Environmental Management

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 246–260 | Cite as

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

  • Lisa Dale
  • Andrea K. Gerlak


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.


Environmental and natural resource policy Wetlands National fire policy Data collection Performance measures Indicator sets 



The authors would like to thank Jeanne N. Clarke, The Wilderness Society, and the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition for research support. This project would not have been possible without them.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DenverDenverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Arizona, International Studies AssociationTucsonUSA

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