In December 2013, I co-organized a workshop in Forest Conservation Policy Evaluation in Barcelona, sponsored by the INVALUABLE project, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Center for International Forestry Research and the European Association of Environmental Resource Economics.
A synthesis article of that workshop has recently appeared in Conservation Letters, in which we argue that an important part of conservation practice should be the empirical evaluation of program and policy impacts. Understanding why conservation programs succeed or fail is essential for designing cost-effective initiatives and for improving the livelihoods of natural resource users. The evidence we seek can be generated with modern impact evaluation designs.
Such designs measure causal effects of specific interventions by comparing outcomes with the interventions to outcomes in credible counterfactual scenarios. Good designs also identify the conditions under which the causal effect arises. Despite a critical need for empirical evidence, conservation science has been slow to adopt these impact evaluation designs. We identify reasons for the slow rate of adoption and provide suggestions for mainstreaming impact evaluation in nature conservation.