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Since most environmental problems now stem from nonpoint sources for which there are few regulatory controls, a watershed approach is effective for environmental decision making. The watershed approach uses partnerships, a naturally defined geographic boundary and sound science in decision making. For a variety of reasons, valuable scientific data from environmental monitoring and assessment efforts frequently do not play a major role in environmental resource management decisions Using sound science in watershed scale decision making is especially difficult because of the scientific challenge of estimating the impacts of specific human activities on valued ecological resources and due to the challenge of communicating this information comprehensively and concisely to appropriate decision makers. Ecological risk assessment is a process to collect organize, analyze and present scientific information to improve its use in decision making. Some of the methods used in two EPA sponsored watershed ecological risk assessments (Clinch and Powell Valley, VA, and Waquoit Bay, MA) to increase the use of scientific data in decision making are described. The value of developing environmental management goals and objectives, using criteria to select ecological measures for analysis, structuring the assessment around something achievable, developing a conceptual model, and confirming that analytical results are useful is discussed. Using the watershed ecological risk assessment approach enabled participants to focus scientific analyses on ecological resources of concern with potential mitigating management actions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-01-01

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