Objectives for Biological Features
Objectives should lie at the very heart of a management plan; they are the outcomes of management and the single most important component of any plan. An objective is the description of something that we want to achieve. Wildlife outcomes are habitats, communities or populations at a favourable status. SMART objectives as applied to business can, with modifications, be applied to wildlife objectives. Management plans, and particularly objectives, are about communicating our intentions, sometimes to a very wide audience. In addition to informing others, the objective must also provide a clear and unequivocal guide for reserve managers. Objectives must also be quantified so that they can be monitored. This is quite a tall order: an objective is a multi-purpose statement that describes the required outcome of a feature (something that we want to achieve) using both plain and quantified scientific language. The solution is to prepare composite statements that combine a vision for the feature with quantified and measurable performance indicators.
Writing an objective for a feature will always be challenging, but it is much easier when the vision is based on the definition of Favourable Conservation Status. FCS is an uncomplicated and common sense expression of what we should attempt to achieve for all important features. A number of performance indicators can be used to quantify the objective and provide the evidence that a feature is in a favourable condition or otherwise. Two different kinds of performance indicators are used to monitor an objective. These are:
● Quantified attributes with limits which, when monitored, provide evidence about the condition of a feature.
● Factors with limits which, when monitored, provide the evidence that the factors are under control or otherwise.
Specified limits define the degree to which the value of a performance indicator is allowed to fluctuate without creating any cause for concern. They were developed in recognition of the inherent dynamics and cyclical change in populations and communities, and in acknowledgement of the fact that such variation is often acceptable in conservation terms. In many ways, specified limits can be regarded as limits of confidence. When the value of all attributes falls within the specified limits, we can be confident that the feature is in a favourable condition, and if all factors are also within their limits we can conclude that the feature is at Favourable Conservation Status.
Keywords attributes, biological features, conservation outcomes, factors, favourable, conservation status, limits of acceptable change, monitoring, objectives, performance indicators, SMART objectives, specified limits
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