MELISSA A. HART, Pennsylvania
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
RALPH M. HALL, Texas
BART GORDON, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
LYNN C. WOOLSEY, California
LYNN N. RIVERS, Michigan
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
BOB ETHERIDGE, North Carolina
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
MARK UDALL, Colorado
DAVID WU, Oregon
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
JOSEPH M. HOEFFEL, Pennsylvania
JOE BACA, California
JIM MATHESON, Utah
STEVE ISRAEL, New York
DENNIS MOORE, Kansas
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMICHAEL M. HONDA, California
C O N T E N T S
September 24, 2002
Statement by Representative Sherwood L. Boehlert, Chairman, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Statement by Representative Ralph M. Hall, Minority Ranking Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Prepared Statement by Representative Constance A. Morella, Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Prepared Statement by Representative Jerry F. Costello, Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Prepared Statement by Representative Felix J. Grucci, Jr., Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Prepared Statement by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Dr. William C. Clark, Chair of Design Committee and Member, Board of Trustees, The Heinz Center; Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Ms. Kimberly T. Nelson, Assistant Administrator, Office of Environmental Information, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ms. P. Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management, and Budget, Department of Interior
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Mr. Fred Krupp, Executive Director, Environmental Defense
Ms. Kimberly L. Coble, Maryland Senior Scientist and Assistant Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
What Conclusions Can We Draw From the Report?
What Stories Does the Report Tell?
Species and Population Statistics as Indicators
Future Reports and Filling Data Gaps
Compiling the Data on a Regular BasisIs There an Agency Role?
What Does the Report Tell Us About Future Policy?
How Does the Report Relate to EPA's Work?
Invasive Species in Ecosystems
Ecosystems Data Collection and Modeling
Integrating the Heinz Report With the EPA State of the Environment Report
How Will DOI Use the Report?
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCIs the Heinz Center Report Data Relevant to Superfund Debates?
Water Issues in Long Island Sound
Appendix 1: Answers to Post-Hearing Questions
Dr. William C. Clark, Chair of Design Committee and Member, Board of Trustees, The Heinz Center; Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Ms. Kimberly T. Nelson, Assistant Administrator, Office of Environmental Information, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ms. P. Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management, and Budget, Department of Interior
Ms. Kimberly L. Coble, Maryland Senior Scientist and Assistant Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
''THE STATE OF THE NATION'S ECOSYSTEMS,'' THE HEINZ CENTER REPORT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2002
House of Representatives,
Committee on Science,
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COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
''The State of the Nation's Ecosystems,''
The Heinz Center Report and Its Implications
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2002
2:00 P.M.4:00 P.M.
2318 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
On Tuesday, September 24, 2002 at 2:00 p.m., the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the key findings and recommendations of The Heinz Center's Report on The State of the Nation's Ecosystems. The Report is the only recent effort to comprehensively measure the condition of the Nation's lands, waters and other living resources. The Committee will hear testimony regarding what is known and, in many cases, still unknown about the condition of our ecosystems, and receive recommendations for filling data gaps and ensuring the ongoing collection of scientifically credible information.
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The Committee plans to explore several overarching questions:
1. What does the Heinz Center report conclude about the state of the Nation's ecosystems, and what recommendations does it contain to ensure that decision-makers and the public have access to high quality scientific information on the state of the Nation's ecosystems?
2. What are the policy and scientific implications of the Report?
3. How important is it to have information about ecosystems on a national level when many decisions are made on a local or regional level?
4. What are the major gaps in existing data and knowledge, and how should those gaps be filled?
In the mid-1990s, as part of its review of federal environmental monitoring activities, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), asked the Heinz Center to develop a report on the state of the Nation's ecosystems. The Report was to be scientifically grounded, nonpartisan in process and content, and engage the Nation's environmental monitoring professionals. In preparing the Report, the Center established advisory and design committees as well as technical work groups. More than 150 people from the public and private sectors, environmental organizations and academia participated directly. Many more participated as reviewers.
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The final report identifies more than 100 key indicators that are, in the view of the participants, essential to the development of effective and efficient public policies and private sector initiatives. It details the current condition and historical trends of the Nation's coasts and oceans, farmlands, forests, fresh waters, grasslands and shrublands, and urban and suburban lands.
The final report is being released on the day of the hearing and is intended to meet the need for periodic and trustworthy information on the Nation's ecosystems. It also is intended to stimulate a broad dialogue on where and how to produce a continuing series of high quality reports in the future.
Summary of Issues
The adoption of performance-based environmental policy has been hampered by the lack of reliable scientific information on environmental conditions and trends. In recent years, there has been a growing consensus on the need to judge the success of the Nation's environmental policies against environmental quality outcomes, rather than the number of management plans created, regulations or permits issued, or enforcement actions taken.(see footnote 1) Yet, the Heinz Center report makes it clear that we do not yet always have adequate indicators in place to know how well the environment is doing, judge existing environmental policies, or develop sensible new ones.
According to the Heinz Center report, we have only a partial picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems.(see footnote 2) The Federal Government spends over $600 million each year on environmental monitoring and reporting. State and local governments, environmental organizations and businesses spend a good deal more. Nevertheless, existing data vary in their scale, scope and quality and do not answer the basic question, ''how are we doing as a nation?'' The Report identifies 103 indicatorsstatistics that represent the health of ecosystems, much like economic indicators represent the health of the economy. However, there are complete data for only 32 percent of the indicators, and partial data for another 24 percent. It is not possible to report nationally on close to 45 percent of the indicators, because either the data is unavailable (30 percent), or the indicator itself needs further scientific development (14 percent).
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Although there are many excellent sources of environmental indicators, they are not always perceived to be accurate, unbiased, or based on the best scientific information. According to the Report, these perceptions arise because analyses of ecosystems often make value-laden policy recommendations and include judgments on whether conditions are good or bad. As a result, substantive environmental debates are often sidetracked by questions about the validity and quality of data. Taking a lesson from the well-respected model of how the Nation produces its national economic statistics (such as gross domestic product, unemployment and inflation), the Heinz Center report presents data only on ecosystem conditions and trends, leaving analysis and judgments on what they mean to others. This approach, the Report contends, could dramatically improve the integrity of national ecosystem data. It is unclear how the Federal Government will respond to this suggestion.
Although there is general agreement on the need for periodic reporting of environmental conditions,(see footnote 3) reaching agreement on a set of appropriate national strategic indicators has been more difficult. The Heinz Center report used two mechanisms that may contribute to wider acceptance of its indicators. First, the nonpartisan and open process by which the Heinz Center developed the indicators has begun to build a consensus on a nationally acceptable set of indicators. Second, in preparing the Report, the participants initially selected the key questions that they believed needed to be answered about ecosystem conditions, and only then did they choose the indicators that should be reported on a national scale to answer those questions. In contrast, other indicator projects have typically begun by asking what data is available and then posing questions that could be answered using those data. Despite this progress, it remains unclear what steps will be needed to arrive at a set of ecological measures that will be as well accepted and understood as our national economic measures of GDP, unemployment and inflation.
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The availability of data varies by ecosystem and ecosystem characteristic. For example, approximately 75 percent of forest indicators have all or some data, while adequate data is available for only 50 percent of farmland indicators and 40 percent of grasslands and shrublands and urban and suburban areas. Measured by data availability across ecosystems, important characteristics and use, the data are equally varied. For instance, the most data is available on the size of ecosystems, the amount of chemical contamination and the quantities of food, fiber and water produced. However, for indicators like landscape pattern and fragmentation, biological community health, and recreation and other services, less than one third of the indicators have adequate data.
Integrating data collected by many local, State, regional and Federal governments on the state of the environment into a comprehensive national picture has been challenging. Environmental monitoring and data collection is carried out by many organizations whose purposes and methods were developed to address specific problems, under different legislative authorizations, and that never intended to create a comprehensive picture of the Nation's ecosystems.(see footnote 4) The resulting patch-work quilt of data creates a variety of problems. In some cases, data is incomplete, unavailable or cannot be aggregated. In other instances, conflicting definitions need to be resolved; the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Economic Research Service, both divisions of the Department of Agriculture, for example, measure acres of cropland differently. There are also a variety of technical data management issues, such as ensuring that data can be aggregated across different geographic information systems and creating appropriate archival systems. However, at the present time, there is no overall plan to resolve these challenges.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is unclear who will take responsibility for producing the next version of a ''State of the Nation's Ecosystems'' report. The Heinz Center report, more than five years in the making, is the first report on national conditions in more than a decade.(see footnote 5) The Report explicitly calls for a follow-on report. And although the Heinz Center has offered to produce the follow-on report, it is unclear whether this function should remain with the Heinz Center or be taken on by government or another institution. While many see a clear federal role in future reports, there is presently no institutional home for such a report or commitment to create one. In the 1980s, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) produced several less comprehensive reports on the state of the environment. In the mid-1990s, OSTP evaluated federal agency environmental monitoring and research activities, and produced a proposed framework for improving environmental monitoring and research.(see footnote 6) It also initiated the request for an outside organization, ultimately the Heinz Center, to produce the State of the Nation's Ecosystems report. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency, with the support of CEQ and data from other federal agencies, is preparing a ''State of the Environment Report,'' that it plans to publish in November 2002. Unlike the Heinz Center report, it will address public health as well as ecosystem health, and it will document the stressors that have an impact on environmental conditions.
Although the Heinz Center report calls for research to improve data reliability, fill in the data gaps, and create high quality indicators, it is not clear who ought to lead such an effort and how it should be done. The Heinz Center recommendation for research to fill important gaps builds on the recommendations of the National Research Council's (NRC) report, Ecological Indicators for the Nation, published two years ago. However, it is not clear that there has been any concerted action to follow up the NRC's recommendations, and it is unclear what federal agencies can or will do to fill the gaps identified by the Heinz Center.
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Dr. William C. Clark, Chair, Design Committee and Member of the Senior Advisory Group of the Heinz Center Report, and Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Kim Nelson, Assistant Administrator, Office of Environmental Information, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management and Budget, Department of the Interior
Fred Krupp, Executive Director, Environmental Defense.
Ms. Kim Coble, Maryland Senior Scientist and Assistant Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Additional Questions for Witnesses
William (Bill) Clark
What does the Heinz Center report conclude about the state of the Nation's ecosystems and what are the policy implications?
You say that the goal is to develop ecosystem indicators that can be used like economic indicators. How will the information be used like that?
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What actions are necessary ensuring that high quality scientific information on the state of the Nation's ecosystems is reported on a regular basis?
What are the major gaps in existing data and knowledge, and how should those gaps be filled?
How does having information about ecosystems on a national level help when many decisions are made on a local or regional scale? To what extent will the data influence how private sector initiatives are conducted?
What are the most significant findings of the Heinz Center report with regard to EPA's mission to protect the environment?
Do you agree with the Report's conclusions that we have only a partial picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems, and that we should develop a more complete and accurate picture of the condition of the Nation's ecosystems?
What are the policy and scientific implications of the Report?
How would you characterize the Heinz Center report relative to EPA's current effort to develop a national ''State of the Environment'' report?
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What are the most significant findings of the Heinz Center report? What kinds of decisions, if any, could the information in the Report help DOI make?
Do you agree with the Report's conclusions that we have only a partial picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems, and that we should develop a more complete and accurate picture of the condition of the Nation's ecosystems? What role, if any should DOI play?
What are the policy and scientific implications of the Report?
Why is it important to have information about ecosystems on a national level, when many decisions are made on local or regional level?
What are the implications of the Heinz Report and other efforts, such as EPA's upcoming State of the Environment Report, for performance-based environmental protection and community right to know?
What steps, if any, do you think the Federal Government should take in response to the Heinz Center report? Should the government itself undertake to collect and publish a set of environmental indicators like does with economic indicators such as the rate of inflation?
Ms. Kim Coble
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC How has the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's assessment process helped to characterize both the condition of the Bay and the changes in those conditions that have resulted from efforts to restore the Bay?
How might an effort to develop national indicators of the Nation's ecosystems compliment the assessment process the Foundation uses for Chesapeake Bay?
How did the Chesapeake Bay Foundation select and develop the suite of indicators used to evaluate the state of the Bay?
What role did the policymaking community and other stakeholders play in the development of the Foundation's assessment?
The Committee met, pursuant to call, at 2:12 p.m., in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Sherwood L. Boehlert (Chairman of the Committee) presiding.
Chairman BOEHLERT. The Science Committee will come to order. Our first order of business today is to welcome back to the Committee the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Forbes. Mr. Forbes is rejoining our committee after a brief absence. I am certain that everyone here is pleased to have him back with us. I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Forbes, be appointed to fill the vacancy on the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. Without objection, so ordered.
It is a pleasure to welcome everyone here this afternoon for our hearing on the path-breaking report from the Heinz Center. I want to start by thanking and congratulating everyone who was involved in producing this handsome and very useful report. It is an important national service that has been performed by the Heinz Center.
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For years, partisans on all sides of the environmental debate have been calling for more and better data, in some cases, for any data, to help us set our environmental priorities and gauge the success of our programs. Thanks to the Heinz Center, we now have a first shot at a compendium of the available data. That is a major step forward. But as expected, it is a step that also shows us how far we have to go. There are many areas where the available data are incomplete or where no data are available. This report is, at one level, a road map of what we need to do to gather adequate data. That should help force decision makers in both the executive and legislative branches to make some tough decisions about what data we want to gather and how much we want to spend to do so. That is because while more data is always helpful in the real world with its fiscal constraints, gathering more data may not always be the highest priority. So one thing I would like our expert witnesses to discuss with us today is which of the missing data that the Report highlights should we be most worried about collecting.
We also have to think of the impact of making those selections. It is an old adage, and a true one, that one gets what one measures. Just asking for data has policy implications, and those need to be considered, since we can't ask for everything. Finally, if perhaps unintentionally, the Heinz Report should put to rest the notion that one sometimes hears around here that better date is the Holy Grail of environmental policy, a panacea that will bring tough environmental debates to resolutions.
Adding good economic data has not put an end to debates on fiscal policy, and environmental data is even less likely to settle debates. Some of the best environmental data we have is on air quality, and the last I checked, that was still a tough issue around here. So we need to figure out what data is most helpful, which data we can afford to gather, which data is likely to transform the nature of our debates and go after it. And the Heinz Center report will help us do that. But no one should feel misled or disappointed if doing so doesn't solve all of the questions that bedevil us. Good data is a necessary but not sufficient condition for developing good policy.
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[The prepared statement of Chairman Boehlert follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT
It's a pleasure to welcome everyone here this afternoon for our hearing on the pathbreaking report from the Heinz Center. I want to start by thanking and congratulating everyone who was involved in producing this handsome and useful report.
For years, partisans on all sides of the environmental debate have been calling for more and better datain some cases, for any datato help us set our environmental priorities and gauge the success of our programs. Thanks to the Heinz Center we now have a first shot at a compendium of available data. That's a major step forward.
But, as expected, it's a step that also shows us how far we have to go. There are many areas where the available data are incomplete, or where no data are available. This report is, at one level, a roadmap of what we need to do to gather adequate data.
That should help force decision-makers in both the Executive and Legislative branches to make some tough decisions about what data we want to gatherand how much we want to spend to do so. That's because, while more data is always helpful, in the real world, with its fiscal constraints, gathering more data may not always be the highest priority.
So, one thing I'd like our expert witnesses to discuss today is: which of the missing data the Report highlights should we be most worried about collecting?
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We also have to think of the impact of making those selections. It's an old adage and a true one that one gets what one measures. Just asking for data has policy implications, and those need to be considered, since we can't ask for everything.
Finally, if perhaps unintentionally, the Heinz Report should put to rest the notion that one sometimes hears around here, that better data is the ''Holy Grail'' of environmental policya panacea that will bring tough environmental debates to resolution.
Having good economic data has not put an end to debates on fiscal policy, and environmental data is even less likely to settle debates. Some of the best environmental data we have is on air quality, and, last I checked, that was still a tough issue around here.
So we need to figure out which data is most helpful, which data we can afford to gather, which data is likely to transform the nature of our debates, and go after it. And the Heinz Center report will help us do that. But no one should feel misled or disappointed if doing so doesn't solve all the questions that bedevil us. Good data is a necessary but not sufficient condition for developing good policies.
The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Hall.
Mr. HALL. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for holding this hearing. I commend the Heinz Center for assembling the very diverse group of experts of experimental science, business, and policy who undertook the challenge of developing a set of national environmental indicators for us.
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If we have reached a point where we can agree on a common set of characteristics that describe the health of the environment, we have made some progress. However, disagreements on environmental policy arise for a lot of reasons, and agreement on a common set of indicators will not resolve all of these differences, as the Chairman has very ably pointed out.
Economic indicators are useful because they measure the specific goals that society has agreed upon, that unemployment should be low, that inflation should be low, and the GDP should be expanding. I have hopes and perhaps this report will help us to better understand the condition of our natural resources and to define an agreed upon set of environmental goals to put this information into context.
I thank all of our witnesses for appearing before this committee this afternoon. I look forward to hearing your testimony. I yield back my time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hall follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE RALPH M. HALL
Good afternoon. I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing. I commend the Heinz Center for assembling the diverse group of experts in environmental science, business, and policy who undertook the challenge of developing a set of national environmental indicators.
If we have reached the point where we can agree on a common set of characteristics that describe the health of the environment, we have made some progress. However, disagreements on environmental policy arise for many reasons and agreement on a common set of indicators will not resolve all of those differences.
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Economic indicators are useful because they measure the specific goals society has agreed uponthat unemployment should be low, that inflation should be low, and that GDP should be expanding.
Perhaps this report will help us to better understand the condition of our natural resources and to define an agreed upon set of environmental goals to put this information into context.
I thank all of our witnesses for appearing before the Committee this afternoon. I look forward to hearing your testimony.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. Mrs. Morella or Dr. Ehlers, do you wish to have anything to say in opening?
Ms. MORELLA. No, I appreciate your calling for this hearing, Mr. Chairman, and I would like unanimous consent to put my opening statement into the record, but I look forward to hearing from the witnesses knowing indeed that one of them is also representing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Thank you.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Without objection, so ordered.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Morella follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE CONSTANCE A. MORELLA
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Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on the Heinz Center's report: The State of the Nation's Ecosystems. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been at the forefront of environmental issues for many years, and I congratulate you on your continued leadership in this area.
It is critical to our ecology and our economy that we fully understand the state of health of our environment. As we analyze national statistics measuring the progress of our economy, we should also analyze ecological statistics in order to make sound decisions about environmental issues, which so greatly affect us. Environmental contaminants can have a profound effect on many facets of our lives. Concerned parties include the business community, conservation groups, and the working men and women of this country. An upset in the balance of our delicate ecosystems can have a negative impact on commercial activity, human health, and unfortunately American jobs. For these reasons, it is of vital importance that we are able to quantifiably measure what is happening to our environment.
I am pleased that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was able to contribute to this national report, and I applaud the work they have done on their own report: State of the Bay 2001. Not only does the CBF inform us about toxic discharges into the Bay's ecosystem, but they also give us important figures on the population of oysters, crabs, and rockfish. I encourage the CBF to keep educating us so we can all do our part to help save the Bay.
Although the Heinz Center has faced many challenges putting together a comprehensive report, with conflicting and sometimes nonexistent data, it is a good first step toward providing a national picture of our lands, waters, and living resources. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. In addition, it is my hope that this report and this hearing you are holding, Mr. Chairman, will help increase awareness and understanding of environmental issues.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. Dr. Ehlers?
Mr. EHLERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be very brief, because it is time to get on to business here. But I just want to say how much I appreciate the Heinz Foundation sponsoring this effort. It is something that has been very, very badly needed. We deeply appreciate it, and we hope it turns out to be a landmark in terms of progress in determining the health of our ecosystems.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Costello follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE JERRY F. COSTELLO
Good afternoon. I want to thank the witnesses for appearing before our committee to discuss the key findings and recommendations of The Heinz Center's report on The State of the Nation's Ecosystems. Environmental problems are an important issue facing society, and Congress needs to continue to build knowledge and techniques that enable us to sustain vital ecosystems and the human communities which depend upon them. However, the adoption of performance-based environmental policy has been hampered by the lack of reliable scientific information on environmental conditions and trends.
America's ecosystems are enormous and substantially diverse. I believe we must continue to improve policy that will protect our ecosystems. In my district alone, we have a variety of ecosystems including forests, farmlands, and fresh water. The State of the Nation's Ecosystems provides ways to monitor America's lands, waters and living resources. It provides a common means for measuring the effectiveness of our policies and setting future priorities by developing a set of indicators to describe the conditions and use of our nation's ecosystems. The Report identifies what should be measured and reported so that we can understand the changes that are occurring on the American landscape, set priorities for action, and see whether we are achieving certain environmental goals. This type of reporting will not eliminate differences over environmental policy, but it will provide a common measure for determining the effectiveness of our policies and setting future priorities.
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I am interested to know from our witnesses how having information about ecosystems on a national level helps when many decisions are made on a local/regional scale. In addition, I want to know what the policy and scientific implications of the Report are for the EPA and DOI in carrying out their missions of protecting the environment.
I welcome our panel of witnesses and look forward to their testimony.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Grucci follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE FELIX J. GRUCCI, JR.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to thank Chairman Boehlert for his leadership on this issue and calling this important hearing of the Science Committee.
Our nation's environmental resources are at a critical point, with the need for a responsible policy to best manage and preserve these treasures. We, as the Congress, depend on accurate and balanced information to make decisions that may affect our environment. That is why I am intrigued to learn the findings of the Heinz Center report. This culmination of years of study may not give us the complete picture we need, but is a roadmap to what we may need to address in order to avoid future environmental problems. I commend the contributors to this report and look forward to your testimony today.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My Congressional district includes a spectrum of issues that are addressed in this report, including coastal concerns, farmland management, clean water, and more. In the Congress, I have worked to not only address these issues, but take steps to avoid such problems as acid rain and coastal erosion. It is my hope that this report can help not only myself, but the Congress, understand our nation's environmental needs and work to preserving these resources.
Again, thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Lee follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE SHEILA JACKSON LEE
Thank you for organizing this important hearing. I would also like to congratulate the Heinz Center on the debut of this careful and informative review of what we know about the Nation's Ecosytems.
All good policy rests on a foundation of solid data. Clear and concise reports such as the Heinz Report will lay the groundwork for making smart legislative choices in the future. I appreciate not only the presented data, but also the blank chartspinpointing areas where future study is necessary. I look forward to watching this report evolve over the next 5, then 10 years, as the blanks are filled in.
Being a Member of the Science Committee, of course I enjoy hearing about good research and data. However, we are legislators and need to make policy decisions. I appreciate your goal of producing a set of indicators of the health of our ecosystem, but I am curious if you can push your findings a bit farther during your testimonies and answers later. For example, you supply us with the information that about half of all natural lands in urban and suburban areas are in patches smaller than ten acres, and that less than five percent of the total natural lands is found in patches of 1,000 acres or more. Does that mean we need bigger natural areas in our cities? If my hometown of Houston were to annex a nearby forest, it might raise our natural lands indicator, but would that actually be an improvement for our ecosystem?
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My point is that I am having difficulty understanding what the numbers really mean. I would like to know if there are optimal or even appropriate compromise values for the indicators, and which indicators are the farthest from their optimal value. Such information might indicate which problems are the most pressing. Perhaps your publication serves only to establish a baseline, and then we will be able to see trends with future reports.
However, as we are seeing in the debate of global warming, good data is not enough. Although we have confirmed that the global climate change is occurring, and that human behavior is contributing to the problem, and that the levels of greenhouse gases are risingwe don't do anything to stop it. Although we have defined the trends well, because we have not yet settled on an appropriate maximum value for greenhouse gases, we are paralyzed against making any substantial actions. The Administration has decided that we should allow emissions to rise as the same rate as economic growth. So as long as our economy grows, we will continue to increase our pollution of our air.
I am concerned that new indicators, if not coupled with some sort of recommendations of optimal levels, may be of limited value. I do not mean to downplay the importance of your work. You truly took on a monumental task, and rose to the occasion. I think it will be the standard for other similar works for years. However, I look forward to hearing of how you feel your report fits into the body of other literature, how it may compliment other work in a way that might give us some more concrete recommendations for changes in policy and funding.
I look forward to the discussion. Thank you.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you. And I think we all can acknowledge the great contribution made by the Heinz Center. It is a national public service.
Our first and only panel of most distinguished witnesses consist of: Dr. William C. Clark, Chair of Design Committee and Member, Board of Trustees, The Heinz Center, and Professor, Kennedy School of Government; Kim Nelson, Assistant Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Information; Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management & Budget, Department of the Interior; Fred Krupp, Executive Director, Environmental Defense; and Kim Coble, Maryland Senior Scientist and Assistant Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Dr. Clark, you are the first up, and we will give you a couple of additional minutes because of the special nature of your assignment.
STATEMENT OF DR. WILLIAM C. CLARK, CHAIR OF DESIGN COMMITTEE AND MEMBER, BOARD OF TRUSTEES, THE HEINZ CENTER, PROFESSOR, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT
Dr. CLARK. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Committee. As you said, my name is Bill Clark. I am a Professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Member of the National Academy of Sciences, and have had the pleasure and challenge of chairing the Committee, putting this report together over the last five years.
I have been asked to briefly summarize the ecosystem report in terms of the need it serves, the process by which it was created, its findings, and its potential for use in American public policy.
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The need: The Report on ''The State of the Nation's Ecosystems'' that we have released today is a response to three widely shared perceptions. The first is that just as our nation's ability to make sound economic policy requires a foundation of authoritative national indicators, so does our ability to make systematic, rationale environmental policy demand a set of basic agreed-upon indicators on which we can judge progress and our lack of progress. Second, despite 30 years of working to build the pieces of such a system of national environmental indicators, we have failed to create a comprehensive, respected, and succinct account of how we are doing in managing our nation's ecosystems. And third, the time has come to construct such a national environment account in order that it can serve as a foundation for more effective and efficient environmental policy-making in the 21st century.
The process by which we went forward to try to address these issues began with the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy asking the Heinz Center to lead an effort to create a report on the state of the Nation's ecosystems. The Center, in turn, assembled, to guide its work, a Committee of outside experts drawn from the business community, environmental organizations, all levels of government, and academia. In shaping a strategy for producing the report released today, our Committee reviewed a variety of past efforts in the U.S. and abroad to create high-level state of the environment reports.
From the successes and failures of those efforts, we concluded that the Heinz Project would need to make extraordinary efforts to achieve five things: first, policy relevance, identifying a few intelligible indicators reflecting the most important characteristics of the Nation's ecosystems; second, political nonpartisanship, creating a set of indicators that reflect, in a fair and balanced way, the wide range of things that different Americans value about our nation's lands, waters, and living resources; third, scientific credibility, assuring that the data presented on those indicators meet appropriate standards of technical quality and are free from both the fact and the perception of manipulation for partisan interest; fourth, operational feasibility, engaging the expertise and enthusiasm of the Nation's environmental monitoring programs and professionals, the people who actually produce the data; and fifth, an ability to learn, recognizing that the task before them is sufficiently challenging, that mistakes and shortcomings will be inevitable, and that what we need is an ability to survive those mistakes, solicit suggestions for improvement, and learn by doing in successive issues of a report on the Nation's ecosystemsjust as in the economic realm we have improved steadily over the last five decades our reports on the underlying indicators of the Nation's economy.
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Five years later, 150 participants down the road, one prototype study behind us, what have we, in fact, produced in the report released today? Three things. First is a reporting framework. We developed a broad-based consensus across the four sectors I named earlier on ten key characteristics that should, and can, describe in a succinct, balanced, and scientifically credible manner, the state of our nation's ecosystems. These ten are characterized in the various documents you have before you and encompass the geographical extent, chemical and physical properties, biological components, and human uses of the Nation's ecosystems. Within this framework of ten key characteristics, we develop specific measurable indicators to characterize the six principle ecosystem types of the United States: coasts and oceans, farmlands, forests, fresh waters, cropland/grassland systems, and urban/suburban systems. We also developed a set of indicators reflecting the overall national aggregate picture.
Our second product, the one that fills the bulk of our report, is data; a summary and analysis of what existing monitoring programs have to say about the state of our ten key ecosystem characteristics and their component indicators. Those indicators for which we located data of adequate quality and coverage are summarized in the report before you today. The data are presented in appropriate graphical or mapping formats together with text explaining the indicators' significance and interpreting observed trends and patterns. Extensive technical notes in the back of the Report discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the data and document the original sources in monitoring programs run by the Federal Government, environmental organizations, and the business community.
Our third product is an analysis of gaps: what existing monitoring programs do not tell us about our ten key ecosystem characteristics. These gaps are extensive for the simple reason that the Design Committee determined at the outset not to merely look under the lamppost of existing monitoring programs, but rather started by identifying what the Nation most needs to know about the state of the ecosystems and only then searching to determine whether existing monitoring programs produced the needed data. We determined that such data exists for about half of the indicators identified in the report. For the other half, existing monitoring data are inadequate to produce a reliable national picture of our evolving national ecosystems. The Report notes these data inadequacies and discusses what would be needed to remedy them, thus providing the Nation with a more complete picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems.
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Let me close, then, with a few words on how the report before you might be used to promote better environmental policy.
First, we hope that the consensus reporting framework presented here, the ten key ecosystem characteristics and their respective indicators, will serve to focus Americans' attention on what matters most about their ecosystems, rather than leaving them distracted by passing fads and fancies. We understand that this national framework will need to be adapted for use in particular states and regions, such as the Chesapeake Bay, but believe, through our work in Yellowstone and other systems, that it should provide a sound foundation for such targeted regional efforts.
Second, we hope that the high quality and relevance of the data we do report here will help to raise the factual foundation for future debates on environmental policy, much as the professionalization of reporting of GNP, unemployment, and the like, has helped to ground the economic policy debate. In short, we hope that this report will help to focus our national policy discussions on what to do about the environment, rather than letting it exhaust itself in disagreements about what the environment is doing.
Third, we hope this report will help the Nation to develop a more strategic program of environmental monitoring; a program that provides adequate support and recognition for the existing monitoring programs that provided the essential data reported here and a program that seriously and systematically addresses the gaps we have identified and what the relative cost effectiveness is of closing those gaps.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, we emphasize that the greatest potential benefits of this report lie in the future, as it sets a foundation of what we hope and intend will be periodic updates on the evolving state of the Nation's ecosystems.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Clark follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF WILLIAM C. CLARK
Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee to discuss The State of the Nation's Ecosystems: Measuring the Lands, Waters, and Living Resources of the United States, which was released earlier today.
My name is William Clark. I am the Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. I am testifying today on behalf of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, where I have, for nearly five years, served as Chair of the committee overseeing the development of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems. I am also a member of the group of senior advisors for the project and a member of the Center's Board of Trustees.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPART I: THE STATE OF THE NATION'S ECOSYSTEMS PROJECT
A. Brief Summary of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems Project
Policymakers and the public rely on a small, familiar set of indicators, such as interest rates, unemployment, inflation, the Dow Jones average, and GDP, to gauge the performance of the national economy. Despite their known shortcomings, these indicators describe important attributes and trends in the economy. Rational policy debate on the Nation's economy is promoted by a broad consensus regarding the importance of such fundamental indicators, and by a justified faith that the collection and reporting of data about their performance is not subject to distortions by narrow interests or political expediency.
Such is not the case with reporting on the state of the Nation's lands, waters, and living resources.
The Heinz Center's State of the Nation's Ecosystems report lays out a blueprint for periodic reporting on the condition and use of ecosystems in the United States. It was developed by experts from businesses, environmental organizations, universities, and Federal, State, and local government agencies. It is designed to provide policy-makers and the general public with a succinct and comprehensiveyet scientifically sound and nonpartisanview of ''how we are doing.''
The Report identifies the major characteristics of ecosystems that should be tracked through time to provide such a comprehensive perspective. Where data of adequate quality are available, it also provides information on both current conditions and historic trends. The Report also highlights key gapssituations where reliable data do not exist or have not been assembled to support national reporting. Separate chapters in the Report address coasts and oceans, farmlands, forests, fresh waters, grasslands and shrublands, and urban and suburban areas. These ecosystem-specific indicators are complemented by ''core national indicators'' that provide a highly aggregated view of overall conditions.
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The State of the Nation's Ecosystems provides a prescription for ''taking the pulse'' of America's lands and waters. It identifies what should be measured, counted, and reported so that decision-makers and the public can understand the changes that are occurring in the American landscape.
B. Project Background and Rationale
Most immediately, this project arose out of a federal interagency review of environmental monitoring and research programs, undertaken in the mid-1990s.(see footnote 7) This effort, coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, identified the need to communicate consistent, accessible information about the condition and use of ecosystems to support decision-making and to inform the public. This review recognized the substantial existing federal investment in environmental monitoring, reporting, and research.(see footnote 8) However, the review also implicitly acknowledged that the independent nature of these programs, and of the complementary efforts undertaken by State and local governments, universities and the research community, and the private for- and non-profit sector, meant that the results were not communicated in an integrated fashion, accessible to those in policy making roles or to the public.
In a larger sense, however, the project arose out of a recognition that environmental protection and natural resource management and conservation are central elements of the political and economic landscape in the United States as we enter the 21st century, and should be supported by a base of information that is consistent with their importance.(see footnote 9)
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The following sources provide polling data that demonstrate the nature and depth of public opinion on the environment:
The Polling Report, Inc. Multiple polls, including Gallup, ABC News, Newsweek, Harris. Accessed at www.pollingreport.com/enviro.htm on April 26, 2002.
League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Multiple polls from 1999 and 2000. Accessed at http://www.voteenvironment.org/mediadebunkingenvmythsdata.html on November 21, 2001.
The Report also cites 1994 data showing that nearly two percent of the Nation's gross domestic productabout $120 million in 1994, the last date these figures were compiled, is spent each year on pollution abatement and control, and this represents only a part of the total cost of a clean environment.
This recognition is not new. In 1970, the Council on Environmental Quality noted in its first annual report to Congress that the efforts of that time did ''not provide the type of information or coverage necessary to evaluate the condition of the Nation's environment or to chart changes in its quality and trace their causes.''(see footnote 10) Since then, many studies and many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration, have recognized this need.(see footnote 11)
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC National Research Council, Committee to Evaluate Indicators for Monitoring Aquatic and Terrestrial Environments. 2000. Ecological Indicators for the Nation. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. http://www.nap.edu/catalog/9720.html.
But despite some excellent syntheses of data on specific problems and places, there is no periodic, comprehensive, and reliable compilation of essential information about the overall state of the Nation's environment.(see footnote 12) As a result, policymakers and other stakeholders are swamped by increasing volumes of data that nonetheless seem to neglect important issues or fail to provide a ''big picture'' view of what changes are occurring. Society all too often ends up arguing not about the issues, but about the relevance and validity of the data on which substantive policy debate depend.
Conservation Foundation. 1982. State of the Environment 1982: A Report from the Conservation Foundation. Washington, DC.
Conservation Foundation. 1984. State of the Environment: An Assessment at Mid-decade. Washington, DC.
Conservation Foundation. 1987. State of the Environment: A View toward the Nineties. Washington, DC.
Council on Environmental Quality. 1981. Environmental trends. Executive Office of the President, Washington, DC.
Council on Environmental Quality. 1989. Environmental trends. Co-sponsored by the Interagency Advisory Committee on Environmental Trends, Executive Office of the President. Washington, DC.
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For a nation deeply committed to protecting the environment, this is an unacceptable state of affairs. It is as though we would seek to develop sound economic policy without having reliable measures of the Nation's GDP, unemployment, or inflation rate, relying instead on idiosyncratic reports from individual firms, sectors, unions, and local chambers of commerce. We cannot know whether our current environmental policies and practices are sound, and we cannot make new policy with confidence, without a similar set of generally accepted measures of fundamental properties of the environment.
C. The Strategy: Using Past Attempts as a Guide
Based on the conclusions of the interagency review described above, in late 1996 OSTP asked the Heinz Center to create a nonpartisan, scientifically grounded report on the state of the Nation's ecosystems.(see footnote 13)
In undertaking this effort, the Heinz Center looked carefully at past efforts to report on the environment as well as other substantive areas, with an eye to identifying the reasons those efforts did not stand the test of time. Based on this analysis, the Center and its collaborators were guided by a fundamental conviction that, to be useful, The State of the Nation's Ecosystems must
Be scientifically credible. Too many earlier efforts were disregarded because they were perceived as willing to accept any data available, or because their conclusions were not based in sound science. We believed that the Report's content must benefit from input and review from a wide range of scientific and technical experts.
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Be nonpartisan, both in content and in process. Too many previous reporting efforts failed because they were perceived to be politicized or because they seemed to promote the perspectives of particular interests. Any hope for greater success requires that this effort be seen as fair and unbiased by a broad cross section of political interests.
Engage the expertise and experience of the Nation's environmental monitoring programs and professionals. Any attempt to characterize the state of the Nation's ecosystems will fail without the cooperation of those who are engaged full time in the exacting and important profession of ecosystem monitoring and reporting.
Benefit from experimentation and learning. No effort as ambitious as this could be expected to get everything right the first time around. Any hope for success depends on the ability to learn from the inevitable mistakes and to incorporate new data and understanding as they become available.
D. The Heinz Center's Four-Sector Approach: A Critical Element of Project Success
A fundamental element of the Heinz Center's operating philosophy is that sound solutions to environmental policy challenges must be developed with active input from environmental organizations, business, academic practitioners, and government representatives. This project is no different. For it, the Center developed a funding strategy that depended upon joint support from government, industry, and private foundations. It assembled a small in-house staff and a large team of part-time collaborators drawn from government, the private sector, environmental organizations, and academia. A set of interlocking committees, eventually involving nearly 150 individuals from nearly 100 institutions, and coordinated by a small staff at the Center, was responsible for the content of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems. A group of senior advisors and the Center's own Board of Trustees reviewed the project's strategic directions, with special attention to ensuring broad and balanced representation. (All members of the various committees are listed in the Report as well as on the Heinz Center's website, www.heinzctr.org/ecosystems.(see footnote 14) ) Many more individuals and institutions were involved as contributors, advisors, and peer reviewers (peer reviewers are also listed on the website).
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The funding portfolio for this project, like membership on the expert panels, was diverse. Nine federal agencies (the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation; The Office of Naval Research provided grants administration support.), six corporate funders, including four Fortune-500 companies (Chevron Company, John Deere & Company, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Procter & Gamble Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and Electric Power Research Institute), and seven foundations (Cleveland Foundation Special Fund No. 6, the Foundation for Environmental Research, the Vira I. Heinz Endowments, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation) provided the support necessary to complete this report.
As is clear from the diversity of committee members and funding entities, no single group dominated the selection of indicators or presentation of data. For this reason, the results of this report are demonstrably non-partisan and independent of control by any single dominant political perspective.
E. Project Goals and Design Principles
At the outset, project participants identified a set of goals and basic design elements that should shape a successful report. Such a report should
present a succinct set of indicators. A successful report should identify a limited number of very important characteristics of ecosystems, which should be tracked and reported through time.
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be targeted at decision-makers and opinion leaders. It should non-technical language, but remain faithful to its scientific and technical foundations.
provide data where possible, but also identify key information gaps. Rather than using data simply because they are available, we sought to identify those indicators that should be reported, identify and report data where they are available, and highlight those instances in which data are not adequate.
describe conditions, but leaves to others judgments about whether they are ''good'' or ''bad'' or recommending policies or actions. We sought to provide objective information that others can, and hopefully will, use as they debate natural resource and environmental policies. We explicitly sought not to become embroiled in the substance of those debates.
report on the state or condition of ecosystems, not on pollution or other stresses, or on government or private programs or actions. Our efforts focus on the resources people care most about, and complement the many reports already available on emissions and activities.
report on both ecosystem condition and the goods and services that people derive from the system. People care about ecosystems for many reasons, and the suite of indicators reflects a wide variety of perspectives on what is important about ecosystems.
We believe the Report released today is faithful to these aims.
F. Ecosystem Reporting: What Does the Report Present?
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The State of the Nation's Ecosystems provides indicators of the use and condition of America's coasts and oceans, farmlands, forests, fresh waters, grasslands and shrublands, urban and suburban areas, and the Nation as a whole.
In order to avoid reporting on radically different aspects of different ecosystems, we identified ten key characteristics of ecosystems that should be reported for any ecosystem. These are identified in Table 1, along with brief statements of their significance.
For each major ecosystem type (e.g., farmlands, forests, etc.) these ten characteristics are described by 1418 indicators. There are ten ''core national indicators'' that describe these characteristics for the Nation as a whole. Thus, the Report presents 103 indicators in all.
G. Plans for the Future: Making Environmental Reporting An Institution In Our Society
The Heinz Center's overarching goal is to establish The State of the Nation's Ecosystems as a long-running series, with new editions due every five years. These editions will incorporate continuous improvements in understanding of ecological functioning, technology for monitoring, and indicator design. The web version, at www.heinzctr.org/ecosystems, will be updated annually to incorporate newly available data.
The Heinz Center is committed to producing the second volume in this series, and to ensuring that institutional and financial arrangements are put in place to enable the production of future editions. We are currently seeking financial support for these activities.
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We envision significant work in three areas, outlined below. In addition, the first step, following release of the Report, will be to undertake a serious effort to listen to feedback from readers concerning what worked and didn't work in the Report and what changes would make it more accessible and more useful. We are committed to such listening as an essential element to ensuring the Report's relevance and utility over time.
The three substantive areas on which the Heinz Center plans to focus are:
1. Planning to fill data gaps. The Report identifies a significant number of instances in which data for reporting on key ecosystem characteristics are not presently available. In some cases, these data are collected, but not aggregated in a manner that is amenable to national reporting, while in others the required monitoring is not being done. The Report includes preliminary information on filling these gaps, but additional analysis is required to determine which gaps are easiestfinancially and technicallyto fill, as well as which are ''most important'' to address. Combining financial and technical practicality with judgments as to the relative importance of filling different gaps will provide a concrete roadmap to guide future investment.
2. Continuously improving the indicators. The framework for reporting and the indicators selected for inclusion in The State of the Nation's Ecosystems are sound. As with any complex undertaking, however, there are possibilities for refinement, increased consistency between indicators, and other substantive improvements. Based on internal assessments and feedback from readers, the Heinz Center will undertake a series of targeted efforts to improve the consistency of sets of similar indicators in different ecosystems, to address potential statistical and technical issues in selected individual indicators, and to catalyze discussions within the relevant technical communities where indicator definitions are unclear.
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3. Providing a stable future. To be successful, The State of the Nation's Ecosystems must be produced in an environment that is free from perceptions of political influence and characterized by a transparency in its activities and engagement of a wide variety of interests in its governance. The Heinz Center will foster a high-level dialogue on the institutional and financial arrangements that can provide this environment, including consideration of both in-government and non-governmental arrangements.
PART II: FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS FROM THE STATE OF THE NATION'S ECOSYSTEMS
In this portion of my testimony, I will respond to the specific questions posed by the Committee Chairman in his letter of invitation, and provide additional information on the Project's findings.
A. What Is the State of Our Ability to Report on ''the State of the Nation's Ecosystems''?
As noted above, our effort defined 10 basic reporting categories, and 103 specific indicators, needed to fully characterize the state of the Nation's ecosystems at a level appropriate for informing policy discussion. We were able to identify all the data required for national reporting for 33 of these indicators. For an additional 25 indicators, we believe that the data that are available, although limited, provide the rudiments of a national reporting perspective. Thus, for slightly over half the indicators we selected, we were able to locate, and include in the Report, some or all of the necessary data.
For nearly a third of the indicators, we could not locate data that were adequate for national reporting. In some case, the required data may be collected, but have not been aggregated or otherwise merged to support national reporting. (In some cases, as with data that may be collected by multiple states or research institutions, there may be significant differences in methodology that mayor may notpreclude such aggregation.) In other cases, as with many remote sensing-based indicators, the required data have been collected, but not analyzed or prepared for national reporting. In yet other cases, the required data simply are not collected on any widespread basis.
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For about 14 percent of the indicators, our technical committees were not able to define an indicator in sufficient detail to enable a determination of data availability. These instances represent a challenge to the technical community to identify more specifically what should be measured to report on key characteristics.
B. What Does The Report Conclude About The State Of The Nation's Ecosystems?
The main conclusion of the Report is that it is possible to report the state of an ecosystem in an unbiased manner by describing ten general ecosystem characteristics. While nearly half of the indicators that describe these characteristics currently lack nationally-representative data, we have established an invaluable roadmap for fully characterizing our nation's ecosystemsa roadmap that will have enduring value to our society and our environment.
The guiding principles behind this report specifically preclude our making broad, conclusive statements such as ''the state of our nation's ecosystems has never been stronger (or weaker).'' While we hope that others will use the indicators we have selected and reported on to make such statements, they inevitably involve value judgments: ''more of X is good; more of Y is bad,'' which are inappropriate for an independent statistical reporting effort. Yet, such an effort is essential to provide a focus of debate over policy and legislation. We have gone to great lengths to make sure that the status of our nation's ecosystems is reported in an objective manner so that the findings will be accepted by all sectors of society.
Each indicator reports a story in and of itself, and the stories of 1418 indicators are woven together to describe the status of any particular ecosystem. Unfortunately, there exist major gaps in our ability to report fully on the state of the Nation's ecosystemsjust less than 50 percent of the indicators identified by our process lack nationally-representative data sources, or have not yet been fully defined. However, the current report is rich with information on the state of the Nation's ecosystems. There are a variety of summary sections throughout the Report that distill the information presented in 103 indicators across six ecosystem types. It is these summaries that tell the stories of our ecosystems. These stories will become the uncontested common ground in debates about the environment.
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Finally, for any particular indicator, its value for any given year means little taken out-of-context. We do not evaluate the rate of unemployment in a vacuuminstead, we have established a record of more than fifty years of reporting on unemployment rates; any quarter's rate can be compared easily and objectively to past trends. A similar approach is required for making judgements about any single ecological indicator, and for that matter, the composite state of our nation's ecosystems. For example, knowing that a particular ecosystem occupied 500 million acres in 1992 is not particularly enlightening, but knowing that this value is 10 percent larger or smaller than it was in 1982 would be quite interesting, and perhaps to some, alarming. Or, knowing what fraction of streams had different concentrations of nitrate might not be all that interesting in itself, but being able to compare these concentrations with the levels deemed safe for the protection of human health would provide important context and make the concentration data easier to interpret. For forty-two of the 103 indicators, we present trend information, comparisons with widely accepted standards, or similar contextual information.
C. What Are The Major Gaps In Existing Data And Knowledge, And How Should They Be Filled?
Unfortunately, with nearly half of the indicators having inadequate data for national reporting, selecting a few as the most important is difficult. Data gaps were found in all ecosystem types and indicator categories.
Clearly, urban/suburban areas, and grasslands/shrublands have the fewest indicators for which adequate data for national reporting are available. Forest ecosystems, by contrast, have a higher percentage of indicators with good data.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Indicator categories with the poorest data availability are those dealing with biological communities, landscape patterns, and the services, including recreation, provided by ecosystems. In addition, there are several categories for which trend data are limited, making interpretation of current conditions difficult. These include: nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), chemical contaminants, plant and animal species, and biological communities. For these categories of indicators, trend data are available for only 20 percent or fewer of the indicators.
Filling these data gaps will be the responsibility of a range of federal, state, local, and private entities. The Report contains a preliminary assessment of what would be needed to fill these gaps, but more work is needed to both flesh out exactly what should be done, and decisions must be made as to, for example, data should be collected using existing federal programs, federal-state cooperative ventures, or other means. Exploring these questions is high on the Heinz Center's agenda for producing the next volume of the Report in five years (see the discussion above on Plans for the Future). Ultimately, however, the debate on what kind of system America should have for monitoring and reporting on its ecosystems will almost certainly need to involve the Congress, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Academy of Sciences, and a number of private and State government organizations.
D. Why Is It Important To Have Information About Ecosystems On A National Level?
Information about ecosystems is valuable on a variety of scales, including local, State, regional, or national. Similarly, decisions about the stewardship, management, or use of ecosystems are made at all of these levels. Even though there is a trend toward encouraging local decision-making about natural resource issues, numerous decisions are still made, and will remain to be made, at the national level. Congress appropriates funds, enacts authorizing statutes, and conducts oversight over federal agency activities. Federal agencies adopt broad policies and allocate funding. Advocacy organizations representing both conservation and development perspectives work hard to influence these decisions, both directly and through shaping public opinion. In such cases, information about overall conditions, relative changes in different areas, and emerging trends is extremely useful.
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Decision-makers at the State, regional, and local level can also benefit from a general understanding that is provided by this report's suite of indicators. Even though they may not find details of their area represented in the nationally-representative indicators, this report will allow them to make their decisions in the context of the national picture. For example, local land-use planners can use information on changes in specific ecosystem types to help shape local policies concerning what areas can be developed and preserved, and local forest managers can compare the rates at which insects and disease are affecting their area with national trends.
E. What Are The Policy And Scientific Implications Of The Report?
There are two kinds of policy implications raised by this report. The first involves the reporting process itself, while the second type relates to the use, management, and conservation of the resources described by this report.
Implications for ecosystem reporting: This report is built on a number of ongoing monitoring and reporting programs without which even the incomplete picture we present would have been impossible to assemble. If the Nation wishes to retain its present capacity for knowing about the state of its ecosystems, these programs must be sustained. The Report also identified a significant number of data and knowledge gapsgaps that prevent full and comprehensive reporting on the state of the Nation's ecosystems. If we as a nation wish to better inform ourselves on this critical dimension, we must address several key questions. These include which data gaps should be filled first and who should fill them, and, in the longer-term, what institutional mechanisms should be put in place to ensure continued high-quality, objective, nonpartisan, and transparent reporting on the state of the Nation's ecosystems. As noted above, the Heinz Center plans to provide input to both of these critical decisions (see the section on ''Plans for the Future'').
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Implications for resource management: Individual indicators in this report may play important roles in decisions about the use and management of specific resources. For example, the data we present illustrate that nitrate, which is an important plant nutrient, but which in excess can contribute to water quality degradation, enters streams in greater amounts in certain areas of the country (the Northeast and upper Midwest) and in areas dominated by certain land uses (agriculture). Such a finding clearly has important implications for addressing water quality issues. Another example: the data we present show that the number of cases of waterborne disease attributed to drinking water has declined over the past several decades, while the number associated with contact recreation has increased. Such a finding clearly has implications for public health and environmental programs.
Each of our indicators was chosen precisely because it would be relevant to policy debates. If the age structure of forests changed dramatically, if the number of streams with zero flow for some part of the year increased or decreased dramatically, if the area of croplands affected by high soil salinity changedin each case, these findings would have important implications for those who own, manage, or otherwise care deeply about those resources.
Scientific implications: The State of the Nation's Ecosystems poses several challenges to the scientific community. In the shortest run, there may be technical challenges in collecting or summarizing the data nationally. The Center and other groups need to work over the coming months and years to better define costs and priorities for filling the data gaps identified in the Report.
Looking a bit further, we have identified a number of indicators for which additional scientific or technical work is needed to clearly specify what should be measured or reported to adequately characterize a specific ecosystem characteristic. For example, we did not identify exactly what should be reported to accurately capture what is commonly referred to as ''sprawl''a pattern of land use change in the area where areas that are clearly suburban and those that are clearly rural grade into each other. There are many approaches to this challenge, none of which has, yet, become the consensus choice among expert practitioners.
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There are, of course, constant challenges in any evolving system: can we develop a better means of capturing important changes in the environment. These challenges will be with us for the duration of our efforts to report on the state of the Nation's ecosystems, and will be manifested as periodic, although generally minor, adjustments to the suite of indicators.
Other questions arise in the longer-term context as well: How do indicators at the national scale relate to indicators at local and regional scales? Can we create a system that reports on conditions at multiple geographic scales, tailoring indicators as appropriate, but sill having some overall coherence, so that one can talk about conditions at the local level in the same ''language'' as one talks about conditions at the local scale?
Finally, there are scientific challenges in the area of interpretation and assessment. How do multiple indicators ''fit together'' to provide an integrated view of an ecosystem or area? Can we resolve scientific uncertainties about the linkages between observed conditions (provided by our indicators) and stressors in the environment?
PART III: CONCLUDING REMARKS
This document responds to a clearly defined needperiodic information, worthy of trust, about the condition of our nation's lands, waters, and living resources. Where it is possible to do so, the extent, condition, and use of these precious assets are described. Where it is not possible, we have provided a roadmap to guide future efforts. These are valuable steps, but the true and lasting value of this project will be realized only if the effort is repeated regularly and is accompanied by significant enhancement of the base of scientific understanding and, high-quality monitoring and reporting programs on which such reports must build.
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NOTE ON OBTAINING COPIES OF ''THE STATE OF THE NATION'S ECOSYSTEMS''
The State of the Nation's Ecosystems may be purchased from Cambridge University Press; see http://us.cambridge.org, or phone toll free: 18008727243.
The Report is also available on-line (as of September 24, 2002) at www.heinzctr.org/ecosystems. This site allows full text access, downloading of PDF copies, and access to the data for most indicators.
BIOGRAPHY FOR WILLIAM C. CLARK
William Clark is the Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Trained as an ecologist, his research focuses on the interactions of environment, development and security concerns in international affairs. Clark serves on the scientific advisory committees for the Science and Technology for Sustainability Initiative, the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research. He is co-author of Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management (Wiley, 1978) and Redesigning Rural Development (Hopkins, 1982); editor of the Carbon Dioxide Review (Oxford, 1982); and co-editor of Sustainable Development of the Biosphere (Cambridge, 1986), The Earth Transformed By Human Action (Cambridge, 1990), Learning To Manage Global Environmental Risks (MIT, 2001), and Environment Magazine. He co-chaired the recent study by the U.S. National Research Council on Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Clark is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the MacArthur Prize, the Humboldt Prize, and the Kennedy School's Carballo Award for excellence in teaching.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, Dr. Clark.
STATEMENT OF KIMBERLY T. NELSON, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION
Ms. NELSON. Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Kimberly Nelson, and I am the Chief Information Officer and the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Information at EPA.
Administrator Whitman participated earlier today at the Heinz news conference, and I, today, am pleased to be here with you to help celebrate in the Heinz Center's discussion of their State of the Nation's Ecosystems report.
Over the past five years, EPA has supported and worked with the Heinz Center in planning and drafting this report. It is rewarding to have an opportunity to offer our observations on how the Heinz Report contributes to and strengthens all of our efforts to develop environmental indicators that will advance EPA's efforts, including those efforts under the President's Management Agenda to better manage for results.
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I would also like to take the opportunity today to share with you a very brief overview of EPA's Environmental Indicators Initiative and the Agency's plans to issue a draft report on the environment in the next several months.
As we celebrate today's release of the Heinz Report, we also celebrate other's efforts in the past, in the present, in the future to enrich the Nation's knowledge of the diverse ecological resources of the United States and the use of clear, scientifically valid information to foster environmental decision-making and environmental policy. The flow of information, whether through the National Environmental Information Exchange Network, which is envisioned by EPA, and our state and tribal partners through official websites and publications, or through our own person-to-person communications, must be fostered to build knowledge, tolerance, community, and a recognition of how interdependent we are on our environment and each other. The Heinz Report provides a useful array of indicators that describe their picture of the current state of ecosystems nationwide in a way that is, indeed, very meaningful to the public.
I have read the Heinz Report with great interest and believe that their collection of the Nation's scientific experts, industry leaders, public interest groups, academia, and government, including EPA and other Federal agencies, provides a road map to what we know about the Nation's ecosystems, and equally important, what we don't know. All of us, the stewards and managers of our national environmental resources, need the best science and information available so that we can know where we have been, where we are now, and what we must do in the years ahead to ensure that all Americans have cleaner air, purer water, and better protected land.
When we talk about indicators, we speak of measurements that track environmental conditions over time. An example of an indicator we often hear about and many of us actually rely on everyday is EPA's air quality index. Chairman, you noted that we have this data. It doesn't relieve the controversy, but it does help educate the public when that kind of data is reliable and understood. That air quality index depicts the measurement of six criteria air pollutants on a daily basis and is reported to inform the public on the daily quality of the air we breathe. And we know people use that to make judgments about what they do on a daily basis.
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EPA and the Heinz Center agree that while we have made progress in measuring environmental conditions, additional information is needed to better support environmental indicators at the national level. The Heinz Center found that of their 103 indicators we have heard, only 56 percent had sufficient data to be reported nationally. This finding is consistent with our own work and many of the state efforts, I might add, to use indicators that describe environmental conditions and trends. As we move forward, EPA and other Federal agencies will need to work corroboratively with our partners and stakeholders to identify and prioritize the use and the development of the indicators we need.
Last November, you know, Administrator Whitman charged my office, the Office of Environmental Information, and the Office of Research and Development, which is headed by Assistant Administrator and EPA Science Advisor, Dr. Paul Gilman, with developing a report that would launch a broad public dialogue on ways to identify priority areas of national concern, focus on our resources, and manage our work to achieve measurable results.
EPA believes that environmental indicators help paint a clear picture on the condition of our country's environment for decision-makers and citizens. Using environmental indicators, the American public and all levels of government gain a better understanding of how environmental policies can yield better results and how government can be more accountable to the public. The Agency's report will draw, as appropriate, on the Heinz Center's report, reports from the National Research Council, EPA's own Science Advisory Board, and other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Interior, who is with us here today, more than 30 states and non-governmental organizations who have produced similar reports to describe not only environmental conditions but human health conditions that may be related to the environment.
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We intend, through our report, to address five theme areas: human health, ecological condition, cleaner air, purer water, and better-protected land. And we are attempted to do so by answering about 100 questions that we think are most important to the American public. We have identified data that are available to answer these questions, reviewed them for their scientific quality and validity, and selected a group of indicators that, like the Heinz Report, have either full or partial data to support them. But I might add, as I mentioned before, we are finding very similar gaps in the data we need.
The release of our draft report and the ensuing dialogue over the next year and many years thereafter, will move us significantly closer to Administrator Whitman's goal of making ourselves accountable to the American public and reporting to them on our progress in reaching the goals we have set for ourselves in protecting the health of our nation's citizens, our air, our water, and our land.
Both the Heinz Center report and EPA's report on the environment have a number of important implications. They help focus attention on real environmental results. They point to the fact that we know a lot and yet we have still a long way to go. They provide a road map for future research and they reinforce our efforts to design and build an integrated information exchange network with our partners.
In closing, I just want to thank the Committee and the Heinz Center for inviting EPA to participate in today's hearing and today's earlier news conference. Administrator Whitman, my colleagues, and I applaud the Heinz Center for their significant contribution to understanding the Nation's ecosystems. We are committed to working in the future together in our partnership. Thank you.
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[The prepared statement of Ms. Nelson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF KIMBERLY T. NELSON
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. My name is Kimberly T. Nelson and I am the Chief Information Officer and Assistant Administrator for Environmental Information at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over the past five years, EPA has supported and worked with the Heinz Center in planning and drafting their ''State of the Nation's Ecosystems'' report.(see footnote 15) Administrator Whitman and I are pleased to join you and the Heinz Center in today's discussion and to offer our observations on how their report contributes to, and strengthens our efforts to develop environmental indicators that will advance EPA's efforts under the President's Management Agenda for achieving measurable results. I would also like to offer you an overview of EPA's Environmental Indicators Initiative and the Agency's plans to issue a draft report on the environment in the next several months.
Today, with the release of the Heinz Report, is a significant day for enriching the Nation's knowledge of the diverse ecological resources of the United States. Strong, clear, scientifically-valid information is critical to environmental decision-making and environmental policy. It is my personal and professional belief that the right information, at the right time, and in the right form is key to understanding our environment and the impact it has on citizens. I commend the Heinz Center for their efforts to deliver a report that is aimed at decision-makers and opinion leaders, uses non-technical language and reflects the views of a wide range of stakeholders. EPA continues to seek new ideas and new approaches to identifying and addressing our nations's next generation of environmental challenges. Government and the public need and should be provided with information about environmental and human health conditions, trends and potential threats. The Heinz Report provides a useful collection of indicators that describe their picture of the current state of ecosystems nationwide.
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I have read the Heinz Report with great interest. Through the Heinz Center's inclusive process, the Nation's scientific experts, leaders from industry, public interest groups, academia and government (including EPA), provide a roadmap to what we know about the Nation's ecosystems and equally importantwhat we don't know. Their Report presents a large volume of information at a national scale that contributes significantly to expanding our national dialogue. All of us, the stewards and managers of our national environmental resources, need this information and the best science available, so that we can know where we've been, where we are now and what we must do in the years ahead, to ensure that all Americans have cleaner air, purer water, and better-protected land.
When we talk about indicators, we speak of measurements that track environmental conditions over time. For example, EPA's Air Quality Index depicts the measurement of the six criteria air pollutants on a daily basis, and is reported to inform the public on the daily quality of the air. EPA and the Heinz Center agree that additional information is needed to better support environmental indicators at the national level. The Heinz Center found that of their 103 indicators reported by the Heinz Center, only 56% (58) had sufficient data to be reported nationally. This finding is consistent with our own work and many state efforts to use indicators that describe environmental trends and conditions. EPA and other federal agencies will need to work collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to identify and prioritize the use and development of the indicators we need. EPA plans to publish a draft report on the environment in the next several months. Last November, Administrator Whitman charged my office, the Office of Environmental Information and the Office of Research and Development, headed by Assistant Administrator and EPA's Science Advisor, Paul Gilman, with developing a report that would launch a broad public dialogue on ways to identify priority areas of national concern, focus our resources and manage our work to achieve measurable results. EPA's Chief of Staff, Eileen McGinnis, is leading the Agency's senior management team in guiding EPA's report. The Agency's draft report on the environment is one aspect of our long-term Environmental Indicators Initiative which will improve our ability to report on the status of and trends in national environmental conditions, the health of our citizens, and the linkages between the two.
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EPA believes that environmental indicators help paint a clearer picture of the condition of our country's environment for decision-makers and citizens. By using environmental indicators, the American public and all levels of government gain a better understanding of how our environmental policies can yield better results and how government can be more accountable to the public. The Agency's report will draw as appropriate on the Heinz Center's Report, reports from the National Research Council, EPA's Science Advisory Board, other federal agencies (such as the Department of Interior who is here with us today), more than 30 states and non-governmental organizations to describe not only environmental conditions, but human health conditions that may be related to the environment. EPA is using sound data and scientifically-based indicators that will strengthen our understanding of national, regional and local, environmental and human health conditions today.
EPA's report will:
describe current environmental conditions and trends using existing data and indicators;
identify data gaps and research needs;
discuss the challenges government and our partners face in filling those gaps; and,
be accompanied by supporting technical information.
Five ''theme areas'' will be covered in EPA's report: human health; ecological condition; cleaner air; purer water; and better-protected land. It will attempt to answer about 100 questions about the Nation's environment that the public and EPA feel are important to address. We have identified data that are available to answer these questions, reviewed them for their scientific quality and validity, and selected a group of indicators, that, like the Heinz Report, have either full or partial data to support them. While our first report has a national focus, our future plans include focusing on regional and local indicators as well.
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The Agency's website (www.epa.gov/indicators) provides interested parties with the latest information on our upcoming report. Website visitors can review an outline of our draft report, the list of indicators that we are considering, the names and affiliations of the national and Agency experts who have been evaluating them, and a list of the other federal agencies and departments, states and tribes who are our partners in this effort. We will publish a draft report in the next several months, peer-review it and make it publicly available. Releasing our draft, report on the environment and our subsequent public dialogue will represent significant steps toward EPA's long-term goal of making ourselves accountable to the American public and reporting to them on our progress in reaching the goals we have set for ourselves in protecting the health of our nation's citizens, and our air, water, and land.
Both the Heinz Center Report and EPA's report on the environment have a number of important implications for us.
They help focus public attention on real environmental results.
They point to the fact that we know a lot, and yet, we still have a long way to go.
They provide a roadmap for future research on data needs and indicators.
They reinforce EPA's efforts to design and build an integrated information exchange network with our partners.
In closing, I would like to thank the Committee and the Heinz Center for inviting EPA to participate in this hearing and today's earlier press conference on the Center's Report. Administrator Whitman and I applaud the Heinz Center for their significant contribution to our understanding of the Nation's ecosystems. EPA is committed to continue working with the Heinz Center on our complementary reports.
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I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
BIOGRAPHY FOR KIMBERLY T. NELSON
On November 30, 2001, Kimberly Nelson was sworn into the position of Assistant Administrator for Environmental Information and Chief Information Officer, United States Environmental Protection Agency by EPA's Administrator, Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
Prior to her joining EPA, Ms. Nelson served the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 22 years. During her career, she worked in the Senate of Pennsylvania, the Public Utility Commission, and the Departments of Aging and Environmental Protection.
For the last fourteen years, Ms. Nelson held a number of positions in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. She was the first Director of the Program Integration and Effectiveness Office, the first executive to hold the position of Chief Information Officer, and most recently served as Executive Deputy Secretary, the second highest position in the department. She was primarily responsible for managing department-wide projects with a goal toward improving processes and integrating programs and functions. Ms. Nelson was recognized for outstanding service on three occasions during her career with the Department of Environmental Protection.
Ms. Nelson graduated from Shippensburg University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, Political Science, and from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987 with a Master of Public Administration.
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She is married to Kevin Cadden, a career government employee, and has two daughters Kelsey, age eleven, and Mackenzie, age nine.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. Dr.I will get to Dr. Clark in a minute with a question as we complete our panel, but you kept mentioning air quality. I noticed the Heinz Center report is sort of silent on that subject, so be thinking about that one, if you will.
STATEMENT OF P. LYNN SCARLETT, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, POLICY, MANAGEMENT & BUDGET, DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
Ms. SCARLETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I am delighted to participate as the Department of the Interior's representative here today to discuss environmental indicators and the Heinz Report.
The Department has followed, with great interest, the Heinz Center's efforts to develop a report on the Nation's ecosystem. Interior Bureau supported the effort with substantial funds, also with the tremendous science capabilities that we have in our U.S. Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service and elsewhere in the Department. And many experts from our Department participated in some of the panels.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We recognize that statistical measures and indicators are critical to improving our management of natural and environmental resources. Why this interest and why this criticality? Outcome indicators and performance measures, we believe, are, first of all, key to establishing stronger accountability to the Department through our Government Performance and Results Act. We are actually undergoing a year ahead of time a review and revision of our Government Performance and Results Act goals. As we have done that, we have come to recognize how very difficult it is to establish environmental outcome measures and also to gather the data for those. Secondly, we believe that such indicators are critical to program evaluation, adjustment, and improvement. And then finally, they are essential to helping us evolve toward results-focused and outcome-based programs.
In management Federal land, Secretary Norton has emphasized what she calls ''the four C,'' that is conservation through cooperation, communication, and consultation. In this context, she has emphasized the importance of results-focused policies and strategies. Better information about conditions and trends is obviously essential to that effort. Such information can also help overcome some of the challenges we face as we engage in decision-making in concert with stakeholders, many of whom often hold different views on the statethe current state of the environment.
Interior Bureaus have a variety of ongoing data collection and research efforts in addition to the efforts they put into the Heinz Center Project. Our U.S. Geological Survey, as many of you are aware, is among the Nation's premier natural resource science agencies. Much of the data for the Heinz Report came from USGS sources.
Interior has partners with other agencies as well in developing indicators. These include interaction with EPA and their preparation of a report on environment conditions, but we have also been involved in several other multi-participant roundtables including one on sustainable forest management. We believe these compositive efforts, and in particular the report released today by the Heinz Center, provide a strong foundation for continued efforts to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of the information routinely available regarding our nation's resources.
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I would like to turn and spend a few minutes on the questions specifically asked of the Department of the Interior with respect to environmental indicators and the Report. We were asked specifically what are the most significant findings we view coming from the ecosystem report?
First, I think the Report helps underscore the need to develop valid and reliable measures for our natural and environmental resource systems. Those statistics and indicator systems are relatively weak in comparison to our economic and health indicators, for example. Absence of good information or indicators can increase both our resource management costs by heightening conflicts or leading to costly mistakes.
Second, the Report includes many key findings based on significant trends identified in the data. These include, for example, trends in beneficial uses, such as growth in commodity production and recreation. It also includes information on trends and conditions that suggest potential losses in the capacity of some of our ecosystems to supporting continued increases in human uses and future decades without corresponding changes in some of our management practices for those lands. For example, significant increases in nitrogen levels in streams and rivers, chemical contaminants, and so on continue to imperil species. In many cases, we have policies and programs that attempt to address such problems, however, we need more detailed information and analysis to assess the performance of those programs.
Another major finding, one that the two previous individuals identified, is the incompleteness of available data. The Committee asked whether we agreed that the data presented by the Report provide only a partial picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems. Our view is that the answer surely is yes. The Report states that there are insufficient data for 45 of the 103 indicators selected. We note in particular a paucity of data in areas such as grasslands. We, of course, manage much of the Nation's Federal public land grasslands, and that absence of data is a challenge to us. Water quality data also remain inadequate. Additional monitoring efforts are needed for 14 of the 103 indicators. Research is needed even just to define what would constitute an adequate measure.
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The 103 indicators, of course, were called from a much longer initial set of lists. There can be little doubt that some indicators of important features of our ecosystems and their uses have been left on the cutting room floor. The 103 indicators provide a very good start, but we need a process that continues for some years.
The Report is also partial because variations from place to place cannot be described in a national level report. Therefore, we think we should be, on the one hand, working toward those national indicators while not losing sight of regional and local versions and similar information.
Lastly, the Committee asked us if we could identify the most important policy and science questions raised in the Report. I am not prepared here today to give a detailed analysis of the many science questions that were raised by the Report, but I will make just a couple of observations.
First we need to carefully consider the research targets that identifies as we review our environmental science and monitoring programs. Second, we need science to develop tools that can be used for integrated assessment and diagnosis. We need new assessment tools to assure that the stories we come to regard as stories of our environment do provide the proper basis for action and thatand are grounded in valid statistical measures.
The Heinz Center strategically chose not to attempt to do these interpretations of the data. Yet clearly, ultimately, a major advantage of organizing information by ecosystem is the opportunity to develop and use those data for the purposes of understanding and making management choices.
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Clearly an important policy question raised by the Report, to conclude, is in response to the question: should the Federal Government and its nonfederal partners, including states and private organizations, increase efforts to improve the data available for such indicators? At Interior, we believe such efforts are important. The Federal Government and its nonfederal partners, including states and private organizations, should, we believe, continue to improve the data available for such indicators, and we are committed to playing our role both through the Heinz Center process, the Environmental Protection Agency effort, and other roundtables.
Thank you for providing me this opportunity today.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Scarlett follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF P. LYNN SCARLETT
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior (Department). I thank you for the opportunity to present the Department's views on the Heinz Center's report titled ''The State of the Nation's Ecosystems.''
We at the Interior Department have followed the Heinz Center's efforts to develop a report on the Nation's ecosystems with interest. The Department has substantial responsibilities for resources encompassed by the report, and Interior bureaus have supported the project with funds, experts for several panels, and data.
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One reason for the Department's interest is the recognition of the importance of valid statistical measures in improving our management of natural and environmental resources. For example, indicators of desired outcomes and performance measures are a key element of strategic planning under the Government Performance and Results Act. Such indicators can be used to establish goals and priorities. As programs are implemented, indicators can provide accountability. For example, they can show managers, cabinet members, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Congress, and the public how well our programs are achieving their goals. Indicators are also useful in program evaluation, helping us identify successes and areas where improvement is needed.
Perhaps even more importantly, we have come to recognize that effective management of our natural and environmental resources cannot be achieved primarily through federal programs. In most cases, the benefits that resource systems provide and the trends in their conditions depend upon the actions of private citizens, businesses, and State and local governments as well as Federal agencies. Because of these dispersed responsibilities, federal strategic planning, program development and implementation must occur through consultative and collaborative processes. During her tenure, Secretary Norton has emphasized the four Cs: consultation, cooperation, and communicationall in the service of conservation. Better information about conditions and trends can help to overcome some of the challenges we face as we engage in these processes with stakeholders having conflicting interests.
Because natural and environmental resource information are central to resource management decisions, Department bureaus have a variety of ongoing data collection and research efforts. The Interior Department is fortunate to have the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which provides the Nation with vital data and assessments on many aspects of our environment and resources. Examples include: ''Status and Trends of Our Nation's Biological Resources,'' as well as other resources such as wetlands, water quality and quantity, minerals, oil and gas, land cover and invasive species. Recently, at the request of Congress, we forwarded a new plan for an ongoing assessment of water availability and use (Circular 1223, ''Concepts for National Assessment of Water Availability and Use''). As the Committee explores future efforts to provide the Nation with improved information on the state of the Nation's natural resources, I hope you will look to the Interior Department and, particularly, the USGS for our ideas and programs.
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Our bureaus have also partnered with other agencies in efforts to develop indicators. These efforts include preparation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a report on the environment and a series of multi-stakeholder roundtables that have grown out of efforts by the U.S. Forest Service, in the Department of Agriculture, to implement criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. It is our view that these efforts and the report released today by the Heinz Center provide a strong foundation for continued efforts to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of the information routinely available regarding our nation's resources.
I would like to turn now to the questions posed by the Committee in my invitation letter. First, you asked, from the Interior Department's perspective, what are the most significant findings of the Ecosystem Report?
One such finding is the strong assertion that valid and reliable measures of our natural and environmental resource systems need to be developed. The report notes the success of measures used in economic management and health care. The relative weakness of environmental and natural resource statistics and indicator systems hinders our efforts to manage these resources effectively and efficiently. It is reasonable to conclude that greater costs are incurred in our management processes when the lack of information heightens conflicts or leads to costly mistakes.
A second set of key findings arise from the significant trends identified in the data. We see trends in beneficial uses, such as the growth in commodity production and recreation. We also see trends in conditions that suggest potential losses in the capacity of some ecosystems to meet the growing demands from human uses in future decades in the absence of changed management practices. For example, there have been significant increases in nitrogen levels in streams and rivers, chemical contaminants, and imperiled species. In most cases, policies and programs are in place to address such problems. More detailed analysis is needed to assess their performance.
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Another major finding is the incompleteness of the data, as the Committee suggested in its second question. The Committed asked whether we agree that the data presented in the report provide only a partial picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems. The answer to this question is surely yes. First, the report states that there is insufficient data for 45 of the 103 indicators selected. Even if we grant that these indicators themselves were sufficient, there would still be important aspects of our environmental systems that we could not fully characterize for lack of data. Additional monitoring efforts are needed, and for 14 of the 103 indicators, research is needed to define an adequate measure.
Of course, the 103 indicators that are included in the report reflect what must have been an heroic effort to cull from much longer lists those that are most relevant to our goals and objectives. As the report notes, such choices reflect, in part at least, the values of the participants. While we at the Department applaud the Heinz Center's efforts to assure that its panels were broadly representative, there can be little doubt that some indicators of important features of our ecosystems and their uses have been left on the cutting room floor. The indicators selected here provide a very good start, but the process must continue for some years if we are to arrive at a stable set of indicators that will provide a comprehensive and consistent basis for assessing ecosystems.
The report is also partial from another perspective. As stewards for hundreds of millions of acres of land, the Interior Department's bureaus know that there are important variations from place to place that cannot be described in a national-level report. While the Department agrees that national reporting on ecosystem conditions and uses is important, we think that we must also be working toward ways of providing regional and local versions of similar information derived from many of the same data sets. With today's information technologies, it is feasible to provide access to similar indicators for sub-national geographic areas.
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Lastly, the Committee asked that we identify the most important policy and scientific implications. While I am not prepared to provide a detailed analysis of the scientific questions raised by the report, I would suggest that we need to carefully consider the research targets it identifies as we review our environmental science and monitoring programs.
Even more challenging to the state of our science is the need for tools that can be used for integrated assessment and diagnosis. While valid statistical indicators are important, most people remember images, stories and simple concepts rather than sets of numbers. I believe that the power of indicators is their capacity to ground in valid statistical measures, the stories we come to regard as the proper basis for action.
The Heinz Center strategically chose not to attempt such interpretations. Yet clearly a major advantage of organizing information by ecosystem type is the opportunity to develop and use our scientific knowledge of these resource systems to produce narrative assessments of their conditions and to diagnose the causes of problems identified by such assessments. This should be our long term goal for natural and environmental resource information systems just as it has been for our economic indicators system and for health assessment and diagnosis.
The report demonstrates that the Federal Government and its non-federal partners, including states and private organizations, should continue to improve the data available for such indicators.
I thank the Committee for the opportunity to provide this testimony. Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
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BIOGRAPHY FOR P. LYNN SCARLETT
Lynn Scarlett is Assistant Secretary of Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior. Prior to joining the Bush Administration in July 2001, she was President of the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, a nonprofit current affairs research and communications organization. For 15 years, she directed Reason Public Policy Institute, the policy research division of the Foundation. Her research focused primarily on environmental, land use, and natural resources issues.
Ms. Scarlett is author of numerous publications on incentive-based environmental policies, including, most recently, a chapter in Earth Report 2000 (McGraw-Hill) on ''dematerialization.'' She co-authored a report, Race to the Top: State Environmental Innovations, which examines state environmental programs that utilize incentives, private partnerships, and local leadership in addressing environmental problems.
Ms. Scarlett served on Pres. George W. Bush's environmental policy task force during his presidential campaign. She was appointed by former Gov. Pete Wilson to chair California's Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee, a position she held for six years. Ms. Scarlett served as an Expert Panelist on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's full-cost accounting and ''pay-as-you-throw'' projects. She chaired the ''How Clean Is Clean'' Working Group of the National Environmental Policy Institute from 199398 and served at the request of former EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus on the Enterprise for the Environment Task Force, which examined new directions for U.S. environmental policy.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. Scarlett received her B.A. and M.A. in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she also completed her Ph.D. coursework and exams in political science and political economy.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, Ms. Scarlett.
STATEMENT OF FRED KRUPP, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE
Mr. KRUPP. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me here today.
I will give a few brief moments of my time to explain why I think this report is so important and what I think the implications are for you on this committee as well as others in government, indeed, those of us in the private and nonprofit sector as well.
First, though, the Environmental Defense, Environmental Defense is a nonprofit environmental group. It was founded in 1967 with over 300,000 members around the Nation. We pride ourselves on using science and economics to solve environmental problems.
I think this report is very important by the Heinz Center because it, for the first time, proposes to give us an overview as to what are the conditions of our nation's ecosystems.
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One of the findings that jumps out and has already been commented on is that when all of these scientists from all of these different sectors, all of these experts got together, they could only findof the indicators that they thought were the most important, they could only find data for a national assessment of about half of them. That is a really stunning conclusion. Of the most important signals that would tell us how we are doing, we are only collecting and reporting data on about half. And I think that has implications for all of us. I think these gaps should be priorities to be filled in by the OMB, by this committee, by the appropriators. Moreover, I think it is important that the Committee, the Administration, environmentalists, businesses support the basic framework set forward in this report.
I also believe that this committee, the Administration, and other committees need to think about how do we keep a credible, transparent reporting effort like this alive. How, institutionally and legally, do we make sure that an effort like this goes forward, because it is so important that we have the same kind of data about our environment that we have about our economy. In the case of the economy, we have very reliable data. In the case of the environment, we find half of the data is just missing.
This is an effort that I think was important in part because so many different sectors did participate. Not only did environmental groups participate but others with whom we have many fundamental disagreements with participated as well. For many of the meetings, we had to check our weapons at the door before we could have a fruitful dialogue, but it was a very fruitful dialogue.
I think that one point I would like to make is that the Report really is not saying that in the absence of perfect information we can afford to stop making decisions. The Report really didn't look at that. A whole series of statutes specify what information is necessary for a decision to go forward. In fact, my own view, it would be irresponsible not to keep making decisions to protect resources, because inaction often means that the resource will be desecrated or we will even lose the resource entirely.
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Some of the things that also jumped out at me from the Report, and the Report refrains from making overall conclusions, but it does report information that some of which I find quite troubling. One of things is that when we look at our streams, 100 percent of the streams in our nation have been tested and found to contain chemical contaminants and artificial substances. Eighty percent or more of these streams have five or more such chemicals. Seventy-five percent of the streams have at least one chemical that is above the standard thought to be the point at which the levels of that chemical will affect aquatic life. That is quite significant, especially when you consider that the current Administration has been calling for an effort to reduce this type of monitoring. I don't understand if we reduce this type of monitoring how we are going to get an accurate picture in the future as to whether the streams are improving or getting worse.
I also find it disturbing that 1/5 of our nation's native animals and 15 percent of our nation's native plants are judged in the Report, based on the data in the Report, to be critically imperiled or imperiled. In fact, only one percent of our watersheds are found to be free of nonnative species. When you add all of this together, it paints a picture of bio-diversity in the United States of America under assault, and I think it should encourage us to do more to protect diversity.
There are some encouraging notes in the Report. Perhaps I can end on one. The Report does note that carbon in our nation's forests appears to be increasing. That is good news for those concerned about the climate change problem. And I think that is an important piece of information, especially since the Administration has yet to propose a credible plan to do something about climate change. It is good that at least the forests are absorbing carbon. However, the Report does also go on to note that we can't measure a report on how much carbon is stored in these forests in the soils or leaf litters where it is thought that as much as half of the carbon in the forest is contained. Also, there is not enough data to report on carbon being stored in croplands. And croplands are the part of our nation most subject to human influence. In other words, we can do more to our agricultural lands to store carbon and help alleviate the threat of climate change.
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Though I think this is a groundbreaking report for all of us who believe that performance-based approaches are an important way to devolve decisions to lower levels, we have got to have measures of how we are doing, how we are performing. And this report gives us the framework to do exactly that. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Krupp follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF FRED KRUPP
Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee to discuss the Heinz Center's newly released report on the state of the Nation's ecosystems.
I am Fred Krupp, Executive Director of Environmental Defense, which is a leading national nonprofit organization based in New York, dedicated to protecting the environment and human well-being by harnessing the power of social and economic forces. Since 1967 we have linked science, economics and law to create innovative, equitable, and cost-effective solutions to the most urgent environmental problems. Environmental Defense is a membership organization with 300,000 members throughout the entire United States and in some 49 countries internationally. Although I am appearing today in my capacity as Executive Director of Environmental Defense, I am also a member of the ''senior advisors'' group for the State of the Nation's Ecosystems project and a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Heinz Center. Many of my comments will reflect these overlapping roles.
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The State of the Nation's Ecosystems Project
My colleague Bill Clark has ably summarized the background and content of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems: Measuring the Lands, Waters, and Living Resources of the United States, with which I am proud to be associated. The following comments address the importance of the effort, its credibility and independence, what the report says about gaps in our knowledge about the environment, and some of the implications of the conclusions in the report.
Ensuring periodic, comprehensive, non-partisan, scientifically-grounded public reporting on the state of the Nation's ecosystems should be a high priority for this committee, this Congress, and the Bush Administration.
Americans care deeply about the environment, and they demand accountability from those with responsibility for protecting it. An overall view of conditions and trends that allow assessments of progressor lack of itwill greatly improve environmental policy making and implementation.
I strongly recommend that the report issued today be used as the framework for moving forward in several dimensions. First, the data gaps identified in the report should serve as a priority list for action by agencies, OMB, this committee, and the relevant appropriators.
Second, this committee, other committees in both the House and Senate, members of the Administration, and representatives from the business and environmental communities should stand shoulder to shoulder to support continued public reporting using the basic framework and the indicators contained in the report. This information must be kept in the public domain to provide the accountability that the American public demands. Public scrutiny of the information is one of the surest ways to motivate improvements in the data and the environment.
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Finally, this committee, other committees in both the House and Senate, members of the Administration, and representatives from the business and environmental communities should seriously consider what institutional, legal, and financial mechanisms are needed to ensure the independence, transparency, and engagement of multiple stakeholders that are crucial if this type of reporting is to maintain the credibility the current report has, and that our system of economic indicators also enjoys.
The State of the Nation's Ecosystems project took precisely the right approach to ensuring full and active participation from a wide variety of interests.
From my experience both as an advisor to the project and as director of a major environmental organization, in communication with many of my colleagues, I can say two things with certainty. First, we in the environmental community were deeply involved in shaping the content of this reportin selecting indicators, identifying and choosing data sources, and in characterizing the findings. Second, many organizations with which we differ greatlyeven fundamentallyon policy matters also participated meaningfully. The forum provided by the Heinz Center allowed us to ''check our weapons at the door'' and find common ground on something we could agree onhow best to describe the natural resources we care deeply about.
The project ensured that those aspects of the environment that were most important to each of usenvironmentalists, developers, scientists, government representativeswere reflected in the report. However, the list of indicators is not only what Environmental Defense would have chosen, but rather an amalgam of the most important aspects from each participating group.
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As an environmental advocacy organization deeply committed to good science, Environmental Defense frequently issues its own findings on issues of concern to us. We have a strong scientific staff, and our work is of high quality. I am not so naiAE4ve, however, to think that a report by Environmental Defense scientists is accepted uncritically by business or development advocates. Likewise, I view reports from these organizations with a certain degree of skepticism. These kinds of attitudes would reduce the effectiveness of any ecosystem reporting effort by individual stakeholder groups, and the Heinz Center approach is an excellent antidote.
The report points out important gaps in what we know about the state of our nation's ecosystems, but it does not call into question the basis for specific regulatory or policy decisions.
The goal of the project is to lay the groundwork for ''big picture'' reportingto provide a broad overview of conditions and trends, to summarize what is known and not known, and to bring together data from a wide variety of sources about a wide variety of ecosystems. We desperately need this kind of overall perspective.
However, the report did not examine whether specific regulatory or policy decisions were supported by sufficient facts. Two things are relevant here. First, for many decisions, particularly regulatory or significant policy decisions, there are requirements in law that govern the information needed to make a decision, that provide opportunities for advocates on both sides to both provide information and challenge the sufficiency of the record on which an agency is acting, or both. Statutes such as those governing administrative procedure, the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, Data Quality Act and others provide a structured basis for ensuring that agency actions are based on proper consideration of an appropriate factual record. As I have stated, the Heinz Center process did not explore either the sufficiency of these structured mechanisms or the adequacy of information in any particular instance.
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On a broader note, however, there are times when action is needed even in the absence of every last bit of desirable information. In fact, the Heinz Center's indicatorsas valuable as they areshould be viewed as ''lagging indicators''telling us what has happened as a result of the combined influences of many stresses imposed upon the environment. They are not ''leading indicators''predicting what will happen in the future. It is often the case that we have information about the effects of a certain stressincontrovertible evidence, even if it is not national in scopecombined with evidence of an increase in the amount of that stress. In such cases, it would be the height of folly, no, it would be the height of irresponsibility, to say that we should wait to act until the final results were in, and the damage was already done.
The Hippocratic Oath taken by new physicians says ''First, do no harm.'' The so-called ''precautionary principle'' takes this approach, saying that decisions with possible significantly negative consequences should be deferred until there is clear evidence that no harm will result. Had we incorporated such an approach into environmental policy making in the past four decades, we could have avoided many of the problems we are dealing with today.
Let me now pose and answer several important questions, including some posed in the invitation to testify sent to me.
What does the report conclude about the state of the Nation's ecosystems?
What are the major gaps in existing data and knowledge, and how should they be filled?
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The Heinz Center report specifically refrains from coming to overall conclusions about the state of our natural resources. As I have said, I agree with this policy. However, the report does contain some items that are troubling and some that are cause for cautious optimism.
For example, I find it deeply troubling that, wherever we look in our rivers and streams, we find artificial chemicals or heavy metalsin 100 percent of streams tested. And in three quarters or more of the cases, these chemicals exceed guidelines designed to protect fish and other aquatic animals.
I find it also troubling that we cannot say whether this situation is getting better or worse, and this is compounded by the fact that the Bush administration has on several occasions called for reductions in the program responsible for collecting these data. Such reductions would virtually ensure that we would never figure out whether our waters are getting cleaner or not.
In another area, it is disturbing to note that almost one-fifth of the Nation's native animals and about 15 percent of native plant species are rated as ''critically imperiled'' or ''imperiled'' and that only one percent of watersheds are free of non-native fish. These figures imply that our nation's biodiversity is under siege, at a time when many call for ''streamlining'' too often translate into weakening our protective mechanismslike the Endangered Species Act.
As with water quality, it is troubling to me that we cannot say whether rates of endangerment are going up or down. I have my own opinions of course, but it would be much more useful if these perceptions were validated in a forum that my opponents on this subject could not ignore.
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On a positive note, I am happy to see that the amount of carbon stored in our nation's forests appears to be increasing. Again, with the Bush Administration's unwillingness to confront the crucial issue of climate change, we need all the help we can get.
On this score, as with the other issues I have mentioned, there are gaps that make the picture too fuzzy to be satisfactory. We can only report on carbon stored in the above-ground portion of treesyet half or more of the carbon in forests is stored in the soil and in leaf litter and other forest floor components. And we cannot report on the amount of carbon in our cropland soilsperhaps the most easily manipulated stock of carbonor in grasslands and shrublands. Since the latter include tundra areas, which have large amounts of carbon and may be particularly susceptible to early global warming trends, this is particularly troubling.
Why is it important to have information about ecosystems on a national level, when many decisions are made on local or regional level?
Much environmental decision-making in the United States is done at the state or local level. The state of the Nation's ecosystems and other natural resources is the result of a multitude of such state and local decisions, many of which are of small or relatively small impact when considered in isolation. When considered together, however, these myriad state and local decisions are of potentially quite significant cumulative impact. State and local decision makers should be aided by having national-level information of the sort the Heinz Center report attempts to assemble, because that information enables them to understand the broader implications of the decisions they make. Water quality, endangered species, carbon storagethese are key elements in any environmental agenda, be it national or local. My comments above demonstrate that the Heinz Center report is vital to key national debates over crucial environmental issues, many of which can be most effectively addressed by national policy (e.g., enhancing soil carbon through the Conservation Reserve Program; increasing water quality by strengthening Clean Water Act implementation, particularly with regard to nonpoint source pollution; reducing the threat of biological invasions with controls on the transport of exotic species across our borders).
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What are the policy and scientific implications of the Heinz report and other efforts, such as EPA's upcoming ''State of the Environment Report,'' for performance-based environmental protection and community right to know?
Environmental indicators like those in the Heinz report are essential for performance-based environmental protection. It's not enough to determine whether a mitigation, restoration, or conservation project has been completed. The true test of effectiveness lies in the response of ecosystem attributes to the project. Indicators can also greatly enhance the transparency of industrial, development, and conservation activities thereby complementing Right to Know policies.
As Bill Clark has noted, there are several key implications, which I will touch on only briefly:
We must ensure the continuation of the excellent reporting begun with the report released today.
We must respond effectively to the substantive challenges posed by findings like those I have noted on water quality, endangered species, and carbon storage.
We must continue to make progress in ensuring that our data collection and reporting efforts are backed by the best science.
In addition to these implications, I think it is worth noting that the sort of reliable data on the status and trends of ecosystems and natural resources that the Heinz Center report provides is likely to be essential to the development of performance-based environmental protection. In the end, what matters most is whether our environmental objectives are being met. Compliance with regulatory requirements is a means to this end, and is often an important means, but it is important not to confuse means with ends. Our environmental objectives, typically, are expressed in terms of some discernible improvement in the abundance, well-being, or quality of a particular natural resource. Having both clear indicators of environmental health, and the ability to measure them reliably, are essential if we are to move beyond past regulatory approaches that prescribe one-size-fits-all actions that regulated interest must take, and to new performance-based approaches that allow businesses and others the flexibility to achieve clearly stated environmental objectives in whatever manner is most cost-efficient for them.
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In this regard, the Heinz Center report provides a valuable model for EPA's pending State of the Environment Report. I would also note that the EPA's own Science Advisory Board recently issued a report entitled ''A Framework for Assessing and Reporting on Ecological Condition'' that urges EPA ''systematically to develop, assemble, and report on information about the health of ecological systems.'' The Science Advisory Board's report presents a framework that is consistent withalthough more detailed thanthat of the Heinz report. Both the Heinz Center and Science Advisory Board reports provide a foundation upon which EPA can build as the agency moves toward reporting on the ecological and human health improvements provided by its programs. Both reports also highlight the importance of telling the public not only what we do know, but also what we don't know about environmental conditions. The agency must be candid with the public about data gaps and work with multiple stakeholders to prioritize and address those gaps.
What are the priorities for filling information and indicator gaps identified in the report, and what should the Federal Government do in response to the report?
A comprehensive and systematic effort to collect, on a regular basis, the sort of information needed to make intelligent assessments of the status of our nation's ecosystems and natural resources is a task that is best carried out by, or coordinated by, the Federal Government. As the report notes, the Federal Government already has a number of information collection and reporting programs that are of high quality, though they measure only a few of the environmental variables that the report suggests are important. The task ahead is to further refine these programs and add others for other key environmental variables. This should be done in a systematic way, taking full advantage of the capabilities of the states, and integrating universities and others into the effort.
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BIOGRAPHY FOR FRED KRUPP
Fred Krupp is the Executive Director of Environmental Defense, a national environmental organization that links science, economics and law to create innovative, equitable and cost effective solutions to the most critical environmental problems.
Krupp and Environmental Defense have been influential in the series of international climate change negotiations that met in The Hague, Buenos Aires and the Kyoto Protocol where he led Environmental Defense's delegation. Environmental Defense contributed to the U.S. proposal to use emissions budgets and trading as the structure for the Kyoto Protocol. These ideas were, in large measure, adopted. Krupp was a key figure behind Congressional passage of the Clean Air Act (which employs an innovative and economically sound Environmental Defense-designed acid rain reduction plan). He has led Environmental Defense in establishing a series of corporate partnerships on materials use (e.g., McDonalds) and climate change (e.g., BP). He led the successful effort to convince chemical manufacturers to accelerate screening of their high production volume chemicals for health effects. He also led the environmental community in the use of Internet technology, most notably with the zip code specific information site, www.scorecard.org.
Krupp leads Environmental Defense's teams of scientists, attorneys, engineers, and economists in developing solution-oriented strategies to tackle a wide range of U.S. and international environmental problems including global warming; protection of endangered wildlife and ecosystems; restoration of inland, coastal and ocean habitats; elimination of environmental threats to human health; the protection of tropical rainforests.
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Since Krupp joined Environmental Defense in 1984, its annual budget has increased from $3 million to more than $35 million, full-time staff has more than quadrupled from 50 to over 200, membership has expanded from 40,000 to more than 300,000, and new regional offices opened in North Carolina and Texas.
Krupp serves on the board of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics. He recently chaired the Green Group, a national coalition of 30 leading environmental organizations. A member of the President's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations, he has also served on the commissions established by Presidents Bush and Clinton on the environment.
Krupp, a graduate of Yale with a law degree from the University of Michigan, taught environmental law at both schools. Prior to joining Environmental Defense, Krupp spent several years in private law practice in New Haven, during which time in 1978, he helped found the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, a leading state environmental group. Mr. Krupp lives in Connecticut with his wife, Laurie, and their three children.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, Mr. Krupp.
STATEMENT OF KIMBERLY L. COBLE, MARYLAND SENIOR SCIENTIST AND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION
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Ms. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, it is an honor to be up here today and talking to you about a very important issue.
I am Kim Coble. I am Maryland Assistant Director and Senior Scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It is a regional organization tasked with saving and protecting the Chesapeake Bay. We were started in 1967, and we have 100,000 members with state offices in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and a headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland.
Our invitation here today is a little bit different than the other members. I think we were invited because we are a bit of a contrast to the Heinz Center, and yet we are also very complimentary to their work. We have been producing a State of the Bay Report, and I understand you have copies I have given you, for the last five years, and we produce them annually. Obviously, one difference is the thickness of ours versus the Heinz Center report as well as the frequency.
I am going to briefly talk to you about our methods and approaches and also the differences and similarities in the ways that I see these two complimenting each other.
As we started our work on the Chesapeake Bay, it became very clear about eight years ago that we needed to develop a good communication tool for the general public to understand the state of the Bay. There is no debate about the fact that the health of the Chesapeake Bay has declined to a very precarious place. As the largest regional advocacy group working to protect the Bay, CBF developed 12 indicators representing three categories to help track the state of the Bay and to help us drive policy decisions and directions.
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The three categories include habitat, fisheries, and pollution. Within each category, we have specific indicators that we have established. In the category of habitat, we have wetlands, forested buffers, underwater grasses, and resource lands. In fisheries, we look at shad, rockfish, or striped bass, oysters, and crab. And in the area of pollution, we look at water clarity and dissolved oxygen, not because they are pollutants but because they are verythey are influenced strongly by pollutants, as well as chemical contaminants and the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus.
These indicators were chosen because they best reflect the wide breadth of the health of the Bay and its living resources as well as the stressers that adversely affect these. In addition to defining the indicators, CBF developed interim goals for each of the indicators, and these goals are used to help determine how much progress we are making.
The main challenge CBF seeks to address when we do the State of the Bay Report is to understand how the current condition of the Bay compares to a Bay basically untouched by human impact as well as how the current condition compares to the previous years and to our interim goals.
CBF's State of the Bay Report is issued annually, and a numeric value is given to each indicator on a scale of 0 to 100. We look at 100 as a Bay basically untouched by humans. We set the low point in the early '80's, and we set the Bay's condition at a numerical value of 23. The first report was issued in 1998 with an average of 27. Since then, the value has fluctuated between 27 and 28. The 2002 Report, which is due out next month, unfortunately, will reflect no change as compared to 2001.
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Of the 12 indicators, oysters ranked the lowest with a ranking of 2, and this is due, in large part, to over-harvesting of the oysters as well as to disease. Currently, it is estimated there is two percent of the oyster population left in the Bay compared to historical high levels, and thus, we give it a ranking of 2.
On a good note, rockfish are our highest indicated indicator with a 75, and this is due primarily to a moratorium on harvest between 1985 and 1990, allowing the stock to rebound and to reharvest.
The largest change in the indicators over the last five years has been for crabs, and unfortunately, it has been a decline. The decline in the ranking of crabs is due to the combination of a steady drop in crab population as well as a lack of appropriate policy and regulatory responses. And this is one place that we do differ from the Heinz Center's report. We look at both quantitative data and qualitative data as we determine our rankings.
Some examples of the quantitative data that we use is for forested buffers. We give it a ranking of 54, and that is because 54 percent of the 110,000 streamside miles in the Bay watershed have buffers. As that percentage goes up, the ranking will go up.
Underwater grasses are ranked at 12, because it is determined that 12 percent of historically covered areas currently have underwater grasses, meaning we have lost almost 90 percent of the grasses that used to be in the Bay.
And nutrients are at 15, because the current loadings of nutrients are 1/7 of what they were in pre-colonial days. This was determined, obviously, by a model. And that determines a ranking of 15.
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We also use qualitative data. As mentioned, the rankings for crabs has decreased by ten over the last five years, and it is due in part to the drop in the crab population. But it is also due in part because the political and decision-making responses have not been as rapid and encouraging enough as we would like. We feel that theira report came out, a bi-state report between Virginia and Maryland, and we would like to see this report and the findings of it and the recommendations implemented much more quickly than they are being implemented.
Another example of qualitative data is in the area of nutrients. This is a particular concern for the Bay Foundation, and we have recently launched a campaign specifically at reducing nutrients. The 2002 State of the Bay Report will have our campaign on nutrients as a major headline.
The CBF indicators are used to provide the public with an overall picture of the health of the Bay as well as the specific information on those indicators. They are scientifically based; however, qualitative judgments and assessments are used. Current policies and actions are assessed along with the actual resource-based data.
Undoubtedly, the development of national indicators will benefit CBF's work on the state of the Bay and our work to restore the Bay. A key benefit of a report, such as the Heinz Center's, is that by developing national indicators is identifying data and data gaps. The important part of this is that on a regional level, we can then look at the data that our state agencies and regional organizations have collected and compare it to what is happening nationally, give accolades where they are due, and also give encouragement for data collection where needed.
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Secondly, and probably most importantly, the development of national ecosystem indicators raises people's awareness and understanding about environmental issues. The greater the understanding of the conditions of the environment, the more motivation there will be to support efforts to protect and restore the environment where necessary. A large part of CBF's efforts is to educate children and adults about the condition of the Bay and how their actions impact the health of the Bay. Increasing the dialogue about environmental conditions on a national level will truly help our efforts on a regional and local level. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Coble follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF KIMBERLY L. COBLE
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is a non-profit environmental education and advocacy organization dedicated to the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is 64,000 square miles and includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Virginia and the entire District of Columbia. With over 100,000 members worldwide, CBF is the largest regional non-governmental organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF works to educate the public and to protect the interests of the Chesapeake and its resources.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When 1607 Captain John Smith sailed up the Chesapeake Bay, he found an estuary rich in fisheries, including oysters and crabs, and a watershed lush with forests, with a buffer wetlands and a myriad plants and animals. This was an ecosystem that had evolved over several thousand years into one of the most productive on earth. Since then, however, the great value of the Chesapeake Bay's natural resources has, attracted a growing human population which in turn, has caused extensive damage through widespread development and pollution.
The Chesapeake Bay supports many commercially important fisheries, including crabs, menhaden, and rockfish (striped bass). Each year Bay watermen land more than 100 million pounds of seafood, including 40 percent of the Nation's blue crab catch and 70 percent of its soft crabs. In addition, the Chesapeake's rivers form the Atlantic Coast's most important spawning ground for striped bass, with approximately 75 percent of the stock hatched here. The Bay also serves as the nursery for these fish, which have even greater value for recreational anglers up and down the Coast than they do for the seafood industry.
A Vulnerable Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary, which is a system where fresh water streams mixes with salt water. The inherent richness of the Chesapeake Bay system derives in part from the fact that it has by far the largest land-to-water ratio of any estuary in the world, with an average depth of only 24 feet. More land means more pollutants and sediments. When it rains pollutants and sediment are swept from the land (and air) into the Bay's waterways. Thus the Chesapeake Bay is extremely vulnerable to our actions on the land.
Population growth and its attendant land clearing since European settlement has changed almost every acre of the Chesapeake's huge watershed. The current watershed population has been estimated to be 15 million, projected to rise to 18 million by 2025. This growth will bring more cars, more housing developments, more demand for electric power, more water consumption, more fertilizers, more sewagebasically more pollution that the Bay ecosystem will be expected to absorb, even as the system loses more of its protective natural filtersforests, wetlands and streamside buffers.
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These continuous threats have caused a decline in the Bay's health and in turn has prompted CBF to develop a set of indicators that would provide an understanding of the State of the Chesapeake Bay.
Methods and Results:
There is no debate about that the health of the Chesapeake Bay has declined to a very precarious point. As the largest regional advocacy group working to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, CBF developed a set of 12 indicators representing three categories to help track the State of the Bay and to help us to drive policy decisions and directions. The three categories include, habitat, fisheries, and pollution. Within each category specific indicators were established. The indicators applied to the habitat category are wetlands, forested buffers, underwater grasses and resource lands. In the category of fisheries, crabs, rockfish, oysters and shad are used as indicators. The following indicators track the pollution category: toxics, dissolved oxygen, water clarity and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). These indicators were chosen because they best reflect the wide breadth of the Bay's living resources, and the stressors that adversely impact the resources. In addition to defining the indicators, CBF developed interim goals for each of the indicators. These goals are used to help determine how much progress is being made in each of the categories.
The main challenge CBF seeks to address in the State of the Bay report is to understand how the current condition of the Bay compares to a Bay basically untouched by human impact and to the previous year and our interim goals for each indicator.
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CBF's State of the Bay report is issued annually. A numerical though qualitative value is given to each to the indicators and an average is calculated that is then used to reflect the health of the Bay over the past year. The numerical value, an index, is determined based upon a spectrum of 0100 where 100 is the presumed condition of the Chesapeake Bay when John Smith first arrived in 1607.
To create the State of the Bay report, CBF scientists examine the best available current and historical information for the indicators. Actual conditions of the resource (for example, how many miles of streamside forests have been planted) as well as, policy and regulatory actions that have or have not taken place are evaluated. Advice from Bay scientists, resource managers, academic researchers and others knowledgeable about the Bay's indicators is sought. Ultimately, a collective ''best professional judgment'' determines the value assigned for each indicator.
Characterization of the Bay:
With the spectrum defined, initially, it was determined that at the Bay's lowest point in 1983. The first report was issued in 1998 with an average value of 27 its index ranking was 23. Since then the value has fluctuated between 27 and 28. The 2002 report, due to be released next month will reflect no change on average from 2001 and will still report the Bay's average index at 27. Of the 12 indicators, oysters rank the lowest at 2 due in large part to over-harvesting and disease causing the current oyster population to be about two percent of what it was hundreds of years ago. Rockfish are the highest at 75 due primarily to a moratorium in harvests that allowed stressed stock to reharvest. The largest change in an indicator over the last five years has been for crabs and has unfortunately been a declined by 10 points. The decline in the ranking of crabs is due to the combination of a steady drop in the crab population as well as, a lack of appropriate policy and regulatory responses to the declining crab population.
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The State of the Bay reports have made several important points about the condition of the Chesapeake Bay and how effective the efforts to restore the Bay have been. According to CBF's estimates, the condition of the Bay has not changed for the past five years. There have been some minor movements in the individual indicator rankings such as, an improvement of five for rockfish and an improvement of four for shad. There has also been a decline in resource lands of three due to an increasing rate of loss of farmlands, forests and wetlands. Toxics have also declined (indicating more toxic contaminants discharged to the Bay) because of an increase in reported toxic releases from industries in Virginia and Maryland. Short of these specific fluctuations, there is little overall change. If we are to meet CBF's interim goals, including reaching an average of 40 by 2010, there needs to be some dramatic changes in policies and actions.
An Example of a Policy Response: The Nitrogen Challenge
One of the specific actions that CBF is calling for is a concerted effort to reduce nitrogen pollution. In fact, the headline in the 2002 State of the Bay report is ''Excess Nitrogen Prevents Bay Improvements.'' Nitrogen is one of CBF's indicators and is directly linked to all of the remaining indicators. As mentioned, human impacts drove the Chesapeake's health to its lowest point in 1983. Fortunately, at that time, scientists at the EPA and the Bay's research laboratories had just completed a comprehensive seven-year study of its ills, and they were able to point to a combination of factors that were degrading it. Scientific consensus indicated that of this suite of pollutants and physical impacts, nitrogen was the most dominant threat. The major sources of nitrogen pollution are runoff from agriculture fields and urbanized areas, discharges from sewage treatment plants, and air pollution.
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Nitrogen in proper amounts serves as a nutrient for plant growth, but when it is overabundant, it acts as a poison by causing algal blooms that literally block out the sun and thus inhibit the growth of much of the Bay's important aquatic vegetation. Robbed of important breeding and nursery habitat, the Bay's fish, crabs and other animals are further impacted when the algae cells die and are decomposed by aerobic bacteria, which consume life-giving oxygen, especially in the warm summer months when the demand for oxygen is greatest.
Agriculture, air pollution and sewage treatment plants make up the three highest sources of nitrogen pollution. In Chesapeake 2000, the new Bay Agreement signed in 2000, the governors of the Bay states, the D.C. Mayor, the EPA Administrator, and the Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair committed to reduce nitrogen loads by approximately half, to 150 million pounds per year by 2010. The basic strategy in Chesapeake 2000 is to reduce loads from these sources; protect and restore natural treatment systems such as streamside buffers, wetlands, underwater grasses, and oyster reefs; and conserve farm and forest land to increase filters and decrease sprawl.
CBF continues to call for strong and immediate actions to reduce nitrogen loads to the Bay. This would not only cause an increase in the nutrients indicator value but also in the following indicators; dissolved oxygen, water clarity, resource lands, wetlands, forested buffers, underwater grasses, crabs, rockfish, oysters and shad.
Development of National IndicatorsA Compliment to CBF's Indicators
CBF's indicators are used to provide the public with an overall picture of the health of the Chesapeake Bay. They are scientifically based however, qualitative judgments and assessments are used to develop the specific index ranking where necessary. Current policies and actions are part of the assessment along with actual resource based data for each of the indicators. One of the outcomes CBF looks for from the annual State of the Bay report is to generate policy changes and help set direction. This is in contrast to the State of the Nation's Ecosystem Report, which is strictly science based and does not make value judgments or policy recommendations.
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However, undoubtedly the development of national indicators would be beneficial to CBF's annual State of the Bay assessment. A key benefit of developing national indicators is the identification of data and data gaps. CBF uses available information to assess the current condition of the indicators. While there is a great deal of information regarding the condition of the Bay's resources and water quality, there are always additional needs. We are interested in using whatever data is available in our assessment of indicators.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, the development of national ecosystem indicators raises people's awareness and understanding about environmental issues. The greater the understanding of the conditions of the environment the more motivation there will be to support efforts to both protect and restore the environment where necessary. A large part of CBF's efforts is to educate children and adults about the condition of the Bay and how their actions impact the health of the Bay. Increasing the dialogue about environmental conditions on a national level will truly help our efforts on regional and local levels.
In conclusion, the combination of national ecosystem indicators and an effort such as, CBF's State of the Bay indicators will prove to be a powerful tool in assessing environment conditions and developing appropriate policies and actions to protect and restore the Bay.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Philip Merrill Environmental Center, 6 Herndon Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland 21403; (410) 2688833; Fax: (410) 2803513.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is a non-profit environmental education and advocacy organization dedicated to the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. With over 100,000 members, including over 40,000 in Maryland alone, CBF works to educate the public and to protect the interest of the Chesapeake and its resources.
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BIOGRAPHY FOR KIMBERLY L. COBLE
Kim has worked at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) for the past ten years, four of the years as the senior scientist for the Virginia office and the remaining as the senior scientist and assistant director for the Maryland office. CBF is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization working to preserve and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Kim's expertise is in the area of assessing and reducing the impact of chemical and nutrient pollution entering the Bay. Prior to coming to CBF, Kim worked as the Section Manager of the Water Quality/Hazardous Waste Section of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in Tacoma, Washington. Kim also worked at the University of Washington Department of Environmental Health as the project manager of a community arsenic exposure pathways study. Kim received her MSPH from the University of Washington.
What Conclusions Can We Draw From the Report?
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. You notice, all of you, thatfirst of all, thank you for your outstanding testimony. Secondly, The Chair has been generous with the time. I have been here 20 years. If I am here 100 years, I will never understand the rationale for inviting expert witnesses to come help educate us and then give them 300 seconds to tell us all we need to know. So The Chair is usually quite liberal, although that is a naughty word in some quarters, and with its time. No comment from the peanut gallery. But thank you all very much.
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I guess what we are all looking for, Dr. Clark, is something we can grab a hold of and run over to the floor and get in the middle of the debate and say, ''Here is what the Heinz Center report tells us, and these are the facts.''
Let me give you something that is very relevant, very timely, and very important. You know, we have had the worst fire season in a long, long time this year. And I am just wondering if there is anything in the Report that could help us understand what is going on and how we should respond to it and are we doing the right things in the right way. Is there anything that you can share with us on that, Dr. Clark?
Dr. CLARK. The Report is almost always going to beend up being more modest than either the people writing it or the people trying to use it would wish. So in fact, we don't have a policy prescription on what to do about fire. What we do is, in fact, provide the context for saying, ''This year's about six and a half million acres of fire-burn are about in the normal level of variation of the last 20 years.'' It is a lot, no question about it, but we have had years over the last 20 years that bump up to that sort of level, and it is nothing like the much, much higher burn levels that we had back earlier in the 20th Century. So one of the things that the Report does: a graph on something or other will point out that as much concern as we may have about the fires we are having now, they are by far not the worst of the Century, not anywhere close.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Trend-line
Dr. CLARK. No, the trend-line is that we had vastly more fire damage back in the earlier part of the 20th Century, and we have been holding, I think, as I remember, about level within the noise of year-to-year variation over the last 20 years or so.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. So could that lead one to fairly conclude that maybe our current management practices are working?
Dr. CLARK. That could lead some people to declare that. The Report did not diagnose the effectiveness of management practices. It set out to establish the data that said, ''Let us at least not condemn management practices for having the worst fire year in 100 years,'' when we didn't have the worst fire year, or anything like it, in 100 years.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Yeah. You have acknowledged, and several of the witnesses have pointed it out, Mr. Krupp particularly, that there are a lot of data gaps, obviously.
Dr. CLARK. Yeah.
Chairman BOEHLERT. But I am reminded of what Ed Koch, when he was Mayor of New York, used to ask the people all of the time, ''How am I doing?'' How are we doing? Where are we doing exceptionally well, and where are we not doing so well and need more data to determine the direction in which we should proceed?
Dr. CLARK. Many of us who grew up in and around Mayor Koch had that line posted on our foreheads for most of the time we were doing this report.
We, however, repressed the tendency to give grades. So we, in fact, don't go through and say, ''We are doing A+ in this and Ds in this,'' because it turned out many more people can agree on how we are doing, how many hectacres or acres burned than can agree on whether that is too many or too few.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. I am just talking about generally.
Dr. CLARK. Generally. Generally, theI will give a personal answerthe Report has no finding as a report on are we doing A+ work or a C work. The disturbing things are areas in which many of us were surprised. Not everyone was surprised. But I think most Members in this room probably would not have predicted that essentially every stream in America is contaminated with chemicals that weren't there before the Industrial Revolution or that a quite substantial fraction of them, 75 percent or more of all of the streams in this country have levels of contaminants above those judged safe for aquatic life.
Now the folks at USGS were not surprised at that, because their data programs have been telling us that for years, and years, and years. But for those of us who don't pay attention to the details of USGS, it was surfacing it up to the level of this report that called that out.
I think the big question is how much do you not want to be similarly surprised in areas we are not now looking? We haven't a clue, for example, what the contaminant levels in soils in urban and suburban areas are. And yet that is where increasingly, something like 75 percent of our nation's population lives, and a lot of us would like to be growing little gardens for our kids to do tomatoes in. We do not have a clue on the soils. We are guessing it based on what ends up in the rivers.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Well, doesn't that lead usand you are silent on air quality. Doesn't that lead us to conclude that maybe, instead of waiting five years or instead of waiting for the EPA assessment, or instead of waiting for anything, we ought to redouble our efforts to get more sooner so that we can respond in a proper way to that?
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Dr. CLARK. Many of us who have been working in environment policy issues for a long time and have been feeling that we are driving blind, are desperately anxiousespecially in these areas where it is not that we just know a little, we know nothing at allto figure out enough that if there are crises there, we can say so. And if people are needlessly worried about crises they can imagine but don't exist, we can give them some reassurance as well.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Well, you leave that area wide open for further discussion, but the red light is on for me, and I am going to honor that, and hopefully we will get back to this.
The Chair now recognizes Mr. Hall.
What Stories Does the Report Tell?
Mr. HALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Krupp finally, toward the end of his testimony, finally found one redeeming feature that I could count in all. And The Chairman sought from you, ''How are we doing?'' I know you don't give grades, but your answer wouldn't have been a passing grade, because you didn't tell him how we were doing. I just wonder what is the documenton page seven of the summary in highlights, the document says that even with information gaps, the Report tells a useful and interesting story.
Dr. CLARK. Um-hum.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HALL. Is that what it is all about; we just get a good, interesting story about it? What is the story the Report is telling other than we need additional information and additional monitoring? That is what I seem to get from the witnesses and the from reading the Report.
Dr. CLARK. The story, I believe, is that we know there exists data on a great deal of the behavior of our nation's ecosystems that most of us are not aware of but exist and have been brought together here.
Many people even on our committee were surprised to find that, for example, given all of the concern and public policy debate over changes in the extent of our forests, deforestation, loss of grasslands and farmland that, in fact, the three big categories of land use in this country, forests, farmland, and grassland/shrublands, have remained essentially constant over the last 50 years. There have been gnawing away on small ecosystems that are very important, like wetlands. There have been growth in urban areas, but still a very small couple percent. Most people, many people, have been worrying about public policy problems of the loss of our nation's farmland, when at a national level, these data show that is not a problem. Locally, it is a problem. In quality issues, it may be a problem, but in the aerial extent, it isn't a problem.
Similarly, we have shown that there are some sets of places you might have been worried about endangered species that the species are doing reasonably well. Mostly though, what we have discovered is that when we look hard, the environment is being transformed at a national scale in ways most of us don't know about, and that there are areas in which people had very real policy concerns that we could be looking and are not. Now the story, therefore, is probably no more interesting than the one you get from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Commerce Department when they put out their quarterly and annual numbers of GNP and unemployment and the like. And then other groups go on to debate whether those are too high or too low and what we should be doing about them. But it is essential foundation.
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Mr. HALL. Were any individuals from the Federal, State, or Local Legislatures involved in the process?
Dr. CLARK. Legislatures as opposed to administrative agencies?
Mr. HALL. Yes. Right.
Dr. CLARK. Let us see. Robin, help me out. We had no one who was sitting in an elected position at the time. We had appointed managers; we had people in the civil service.
Mr. HALL. To Mr. Krupp, let me ask you this: you indicated in your testimony that the Report does not call into question the basis for specific regulatory or policy decisions. What does the Report tell us? And The Chairman took a shot at that. Let me takeback him up. What does the Report tell us about the Nation's environmental policy, generally, and the direction it has taken or it should take, as you see it?
Mr. KRUPP. Well, I think it gives us the beginnings of an overview and itthe beginnings of being able to add up the sum of a bunch of individual decisions and figure out how they fit into the puzzle. But because this is the first time experts from all of the sectors have gotten together and agreed on indicators, I think the selection of some of the indicators and the first-ever readings tells us something very important.
Let me just pick out one thing that may be the most important new news, to me, out of the Report and that is in area after area the experts said how much nitrogen is out there is really important. And they decided to select the movement of nitrogen through the ecosystem as one of the core national indicators as well as putting it as an indicator in many of the individual systems. This is news, because a lot of us have heard about sulfur dioxide or climate change, but few in the public have realized andthat nitrogen is such a big issue. And when they looked at it, they said that in the four biggest rivers in our country, the amount of nitrogen in those rivers has increased dramatically. In the Mississippi, they tell us that the amount of nitrogen has tripled since the 1950's. Well, that is big news, especially when I understand from my colleagues at places like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and their sister organizations in the Gulf where you are from, Mr. Hall, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation tells us that the reason we are not makingone of the reasons we are notif I am not overstating this correctly, but one of the reasons we are not making more progress in the Bay is because there is too much damn nitrogen in the system. And the same thing in the Gulf. One of the reasons we have a dead zone is there is too much nitrogen overfeeding the system.
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For me, if you ask what is a practical thing that comes out of this first-ever agreement of all of the experts, I would say this nitrogen thing is pretty important.
Mr. HALL. And you would probably end it with, ''To be continued,'' wouldn't you?
Mr. KRUPP. I would.
Mr. HALL. I yield back my time. Thank you.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. The gentlelady from Maryland, Mrs. Morella.
Species and Population Statistics as Indicators
Ms. MORELLA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the panelists for their excellent testimony. And I guess I will start off with Ms. Coble. Thank you for being here. Thank all of you for being here.
I served in the State Legislature in Maryland, and I remember when we established that moratorium on rockfish, which was Maryland's fish, and I know that I have heard that it has been successful, and I am glad to hear that you mention that. I also remember hearing about the MSX problem. And I used to think, ''Gee, we don't have a defense system here.'' You know MX is, but the MSX problem, my recollection is a parasite that oysters get.
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Ms. COBLE. Um-hum.
Ms. MORELLA. And so you highlight in your testimony that that oyster population has suffered due in large part to over-harvesting and, you know, diseases like MSX. And also a steady drop, you have noted, in the crab population. And so this problem is of importance to a wide spectrum of individuals, the conservation community, the business community. I just met with the restaurant community, and we commented on that, a working person, and I wondered, in your opinion, is a moratorium on harvesting the answer to the problem? And is there any other ways that you think the problem can be dealt with?
Ms. COBLE. Is your question specific to crabs or oysters or
Ms. MORELLA. Both.
Ms. COBLE [continuing]. Both?
Ms. MORELLA. Both. Right.
Ms. COBLE. It is a very good question and very timely. We, at this point, don't feel that we arewe are right on the edge of a moratorium, but we are not calling for one. I mentioned that there was a group called the Bi-state Blue Crab Advisory Committee, and folks from Virginia and Maryland put together, looked at the crab harvest and health and came up with some very good recommendations about cutting back on the fishing effort, catch effort for crabs. And it included shortening the day that the watermen are out on the Bay collecting theor catching the crabs as well as keeping them off of the water one extra day. And we are looking for implementations of those kind of programs thinking that we can bring the population back without a moratorium.
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Oysters are a bit difficult, because there is so few that the harvesting is actually very limited, and a lot of what we are looking for in oysters is actually restoration of them and actually trying to get more put back. Wethe National Science Foundation is looking at bringing in Ariakensus, which is a Japanese oyster, and whether or not that is a good alternative or not, we are several years from knowing an answer to that. But the point being is that it is not so much the harvesting of the oysters that is the problem: it is actually getting enough in there that they can rejuvenate and regenerate themselves.
Ms. MORELLA. Thatthis problem is being looked at by, what did you say, a bi-state
Ms. COBLE. Um-hum. Um-hum.
Ms. MORELLA [continuing]. Group doing that?
Ms. COBLE. Um-hum.
Ms. MORELLA. Is there something that we, in Congress, could do to enhance what you are doing to assist, to promote this, or is it just the funding?
Ms. COBLE. Well, that is a good answer. Honestly, I guess I would like to get back to you with that question. There is obviouslythe National Science Foundation study of the Japanese oysters was a big step. And that is going to be very helpful. And in terms of the oyster and the crab, I will have to get back with you specific
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Ms. MORELLA. Yeah.
Ms. COBLE [continuing]. Recommendations on that.
Ms. MORELLA. Well, if there is something that you want to suggest.
Ms. COBLE. Thank you.
Future Reports and Filling Data Gaps
Ms. MORELLA. Thank you. I wonder if I might ask all of you, the next report is not due now until 2007. And are there any other efforts that are planned to produce such an in-depth report in addition to the one that we have before us? Maybe Dr. Clark would like to comment on that since you chaired this
Dr. CLARK. Let me start
Ms. MORELLA [continuing]. Report.
Dr. CLARK [continuing]. But then defer to my colleagues from the agencies
Ms. MORELLA. Okay.
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Dr. CLARK [continuing]. Who will have, I am sure, much to say on this. First, let me be clear, the plan is to produce every five years a full revision of the full report in its printed form. That seemed, to us, about the rate at which new data sets were coming on line and would justify coming out with a total revision.
Chairman BOEHLERT. And if I may intervene, could we expect some of the voids to be filled during that interim period?
Dr. CLARK. Yes. Absolutely. And in between, at 1-year intervals, updating the version of this report that is up on the Web. And I should emphasize that this entire report was, in fact, designed as a Web document and then printed rather than designed as a printed document and then Webbed, precisely in order that people, not just in the halls of power, but in classrooms, in civic organizations, in the Chesapeake Bay group, and so on, could get at it rather than wondering where their last printed copy had gone to. So taking advantage of the Web technology, we will be doing an update to incorporate new data sets each year, and of course, doing corrections of technical errors that come up as they arrive.
Now we know a large number of data sets that are noted in the ''Not presently available for reporting'' category as we have here, that are due to come on line this year, next year, and beyond. The Forest Service has, I was told, just come out with their revision of one of the key data sets. USGS, I know, is continuously revising and updating and certainly won't wait our five years in doing those reports. And as Ms. Nelson has said, we have got the EPA report coming out, presumably, within the year. Right? So there are any number of updates going along, and we have nothing to stop us from adjusting our overall frequency. If the Federal Government jumped in and started measuring everything we lamented not being there, we would probably agree to report it out real quick.
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Ms. MORELLA. Well, I know my time has expired, Mr. Chairman. Maybe
Chairman BOEHLERT. Well, I will take the liberty of The Chair
Ms. MORELLA. Thank you.
Compiling the Data on a Regular BasisIs There an Agency Role?
Chairman BOEHLERT [continuing]. And just let me follow-up on your excellent question, because what it really boils down to is where do we go in the future to get this type of information? And Mr. Krupp pointed it out. You are all saying the same thing, essentially. Do you think it is necessary to set up, like, a Bureau of Environmental Statistics, something that is independent within the government and that would be sort of insulated from the political pressures to just give us factual data? What do you think, Dr. Clark?
Dr. CLARK. We have talked about it in the Committee. I think that it is early to say, but precisely that debate is the one that both the Heinz Center and, we hope, our partners in Congress and the agencies, will be engaged in over the next several years. We were very sobered to be told by some of the experts we consulted with early on as they reminded us that the effort to develop a set of national income statistics, the ones we all now take for granted, those lived for 10 years up at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge before they were judged to be tough and mature and professionalized enough to bring down to the serious world of Washington, not because anybody thought someone was out to corrupt them, but because it was simply believed that you better have them off somewhere protected and gentle while you get the kinks out and figure out what the review procedures should be, and so on. And so
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Chairman BOEHLERT. Are you going to be the protector and gentle force, the Heinz, while we wait another nine years to get something mature?
Dr. CLARK. Remember, I am just a volunteer laborer at Heinz.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Well, you are also a diplomat. Mr. Krupp, do you have any comment on that?
Mr. KRUPP. I think you are asking the right question, Mr. Chairman. I think while the Committee and Heinz Center hasn't taken a position, I think what we have tried to do is demonstrate that having these indicators is important, that here is one set of indicators that an awful wide array of folks agree on that we, at the Heinz Center, are willing to do this report again five years from now and update these indicators on an annual basis. But if there is any way that we can work with you to try to facilitate you and your colleagues in Congress and those in the Administration and the agencies to come up with a consensual answer to that, then we will have done our job. I don't think it is for us to answer, but I think it is exactly the right question.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Any of the agencies care to comment on that? Ms. Scarlett, do you have a point of view that you are willing to share with us?
Ms. SCARLETT. Two-pronged question.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Yes, I know that. The answer to the first one is obviously yes.
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Ms. SCARLETT. Let me say that theI think really the comments of my two colleagues are right on target. As we, at Interior, really zero in on trying to identify what indicators we ought to be using to assess: are our forests healthy, are our wetlands healthy, are our biological communities healthy, we have sought the insights from the Heinz Report. We have sought insights from a series of environmental indicators, roundtables that are segmenting and looking specifically at forests or specifically at water in somewhat more detail. We will be drawing from the insights from EPA. I am notand I think at this point that evolutionary process is probably very healthy as we try to explore what the indicators ought to be. So at this point, we are tapping into those and don't have a position on whether there ought to be a special locus or location for them to reside.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Ms. Nelson.
Ms. NELSON. Yeah. Thank you. I would echo what we have heard so far. I think there is an important discussion that has to occur, and it is probably premature to make those organizational judgments. I would hate to see the important discussion get tied up in those organizational issues, which it could very well do.
I would simply say that EPA, both the last Administration and this Administration, has been committed to presenting this kind of information. The office that I head, the Office of Environmental Information, was created just for this purpose: to be able to present a single focus sort of semi-independent within the organization where we could pull together information that is needed by the Agency in a way that is factual, solid, accurate. And I believe we have done that. This particular project is done in partnership with our Office of Research and Development so that we have that sound science element that goes along with the release of these indicators.
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But I think what we have done so far within the Office of Environmental Information is very much in line with the intent of the Bureau of Environmental Statistics in terms of centralizing that activity within the organization. So this report is coming out from that office in conjunction with ORD, not from specific media programs within the organization.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Ms. Jackson Lee.
What Does the Report Tell Us About Future Policy?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me thank The Chairman for the hearing and note the importance of this particular presentation.
I have two questions: one for Mr. Krupp and one for Assistant Administrator Nelson.
Mr. Krupp, let me thank you for the work that the Environmental Defense organization does and as well to note that two important issues of this report, even though it is about indicators, are clean air and clean water. And one of the points that you make is about what we can do with the Report and how we can grow and develop policies. That is the very question that I would like to ask you and to have you answer it in the context of those who once said global warming doesn't exist. I believe we have enormous data to say the contrary. So my point is, what does the Report tell us about the Nation's environmental policy generally and the direction that it should take? And does it help us understand global warming, in any manner, better than what seemingly we understood in the past, at least as we look at the policies we presently have?
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Mr. KRUPP. Thank you. Thank you for your kind marks on my testimony as well.
I think, for me, an extremely important conclusion that one has to come to from reading the Report and reading the conclusion of all of these experts that we only are gathering half of the data they think we need to make judgments is that priority number one should be going about systematic collection of more data so that we can have a more informed look. It is hard to understand how we could expect our democratic processes to work if we are not giving people the information they need to have information and judgments. Maybe it is no wonder that so often, you know, the environmental debate evolves into a discussion of: does the problem exist or not instead of what to do about it. And the more data we collect, I think, the less we will be talking about whether the problems that clearly do exist, exist or not. To me, the discussion of whether they exist is often just a deflection of energy, you know, away from solving them.
On the issue of climate change, we are going to needI don't think the Report speaks to the science of climate change, but others have done that, including the National Academy in response to the President's question, including the intergovernmental panel on climate change. And the overwhelming consensus of scientists is that humans are affecting the climate and that the outcomes that we are beginning to see are very serious, and, indeed, threaten our nation's ecosystems.
The part of the Report about carbon storage that is so important is that carbon storage, in my judgment, has to be part of the solution. Because the challenge of reducing the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere is so severe that we have got to reduce emissions, we have got to generate efficiencies, and we also have to restore carbon. And the troubling thing about the Report, and I think how it has to inform our thinking about policies of climate change that you ask about, is that until we make a more serious attempt to measure the amount of carbon our farmers are storing in their cropland and their soil, until we know the amount of carbon being stored in the tundra or being released from the tundra because it is getting warmer and the permafrost isn't so ''perma'' anymore, until we can understand that, it is going to be very difficult to have a robust suite of policies, including maximum use of these ways to soak up carbon.
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How Does the Report Relate to EPA's Work?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.
Administrator Nelson, if you can share with me the impact of the indicators on the EPA but more importantly how we can improve the Administration's position on clean air and water, particularly relating to waste and toxic entities that may create, if you will, a contamination of those, of the air and water that we have to utilize.
Ms. NELSON. Let me say the EPA Report will focus on three media areas: air, water, and land. And some of those issues you addressed will be covered in those three chapters. We have two other chapters that deal with ecological condition and human health.
I think what you will find is that through our efforts, we are trying to look at the scope of EPA's activities. And one reason for a slightly different framework than the Heinz Report where they dealt in depth with ecosystems, we tried to look at what was EPA's mission: to protect human health and the environment. Therefore, what are our statutory and regulatory obligations under our mission, and how do we report to the American public the progress we are making?
I do believe, like the Heinz Report, the Report we put on the street will be very factual and scientifically based. It will not deal with policy issues or recommendations. You will see some quality trends. You will see someyou will see a little bit more information about the actual stressers that are having an impact on the condition of the environment. But I don't think the kinds of questions you are asking in terms of important land policies related to contaminated sites and our current air quality and water quality issues will be addressed. But the Report will provide important information that will drive that dialogue in the future. I think we have talked about that already. The mere presence of good factual science doesn't relieve the need for good debate in the future about the best approaches for solving those very important problems.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, could I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record my statement for this hearing?
Mr. EHLERS [presiding]. Without objection, so entered.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.
Invasive Species in Ecosystems
Mr. EHLERS. Next, it is my turn for questioning. I apologize on behalf of the Chairman who was called away to an Intelligence Committee meeting. And I am filling in until he has the opportunity to return. The comforting part is that the Congress does have an Intelligence Committee.
First of all, just a quick question, then I have a much broader question. Last week, a number of us introduced legislation attempting to prevent invasive species from coming into this country. To what extent does the Report deal with invasive species? What aspects does it look at? Dr. Clark.
Dr. CLARK. Invasive species certainly came up in virtually all of our ecosystems, whether it was on firm lands or the Nation's fresh waters and so on. Through the various government and environmental organization surveys, we cite a good bit of data on that. I think the distressing thing was that the only place where we can report a systematic national level survey of how are we doing with regard to exotics or invasive species has to do with the case of fish in fresh water. That is the only piece of a system where we have decent data. And there the, to me, personally, alarming situation is that there is barely one percent of our stream systems throughout the Nation that do not have at least one invasive species in them. And 40 percent, at least 40 percent of those systems have more than ten. Now fish are not as mobile as many of the exotic or invasive species mentioned in the legislation you refer to. And so it would be reasonable, I am speaking now as a one-time ecologist, to expect that those numbers would be even worse for more mobile organisms. And yet again, the tragedy is we don't know. We are trying to manage this stuff without knowing what the state is on the ground.
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Ecosystems Data Collection and Modeling
Mr. EHLERS. Thank you. The major question is, first of all, to repeat the thank you I gave during my opening statement to you and the Heinz foundation and the Heinz Center for the work on this, it is badly needed. I am pleased to see it. And in response to the question of what is next, it seems, to me, obvious: number one, continue the work; number two, fill the gaps in our lack of knowledge.
My question is about number three. Incidentally, I do have to give a side comment. Several times here, you say you were emulating the financial reporting system. I hope you are not trying to emulate it too closely. I hope your record, eventually, is better than that. But my real question, and very deep questionor requires a deep answer, I should say, it seems to me the really next step is what type of comprehensive theories and models can you develop that would use this tremendous variety of data that you arethat you hope we can all inquire? And how will we use that to develop some sort of a comprehensive overlookoverview of the health of the ecosystem? And what do you see coming down the pike on that? Is that simply beyond our ability at this point, or is there work going on at this point? In other words, acquiring statistics and data is one thing, and the government is fairly good at that in many areas, and maybe eventually, they can take this over. But in terms of really taking that information and developing understanding based on the data is very difficult, very challenging work, and usually done at the university level. What do you see coming down on this?
Dr. CLARK. Well, we early on paired up with an ongoing study at the National Academy of Sciences on the prospects for theorizing and modeling ecosystem health and what that would require that we be measuring. We brought the Chairman of that committee, Gordon Orions, I know he is known to Members of this committee, onto ours and so have been working rather closely with the groups both within the academy and in groups like the Ecological Society of America, who might be expected to be building and testing the theories of which the indicators we are talking about would be some of the parameters or variables.
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I think it is a mixed picture there. For some of these things, like the work we refer to in the Report on the almost ready-to-go system of modeling and measuring the biological health of soils in our nation's farm systems, their work on nematode diversity and so on has actually gotten to the level of there being a good modeling and analytic foundation to what the indicators would mean and how we can deal with them. But it is down at that scale.
In other areas, we simply do not begin to have the theorizing. Seventy-five percent of America's people are going to live in suburban and urban areas over the next several decades. We don't begin to have an understanding of how humans and environments interact in urban areas, not close and not looking at it. As a scientist, I am sure you will appreciate that we have been told by our science colleagues that they are looking on this report as much to provide push on their building of theory and models as to merely beas they are looking the other way around of their theory and models to suggest what we should be analyzing. I think the analogy they have kept telling us about is the one out of the work in global environmental change over the last 20 years where, in many ways, the remote sensing monitoring technologies, the satellite technologies, drove the theorizing. The Vostok ice scores drove the theorizing rather than the theorizing driving the data sets. And I think we are in a very exciting period right now where with macro level variables of this sort, as the academy study told us, we start redefining the questions that the ecologists are going to be building and testing their theories around. But that is a 10-year horizon question.
Mr. EHLERS. Well, it is, and in fact, I agree that the data will drive the theorizing, but the theorizing will also drive
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Mr. EHLERS [continuing]. The need for further data, acquisition of data
Dr. CLARK. Yeah.
Mr. EHLERS [continuing]. Development of new indicators and so forth. So it isin some areas, it is going to require an immense amount of attention
Dr. CLARK. Right.
Mr. EHLERS [continuing]. And perhaps some day, you will be able to link these models with the economic models because the environmental indicators depend on what is happening in the economy.
Dr. CLARK. Yes.
Mr. EHLERS. At the same time, the means of ameliorating the bad effects also depend on having a good economy so you have the resources to deal with it.
Dr. CLARK. Yeah.
Mr. EHLERS. So you are going to have a doubly
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Dr. CLARK. Yeah.
Mr. EHLERS [continuing]. Or squared complex model at that point. I haveI am at my limit, and I will next turn to the Congresswoman from California, Ms. Woolsey.
Integrating the Heinz Report With the EPA State of the Environment Report
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have the privilege of representing the two counties north of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. And I am sure you know that some of our great environmental grassroots efforts have come from that area. And when I knew of the Report and what I have seen of it, like my constituents, I thought it was a really wonderful beginning. Thank Heavens. Thank you, Dr. Clark and the Heinz group. Then when I am hearing the testimony of this very good panelthank you, panel. When I heard the testimony of both of the agency representatives, I heard a little bit of sounds likethat were like, ''Let us postpone action until we have everything, everything that we want out of that report and any future report,'' you know, like the 80/20 rule, which you put all of your energy into 20 percent of a project: that gives you very little return.
So what I would like to ask both Ms. Scarlett and Ms. Nelson is how will your agencies use this information that we have gatheredthatI mean more than gathered, this good information? And how are you going to prevent redundancy in the EPA Report, Ms. Nelson? And how are we going to stop the arguments of, ''Well, this is good science, but I don't like what it is saying, so it is not my science, and I am not going to pay any attention to it.'' So I will start with Ms. Nelson. And Ms. Scarlett, I would like you to respond, also.
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Ms. NELSON. Thank you. Let me clarify. If, for any reason, I gave the impression I am suggesting we delay or deliberate further before we consider the findings in the Heinz Report itself
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, and do something with it.
Ms. NELSON [continuing]. That isright, that is not what I was saying.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Okay.
Ms. NELSON. I think what Heinz is saying and what we are saying is that this report that they have done and that we hope to do by the end of the year is actually the beginning of a very, very important dialogue. And in fact, this morning, I think it was Mr. Lovejoy who said the Report is not an end, but a rock-solid beginning of a very, very important dialogue. So that is what I was saying in terms of how we need to use this.
I think one of the most important findings coming out of the Report, and Mr. Krupp has said this several times, is the fact that you had distinguished representatives from all sectors come together and agree that these indicators are the right set of indicators for ecosystems. That is a huge step. That sounds like a baby step, I know, but it is a huge step to reach agreement. I don't know that, you know, as the
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, how will
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Ms. NELSON [continuing]. Report was on and the dialogue
Ms. WOOLSEY [continuing]. You use them?
Ms. NELSON. We intend to use some of the Heinz Report indicators as part of our State of the Environment report that we will put out by the end of the year, as we will use indicators that have come from other groups as well to present or to paint the picture that is important for the mission of the EPA. We will not use all of them, but thoseand asjust as Heinz indicators came from other sources as well. They have pulled data from other organizations to present this picture. We are pulling data from other sources to present the picture that is important for the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of communicating to the public.
Ms. WOOLSEY. And how does your mission differ from the Heinz mission?
Ms. NELSON. Well, the Heinz is an independent foundation. And they chose, through this effort, as a result of, I believe, discussions they had with the White House at the time, to focus on ecosystems. EPA's mission is protect human health and the environment, and consequently, we believe we have to report on some areas that aren't necessarily covered in the Heinz Report.
Ms. WOOLSEY. You will broaden it?
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Ms. NELSON. Yes. Now we might not go as deep in some areas in the ecosystem area, because they have dealt with areas for which we don't have a statutory or regulatory obligation.
How Will DOI Use the Report?
Ms. WOOLSEY. Ms. Scarlett, do you have anything you would like to add from thethrough your department?
Ms. SCARLETT. Yes. I, with Assistant Administrator Nelson, would like to underscore that nothing that I said should be interpreted as saying, ''Gee, the data are incomplete, so let us wait a while.'' We are actively a participant in this process generating the data. And I would say that we not only use data such as that in the Heinz Report currently, but would intend to continue to draw from those data for the following sorts of activities: one, priority setting. By looking at these data, you can see some of those areas where we have deeper challenges, and other areas where we are doing a little bit better. I would note a couple, for example. Forest cover, over the past 50 years, as indicated in the Report, has remained relatively constant rather than declined. Dry spells foror stream dry flowdry spells has actually slightly declined. Incidents of waterborne human disease has dramatically declined. So these tell us, ''Gee, we are making some progress or at least kind of holding down the fort in certain areas.'' Other areas we see as more problematic, and so by looking at those data, it can help us to figure out, with our scarce resources, where to prioritize.
Secondly, because at least one of our agencies, U.S. Geological Survey, is, in fact, a science agency, it generate much of the information they utilized. By identifying from this report where some of the gaps remain, it helps us to focus our own research efforts so that we can fill those gaps.
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Third, by looking at some of the trend-lines, not just the snapshot information, but regrettably the trend-lines are relatively scarce in the Report. It can also help us to anticipate problems or challenges. So for example, I note the trend-lines in recreation and urbanization of the West as an agency that manages one in every five acres in the United States, much of it in the West, and we are seeing that urbanization. This puts enormous challenges to our land managers in how to meet those challenges, meet the recreation needs of the American public while, by the same token, preserving and protecting those resources. So all of those are things that this report helps us to do. But it can not substitute for our own data gathering and our own efforts to develop indicators and measures for the programs and projects we undertake.
Ms. WOOLSEY. I thank you very much. We are out of time.
Mr. EHLERS. The gentlelady's time has expired. Next we will recognize the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Smith.
Is the Heinz Center Report Data Relevant to Superfund Debates?
Mr. SMITH OF MICHIGAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Heinz Center appears to have produced a comprehensive, scientifically, nonpartisan base report. On the state of the environment, it is probably the best I have seen in my 10 years in Congress. I know in these types of collaborative involved efforts, filtering through agendas of a lot of different people and a lot of different groups is extremely difficult, so I commend you.
AsI am somewhat frustrated. As a Republican, I was just hearing my opponent on the radio say, ''Nick Smith, by one environmental group, has only scored 30 out of all of the Members of Congress in Michigan.'' And so in reviewing that report, I found that there were no Republicans in Michigan that had scored over 30, and there were no Democrats that had scored under 100. And so the partisanship, I think, sometimes is a disservice to our ultimate goals, because it suggests that one Party is any less concerned with the environment. So Mr. Krupp, I was a little disappointed when you took the opportunity in your testimony to criticizesubtlety criticize the current Administration.
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It seems, to me, that part of the question has always been how far shall we go inyou used the word, precautionary principle in your testimony, how far should we go in protecting the environment, and should we go so far that it is an implication on the economy. I am a farmer. My experience in agriculture, historically, has been that if the economy isn't there, the farmers in the Northeast started losing money, so they became less of a conservationist, if you will. They abused the land. It still hasn't recovered in the Northeast. A lot of the agriculture movement went to the Midwest and Kansas, andas prices went down for wheat, and they started plowing up the grasslands of the Midwest and Kansas. And then the dust storms came along and devastated that land that had been loosened up and where the top cover had been gone.
And here again, without some kind of a right balance between the economy, then you can't afford to do some of the things that we need to do. And so my question comes down to that. It seems, to me, if we look at the superfund sites, I thought it would be reasonable to have a bond issue and come up with the money now when the cost is lower and get it done and clean up these superfund sites. Some people suggest, ''Well, maybe it is better to wait, and the technology is going to be better later on, and so let us keep putting the money in litigation, trying to get the old companies to pay for it.'' And so we have lost a lot of our effort and a lot of our money in litigation.
Should weif we were able to do it, would you suggest having a bond issue now and spending the billions of dollars in cleaning up these sites and do it now andor wait for thewait, like we have been, for the technology to maybe come up with the biophysics and the new technologies that can maybe make cleaning up those sites better and safer and cheaper? I don't know where to start. Whoever wants to give me a quick answer before my
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Mr. KRUPP. Mr. Smith, I am quite certain the Heinz Report doesn't answer that question, however, you know, I would be happy to come in and sit with you and explore the idea, taking advantage of low interest rates. It is always a good idea. Alwayswhether in this situation, Ialways may be an overstatement, but certainly explore that. And as to your disappointment in my subtle or not so subtle expression of disappointment about the Administration's position on
Mr. SMITH OF MICHIGAN. Well, I don't want you to justify it. I want Dr. Clark's answer to theitI am probably cutting you off, but this Chairman is really strong on the red light, so Dr. Clark, what is your thought? Can we do the cleanup now and have a bond issue to do it and get it done with? It has been spread out through most of my political life. Why don't we just do it? Or is there an advantage to waiting for new technologies?
Dr. CLARK. Certainly (in my role as Chair of the Heinz Center effort), the Heinz Center effort, indeed, does not illuminate that question. What it does document, and I am trying to be responsive to your question, is that we have, by taking the luxury of not paying attention to places that we are degrading our environment, we put off to another day actions that we might take now if knowledge about these degrading environments thatwhether they are the soils of the Midwest or the toxins in the soils of the Northeastactions we might take sooner if we had a well-informed public or well-informed policy on what the state actually is.
So I think it is an attractive notion to think about making commitments now to fix things before they get worse. All I can say about this reporting effort is I hope it will help provide some of the foundation of nonpartisan scientifically agreed upon data that one would probably need to go out and get the approval of the public in a political constituency to make the kindto advance the kind of policy that you are suggesting.
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Mr. SMITH OF MICHIGAN. Mr. Chairman, maybe after the meeting, you can answer my last question of what is a stream because how far do you go downstream before you find those metals? I have got toI am pretty lucky; on my farm, I have two watersheds, and I am the beginning of a two streams, and I know my streams are clean, because I have had them all tested. How far do you go down a stream before you call it a stream and find pollution? If you go far enough down through enough cities, any stream is going to end up with the metals and the pollution. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EHLERS. The gentleman's time has expired. I am sure, Mr. Smith, with the iron role that you have displayed here, that there is certainly some iron in the streams coming out of your farm.
Next, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Grucci.
Water Issues in Long Island Sound
Mr. GRUCCI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would like to thank the panel, also, for being here. And I am going to try to get three questions in in my time, so I am going to get right to it, if I may.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Coble, if you would try to address this, that would be fabulous. The Long Island Sound, a very important body of water for us on Long Island, New York, separates Connecticut from Long Island, has provided a great deal of resources, recreational boating, and entertainment, as well as commercial fishing. Recently, we have had a very significant issue of lobster die-off that actually causes the shells to rot and thewhile the meat of the lobsters are not tainted by this disease, obviously, it is not desirable to be put into restaurants to be displayed for food consumption.
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We also have a problem on more of our bays and estuary systems with our scallops with a Brown Tide problem. Both of these have caused immeasurable damage to that industry and has caused us a great deal of uncertainty as to what the future of that species is going to be. Have you see this type of situation anywhere else in the country andor through this study? Has this situation ever come up before, and if so, what was attributed the cause?
Ms. NELSON. Sir, I will defer to Ms. Coble on that point. I am not specifically responsible for the water programs within EPA, so I would have to go back and look into that question for you and get your response on that. Thank you.
Mr. GRUCCI. Thank you.
Ms. COBLE. A very good question, and actually, I am somewhat familiar with the situation up there, because when it occurred, we are very interested in finding out about it. Therethe Chesapeake Bay also suffers from Red Tide, Brown Tide. They are different algal growths, and depending on the condition of the water, you will get different types of algae growing, causing fish die-off and sometimes shellfish die off as well. I can't speak specifically to the Brown Tide, but I can say that in the Bay, Chesapeake Bay, absolutely, we have that problem. And in 1997, we also had the problem with a toxic algae called Pfsteria.
I am notI don't know if you are familiar with it, but thereit wasthere is some debate about exactly what is associated with this organism. But at the time, it was thought to be causing major fish kills as well as human health impacts, similar to what was happening with the lobster, that the fish were actually being decayed from the outside and would still continue to live. But there was just a shredding of their skin or outer shells. And research is continuing on that. I don't think that the water up in Long Island isI don't think there is enough salt in that water to encourage the growth of Pfsteria, but there are other harmful algal glooms that are similar to it.
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And most recently in the Chesapeake Bay, the thing that we are also seeing is something called Microbacteriosis, which is a bacteria that grows on the outside of the fish and causes almost ait looks like a scab or burning on the outside of the fish tissue, the fish skin. And it does not affect the tissue, but those are some things that have been affecting our fisheries, and ourof utmost concern, as you pointed out, because of the economic impact that it is causing.
Mr. GRUCCI. I wouldif you would be so kind, is I would like to have my staff contact you and perhaps put you in touch with some of the people who are trying to find answers to our situation. Maybe there would be some kind of a relationship between what you have just described and what we are going through.
If I could, Assistant Secretary Scarlett, beach renourishment, as we talk about an ecosystem, we have the Fire Island Barrier Beach. And part of the Fire Island Barrier Beach on Long Island contains the Fire Island National Seashore. There has been a great deal of controversy over how to continue the renourishment of that beach ecosystem since mankind has visited the island and has laid claim to it, built jetties, built growing fields, built inlets, it has changed the dynamics. And the controversy now is should we allow the beach to continue its erosion in the parts where man hasn't stepped up to prop it up, or should we allow nature to come in and do what nature does, take away and put back? Doing so would change the entire ecosystem of the Great South Bay, which is the bay area that is separated by the mainland of Long Island and Fire Island National Seashore. I am wondering if, in through your studies, you have run across this or in any of your experience in your position you have run across this, and what is the position?
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Ms. SCARLETT. Yes, thank you. I am not familiar with the specific instance that you describe; however, it is a challenge that we face on a number of seashores in a parallel way. And I guess to tie this back to the Heinz Report, I would make two points on that challenge, and I would be happy to get back to you more specifically on Fire Island and the National Park Service and the National Seashore at a later date. But two points, as it relates to the Heinz Report. One is among the areas where we have a relative paucity of data, including trend-line data, are, in fact, precisely for our shorelines. That was one of the areas that, I thinkand perhaps Dr. Clark can speak more to that. But as I went through the Report, it struck me that we know a fair amount about our forests, we know a fair amount about our air, we know something about our water, but certainly the shorelines and ecosystems along the shores is an area where we have a paucity of data. But that relates to my second point.
The question you are raising, really, is a policy one. Once we have data or once we have a situation confronting us, what do we do about it? And of course, in this particular instance, it would certainly help us if we had been tracking those data over time so we could see the direction of trends. And that would help us know just exactly what to do or what to expect if we do a certain kind of intervention whether it is, in fact, going to help the problem or not. So I would just link this to the Heinz Report and say this is precisely the kind of instance that, in the future, if we continue this kind of data and indicator collection, we would be in a better position to know that we had the right tools to answer. And then on Fire Island, I will get back to you with any observations we have internally on that issue.
Mr. GRUCCI. Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I see my time has elapsed as well. Thank you very much.
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Mr. EHLERS. Yes. The gentleman's time has expired, and I think we have exhausted all of the questions here. I just wanted to wrap this up in terms of determining a future direction here. As you know, theas everyone here, I believe, knows, the Heinz Center became involved at the request of the Office of Science and Technology policy. And I assume they have a real interest in continuing this effort. But I am also interested in, Ms. Nelson and Ms. Scarlett, what the government agencies are going to do. And I recognize, Ms. Nelson, your comment that you have a different picture than the study picture. But it seems to me thegiven your mission, the picture in this report is pretty much subsumed in the broader picture that EPA has to have. So I would think you would have a vital interest in this in not only what they have presented but in trying to fill the gaps in the knowledge here along with the gaps that you will identify in your report. I think that that is going to be a very important responsibility of the EPA and of Interior, particularly the USGS, which incidentally, is also a first-rate scientific organization.
So I would hope that you would take back the message that this was an important piece of work. It jobs well with what your government agencies are trying to do and that your agency is going to have the responsibility to build on this work in the future, regardless of whether we continue to have Heinz Center reports every five years or OSTP reports every five years or whatever, you arerepresent the lead agencies here. And just the existence of this report is going to put more responsibility on your shoulders. I will certainly do my part to also provide additional money for you to absorb this responsibility and take it on, because I know you can't just keep adding responsibilities without giving you the funding. But I hope you will take this very seriously and do what you can do perpetuate the work and also develop the theories and models that Dr. Clark and I have referred to in our discussion earlier.
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If there is no further comment or question, I certainly want to, once again, thank you. The Chairman was absolutely correct when he thanked you for the incredible expertise you and others have brought to this report. It is going to be a benchmark, I believe, in the study of ecosystems. It will be widely used and more widely quoted. And I want to, on behalf of the Science Committee and the Congress, thank you for the work that you have done. With that, we will adjourn this hearing.
[Whereupon, at 4 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
Answers to Post-Hearing Questions
ANSWERS TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS
Responses by Dr. William C. Clark, Chair of Design Committee and Member, Board of Trustees, The Heinz Center; Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Questions Submitted by Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
Q1. How much did it cost to produce The State of the Nation's Ecosystems report? What were the contributions by businesses, foundations and government agencies? What percentage of the total cost was provided by federal agencies? How much support was provided by each contributing Agency?
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A1. The State of the Nation's Ecosystems was produced over a period of five years, which included development and release of an initial prototype report in late 1999, and development, review, and release of the full report in late 2002. Figures quoted here are for the entire five-year project period.
Total costs were approximately $3.8 million, of which approximately two-thirds ($2.4 million) were from federal agencies. Private corporations and charitable foundations provided the remainder of the funds.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy requested agencies to participate by virtue of their membership on the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. In the first phase of the project (19971999, leading to release of the prototype report), this included eight agencies; a ninth agency was added for the 20002002 phase.
In the first phase, each agency was asked to provide $100,000 and most did; a total of $787,500 was provided to the Heinz Center. In the second phase, agencies were asked to provide $200,000; a total of $1.65 million was received.
Agencies and funding amounts are listed in Attachment A. This attachment also lists the private funding sources and the total amounts contributed.
Q2. According to your testimony, the Heinz Center will produce a second version of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems report in 2007. You also indicated that the Center plans to update the data in the report annually and make the updated information available on the Center's website. How much do you expect that it will cost to produce the annual updates and the second printed report? How much of the funding do you expect to come from the Heinz Center directly and how much do you expect to receive from other sources? To the extent you are counting on federal funding for these future efforts, how much do you anticipate will be needed and over what time periods?
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A2. The Heinz Center has developed a proposal covering development, production, and release of the second full edition of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems in 2007 and updates of the report's data on the World Wide Web in each of the four intervening years. The total cost of this proposal is approximately $6.0 million, with costs spread roughly equally over each of the five years. A one-page executive summary of this proposal is included as Attachment B.
The Heinz Center believes that it can provide half of the required funding from nongovernmental sources. We have received commitments from two charitable foundations and one corporation for a significant portion of the Center's $3 million/50 percent share, and fully expect to be successful in raising the remaining funds from corporate and foundation sources.
We have discussed follow-on funding with the agencies that provided funds for the 19972002 report, and have received expressions of strong interest from several agencies. With this in mind, on October 23, 2002, we proposed to the Council on Environmental Quality, which has expressed a strong interest in environmental reporting and related matters, that federal agencies provide the remaining fifty percent of expected project costs over the five-year project duration. We have not yet received a response from CEQ on this proposal.
Q3. In your testimony you stated that, ''essentially every stream in America is contaminated with chemicals that weren't there before the Industrial Revolution or that a quite substantial fraction of them, 75 percent or more, of all of the streams in this country have levels of contaminants above those judged safe for aquatic life'' (see page 4445 of the draft transcript). The text of the report seems to suggest that contamination has been found in nearly every monitored stream, not necessarily in every stream. What are the report's findings as they pertain to contamination of the Nation's streams?
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A3. The report correctly describes findings of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA), which are that all monitored streams in that program averaged one or more contaminants at detectable levels, with about 80 percent having detectable levels of five or more contaminants.
Q4. In your testimony you stated that, ''three big categories of land use in this country, forests, farmland, and grassland/shrublands, have remained essentially constant over the last 50 years'' (see page 47 of the draft transcript). The report, however, seems to suggest that there are differences in the three categories. Would you please elaborate on your testimony about what we know and do not know about how the geographical extent of forests, farmland, and grassland/shrublands ecosystems has changed over the last 50 years?
A4. It is true that forest coverage has been ''nearly stable'' over the past several decades, as shown on the graph on page 117 of the report. Over this period, however, it is also possible to detect fluctuations of several millions of acres (on the order to about two percent or less; see graph on page 42).
Likewise, there are fewer acres in cropland use now than there were in the 1950s (see graph and text on page 91), but the amounts are relatively small, and the fifty-year record is characterized by some periods with an increase in acreage and some with a decrease (see graph on page 42).
Thus, my statement that forest and cropland acreage have been ''essentially constant'' was intended to answer a very large scale question: Have these land cover types expanded or contracted in a substantial way over the past fifty years? It was not intended to characterize the relatively smaller fluctuations within these larger trends.
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It is not possible to provide national trend data on the acreage of grasslands and shrublands (see pages 41 and 161), and my statement concerning this was incorrect.
The State of the Nation's Ecosystems:
Building An Enduring National Resource
The Heinz Center proposes to build upon the successful completion of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems, to develop and produce the second in a continuing series of high-quality, non-partisan reports on the use and condition of the Nation's lands, waters, and living resources. This second report will be released in 2007, and will represent a significant evolution and refinement of the contents of the just-released first report.
In undertaking this work, the Heinz Center will involve, in a major, continuing, and substantive fashion, representatives from business, environmental organizations, academia, and Federal, State, and local government.
The project entails sustained attention to four major tasks:
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Planning to fill data gaps. One of the most important contributions of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems was the identification of important gaps in the Nation's ability to report on ecosystem use and condition. The Heinz Center will prepare detailed plans for filling data gaps, accompanied by consensus assessments of the relative priority of filling various gaps.
Refining the indicators. The Heinz Center will begin a process of continuous improvement of The State of the Nation's Ecosystems indicator suite, by reviewing the technical and statistical soundness of individual indicators and groups of indicators. A key goal will be increased consistency of indicators across different ecosystem types, enhancing our ability to provide truly national perspectives on ecosystem conditions and trends.
Improving the report's strength and utility. There are a series of overarching tasks that will support the overall reporting effort. These include gathering feedback from readers and users, annually updating the report's web site to incorporate newly released data, and improving the integration of data from disparate sources.
Exploring long-term institutional options. The focus of this aspect of the project will be to engage senior political-level decision-makers on the question of where such reporting should be housed, and how it should be funded.
In addition, resources are required for production and dissemination of the report itself.
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These activities will be undertaken during the period from October 1, 2002 through the conclusion of 2007.
ANSWERS TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS
Responses by Kimberly T. Nelson, Assistant Administrator, Office of Environmental Information, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Questions Submitted by Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
Q1. The EPA and the Interior Department seem to agree with the Heinz Center conclusion that we have only a partial picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems and that filling in gaps in our knowledge is important. What steps do EPA and the Administration plan to take to ensure that we systematically address the issues raised in the report? Do we need to make the collection or reporting of data more systematic and better coordinated? Are there any FY03 budget initiatives at EPA that will help fill these gaps?
A1. EPA's efforts to date on our draft Report on the Environment support the findings of the Heinz Report that there is only partial information about the condition of the Nation's ecosystems. Filling the gaps in information pertaining to ecosystems and ecological condition will require a shared effort across many federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Commerce. EPA has in the past and will continue to work with other agencies and entities to collect information that helps to fill the key gaps in our knowledge. For example, EPA is supporting the United States Geological Survey effort to produce land cover information for the United States (one of the specific gaps identified by Heinz report).
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We agree that there is a need to make the collection and reporting of indicator information more systematic and better coordinated. In order to address such a need OMB circular A16 was recently revised to improve coordination of data standards, collection and maintenance. This improved coordination should help to address some of the indicator data gaps. For example, under circular A16 USGS is responsible for Land cover. This means that USGS must coordinate land cover data requirements across the Federal Government and create a plan to ensure data exists that meets those requirements. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is tasked with facilitating this coordination across the federal agencies, and ensuring that the data layers listed in circular A16 are developed and maintained. EPA participates in the FGDC and plans to complete a long-term indicators strategy to address the scientific and research necessary to fill data and information gaps.
In FY03, we plan to conduct a public dialog with interested parties to further define indicator information needs and help set priorities for future efforts. EPA is also a partner in the Geospatial One-Stop E-gov initiative, an effort to improve coordination of the collection and quality of geospatial data across the Federal, State and local governments. This improved coordination will support more systematic collection of data for indicators related to land cover and water quality. Further, in FY03 we will work with EPA's other programs to identify opportunities to address key gaps within existing budget levels.
Q2. What steps does EPA plan to take to assist the Heinz Center in producing future updates of The State of the Nation's Ecosystem report? If neither EPA nor the Administration has yet decided upon next steps, when would you be able to provide the committee with an answer?
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A2. EPA is currently reviewing the Heinz Center's ''The State of the Nation's Ecosystems: Building an Enduring National Resource'' proposal. In the event the proposal is approved, EPA will support the Heinz Center's efforts to produce a subsequent report. Additionally, EPA staff will continue to participate in the Heinz process through participation in various interagency committees and work groups. We expect to have a better definition of next steps by the end of this fiscal year.
Q3. Upon the completion of the EPA State of the Environment Report, what steps, if any, does EPA plan to take to ensure that future updates of EPA's report are produced?
A3. EPA has not yet defined the interval between this and the next Report on the Environment. We will be defining our longer-term strategy during this fiscal year for addressing critical gaps and continuing to report on the condition of the environment on a sustained basis.
Q4. It sounds as if both EPA and the Heinz Center have concluded that we need to collect additional and perhaps different information from what we are currently collecting in order to describe the state of human health and the environment. Is that correct? What do you recommend needs to be done to fill the gaps?
A4. EPA's efforts to date on our draft Report on the Environment support the findings in the Heinz Report that we need to collect additional and different information in order to describe the state of human health and the environment. We recognize the challenge of defining and generating the indicators needed to track ecological and human health outcomes. Because of the dependence that EPA has on information that is routinely collected by other agencies, both internal (EPA) and interagency collaborations are required in order to clearly and specifically identify the additional information that is needed. We also look forward to input during the public dialog process to help define a government-wide, long-term strategy for filling the gaps.
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Questions Submitted by Representative Felix J. Grucci, Jr.
Q1. Have you seen lobster die-offs in any part of the U.S. beyond Long Island Sound?
A1. In Maine, a lobster die-off occurred in 1997 and 1998, but in smaller numbers than Long Island Sound experienced in 1999.
Q2. What are the causes of the lobster die-offs?
A2. After an extensive sampling program by Connecticut and New York involving the testing of lobster tissue for bacteria, parasites and toxins, and analysis of water and sediment samples, scientists identified a parasite as a possible cause of the lobster mortalities in the Long Island Sound. It has been yet to be determined if the parasite, a protozoan known as a Paramoeba, is the primary cause of the mortalities or if it becomes active after lobsters are stressed by other factors such as elevated summer temperatures or low dissolved oxygen. A smaller scale die-off of lobsters in Long Island Sound this summer was not related to paramoeba infection according to Dr. Al Dove at Stony Brook University. He attributed the latest die off to a build up of calcium in the lobster. Any number of hypotheses might explain the wave of lobster mortality, including a rise in water temperatures in the Sound, water quality conditions, pesticides including those sprayed to control the West Nile virus, and paramoeba, or parasites, found on lobsters.
Researchers at the University of Maine's Lobster Institute determined that the bacteria Vibrio was a possible cause in the case of the Maine lobster die off. Maine Department of Marine Resources asked UConn to determine if the paramoeba contributed to its lobster die-off and sent lobsters to the Storrs campus for investigation. The parasite was not detected in Maine lobsters, nor have there been any reports of this disease among Maine lobsters. Paramoeba apparently are unable to survive in low water temperatures, such as those of the Maine coast.
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Additionally, NOAA is funding research to investigate the potential causes of the die-off through the Lobster Steering Committee of the NYCT Sea Grant. Updates on their findings as well as direct contacts can be found on their website at: http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/LlLobsters/
Q3. Have you seen scallop die-offs in any part of the U.S.?
A3. The brown tide associated with scallop die-offs in the Peconic estuary is a marine micro algal bloom which also appeared in Long Island's South Shore estuary as well as in Narragansett Bay (Rhode Island), Barnegat Bay (New Jersey), Delaware's inland bays, Maryland's coastal bays, and in South Africa. It is caused by a particularly small (23 microns in diameter) and previously unknown phytoplankton species called Aureococcus anophagefferens (meaning ''golden sphere that causes cessation of feeding'').
Q4. What is the cause of scallop die-off?
A4. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, using electron microscopy, placed the causative organism in a new genus and species, Aureococcus anophagefferens. The Aureococcus bloom, locally referred to as the ''brown tide,'' has persisted in various Suffolk County embayments (particularly Flanders Bay, West Neck Bay, Quantuck Bay, and in Great South Bay) although unpredictably and with variable intensity. The reasons for the severe impact of the brown tide on the bay scallop are not well understood. The devastating effects on the scallops may be related to toxic, mechanical (i.e., the small size of the brown tide organism may interfere with proper ingestion) and/or nutritional (i.e., the brown tide organism may not provide required nutrients) parameters, and effects may vary with the growth stage (larval, juvenile, adult) of the scallop.
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As far as what causes the brown tide, the input of conventional inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate) apparently do not trigger the onset of the blooms, although the availability of organic nitrogen compounds may play a role. An analysis of the long-term data set collected by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services suggests that groundwater inputs affecting the relative amounts of dissolved inorganic and organic nitrogen in the waters of the Peconic Estuary may be an important factor in the onset of brown tide blooms.
Other factors that may be involved in the growth and predominance of brown tide include the following: (1) chelators such as citric acid and trace metals such as iron, selenium, vanadate, arsenate, and boron; (2) the failure of potential grazers (microzooplankton) to keep brown tide in check; (3) meteorological and climatological factorsit has been postulated that reduced flushing due to a change in wind induced subtidal sea level oscillation, results in the retention of land-derived nutrients that may stimulate brown tide blooms; (4) physio-chemical limitsmonitoring data collected by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services suggest that salinities in excess of 26 parts per thousand and temperatures between 2025 degrees C may be factors associated with the occurrence of major blooms; (5) the presence of filter feeding clams that may play a role in limiting bloom development; and (6) in low light conditions (typical of the turbid Great South Bay) the organism can supplement photosynthesis with the uptake of organic compounds, giving it a competitive advantage over other phytoplankton species.
ANSWERS TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCResponses by P. Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management, and Budget, Department of Interior
Questions Submitted by Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
Q1. The EPA and the Interior Department seem to agree with the Heinz Center conclusion that we have only a partial picture of the state of the Nation's ecosystems and that filling in gaps in our knowledge is important. In addition, Interior Department programs produce much of the data included in the Center's report. What steps do DOI and the Administration plan to take to ensure that we systematically address the issues raised in the report? Do we need to make the collection or reporting of data more systematic and better coordinated? Are there any FY03 budget initiatives at the Department that will help fill these gaps?
A1. An interagency effort is underway to coordinate plans for further development and implementation of environmental indicators such as those in the Heinz Center Report on the Nation's Ecosystems. This reflects the Administration's recognition of the need to address data needs in a systematic and coordinated fashion. In order to address such a need, OMB circular A16 was recently revised to improve coordination of data standards, collection and maintenance. This improved coordination should help to address some of the indicator data gaps. For example, under circular A16, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is responsible for land cover. This means that USGS must coordinate land cover data requirements across the Federal Government and create a plan to ensure data exists that meet those requirements.
The Federal Geographic Committee (FGDC) is tasked with facilitating this coordination, and ensuring that the data layers listed in circular A16 are developed and maintained. Clearly this is an area that requires work and discussion.
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DOI is also a partner in Geospatial One-Stop E-Gov initiative, an effort to improve coordination of the collection and quality of geospatial data across the Federal, State, and local governments. This improved coordination will support more systematic collection of data for indicators related to land cover and water quality.
While the Interior Department did not propose specific FY03 budget initiatives, several specific budget proposals in FY03 highlight out commitment to the collection of data that can be used toward developing indicators as part of the ongoing research activities of our bureaus. In particular, the USGS and the vital signs component of the Natural Resource Challenge Program include funding for activities directly related to collecting the kind of information needed to address data gaps. Key elements of the USGS program include the following:
In the Natural Resource Challenge Program, indicator-related activity takes place under the ''vital signs'' component of the program. The Natural Resource Challenge program is a priority of the National Park Service. In 2002, the program received $50 million. In 2003, the request was $68 million, with the vital signs program receiving $7 million of the $18 million increase.
More detailed information describes the program below:
This funding enables park managers to measure performance in managing 52 national parks to maintain the qualities for which Congress established them.
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These 52 park units are in Southwest Alaska, Northeast Temperate, Southern Colorado Plateau, Pacific Islands, and Great Lakes networks.
The funds are spent on operational monitoring efforts after strategic monitoring plans are written and peer reviewed.
Selected ''park vital signs'' consist of appropriate park features (key species, processes, characteristics) as determined by subject matter experts and Superintendents.
Specific examples from the parks now under monitoring plans are:
E. coli levels at beaches in Indiana Dunes and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshores
Early warning of exotics in Hawaiian parks, Yellowstone National Parkto catch them before they spread and become too costly to treat; zebra mussel incursion in St. Croix National Scenic River
Effectiveness of prairie restoration efforts (e.g., Wilson's Creek NB, Scott's Bluff NM)
Shoreline change at Assateague and Fire Island National Seashores
White tailed deer abundance and effects (eastern parks)
Forest disease outbreaksHemlock Woolly Adelgid, gypsy moth, dogwood anthracnose (Great Smokies NP, Shenendoah NP)
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Cape Cod NS groundwater levels around natural ponds
Nutrient pollution in small estuaries (e.g., Cape Cod NS: Hatches Harbor, Nauset Marsh)
In our FY04 budget, we expect to continue out commitment in these areas as well as of coral reef related information and invasive species protection.
Q2. What steps does DOI plan to take to assist the Heinz Center in producing future updates of The State of the Nation's Ecosystem report? If neither DOI nor the Administration has yet decided upon next steps, when would you be able to provide the Committee with an answer?
A2. The Interior Department and other agencies are currently reviewing a proposal from the Heinz Center requesting the Federal Government's financial contribution, and expertise, in the continuation of the Ecosystem Report project. The Department anticipates making a decision on participation in the near future.
Additional Department efforts that will benefit the Heintz Center report include coral reef research, mapping and monitoring by the Mineral Management Service, USGS, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service, and the Office of Insular Affairs. In FY 2003, the Department requested $9.9 million for such research. In FY04, we expect to continue that commitment.
Another data gap identified in the report was in the area of invasive species, where the Department has taken a leadership role. The Secretary is the co-chair of the National Invasive Species Council, a multi-agency organization committed to addressing invasive species issues. The Secretary relies on her science advisor, Dr. Jim Tate, for his knowledge and expertise in her efforts on the council. In addition, the Department is spearheading efforts to develop a 2004 cross-agency budget for invasives to ensure that the Department is focusing its dollars most effectively. Activities for the collection, integration and application of data related to invasive species will be areas of attention in the cross-agency budget.
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The Department will continue to work with the Heintz Center as appropriate, as the Center moves forward with its efforts.
ANSWERS TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS
Response by Ms. Kimberly L. Coble, Maryland Senior Scientist and Assistant Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Question Submitted by Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
Q1. During the hearing, Ms. Morella asked you whether there was something that Congress could do to assist in restoring crabs and oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. After you summarized some of the activities that are now underway, you replied that you wanted to get back to her later with a more specific answer (see pages 5153 of the draft hearing transcript). Would you please provide for the record your answers to Ms. Morella's question.
A1. Restoring oystersMaryland and Virginia have developed a comprehensive Baywide oyster management plan to restore abundant populations of oysters to the Chesapeake Bay. This program is funded through NOAA and ACOE. Congress can continue to provide federal funding to NOAA and ACOE for construction and seeding of sanctuary oyster reefs in Chesapeake Bay to assist Maryland and Virginia with the implementation of this restoration plan. Additionally, there is a great deal of confusion regarding the need for match funds in order to access the NOAA funds. It would be helpful if Congress could clarify that match funds are not required in order to access the NOAA funds.
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As you are aware, the National Academy of Science is conducting a study on the implications of introducing non-native oysters to the Chesapeake Bay. We strongly encourage Congress to support the approach that no action is taken until the NAS study is completed. CBF believes this study will provide the best guidance on this issue.
Restoring crabsSeveral years ago Maryland and Virginia convened a committee to evaluate the crab fishery in the Chesapeake Bay. The Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee (BBCAC) recommended several actions for the crab stock that are currently being implemented through stakeholder driven management actions and are directed towards better management of the crab fishery.
There are several specific areas where Congress can play an important role in restoring the Chesapeake crab population. Improvements in water quality and crab habitat, specifically underwater grasses, will help to increase the population of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Underwater grasses are essential habitat for blue crabs, yet underwater grass abundance in the Chesapeake Bay is only a fraction of what it was historically. Water quality in the Chesapeake has also been impaired, leading to a system that cannot support the abundance of fish and marine life that it could historically. One major, curable cause of reduced water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is nitrogen from sewage treatment facilities. Congress needs to appropriate funds to Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to upgrade sewage treatment facilities. The technology exists to remove millions of lbs of nitrogen annually from these point sources. This alone would help to improve water quality, allowing dense beds of underwater grasses to return to the Chesapeake and provide valuable habitat to the blue crab population. This increase in underwater grass habitat would support a larger population of blue crabs that would provide a base for a sustainable crab fishery in the Chesapeake Bay.
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One other specific action Congress could do in order to get us closer to having a productive, stable crab fishery is to continue to provide funds for NOAA to conduct the winter dredge survey, which helps to assess the abundance of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. This is a critical tool for crab management and needs to be continued. Additionally, funding of the Chesapeake Bay NOAA office is essential in that they provide the ongoing work to support the BBCAC technical work group each year.
(Footnote 1 return)
National Academy of Public Administration, Setting Priorities and Getting Results (1995), and environment.gov (2000); The Enterprise for the Environment, The Environmental Protection System in Transition (1998); The Government Performance and Results Act P.L. 10362; The President's Management Agenda (fiscal year 2002) also emphasizes performance based management.
(Footnote 2 return)
A variety of other reports have reached similar conclusions. The National Research Council, Ecological Indicators for the Nation (2000); and the White House National Science and Technology Council, ''Integrating the Nation's Environmental Monitoring and Research Networks and Programs: A Proposed Framework'' (March 1997); The Environmental Monitoring Team, Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, National Science and Technology Council.
(Footnote 3 return)
Nearly every major report on environmental policy in recent years has addressed the importance of indicators and called for more comprehensive and regular reporting. See, for example, the National Research Council, Ecological Indicators for the Nation (2000); and the National Academy of Public Administration, Setting Priorities and Getting Results: A New Direction for the Environmental Protection Agency (1995).
(Footnote 4 return)
For example, data is collected and reported by many federal agencies, including the Agricultural Research Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Geological Survey, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
(Footnote 5 return)
The White House Council on Environmental Quality produced several major reports on environmental indicators in 1981 and 1989. And, the Conservation Foundation, a non-profit group, produced several similar reports in 1982, 1984 and 1987. In the late 1990s, CEQ also hosted a group of federal agencies as they developed an experimental set of national indicators for Sustainable Development.
(Footnote 6 return)
Op cit. White House National Science and Technology Council (1997).
(Footnote 7 return)
Executive Office of the President, National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. National Environmental Monitoring and Research Workshop Proceedings. February 25, 1997.
(Footnote 8 return)
An estimate of federal spending on environmental monitoring and related research was prepared for the interagency review. This estimate placed federal spending at more than $600 million per year.
(Footnote 9 return)
The State of the Nation's Ecosystems identifies several examples that illustrate the centrality of these issues to American political life, including polling data that demonstrate American's strong support for sound environmental policies. Clearly, many others could be cited as well. S.P. Hays. 1989. Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 19551985. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
(Footnote 10 return)
Council on Environmental Quality. 1970. Environmental Quality: The First Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality, p. 237. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
(Footnote 11 return)
National Academy of Public Administration. 1995. Setting Priorities, Getting Results: A New Direction for the Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, DC: National Academy of Public Administration.
(Footnote 12 return)
This situation exists in spite of several efforts to prepare and sustain periodic reporting on indicators and trends. For example, the Council on Environmental Quality published two major reports on environmental indicators and trends, one in 1981 and one in 1989, and the Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit organization, prepared three major reports (in 1982, 1984, and 1987) on environmental indicators and trends:
(Footnote 13 return)
Funding became available, and the project was actually initiated, in late 1997.
(Footnote 14 return)
This site will become operational on or about September 24, 2002.
(Footnote 15 return)
''The State of the Nation's Ecosystems: Measuring the Lands, Waters, and Living Resources of the United States,'' (2002) The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, D.C., published by Cambridge University Press. 270 pp.