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Implementing Ecosystem-basedManagement: Lessons from the Great Lakes

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ABSTRACT Under the US-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Program was formalized to identify and implement actions needed to restore beneficial uses in the most polluted areas of the Great Lakes (i.e. Areas of Concern). It was further required that individual RAPs embody a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach (i.e. an approach which accounts for interrelationships among land, air, water and all living things, including humans, and involves user groups in comprehensive management). Careful review and analysis of the RAP Program offers an opportunity to gain a better understanding of ecosystem-based management for other watersheds, and to identify important principles and elements which contribute to effective implementation. Principles which are considered essential for effective implementation of ecosystem-based management include: (1) broad-based stakeholder involvement; (2) commitment of top leaders; (3) agreement on information needs and interpretation; (4) action planning within a strategic framework; (5) human resource development; (6) results and indicators to measure progress; (7) systematic review and feedback; and (8) stakeholder satisfaction. The Great Lakes RAP experience with ecosystem-based management also demonstrates the need for a transition from a traditional,command-and-control,regulatory approach of governmentalagencies toward a more co-operative,value-added,support-basedrole. Review of RAPs in all 42 Areas of Concern provides compelling evidence that successful application of ecosystem-based management is dependent on broad-based stakeholder involvement in decision making, along with strong partnerships which encourage collaboration, co-operation and adaptability in management actions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1998

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