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Evaluating the Conservation Work of the Nature Conservancy: Clarifying Questions and Establishing Terminology

The Nature Conservancy

[This working paper is also available in Spanish, Portugues, and Bahasa Indonesian] The Nature Conservancy is committed to measuring the results of our conservation work. New methods, tools and approaches are being developed across the organization, and important lessons are being learned. In this first of a series of working papers about our measures work, we clarify the questions we are addressing, the measures we are developing to address them, and the differences that these measures will make to our conservation work. We provide examples from across the Conservancy to illustrate how these various concepts, methods, and tools have been put into practice, and the benefits of these efforts.

We begin by dividing the world of conservation measures into two categories – Status Measures and Strategy Effectiveness Measures. Status measures address the general question: how is the biodiversity doing that we care about? More specifically, these measures evaluate the integrity and viability of biodiversity, threats, and conservation management at the multiple levels the Conservancy works: major habitat types, regions and ecoregions, and conservation projects. Status measures are central to generating estimates of effective conservation, which is used primarily to identify priorities for our actions and to evaluate overall progress toward broad goals, independent of our actions. This information has already been critical in establishing priorities for where we should work, and informing our relative investments in these priority areas. Strategy effectiveness measures are used to evaluate progress in achieving desired outcomes and results that stem from implementing our strategies and actions, made explicit by tracking progress toward measurable objectives and the actions associated with them. This is a newer emphasis for the Conservancy, and has stimulated the development of new methods for tracking progress in the implementation of a strategy. As we advance our implementation, managers and scientists must work together closely to identify the most important management questions, and the scientists and practitioners must identify the most appropriate measures and methods for answering these questions. Implementation of targeted Status Measures and Strategy Effectiveness Measures will enhance our ability to adaptively manage conservation efforts.