The U.S. has long been a leader on the science and knowledge about nature and its conservation, management, and use. Yet the few general assessments that we have done for the U.S. are dated, the last in 1999. To help address this gap, President Biden issued EO 14072 on 22 April 2022—Earth Day—directing the Federal government to carry out a National Nature Assessment (NNA). The NNA is just one part of a broader agenda to conserve and restore nature for the U.S., essential to measuring and monitoring our progress. It complements the America The Beautiful initiative, the National Strategy for Natural Capital Accounting, the roadmap for using nature-based solutions, the Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plans, and others.
The NNA is intended from the very beginning to be use-inspired. What is nature? What do people need to know about nature? These questions are foundational to carrying out the NNA, yet the reality is that nature means different things to different people, and our needs are diverse. Recognizing these basic realities, the decision was made from the outset to start from the needs of people who make decisions—often on a daily basis—and not just the scientists or knowledge holders. Traditional scientific assessments are valuable but can be too hard to use, but taking a “coproduction” approach to the NNA will help address this concern.
As a result, one of the first public steps of the NNA was to release a Request for Information, asking the public to offer their thoughts on what the word nature means, how they would like to be engaged as the NNA is created, and much more. In addition, Federal agencies are doing extensive outreach to Tribes, the public, and civil society organizations to build the NNA that people need.
Like many agencies, the Department of the Interior is part of the NNA. With responsibility for about 20% of the land area of the U.S., key roles for managing the Outer Continental Shelf and a variety of marine areas, and legal responsibility for parts of nature like migratory birds and imperiled species, Interior has substantial equities in the NNA. Through the Office of Policy Analysis, the Department is an active member of the Federal Steering Committee and is leading part of the outreach effort to the public noted above. Further, the Department will have extensive opportunities to contribute to and use the NNA. for example, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Interior's primary science bureau, is hosting the NNA Technical Support Unit.
Watch this space for updates from Interior as the NNA comes to fruition to follow along and contribute, as well as the U.S. Global Change Research Program, host of the NNA.
Feature photo and landscape photo Public Domain (CC-0) by J. Malcom.