What do the data availability categories mean?
We describe availability of data for each indicator, because absent or existing data may limit usefulness of indicators. Reporting on existing information is an important step in evaluating the utility of individual indicators.
The following categories were used for this purpose:
Why did you include indicators that are not yet fully developed? Wouldn't it make more sense to focus on the indicators for which we have existing data? What good is an indicator if it can't tell us anything?
We chose, as a group, not to be limited by existing data when selecting indicators. The SRR mission is to "identify indicators of sustainability, based on social, economic, and ecological factors, to provide a framework for national assessments of rangelands and rangeland use." In order to fulfill this mission, the participants focused on the best indicators of sustainability in hopes that we can inform and influence agencies to direct monitoring efforts to areas identified by indicators as being important, provide for development of common data collection techniques, and focus research by agencies, universities, and organizations on developing methods to measure criteria and indicators.
Which indicator is the most important in knowing the sustainability of rangelands? Are all environmental indicators equal? Are some more important than others?
No one indicator is most important. Any one indicator cannot describe rangeland sustainability. The indicators have been formulated such that, taken as a whole, they provide an indication of rangeland sustainability. Different interest groups may use different indicators to evaluate the status and trends of U.S. rangelands. What is important is that all interest groups and stakeholders have a hand in developing the entire suite of indicators, thus attesting to their validity in a collective sense.
The SRR First Approximation Report identifies a number of data gaps. How will they be filled? Are they equally important to fill?
Data gaps generally exist because it is too difficult or expensive to collect such data. A few variables are so new that monitoring programs have not yet started measuring them. In some instances, we lack the technology to adequately sample attributes associated with an indicator. One result of SRR's work will be to increase agency awareness of the need to redirect monitoring programs to incorporate variables that will eliminate some of these data gaps. It will also assist agencies and others in prioritizing data collection efforts.
Why did you select 5 criteria and 64 indicators? Are these all the indicators needed to measure the sustainability of rangelands?
The 5 criteria were selected through a process begun by identifying and refining the most important issues on rangelands. For each criterion, a group was formed to identify a set of indicators would best describe rangeland sustainability within that category. The authors intended these indicators to be used together; populating the set of indicators with data will present clearer and more refined trends of rangeland sustainability.
Is this SRR First Approximation Report intended to replace existing monitoring and reporting programs?
No. The First Approximation Report is not a monitoring program. Rather, we hope that the C&I will result in coordination among management agencies to reassess and refocus, rather than replace, methods and content of monitoring and reporting programs.
There are a number of programs that monitor rangelands that are not included in this SRR First Approximation Report. Should these programs be scrapped?
Different rangeland monitoring programs are designed for different purposes. For example, some monitor only non-federal lands and others are only concerned with forests and woodlands. Numerous agencies and organizations collect data at the pasture, watershed, county, and state levels. It may be possible to aggregate some data from local to regional and national levels when certain statistical considerations are met. Regardless, monitoring programs should be primarily judged by how well they meet their primary objectives.
Are there any overall trends in the sustainability of U.S. rangelands that the SRR First Approximation Report comments on? Are we on the right track?
This report does not report any overall trends of sustainability. This report describes our ability to monitor and report on the sustainability of U.S. rangelands. Many changes must be incorporated in national assessments of national rangelands to be able to accurately report on sustainability trends. Indicators must be monitored over time to determine trends.