Habitat, International, Municipal Water

How Do You Know Adaptive Management When You See It?

  February 23, 2017      Jeremy Sokulsky  

community forest planning_Kenya

Environmental policies and programs that lack the ability to demonstrate results are at risk of losing financial and political support. Part of the problem is that programs that do not actively track progress, report results, and adapt as they learn become calcified: they fail to use learning to become more efficient and effective. While nearly every plan or program states that it will be adaptively managed, too often this does not happen because organizations struggle to find the time and expertise to understand the effectiveness of their programs. EI brings that expertise to clients and partners with tailor-made tools and approaches that meet participants’ budgets, priorities, and capacities.

Every adaptive management plan is unique and can go by different names, but the key components of tracking performance and utilizing findings to inform programmatic changes is standard across organizations and sectors.

Approaches to Adaptive Management

The CMP Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation framework
The CMP Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation framework
Environmental Incentives approach to adaptive management
Environmental Incentives approach to adaptive management

The Conservation Credit System in Nevada, the Lake Clarity Crediting Program for Lake Tahoe, and USAID’s Measuring Efforts to Combat Wildlife Crime: A Toolkit for Action and Accountability are all living proof of adaptive management in action. You can see the evidence from each program below.

Nevada Conservation Credit System


Lake Clarity Crediting Program for Lake Tahoe

Kayakers on Lake Tahoe

Measuring Efforts to Combat Wildlife Crime

An elephant herd, led by a Magnificent 'Tusker' bull at a waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park.

Real adaptive management is not easy. It requires paying attention to new information, being honest that programs and policies can get better, and engaging stakeholders so that they understand and accept systematic change that improves effectiveness without creating uncertainty. We commend the programs implementing real adaptive management for their commitment to long-term success.

With any successful venture, if you don’t get better- you become irrelevant. Environmental policies and programs must continue to improve to ensure they achieve their desired goals, and to increase their long-term resiliency. The handbook has been written. Download it from the table above and start implementing adaptive management for your program!


Written by Jeremy Sokulsky and Alyssa Krag-Arnold

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