Conservation Prioritization and Planning
Conservation of natural areas is often approached in either of two ways:
- Opportunistically (e.g. a landowner approaches a land trust about a conservation easement, a parcel of land is on the market) or
- Reactively (e.g. an environmental group reacts to an imminent development threat).
These approaches will continue to be valid and will probably remain the dominant form of conservation action. The main problem with these two approaches is that very high conservation value properties may not be identified fast enough for the limited resources that are available for conservation actions to be applied to their protection. The highest conservation value properties may either not be presented to a land trust for the opportunistic approach to work, or they may not be imminently threatened, so that environmental groups do not engage in their protection in a timely fashion. Unless the highest conservation priority properties are identified early, conservation organizations and public agencies may not have the resources left to enable their protection.
To achieve greatest success with the limited resources available for conservation, it is desirable to identify the highest conservation value areas using a systematic, objective approach, in advance of expenditure of significant resources. Early identification of the areas in most deserving and most in need of protection can maximize biodiversity protection, recreational opportunities and ecosystem services. It will ensure the most “bang” for the conservation “buck”. Scientific, spatially explicit analysis can identify these “very important places” (VIP) and help plan the best network of public and private protected areas.
During an economic downturn, when conservation funding becomes more and more limited, the development of systematic, objective conservation priorities becomes more important. It will help ensure that those dwindling resources are spent on the highest conservation actions and properties, rather than exhausting those resources in a more random fashion using the classic opportunistic or reactionary approaches. Establishment of a robust and meaningful set of conservation priorities does take some time and resources to accomplish, but the rewards will soon greatly outpace the expenditures.
Pacific Biodiversity Institute offers conservation organizations and public agencies assistance with the establishment of conservation priorities through implementation of a time-proven, objective, and scientifically credible process. This process is driven by objective data about the physical, biological, social and political dimensions of the landscape of concern, be it a watershed, a state, a region or a larger geographic unit. We have experience in the establishment of conservation priorities in small watersheds and at state-wide spatial scales. Also, important in the process is the integration of the many view points that various stakeholders have about what attributes of a potential conservation property are most important. There are no “right answers” in the establishment of conservation priorities. Pacific Biodiversity Institute specializes in the development of decision support systems that can incorporate the priorities of various stakeholders and then return results in an iterative fashion. This can allow the selection of a suite of properties of highest conservation value to a diverse group of stakeholders, as well as allowing each stakeholder to view their own set of highest conservation value parcels.
To learn more about our conservation priority work in the Wenatchee River Basin, in the Methow Valley and in the entire North Cascade Ecosystem go to our publications page.
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