THE FEDERAL ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE IN THE UNITED STATES
Charles R. Malone
|Readers Note: Dr. Malone is an expert in ecosystem management who works with the State of Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office (NWPO). As part of its of environmental oversight project for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Yucca Mountain Project in southern Nevada, the NWPO is striving to have the DOE apply the principles and practice of ecosystem management for environmental stewardship of the department's land and facilities in Nevada. The following pre-print will be published late in 1997 as an invited chapter in: Lemons, J., R. Goodland, and L. Westra (eds.). Environmental Sustainability: Case Studies on the Prospects of Science and Ethics. Lluwer Academic Publishers, Dordreche, The Netherlands.|
1. The Need for Ecosystem Management in the U.S.
In a new book, Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies, Power (1996) argues convincingly that the quality of the natural landscape is an essential part of an area's permanent economic base and should not be sacrificed in short-term efforts to maintain economic interests and pursuits that are ultimately not sustainable. In another book, Ecosystem Management in the United States (Yaffee et al. 1996), Yaffee and his students at the University of Michigan list 619 projects that reflect elements of ecosystem management, the emerging new paradigm for achieving sustainable development in the U.S.
Additionally, the President's National Science and Technology Council (NSTC 1995) established an Ecosystem Working Group as part of an effort to address such issues as research and development strategies on global change, biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics, and resource use and management. The NTSC (1995) concluded (1) that pursuit of improved quality of life often threatens the sustainability of ecosystems, (2) continued decreases in productivity and vitality of ecosystems which can result in increased deterioration of ecosystems that are incompletely understood, (3) the basis for human development has been the availability of healthy natural ecosystems and the resources they provide, and (4) that to sustain further human development, the ecological base to support it must be sustained. These are among the many signs that in the U.S. public perception is increasing that the short-term economic value of renewable natural resources is not worth risking damage to ecosystem that can threaten the environment of future generations. Awareness of the need for ecological sustainability is being expressed in the rising popularity of the ecosystem approach to resource management (e.g., ESA 1996a, Grumbine 1994, Slocombe 1993, Wood 1994). The federal government in particular has undertaken an ecosystem management initiative for public lands in an effort to foster ecologic and economic sustainability (CRS 1994, Gore 1993, IEMTF 1995). In the context of the federal initiative, ecosystem management reflects humanistic views of nature which seek to support development that is compatible with the environment.
The concept of ecosystem management suggests different things to different people. The popular version of the idea, addressed here, implies that humans are considered as integral components of ecosystems and that the sustainability of human socioeconomics and ecosystems is interwoven. Further, the ethic embodied by ecosystem management means that renewable natural resources are to be managed by each generation such that succeeding ones will have access to comparable resources through time. This humanistic precept is consistent with that of Darling and Dasmann (1969) concerning the ecosystem view of human society and the ecological approach to maintaining the environment.
Sustainable development through human-oriented ecosystem management is seen as a means for restoring and maintaining natural systems and human economies where traditional commodity-directed resource management has failed to do so (Lemons and Brown 1995, Slocombe 1993, van den Bergh and van der Stratten 1994). This approach to resource management that is compatible with human development integrates politics, institutional arrangements, natural resource management, and socioeconomics.
Principal among events in the U.S. that led to ecosystem management as an applied interdisciplinary practice were the grizzly bear controversy in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and northern spotted owl controversy in the Pacific Northwest (Grumbine 1994, Yaffee 1994). In the 1970s and 1980s these events influenced the integration of ecosystem science, conservation biology, traditional natural resource management, socioeconomics, institutional arrangements, and diverse stakeholders interests. By the late 1980s this synthesis had resulted in an ecosystem approach to land management. And, it was during this period that usage of the term "ecosystem management" to mean an integration of the biophysical and human dimensions for managing natural resources became common.
The recent origins of ecosystem management in the U.S. have been documented by Grumbine (1994), Knight and Bates (1995), Slocombe (1993), and Yaffee (1994). The present paper addresses the concept of ecosystem management as it is reflected in the federal ecosystem management initiative in the U.S. Origins and evolution of the ecosystem management concept, its strengths and weaknesses, its role in the pursuit of sustainable development, and the role of professional ethics in ecosystem management, as exemplified by a case study of a major federal program, will be discussed here.
(In the U.S., historical accounts of ecosystem management, including this one, typically ignore the Central and Eastern European origins of the concept through the discipline of landscape ecology after World War II, as documented by Naveh and Lieberman (1994). Landscape ecology is gaining favor in the U.S. because (1) a central feature of the discipline is recognition of the dynamic role of humans in the landscape and the ecological implications (2) a realization that almost all landscapes have been influenced by cultural forces, and (3) cultural, social, aesthetic, and economic considerations are incorporated in landscape ecology. However, in the U.S. the discipline has yet to be integrated extensively from academic circles into application such as the federal ecosystem management initiative.)
2. Nature of the Federal Ecosystem Management Initiative in the U.S.
Since the late 1980s, some federal agency officials, scientists, and natural resource policy analysts have advocated a broader approach to natural resource management than the traditional focus on commodity production. For a decade prior to that time, the dominant resource management paradigm was "multiple use". However, this management strategy, like the preceding focus on production of commercially valuable commodities, met with only limited success in sustaining ecosystem goods and services. The reason was that under multiple use management the federal land management agencies continued to place priority on managing resources of economic value, e.g.. livestock grazing lands and timber production lands, at the expense of ecosystems.
Now, the state of ecosystem science is sufficient to contribute its part to an interdisciplinary nucleus for ecosystem management. For example, it is recognized that ecosystems are open, regulated by events outside their boundaries, do not reach stable equilibrium points, and include humans (Allen and Hoekstra 1992, ESA 1996a, Gunderson et al. 1995, Pahl-Wostel 1995). The knowledge that ecosystems are subject to natural changes and uncertainty lends to a focus on long-term sustainability rather than traditional management to maximize short-term yield.
The popularized form of ecosystem management adopted for the federal ecosystem management initiative is label as humanistic or anthropocentric. It typically emphasizes socioeconomics, political science and institutional arrangements more than it does science (e.g., Cortner and Moote 1994, Keystone Center 1996). The contrasting view of ecosystem management is the biocentric view that focuses first on sustaining ecosystems and their biodiversity and only secondarily on the economic benefits to humans derived from sound ecosystems having integrity and resilience (Lackey 1995, Stanley 1995). Biocentric ecosystem management rejects sustainable development as being a fallacy in view of human nature being to seek ever greater economic gains at the expense of the natural environment. The biocentric view says that ecosystems cannot be scientifically managed because their complexity defies human understanding and control (Arrow et al. 1995, Ludwig et al. 1993).
In the U. S. federal initiative, ecosystem management rests on several characteristics and tenets (Table 1). While all the factors in Table 1 are critical to humanistic ecosystem management, one merits special attention regarding human dimensions. This is the interdisciplinary nature of ecosystem management that involves four interacting systems consisting of (1) the natural system including humans, (2) the social system of human values and behavior, (3) the economic system related to land, labor, and capital, and (4) the political system of policy making, laws, and institutional arrangements (Kennedy et al. 1995). Each system is dynamic and can change with a different frequency than the other three thereby complicating the interactions and confounding the matching of land capability with sustainable resource use.
The conceptual basis of the federal ecosystem management initiative is coupled with sustainable development. The vision of sustainable development means maintaining the well being of both humans and the ecosystems that provide renewable natural resources and ecosystem services necessary for socioeconomic progress (IETC 1996, Lemons 1995, van den Bergh and van der Straaten 1994). Science is useful in such efforts, but no matter how interdisciplinary it may be, many decisions about people and environmental objectives must include value judgements. Bridging the objective and subjective natures of ecosystem management is a major challenge to the initiative in the U.S.
Table 1. Characteristics of humanistic (anthropocentric) ecosystem management.
- Embraces a land ethic based on sustainable ecosystems, natural resources, and economics for future generations and reflects socially defined goals and management objectives that support sustainable resources, communities, and economies.
- Recognizes that ecosystems are complex, dynamic, inherently unstable, and their components, including people, are interrelated.
- Includes humans as part of almost all ecosystems and assumes that humans must depend on and be responsible for natural resources
- Uses an interdisciplinary approach that integrates biophysical and human dimensions and is based on the best science and information available while recognizing the limits of current knowledge.
- Requires partnerships between federal, state, and local government, landowners. and other stakeholders for collaborative decision making.
- Fosters incentive-based solutions to natural resource and environmental management and downplays regulatory approaches.
- Draws heavily on scientific principles, research, and state-of-the-environment monitoring and requires an improved understanding of ecosystems.
- Must be built on cooperative interagency institutions because ecosystems transcend jurisdictional boundaries.
- Recognizes uncertainty and relies on adaptive management for redirection of programs based on new knowledge.
2.1. EMERGENCE OF THE POLICY
The federal policy on ecosystem management began emerging in 1993 from the White House's National Performance Review (Gore 1993). As part of the review, Vice President Al Gore called for the federal government to adopt an approach for ensuring sustainable economic development while also sustaining the environment through ecosystem management. To carry out the environmental mandate of the National Performance Review, in August 1993 the White House Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) took the lead for the federal initiative on ecosystem management by establishing the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force (IEMTF) to carry out Vice President Gore's mandate. The task force examined five major issue areas relevant to ecosystem management including budgetary, institutional, public participation, science and
information, and legal authorities. Case studies of ecosystem management to identify barriers to the approach and to evaluate ways to overcome them.
Numerous recommendations were made by the task force regarding (1) improving interagency coordination, (2) improving partnerships with non-federal stakeholders, (3) improving communication with the public, (4) improving resource allocation and management; supporting the role of science, (5) improving information and data management, and (6) increasing flexibility for adaptive management. The recommendations in these areas are noteworthy because in January, 1996, the White House executed a Memorandum of Understanding to Foster the Ecosystem Approach (OEP 1996) that was signed by the 14 federal agencies that had participated in the interagency task force on ecosystem management.
The idea of using ecosystem management to sustain human development did not suddenly arise in the White House in 1993 or 1995. Prior to that time ecosystem management had been developing within various land management agencies, most notably the USFS and the BLM. In 1992 the USFS conducted a national workshop on the ecological approach to resource management (USFS 1992) and two years later the agency's policy on ecosystem management was articulated in a general technical report (USFS 1994). Meanwhile, the U.S. BLM (1994) and other federal agencies (CRS 1994, USDOE 1995, USFWS 1995, USNBS 1994) also were pursuing ecosystem management as a means for managing public lands.
Students of ecosystem management will be interested in a report developed for the US Senate (1994) and another one prepared by the U.S. General Accounting Office (USGAO 1994). The first of these contains a broad spectrum of views from government, academia, public interest, and commercial interests on ecosystem management and the role of the federal government. The second is a critique both of the ecosystem management concept and how it is being pursued by the federal government.
2.2. ROLE OF INTEGRATION
As being fostered by the federal initiative in the U.S., ecosystem management involves integrating the participation of public and private stakeholders, professionals, policy makers, and government institutions in joint decision making. Strong intergovernmental cooperation and coordination for fostering resource stewardship are essential to ecosystem management. These joint give-and-take processes combines public involvement with interdisciplinary expertise rather than the multidisciplinary approach that to this time has predominated.
Social, economic, and ecologic components of ecosystem management must be addressed over a long timeframe in order to sustain the natural resource base from one human generation to the next. The idea is that ecosystem management emphasizes changing how people perceive natural resources, especially resources on public lands where conflicts are common. Part of the desired change is to have people learn to look farther into the future than their own generation. Thus, pursuing sustainable development through ecosystem management requires changing human values, economics, and ecological realities, ideas, and knowledge, i.e. the human dimension. This means that interdisciplinary knowledge involving sociology, economics, political science, and ecology must be used to better understand the role of humans in the natural environment
and the importance of natural resources to human socioeconomics, public health, and quality of life.
Unfortunately, the various disciplines involved in human dimensions are not well integrated with the natural sciences that underpin ecosystem management (Sheifer 1996). Achieving a transdisciplinary perspective and practice is essential to the success of humanistic ecosystem management as a means of achieving sustainable development.
3. Concern, Controversy, and Barriers to Ecosystem Management
Ecosystem management continues to be subject to debate and controversy. Concerns include whether or not the concept can deliver what it promises and whether or not human activities and natural processes can be integrated to benefit both (ESA 1996a). The humanistic path toward ecosystem management that is being fostered by the U.S. government is an ambiguous one that fails to be definitive. Thus, there is much rhetoric from federal land management agencies that profess to be engaged in ecosystem management. Many bureaucrats embrace the words associated with ecosystem management but not the philosophy (Lackey 1995).
Part of the difficulty is that there is little agreement among the various parties involved in ecosystem management regarding explicit features and definitive characteristics of ecosystem management. An effort toward reaching agreement is the late 1996 report on the Keystone Center National Policy Dialogue on Ecosystem Management (Keystone Center 1996). This includes the concept's key components, although principal emphasis was given to non-scientific, human dimension aspects of ecosystem management. Most notable about the Keystone Center dialogue on ecosystem management is the emphasis given to such matters as the role of stakeholders in decisionmaking and the organizational structure for implementing ecosystem management centered on human interests and values rather than ecosystem science.
Some critical observers of the ecosystem management concept and the federal initiative are highly skeptical. For example, Ludwig et al. (1993) believe that claims of sustainability are to be distrusted because they defy historical facts about human behavior and may lead to a complacency about ecosystem management or sustainable development. These and other concerns, such as how science handles uncertainty and how it envisions sustainable yield of resources, lead Ludwig and his coauthors to view natural resource problems not as technical problems but as human ones resulting from political, social, and economic systems, much as the Keystone Center (1996) approached ecosystem management.
Another critic, Stanley (1995), raises the matter of the "arrogance" of humanism in the context of the ecosystem management paradigm as it is being popularized and pursued by federal land resource managers. The concept of ecosystem management being popularized and fostered by government agencies is viewed by Stanley as being overly anthropocentric. Anthropocentrism emphasizes the human use of natural resources to the benefit of development and includes ecological as well as socioeconomic considerations. In contrast, the opposing biocentric view considers humans as a component of ecosystems equal to and subject to the same resource constraints as any other biotic component. Under biocentricism the biosphere has limits to its carrying
capacity, and human use of resources ultimately has to be constrained to meet the challenge of sustaining ecosystem integrity (Arrow et al. 1995).
3.1. CONFLICT OVER ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT
There are some aspects of ecosystem management that lead to conflict. For example, most ecosystems and landscapes lack precise boundaries and do not ordinarily conform to administrative borders. Land ownership and political boundaries have little scientific meaning in the sense of natural ecosystems and landscapes. Consequently, as public land management agencies seek to apply ecosystem management, private properties and various jurisdictional boundaries are confronted. Institutional mechanisms for managing across jurisdictions under an ecosystem approach are largely unknown (Cortner and Moote 1994).
Other concerns arise such as (1) government encroachment onto private properties that share ecosystems and landscapes with public land, (2) issues of how different government agencies cooperate regarding their management activities and conflicting legal mandates, (3) questions about stakeholder participation in decision making, and (4) the threat that private and commercial users of public land for economic or other benefits will face increasing regulations that compromise their livelihoods (Fitzsimmons 1996, Wood 1994). Regarding the issue of economics, goods and services derived from federal lands provide jobs for many local communities that stand to be threatened by ecosystem management of public land resources. However, the extent of the economic consequences of ecosystem management remain unknown.
These issues are important in the cultural context in the U.S. and this is the principal reason why the federal ecosystem management initiative involves chiefly public lands, i.e., to stem fears of federal intrusion into private ownership rights. Rights of property owners and local loss of jobs resulting from federal ecosystem management programs are major concerns of the public that ecosystem management strategies must deal with positively (ESA 1996a). Varner (1994) envisions a steady progression, under sustainable development and ecosystem management, toward all land, regardless of ownership, being viewed as a public resource owned in common and held by individuals only in a stewardship capacity.
3.2. BARRIERS TO ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT
Other concerns and barriers to ecosystem management (Table 2) fall into five broad categories - scientific, informational, institutional, decision making, and ethics. In particular, the Keystone Center (1996) expressed concerns about ecosystem management lacking an accepted definition and a set of definitive practices. Critical importance was ascribed to the need to clarify characteristics sometimes ascribed to ecosystem management but that are not congruent with the forum's vision of community-based ecosystem management processes.
Table 2. Barriers and needs that agencies face in implementing ecosystem management.
- Understanding ecosystem structure and function and the role of biodiversiy in sustaining ecosystems.
- Determining appropriate spatial scales and hierarchical units for establishing ecosystem management boundaries.
- Establishing indicators for evaluating the success of ecosystem management.
- Establishing and managing a base of knowledge and monitoring information.
- Gaining an understanding of biophysical and socioeconomic interrelationships in ecosystems.
- Achieving federal interagency coordination and cooperation.
- Communicatmg between federal agencies and the public and establishing trust.
- Forming partnerships with non-federal stakeholders for reconciling diverse management goals and collaborative decision making.
- Remaining flexible for applying adaptive management.
- Improving adherence to principles of environmental ethics and standards of professional practice among all categories of environmental professionals.
Principal among the concerns were the issues of the threat of expanding government control over private land use decisions, diminished focus of communities and regions on NEPA and other national environmental laws, a giveaway of public lands to local economic interests, top down federal planning and the tendency for land manager bureaucrats to embrace the philosophy of ecosystem management and move away from traditional ways of managing public land resources. Statutory barriers to ecosystem management also exist in the U.S. (Keiter 1994). These need to be examined and revised if necessary to provide positive incentives for ecosystem management, particularly regarding stakeholder participation in decision making. Federal land management agencies are guided by legislation concerning resource management planning. These constructs, along with the National Environmental Policy Act, were developed before ecosystem management was conceptualized and may be administered in ways that preclude an ecosystem, landscape, or ecoregion view consistent with the goals of ecosystem management as a new paradigm. Such concerns and potential barriers to ecosystem management led the Keystone Center (1996) to recommend that implementing regulations for the involved federal statutes be reviewed and revised where appropriate to promote ecosystem management goals and partnerships for resource management initiatives on a landscape scale.
Apprehensions and obstacles to ecosystem management will continue as the discipline evolves. However, the most divisive issues are not scientific or technical: they are moral and philosophical (Lackey 1995). Science cannot resolve the moral issues involving ecosystem management. A proper role for science is to strive to reduce the
scientific uncertainty in much of ecosystem science and the technical aspects of ecosystem management. Resolution of both the moral issues and the scientific uncertainties must attempt to remain astride of the continued social trend in the U.S. and elsewhere toward placing ever greater weight on nonconsumptive societal benefits. Thus, the underlying reasons for the emergence of ecosystem management as a new paradigm for resource management and sustainable development is unlikely to disappear.
4. Ecosystem Management and Professional Ethics
Much is written about ecosystem management and environmental ethics (e.g., Cortner and Moote 1994, ESA 1996a, Francis 1993, Grumbine 1994, Lemons end Brown 1995, Wood 1994). Nothing will be added here to that important topic. Instead, the seldom considered issue of professional ethics in relation to ecosystem management will be addressed. This matter is important because while most ecologists and other environmental professionals profess to being environmentally ethical, relatively fewer in the U.S. view matters of professional ethics and standards of professional practice with similar importance.
It is true that professionals involved with matters affecting the environment generally recognize that the synthesis of facts and values is a professional responsibility. Beyond that, many ecologists and other natural scientists do not recognize a need for guidance on other matters of professional ethics and standards of practice. The Ecological Society of America (ESA), for example, has touched only slightly on this matter through its Code of Ethics (ESA 1996b). The point to be made here is that while the ESA Code of Ethics serves researchers and educators well, it is inadequate for consulting ecologists. This is especially true for ecological consultants involved with matters and affairs of applied ecology, environmental policy, and federal programmatic direction affecting public interests.
On the other hand, traditional environmental professionals such as the members of the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) that are involved principally in matters of regulatory compliance characteristically subscribe to a Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Practice (Malone 1995, NAEP 1996). When the ESA (1996b) Code of Ethics is compared to the NAEP (1996) Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Practice some important principles of professional ethics and standards are not found in the ESA (1996b) Code of Ethics (Table 3).
For example, the ESA's Code of Ethics does not specifically target the consulting profession even though significant numbers of ecologists are full-time or parttime consultants, often on matters important to ecosystem management and sustainable development. The dilemma posed here with respect to ecosystem management and professional ethics is illustrated by considering ecosystem management in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) which was the last federal land management agency to adopt ecosystem management.
An ecosystem management policy was adopted by the DOE in December 1994 (USDOE 1994). The policy's objectives were laudable, i.e., for DOE to manage its land and facilities as valuable national resources in accordance with the principles of ecosystem management and sustainable development. The policy sought to integrate the
Table 3. Ethical principles that are fundamental to the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP 1996) do not appear in Ecological Society of America's Code of Ethics (ESA 1996B).
- Professional consultants must conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the principles of environmental ethics.
- Environmental professionals must recognize that total environmental (i.e., ecosystem) management involves consideration of all environmental factors including technical, economic, ecological, and sociopolitical and their relationship.
- Environmental professionals must incorporate the best principles of design and environmental planning (e.g., ecosystem management) when recommending measures to reduce environmental harm and enhance environmental quality.
- They must provide their services in areas where they are qualified and turn to other experts where they are unqualified.
- The formation of interdisciplinary teams for resource management planning and for determining environmental impacts must be fostered.
- Communication with other professionals and respect for their contributions in developing and reviewing policies, plans, and projects must be pursued.
agency's mission with ecologic, economic, and social factors in a comprehensive plan for each DOE site that would guide land and facility use decisions. Comprehensive plans developed for each site were to consider the site's larger regional context and be developed with stakeholder participation.
The policy was first used for the Nevada Test Site (NTS) in the context of sitewide environmental impact statement (EIS) that included a framework for a Resource Management Plan (RMP) (USDOE 1996). The RMP, the first ever for the DOE, is to be developed and implemented subsequent to the EIS, released to the public which occurred in October 1996. Ecosystem management is to be the foundation for the RMP, and the DOE approach in this case is consistent with the federal ecosystem management initiative.
Stakeholders and interested parties were pleased with the DOE initiative at NTS because it involves a regional planning strategy that will integrate stakeholder and community concerns and goals consistent with the pursuit of healthy ecosystems and sustainable development. Notable is the fact that the RMP framework document (USDOE 1996) reflects credible professional work that was led by an environmental professional on DOE's staff who is a member of the NAEP and thus subject to the association's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
Despite the DOE's decision to implement ecosystem management at the NTS, it failed to include a large and costly long-term project meant to construct and operate an environmentally significant geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste, the Yucca Mountain Project (Malone 1995). Although a portion of the project site is located on the test site, DOE arbitrarily decided to exempt the project from the NTS EIS, resource management planning, and compliance with the DOE's Land and Facility Use Policy (USDOE 1994). Instead, project decisions fail to involve stakeholder collaboration, are inconsistent with adjacent public lands management, and do not address long-term environmental impacts associated with a repository at Yucca Mountain (Malone 1995).
The situation with respect to the Yucca Mountain Project is important because at present time there is no empirical basis for predicting what might occur at Yucca Mountain over the long term. Geologic disposal of high-level nuclear waste raises unique issues that have never before been faced. For example, the repository must isolate nuclear waste from the environment accessible to man for a minimum of 10,000 years. Malone (1995) presented a plausible scenario under global climate change whereby accelerated erosion and adverse geohydrologic changes could compromise the integrity of a repository and its waste packages at Yucca Mountain to prematurely release radioactive material to the environment.
Research based on the scientific premises of ecosystem management and coupled with long-term environmental pathway modeling could be conducted to shed light on the early-release scenario. However, the DOE Yucca Mountain Project has, on the basis of no data or objective evidence, used subjective judgement to rule out the scenario and the need for its study. The principal basis for the DOE's refusal to address the issue is the recommendation of the ecologist leading the Yucca Mountain environmental and ecological program. The leader is a community ecologist whose staff does not include ecosystem scientists. Without any empirical basis, and on subjective judgement alone, the program leader has concluded that nothing like the early-release scenario could occur.
The DOE accepts the leading ecologist's advice, which is convenient for the repository project. In this case, ignorance is expedient because ecosystem studies of long-term environmental potential of the Yucca Mountain site conflict with the fast-tract schedule for the project. This is despite the fact that ecosystem-level studies will be pursued at the Nevada Test Site under a resource management plan (USDOE 1996) from which the Yucca Mountain Project has excluded itself.
While the ecology program leader is a member of the Ecological Society of America, the society fails to endorse high principles of professional ethics and standards of practice comparable to those of the NAEP (Table 3). The NAEP (1996) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice includes the concept of the integrated, interdisciplinary ecosystem approach to environmental protection, i.e., ecosystem management. By comparison, the DOE Yucca Mountain Project emphasizes only plant community ecology, reclamation of disturbed areas, and the population biology of one legally protected species. There is no professional way for critics of the ecology program to influence the program with respect to enforcing professional ethics and standards of practice (Malone 1995).
It can be seen from this case that there can be a role for ecosystem management and professional ethics to play in important environmental issues. Professional associations like the Ecological Society of America and the National Association for
Environmental Professionals have a major role to play in matters of professional ethics and in providing guidance on the necessity for integrated studies and resource management programs. The ecological society's present ethical codes are insufficient for helping avoid difficult issues like the DOE Yucca Mountain Project present.
Traditionally, resource management practices have sought to achieve changes in ecosystems without concurrently achieving lasting social changes. Many management plans and programs have failed because both kinds of changes were not sought concurrently. A fundamental challenge to ecosystem management is to accomplish lasting management of resources consistent with maintaining economic progress and realizing responsible resource stewardship. In this respect, the importance of integrating human and biophysical dimensions is paramount, and disciplines such as economics, sociology, political science, and the study of institutional arrangements are as important to ecosystem management as are the natural sciences.
Sustaining renewable natural resources requires a land resource ethic that downplays traditional commodity-oriented, command-and-control management. Achieving this change requires using sociology, economics, ecology, political science, and studies of institutional arrangements in an interdisciplinary manner to reach goals and objectives that have been socially defined. Collaboration of this sort involves the public, policy makers, and government working cooperatively.
The concept of achieving sustainability through interdisciplinary ecosystem management involves adopting an ethic that integrates patterns of human thought and action with ecological reality and prospects for the future. Indeed, some believe that a new paradigm and ethic are emerging (Cortner and Moote 1994, Grumbine 1994, Wood 1994). Traditional resource management guided by a paradigm characterized by maintaining commodity production has been discredited and a new ideal is emerging based on biophysical and human dimensions, institutional coordination, and collaborative decision making. The principles of ecosystem management thus seem form the philosophical underpinning of a new ethic, one designed to safeguard ecological integrity, ecosystem sustainability, and biodiversity for future generations (ESA 1996. Lemons and Brown 1995, Westra and Lemons 1995).
As the new paradigm develops, scientists need to be involved throughout the policy making process of ecosystem management, but in a clearly defined, interactive role where the values and priorities of the public are implemented, not those of scientists. Ecosystem management clearly is an applied science, something that ecologists long have viewed with detachment. This is unfortunate because developing a useful and feasible approach to ecosystem management calls for a participatory, consultative approach involving ecological research. At the present time, the traditional disciplines of natural resource management and human dimensions are more attuned to this situation than is academic ecological science. However, there are refreshing signs that ecosystem scientists are recognizing their essential role in the U.S. effort toward achieving sustainable development through ecosystem management.
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