a program for remedying the deficiencies of existing programs and activities, together with recommendations for legislation.
The Annual Report requires that CEQ obtain considerable support from other federal agencies with environmental responsibilities. CEQ coordinates this input through its Inter-agency Committee on Environmental Trends (ICET) which is co-chaired by CEQ and EPA. Even with the support of other agencies, the Annual Report does not provide a comprehensive annual state-of-the-environment picture, but it does provide a compilation of a selected set of analyses of environmental concerns focused towards policy interests in that year.
The United States is one of a very few countries in the world that does not produce a comprehensive publication on the state of the environment. The U.S. environmental community is presently moving in the direction of state-of-the-environment reporting through the development of a set of "environmental" indicators that will give a comprehensive picture (i.e., spatial) of the condition of the nation's environment and can also be used to evaluate temporal trends in environmental quality. These "environmental indicators" would be used much in the same way that we use economic indicators to assess the state of the economy and forecast economic trends.
The scientific community does not unanimously agree on what the best indicators of environmental quality should be. Unlike economic statistics in which the universe of concern is usually well defined (i.e., defined operationally by economists) and directly accessible via surveys and questionnaires, the environment does not provide such parameters. What is an ecosystem? What is the border of the wetlands? How do we assess air quality on a national scale, on a local scale? We cannot question the trees. We must design instruments that indirectly measure the parameters of interest. The collection of environmental data for inferential purposes is difficult and extremely expensive, and as such, not many data have been collected for purposes of describing the universe; most information is collected for purposes of compliance and enforcement. Only recently have we started to examine the impacts that our regulatory efforts have had on the quality of the ambient environment.
Before undertaking the task of identifying environmental indicators for state-of-the-environment assessments, it is absolutely necessary to develop a framework with which to approach the process of selection and development. There are potentially thousands of environmental indicators. In order to develop relevant sets, some conceptual framework for a unified system of environmental information is necessary. Such a framework would provide the basis for identifying a set of environmental indicators (i.e., core set) that can be used to assess the quality of