On this page:
- What is an ecosystem?
- What is Community Based Environmental Protection?
- What is a watershed?
During the 1990's EPA began exploring new ways to implement its environmental policies that moved beyond regulatory enforcement to include voluntary programs with an ecosystem perspective. The ecosystem approach along with community based environmental protection and the watershed approach, are designed to achieve environmental results which may not be possible through EPA's traditional regulatory programs alone. The ecosystem approach is holistic in nature, so it encompasses land, water, and other ecosystem functions. This approach prevents an environmental problem from "shifting" from one ecosystem function to another.
Today, Region 8 continues to embrace the ecosystem approach through its Ecosystems Protection (EP) Program. By placing several programs under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) into a collective unit, it enables the Region 8 Office to pool resources, involve more stakeholders, and set goals which drive more effective protection and restoration of watersheds, aquifers and ecosystems. Our EP Program includes the water portion of the ecosystem approach, since it has legislative responsibility for implementation of the CWA. We are also committed to ground water and drinking water protection under the SDWA.
We have three principles that guide our work:
- ecosystem perspective
- community based approach
- watershed approach
An ecosystem is an interactive and changing system that includes the soil, air, water, plants, animals and microorganisms within in a defined area. It is a natural system in which energy and nutrients cycle between plants, animals and their environment. Ecosystems provide critical services or functions to the environment, known as "ecosystem services". These services sustain human life and include:
- providing filtered air and water
- nutrients to soil
- food sources
- flood control
- critical habitat and many other benefits
The Community Based Environmental Protection (CBEP) initiative began in 1994, and focused on engaging stakeholders in collaborative decision-making, as well as project implementation as a way to improve environmental conditions within a community. CBEP relies on a partnership between citizens and government working together to protect the environment. CBEP is helping EPA better understand the unique needs of individual communities and tap into the resources those communities offer so that environmental problems are approached collaboratively.
- Integrating the delivery of our services and programs to improve coordination
- Creating flexibility in our programs that allows us to respond to the needs of diverse ecosystems and human communities and help communities reach informed decisions that affect their environment
- Looking beyond our current statutory authorities and base programs to address often difficult and intractable problems
- Increasing our efficiency and effectiveness by building partnerships and leveraging resources, and developing better ways of involving the public we serve
Why Community Based Environmental Protection?
CBEP recognizes that long-term sustainable solutions to many environmental problems require the cooperation of many groups with a wide spectrum of interests. No one group or agency has sole responsibility for the future of our environment. Local land use decisions, for example, often have profound effects on the environment, positive or negative. Some significant environmental decisions, like land use and zoning, are not within the scope of EPA’s authority, yet we have a role as scientists, experts, regulators and coordinators to work with communities to provide information, ensure compliance with environmental laws and help bring the right people to the table.
The Ecosystem Protection Program uses a watershed approach in its day to day functions. This allows the program to understand how land and water interact within a defined watershed. Watersheds and the surface water and ground water within watersheds reflect the health of the entire area.