An online survey of coastal practitioners, followed by personal interviews, was conducted to examine the potential of environmental indicators as tools in the management of estuaries along the Washington and Oregon coasts (U.S.A.). Specifically, the perceptions of coastal practitioners regarding current uses of indicators and factors limiting indicator use were explored. Results show that the organizations we surveyed generally do not use indicators to their full potential. Indicator use and factors limiting their use vary across both levels of government (Local, State, Federal) and job functions (Administration, Research, Planning & Development, Management, Education & Outreach). Limiting factors include lack of resources and unfamiliarity with indicators, especially in local management. These results demonstrate that while indicators are potentially beneficial management tools, realizing these benefits likely requires tailoring to the specific needs and limitations of intended users. The scientific community is well aware that a single set of environmental indicators can not be applied across all geographic or ecological scales. This study demonstrates that it is also necessary to recognize the breadth of the spectrum of user groups and management contexts, and how their individual characteristics may affect the applicability of environmental indicators, for them to be truly useful to management.

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