Defining a Vision of Success

Defining a Vision and a Conservation Goal

Whether a work of art, the creation of a business, or the development of a conservation plan, all successful endeavors begin with a vision. A vision of what we are hoping to accomplish is paramount for success.  In the case of conservation planning, what do we want the land to look like? Conversely, yet typically just as important, what do we want the land NOT to look like? Without a specific vision of what conservation and land management success (and failure) looks like, the chance of realizing success is significantly reduced.  Why is this the case? And isn’t any conservation action better than none at all?

Simply put, the principle reason that a vision of success – i.e., a goal – is so important is that it enables us to communicate, discuss and negotiate ideas and qualities that are otherwise intangible. A vision also affords us the chance to evaluate various approaches for directed and planned conservation and management action, and offers a standard or threshold against which success and failure can be measured and demonstrated. 

The idea of taking prescribed management action in order to make progress toward and achieve a goal is central to the entire land conservation process, and especially the process of adaptive management. Failure to make progress toward the goal inspires modified or adapted land management actions. The necessary adjustments in the management prescription can only take place if the vision is clearly articulated.

Develop a shared vision – building a community of support

Everyone who attempts to conserve land has some inherent vision as to what they believe those lands should look like. The vision may exist as a mental “model”, an unarticulated ideal in the mind of the Land Trust, land managers or owners. The vision may reflect the way the land was in the past, the desire to keep the land as it currently exists, or a hope for what it might look like in the future. This ideal is not necessarily congruent with the visions of others. So it is not enough to merely have a vision about what the land should look like. It is imperative that the vision be communicated and conflicting interests are at least appreciated in the open, even if they are not resolved.

Activities outside the borders of a conservation project are often critical to success, especially in projects that are small geographically. Ecological processes off site, such as pollution, noise, water, etc, can significantly affect onsite values. Biological populations do not typically respect property lines. For these reasons it is important to understand how off-site issues may affect onsite success, and crucial to develop strong relations with neighbors, who may include both management partners and interested stakeholders with other concerns and objectives.

While it can be hard to bridge the gap between seemingly conflicting interests it is true that two or more minds working toward a goal are better than one. Consideration of all stakeholder perspectives in the development of a conservation plan will likely benefit the plan in the long run. A shared and collaboratively created vision is more powerful and often more coherent than a vision developed from a singly focused mind-set. Not only will a collaboratively created vision be more robust, but it will be easier to develop and maintain support for because it represents a broader consensus of stake holders. Total consensus may be impossible, but partners will always prove helpful.

Define Targets, Threats, and Land Values


Sound Science LLC assists many land management organizations with site conservation planning, goal setting, land management, and measures of success.

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