As with most investments in private land conservation, we want to know where our investment has the highest return against the lowest risk. Private land conservation needs to determine the extent to which it is working – and diagnose why some actions succeed whilst others do not. Recent years have seen a convergence among environmental NGOs and other groups with an interest in conservation in thinking about how best to prioritise, plan, implement and measure conservation actions.
Whilst acknowledging government efforts to develop/lead the thinking behind measuring management effectiveness, there is a real danger that such initiatives will be seen as an additional regulatory burden by landholders and will hence lack the necessary buy-in.
One of the most promising developments in measuring management effectiveness has been the adaptation of the Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP) “Open Standards”. The term open standards was borrowed from the information technology field to reflect standards that are developed jointly through public collaboration, which are not the property of any individual or organizationorganisation and can be freely available and freely distributed.
These proposed standards are common property, thus they can be freely adapted to the needs of individual organisations. Because of the dynamic nature of the practice of conservation, a wide array of practitioners contribute to the constant evolution of the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. The main attraction of the open standards is its flexible yet consistent nature and the fact that it is a bottom-up approach to measuring management effectiveness. Many organisations are now adapting the approach. Conservation Action Planning (CAP) is the Nature Conservancy’s institutional approach to applying the open standards and is currently being trialled by Greening Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Naturelinks program in the “Living Flinders”. The project aims to increase conservation efforts on privately held land as well as reduce invasion by feral species and reconnect existing reserve systems.
A variety of other organisations are starting to use the open standards as well, ranging from covenanting organisations such as the Trust fir Nature Victoria and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, to Bush Heritage Australia and various indigenous groups. One of the main benefits of the CAP process was that it highlighted the benefits of private public partnerships in addressing environmental issues. As such CAP, and through it the use of open standards, is a powerful, adaptive and inclusive approach to measuring management effectiveness. Importantly, private landholders need to buy into using frameworks to measure management effectiveness. This will only happen when the process is being driven bottom-up and the first signs of this happening in Australia are there.