, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 246-260
Date: 22 Nov 2006

It’s All in the Numbers: Acreage Tallies and Environmental Program Evaluation

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Abstract

Increasingly, performance measurement is being used to hold federal agencies accountable, represent environmental progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of environmental programs. The need to track measurable outputs has created a tendency to present programmatic progress solely by quantifiable data, despite the inherent complexity of natural resource management. Wetlands and fire management programs are two specific environmental arenas that have come to overemphasize the tracking of acreage numbers to validate existing policy direction. In both of these arenas, we find the definition and categorization of “countable” acres to be inconsistent and unreliable. We explore this systemic flaw for both wetlands and fire programs and describe its implications for environmental policy and natural resource management more broadly. We conclude with recommendations for improved performance measurement in these arenas.