Environmental Information: Status of Federal Data Programs That Support Ecological Indicators

GAO-05-376 Published: Sep 02, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 21, 2005.
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The federal government supports numerous data programs that assemble and analyze quantitative measures of the nation's environmental conditions and trends (known as indicators). A substantial number of these data programs are housed in several federal agencies, and provide various types of data used routinely by decision makers from the private sector and all levels of government. As federal agencies take actions to improve the coverage and usefulness of these programs, it is equally important that the quality and availability of existing data generated by these programs do not erode overtime. In this regard, periodic uninterrupted monitoring to determine conditions and trends is important to accurately describe the extent or seriousness of environmental problems, or conversely, improvements in environmental conditions. GAO reviewed 20 data programs to determine whether federal agencies responsible for the programs anticipate that changes during fiscal years 2005 and 2006 related to funding, shifting priorities, or other factors will affect the ability of the programs to (1) continue to generate data comparable with data from past years, and (2) continue providing data used in a nationwide ecological indicator study by the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, The State of the Nation's Ecosystems.

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