The initial 2003 draft of the report covered a wide range of environmental topics, in a general way and offering some historical perspective. After years of evolving, the emphasis of the current report is largely on topics for which EPA is responsible, says Robin O'Malley (202-737-6307), a program director with the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. When reviewing the contents, it may be useful to keep in mind that the agency is generally self-reporting on how it's doing in its role. Nonetheless, discerning journalists may find useful nuggets of information.
The 45-day public comment period ends June 25, 2007, after which EPA's Science Advisory Board will meet July 10-12, 2007, for its public review. The final Report is expected in late 2007.
For some additional perspective and details, including numerous maps and coverage of other topics, it may be useful to review a series of publications by the Heinz Center. "The State of the Nation's Ecosystems" was published in 2002, and partial updates were published in 2003 and 2005. A major update and upgrade is expected to be published in the first few months of 2008 (though the Web site, which covers selected information about the new report's content, still carries a late 2007 date).
Heinz also published in 2006 a report suggesting some recommended steps for adding much-needed information that both EPA and Heinz acknowledge is still missing: "Filling the Gaps: Priority Data Needs and Key Management Challenges for National Reporting on Ecosystem Condition."