403: Conservation Investments: Analyses of Returns, Adaptation and Effectiveness


James Boyd, Resources for the Future
Adena Rissman, University of Wisconsin – Madison


Evaluating the Effectiveness and Adaptability of Conservation Easements in Dynamic Landscapes (Adena Rissman, University of Wisconsin – Madison)

Evaluating conservation effectiveness requires interdisciplinary research to examine how conservation programs influence human behaviors and environmental conditions. Social science research examines the formal and informal ways that conservation influences the behavior of landowners and other community members. Natural sciences research examines the resulting pattern of species, habitat, and ecosystem protection and restoration. Despite the widespread use of conservation easements, their conservation outcomes are relatively unknown. I will present results from several case studies and national surveys on conservation easements, comparing their research approaches. An alternative scenarios approach with a development growth model revealed that conserving unthreatened landscapes provides minimal gains over the do-nothing strategy. Detailed case studies revealed that creating changes in land management and informal social networks are important, and require fine-scale observation. Complicating assessments, effectiveness is not a fixed target, but is influenced over time by social and ecological landscape change. Conservation easements often promise perpetuity, yet their purposes, rights, and restrictions are individually negotiated for particular parcels, and may not be well tailored for future land use and climate conditions. Adaptive land management poses particular challenges. This presentation will engage participants in examining approaches for evaluating the effectiveness and adaptation of conservation in dynamic landscapes.

Can We Evaluate Conservation Projects’ “Return on Investment”? (James Boyd, Resources for the Future)

Conservation organizations rarely apply Return on Investment (ROI) analysis to their choices and strategy.  This presentation reports on a study of 6 large-scale conservation projects and our current capacity to measure conservation ROI in real places.  ROI analysis is meant to be an objective, analytically transparent, and data-driven approach to strategy and evaluation.  In this sense, it can be thought of as a science.  Inevitably, however, ROI also becomes the art of analyzing complex decisions in a data-constrained environment. The conservation case studies will be used to describe current data and quantitative capabilities applied to conservation investments, the ways they could be used to measure ROI, and monitoring and modeling gaps that, if addressed, would improve capacity to measure the biophysical and social returns to conservation.

Presentation Materials

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