Current measures used to estimate the risks of toxic chemicals are not relevant to the goals of the environmental protection process, and thus ecological risk assessment (ERA) is not used as extensively as it should be as a basis for cost-effective management of environmental resources. Appropriate population models can provide a powerful basis for expressing ecological risks that better inform the environmental management process and thus that are more likely to be used by managers. Here we provide at least five reasons why population modeling should play an important role in bridging the gap between what we measure and what we want to protect. We then describe six actions needed for its implementation into management-relevant ERA. © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.