Working towards sustainability through environmental stewardship and collaboration


Courtesy of US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

In May 2006, Administrator Stephen Johnson asked the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) to review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent response to two priorities—environmental stewardship and cooperative conservation. In this concluding report to the Administrator, the Council advances key recommendations, findings, and steps the Administrator and the Agency should take immediately to demonstrate their clear and bold vision of environmental stewardship made possible through a deliberate strategy of collaborative governance involving all sectors of American society.

Our key message is straightforward. EPA should reframe is mission with stewardship as the unifying theme and ethic and EPA should strive to become the world’s premier stewardship model and catalyst. As the EPA Innovation Action Council (IAC) stated in its November 2005 report, Everyday Choices: Opportunities for Environmental Stewardship, “[S]tewardship means taking responsibility for our choices.” Stewardship is a systemic approach to addressing the challenge of sustainability—economic, environmental, and social. Strong regulatory programs are key tools in fostering responsibility, especially when they are integrated with the full policy toolbox that also includes grants, voluntary partnerships, and information programs. To deliver on this challenge, EPA must invest in building the skills and competencies necessary for stewardship and drive stewardship deep into its organizational culture.

The concept of stewardship is a logical—and timely—step in EPA’s ongoing evolution. It is not a new idea. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 provides the direction and underlying authority to implement our recommendations. We commend EPA for already doing much to advance stewardship but, as we state in this report, there is much more to do. Although EPA has a critical role to play in stewardship, its role is only one piece of the overall systemic solution. The success of EPA’s stewardship efforts will be determined by the extent to which other institutions and individuals become stewards. We need a nation of 300 million environmental stewards, not just approximately17,000 EPA staff. Collaborative governance, which engages all stakeholders in the design and direction of environmental policy, is a key strategy toward that end. Working towards sustainability through environmental stewardship and collaboration is everyone’s business.

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