Statement on Policy Principles for Renewable Natural
Mission of the Foundation
The policy mission of the Renewable Natural Resources
Foundation (the Foundation) is to advance interdisciplinary
science, understanding, and stewardship of renewable natural
resources by fostering interdisciplinary activities and
synergy among professional, scientific, and educational
organizations, and through public education.
Purpose of Statement
This statement on policy principles identifies broad areas
of interest and agreement relating to renewable natural
resource policy shared by the Foundation and its Member
Organizations. It also is intended to increase public
awareness and understanding of the major issues and needs
associated with the future of renewable natural resources.
The fundamental principle for stewardship of renewable
natural resources is sustainability—the perpetual
maintenance of diverse and productive environments upon
which all life depends. Humans are an integral part of these
environments and are a key factor in environmental
sustainability. Human uses of renewable resources must be
sustainable in the long-term. To achieve sustainability,
communities of organisms must be able to interact with their
environments in ways that maintain the integrity of soil,
water, air, and biotic resources. As stewards, humans bear
the responsibility of sustaining renewable natural resources
through skilled and responsible management. This requires
recognition of sustainability as the underlying concept upon
which renewable resource management must be based. Thus,
public education about natural resources should foster a
sense of stewardship and an understanding of sustainability.
In addition, there is a critical need for development of,
and agreement on, measures or indicators of progress toward
sustainable management of resources.
The global environment is composed of myriad, complex and
heterogeneous ecosystems formed by communities of organisms
interacting with their environments. These systems include
humans as well as animals, plants, microbes, and physical
resources. The functioning of ecosystems is not adequately
understood. Research is urgently needed on ecosystem
functions, management, and sustainability.
Ecosystems generally should be managed to provide optimum
sustained yield of both commodity and non-commodity products
and benefits, through the application of sound ecological,
economic and ethical principles. State-of-the-art,
interdisciplinary science must be applied in formulating
strategies for ecosystem management, and management
techniques should be monitored for results and adjusted as
new research results become available. No single management
strategy will meet all these objectives in all places at all
Biological diversity of a geographic area is measured by the
abundance and variability of plant and animal species, as
well as the communities and ecological processes that link
them with each other and with the soil, air, and water.
Human quality of life and survival are linked to
conservation of biological diversity.
Biological diversity varies geographically from microscopic
to regional scales, and at each location from daily to
geologic time periods. Biological diversity involves
structure, function, and composition of genes, individuals,
populations, subspecies, species, communities, and
ecosystems. Because of this complexity and variability,
management actions of various kinds are needed to meet the
many possible objectives involved in maintaining diversity.
Modification of natural ecosystems by human activities is
increasing the extinction rates for wild flora and fauna.
This accelerated extinction of species constitutes an
irreversible degradation of the environment.
Interdisciplinary science, public education, and a
conservation ethic are essential for developing effective
policies, plans, and actions for preventing premature,
human-induced extinction of species and for conserving
Cultural diversity is the geographic or spatial distribution
and variability of human societies and cultures. At least
5,000 cultures have been linguistically identified
throughout the world.Cultural and biological diversity are
intricately linked. Like biological diversity, cultural
phenomena can be scaled from the smallest social group—the
pair—to increasingly large networks, regional cultures, mass
societies, and major linguistic families. An
interdisciplinary approach is needed to address the
short-term and long-term tasks of relating and conserving
biological and cultural diversity.
Rapid growth of human populations and unsustainable resource
use continue to place increased demand on the world’s
limited renewable and non-renewable natural resources. In
2004, the United Nations Population Division projected a
world population in the year 2050 of 9.1 billion, a 40%
increase over the 2005 figure of 6.5 billion. Rapid
population increases and migrations of populations have the
potential to endanger species and ecosystems and further
degrade terrestrial and aquatic communities because of
increased urban and rural development; soil, air, and water
pollution; toxic wastes; and over-exploitation of biotic
resources. Focusing only on these environmental impacts,
however essential, will be treating only the symptoms rather
than the root cause—rapid human population growth.
Publication and distribution of scientific information are
needed to explore the impacts of human population expansion
and excessive consumption on the environment and natural
resources, and the need for population/habitat balance
associated with land and water use. The human dimensions of
environmental problems and policies must be included in
scientific research and education.
Land Use and Management
Land in the United States has been developed at more than
twice the rate of population growth since 1982. Other
countries are experiencing or expect to experience similar
land development rates. As development continues to expand,
pressures on natural areas increase. Forests, wetlands, and
rangelands become fragmented or disappear, reducing their
ability to provide necessary ecosystem services and wildlife
Poor planning and development (e.g., urban sprawl) require
the expansion of constructed infrastructure resulting in
increased impermeable surfaces—a contributor to nonpoint
source water pollution—and an unnecessary burden on the
local tax base. Increased automobile use associated with
urban sprawl causes increased air and water pollution and
increased traffic congestion.
Alternatives to indiscriminate development exist and should
be utilized to assure minimal impact on already stressed
Sustaining renewable natural resources and productive
environments requires skilled, science-based management.
Meeting the habitat requirements of humans, plants, animals,
and microbes has become increasingly difficult. Demands of a
growing human population for housing, food, recreation, and
raw materials for marketable products limit the land and
water that can be set aside to conserve biotic resources,
and induce changes to the environment.
Biological diversity, productivity, and aesthetic values,
essential to the well-being of human and other living
resources, depend upon productive environments maintained
through advanced scientific management, enlightened land and
water policies, appropriate public education, and teamwork
among resource professionals. Innovative,
science-based management approaches are needed to bring
ecological and economic health into harmony. Management must
be adaptable to uncertainties because systems are dynamic
and not adequately understood. The goals of renewable
natural resource management should be diversity; sufficient
abundance and distribution of plants and animals;
sustainability; responsible consumption, including recycling
and the use of non-consumptive energy sources; and quality
Human actions upon the Earth have introduced significant
alterations to ecosystems resulting in more frequent
droughts and flooding. These stressed ecosystems and natural
resources have less opportunity to adapt to both human
induced changes and natural disasters. Efforts to understand
and mitigate human impacts on ecosystems are necessary steps
toward sustainable management of natural resources.
The future sustainability of natural resources is further
threatened by climate change. While uncertainty always will
exist in understanding a system as complex as climate, there
is strong evidence that significant global climate change is
occurring. Steps must be taken to reduce the long-term
emissions of global greenhouse gas emissions. Devising and
implementing strategies to adapt to the consequences of
climate change will require collaborative inputs from a wide
range of experts, including physical and natural scientists,
engineers, social scientists, medical scientists, those in
the humanities, business leaders, and economists. Research
and development efforts that can better inform climate
change decisions are necessary
Water Management and Quality
Water is a basic, renewable natural resource upon which the
physical and economic well-being of society depends.
Quantity, quality, and availability of water are critical
factors in supporting adequate habitats for humans as well
as all other living organisms.
Water quality is diminished by a variety of pollution
sources that reduce the usable supply, degrade or destroy
wetlands, and threaten the viability of aquatic organism
populations. Protecting water courses and wetlands, and
improving the supplies, quality, and availability of water
for competing uses requires commitment, monitoring, and
effective management programs.
Conservation and demand management measures are essential
aspects of integrated water-resources management. These
steps include cost-effective water-saving strategies
employed in municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses of
water; improved treatment, storage, and delivery systems to
reduce losses and increase efficiencies; measures to prevent
pollution by altering production processes; and reuse of
water wherever safe and practical.
Competition for available water supplies is rapidly
increasing. Skilled management of vegetation and proper land
use can increase water yields in some watersheds. In many
regions, more intense public and private conservation
efforts and reduction of water pollution are needed to
assure adequate future water quantity and quality.
The gaseous envelope that surrounds the planet is one of the
keys to the existence, survival, and well-being of all
living organisms. In large measure, air quality determines
the quality of life on earth. When polluted, air can be a
serious health hazard to humans and other living organisms.
In addition, concentrations of certain gas emissions may
change the global environment with consequent harmful
impacts on humans and ecosystems.
Growth in human populations and increased rates of resource
consumption have produced a rapid increase in air pollution,
especially in large urban centers. Fossil fuel energy
sources for industries and vehicles and their effluent
gases, as well as refrigerant gases, have been major causes
of air pollution worldwide. In some world regions, acid
precipitation generated by fossil fuel-burning power plants
drifts over large distances, killing vegetation and
acidifying lakes and streams.
Air quality is a national and global concern. Non-polluting
energy sources and industrial technologies, as well as
increased efficiency of energy use, must be advanced at an
accelerated and practical pace. Public education and
policies should be focused more strongly on the increasing
threat of air pollution to life on earth.
Scientific knowledge is the foundation for sustainability of
healthy ecosystems and the renewable natural resources they
produce. Since ecosystems are complex and distinct, and
their functioning is only partially understood, the need is
urgent for science to include a holistic approach to improve
ecosystem and resource management and to promote
sustainability. Research to bring this about should be
interdisciplinary and involve the scientific disciplines
most relevant to the issue being studied.
Research results that constitute a state-of-the-art body of
science at any given time should be peer-reviewed.
Science-based recommendations to resource managers and
policymakers should represent a consensus of qualified
resource professionals. Such science must be applied in
formulating strategies for ecosystem management and resource
use. Management techniques should be monitored and adjusted
as new science findings become available that are applicable
to the subject ecosystem.
Important gaps in scientific knowledge needed to achieve the
best stewardship practices must be identified and research
needs prioritized accordingly. Results of priority research
should be made available promptly in user-friendly data
banks and archives.
Like interdisciplinary science, the continuing education of
resource professionals and the public is fundamental to
sustaining healthy ecosystems and the renewable natural
resources they produce. Well educated professionals are
necessary to design and implement management strategies for
sustainable, diversified, and productive ecosystems. They
can assure prompt application of newly validated science.
Together with informed members of the public and
policymakers, continuously educated professionals can help
develop and implement policies and actions to prevent
premature, induced extinction of wild species while meeting
Education of resource professionals must be a career-long
activity of updating knowledge. Continuing education
programs must include exposure to the most recent
peer-accepted science. It is thus imperative that such
science be made available to these programs in a suitable
Public education about renewable natural resources and the
environment is a prerequisite to enlightened public policy.
If laypersons have knowledge based on valid science, it is
more likely that resource policies will be adopted that
enable and assure sustainability of ecosystems. Since
scientific research and public education based on it are
long-term processes, both tend to lag behind the formulation
of public environmental policy, and the need is urgent to
greatly expand efforts in both areas.
The responsibilities for public education must be shared
among schools, institutions of higher learning, extension
programs, information services, professional and scientific
organizations, resource professionals, and the media. Timely
publication and the distribution of state-of-the-art
scientific findings to educators, resource managers, the
public, and policymakers are essential.
Full and Open Access to Scientific Data and Information
With increased emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches to
management of natural resources, there is an increased need
for effective communication among various natural sciences
disciplines, professional managers, and stakeholders. At the
same time, sophisticated new computer and Internet-based
information systems and archives are continuously evolving.
Major libraries and resource agencies offer on-line computer
information networks and databases with expanded services
that are instantly accessible to research scientists,
educators, professional managers, and the public.
Effective scientific research and operational management of
natural resources require full and open access to and
exchange of scientific data and information in a timely
manner, and at minimum cost. Other important factors are the
quality of information, comparability, and adherence to
national and international data standards and protocols.
Full and open access of information will allow renewable
natural resources scientists to analyze a wide array of
information and data for science-based decision-making and
effective communication to stakeholders and the public.
* Unanimously approved by the RNRF Board of Directors on
November 4, 2011.