Measuring Conservation Success: An Investigation of Land Trusts in North Carolina

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Title: Measuring Conservation Success: An Investigation of Land Trusts in North Carolina
Author: Alexander, Louise Boatwright
Advisors: Peter White, Committee Member
Nick Haddad, Committee Member
George Hess, Committee Chair
Abstract: Local land trusts in North Carolina protect land to conserve natural resources and biodiversity, and to provide public benefits, such as clean air and water. However the success of their efforts is commonly reported in terms of the amount of land protected or money raised in support of conservation rather than in measures that describe whether or not conservations goals have been achieved. In order to determine if the conservation lands protected by local land trusts are meeting the goals they were intended to serve, I reviewed published research, literature and methodologies to identify common practices used to measure conservation success. Findings indicate three fundamental processes that allow organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their interventions which are; 1) conducting status assessments that include articulating specific goals and describing the project context; 2) identifying threats to conservation targets; and 3) identifying, developing, and monitoring specific indicators whose status is a measurable reflection of the conservation targets and interventions. I also surveyed 24 land trusts in North Carolina to determine why they protect lands, what activities they perform that would allow them to evaluate the conservation impact of their work, and how success is reported to the public. From the survey, I conclude that land trusts in North Carolina are unable to determine if the lands they have protected are meeting their conservation goals because they are not consistently setting measurable goals, indentifying specific conservation targets, or monitoring indicators that would reflect conservation impact, processes identified in the literature review as necessary to evaluate conservation projects. I identify the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation framework as an applicable tool for local land trusts to use to focus their conservation efforts and develop measurable goals and report their conservation success.
Date: 2010-04-02
Degree: MS
Discipline: Natural Resources

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