The Role of a National System of Indicators in Evaluation of Conservation

Theodore Heintz White House Counsel on Environmental Quality

Taking the Long View
• Conservation Evaluation is similar to Investment Analysis • Current weaknesses need to be addressed by gradual improvement over decades

Improvements that are Needed:
• Greater consistency in measurements and data • Greater consistency in evaluation methods • Improved ability to attribute outcomes to actions • More widespread understanding of how conservation works

A Vision of a National System of Environmental Indicators and Statistics
• A comprehensive set of indicators and statistics on the environment and natural resources • High quality data and statistical methods • Substantially greater consistency over time and across scales and institutions • Up-to-date information technology to compile and provide access to data and indicators • Specialized and widely trusted institutions to compile, publish and improve indicators

The Information Pyramid
Increasing Detail and Specificity

Fact Based Stories
Key Indicators

Policy, Planning, and Mgmt Indicators Other Statistics And Monitoring Data

Types of Information that could be included in a Comprehensive Statistical System

Number of Pieces of Information

The Role of Feedback In Policy, Planning and Management
Values Research Knowledge Set Goals, Objectives, Targets Evaluate Alternative Actions Measure Perf

Decide

Implement Feedback

Consequences

Interactions Within & Across Systems

Actions

Types of Information and Functions
Types of Information from A Comprehensive System
Increasing Detail and Specificity Fact Based Stories
Key Indicators

Functions Performed Using Information
Development of Common Knowledge And Widely Held Beliefs Development of WellAccepted Policies and Practices Feedbacks on Specific Policies and Practices Development of Empirically Validated Knowledge Number of People Using Each Piece of Information

Policy, Planning, and Mgmt Indicators

Other Statistics And Monitoring Data

Number of Pieces of Information

Environmental Subsystem Current Environmental Conditions Natural Resource Capital

Human Subsystem Social Capacity & Economic Capital Current Human Conditions Evaluation of Sustainability

State t0

Environmental & Natural Resource Processes

Time

Ecosystem Goods & Services Human Alterations And Discharges

Social & Economic Processes

Processes

State t1

Current Environmental Conditions

Natural Resource Capital

Social Capacity & Economic Capital

Current Human Conditions

Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Resource Management Indicators

What do we have in place?
• We have technical resources and significant environmental monitoring capabilities that produce large amounts of data. • They are located within existing research, regulatory and management organizations.

We Have Many Efforts To Develop Environmental Indicators
• Heinz Center’s State of the Nation’s Ecosystems Report • The National Academies’ Key National Indicator Initiative • EPA’s Report on the Environment • Four Sustainable Resource Management Roundtables • Numerous State, Local and Corporate Projects

Programs that provide data for environmental indicators are widely dispersed
• The Heinz Center’s 2002 Report found adequate data for 58 of the 103 indicators it selected. • Data for the 58 came from 20 Federal programs in 15 different agencies located in 6 different departments. (Source: GAO-05-376)

What do we lack?
• Monitoring programs adequate to produce the data for over half of the indicators that have been selected by recent efforts. • Institutional arrangements that can bring forth additional monitoring, improve its consistency and provide for its continuation.

We need institutions with the primary mission of statistical reporting on the environment.
• That can become forceful customers of environmental monitoring programs • That can become trusted sources of high quality indicators, statistics and data.

The Collaboration on Indicators on the Nation’s Environment
• Started as an informal collaboration • Developed a proposal for a process to design institutions for statistical reporting on the environment • Now moving into the implementation of that process

Key tasks to be performed
1. Design the Scope and Architecture for a National System of Indicators 2. Identify Institutional Functions and Design Criteria 3. Survey and Analyze Current Institutions 4. Develop and Assess Options 5. Select and Implement Recommended Institutional Arrangements

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