Managing Ecological Risks at EPA: Issues and Recommendations for Progress (Final Report, 1994)

Since its inception in 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has focused more consistently on protecting human health than ecosystems. In recent years, however, the Agency has worked to address this imbalance. For example, EPA has set priorities that emphasize the value of ecosystems as well as human health and welfare, and has made an increasing number of regulatory decisions that incorporate ecological concerns. Nevertheless, limited consensus exists within EPA on objectives for ecological protection. A consistent focus on ecosystem protection requires clear Agencywide guidance on what ecosystems and ecosystem components should be protected and to what degree, and what regulatory endpoints should be used in ecological risk assessment and risk management decisions. This report is intended to assist in the development of that guidance by presenting ecological concerns already considered in several of EPA’s program areas.

This report stems from issues identified during the development of EPA’s Framework for Ecological Risk Assessment (U.S. EPA, 1992a), the Agency’s initial guidance for conducting ecological risk assessment. In May 1991, during a scientific peer review of the Framework, several scientists from academia, government, and industry reached a consensus opinion that: . . policy and risk management issues must play an important part in guiding the ecological risk assessment process to ensure that relevant societal concerns are adequately addressed (U.S. EPA, 1992b).

Afterwards, senior managers and scientists having risk assessment responsibilities within the Agency agreed that EPA had not yet established management guidance or standard policies for conducting ecological risk assessments, and that the success of ecological risk assessment depended on such guidance.

To provide this needed policy guidance for ecological risk assessments, EPA conducted a survey between August 1992 and March 1993 to document the Agency’s current and historical ecological concerns as expressed by Agency decisions. This report summarizes the results of that survey.

The goals of the report are to: (1) Summarize the ecological concerns historically used in EPA decision-making; (2) Provide background information for future guidance on risk management and on establishing guiding principles for developing, describing, and using ecological risk assessments at EPA: and (3) Provide a set of recommendations to improve ecological considerations in EPA decision-making.


U.S. EPA. Managing Ecological Risks at EPA: Issues and Recommendations for Progress (Final Report, 1994). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., 1994.

This document has been reviewed in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.