Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to
Developing Infrastructure Projects

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V. Adaptive Management Through Performance Measures

image of a logic model
A logic model can be used to visually present and share the mutual understanding of a project's purpose and intended results. It is a map describing the sequence of related events and how they support specified goals. The extent to which the outcomes and impacts described in the logic model reach those goals can help provide a basis for evaluating a given action.
the ecosystem approach cycle

To ensure that work is being done eco-logically - for example, to ensure that a project has increased connectivity and promoted conservation - performance measures, monitoring, and adaptive management are necessary. Using these methods, status and trends can be tracked, analysis and accountability facilitated, and decisions adapted so that the intended balance among social, economic, and ecological concerns is achieved.

Ecosystem Performance Measures

Performance measures can provide a quantitative basis for evaluating how well actions under the REF (regional ecosystem framework) are meeting stated objectives. Ways to evaluate the effectiveness of these actions should be considered throughout all stages of planning and implementation of a project, however, agencies, stakeholders, and the public can identify many of the factors for evaluating ecosystem performance during integrated planning.

Performance measures allow for continuous learning, which broadens understanding about how ecosystems and projects function. In turn, infrastructure proponents can be better equipped to design environmentally sensitive projects, while resource agencies can be more trusting of these projects because they maintained a larger role in the decisionmaking process. To some, performance measures may represent the "currency" used to monitor the success of a mitigation project over an extended period of time, or to fund an ecosystem bank-providing a way to see that credits are properly allotted and concerns effectively addressed.

Performance Measures Effective Practices

  • Customize the evaluation approach to the project.
  • Use several indicators to assess performance.
  • Set an appropriate time frame for resource assessment.
  • Develop data management systems early during integrated planning.

There are many approaches to evaluation, and no one approach is appropriate for all projects. As a starting point, performance measures should specifically address management goals and objectives and should:

  • Be quantifiable, expressing status and trends of specific resource values of concern, such as endangered species, unique ecosystem types, and wetlands;
  • Address the landscape, ecosystem, and individual species while maintaining applicability over varying scales in time;
  • Be established in cooperation with partners and knowledgeable resource experts;
  • Be used to quantify and track changes from baseline measurements; and
  • Be usable for all projects in a planning region, so that the relationships between specific actions and the measures of success may be shown in a single balance sheet.

Stated objectives are also necessary to determine whether a project has been successful. For projects with ecosystem-based mitigation, the performance measures selected to monitor effectiveness are directly linked to the REF's outlined vision and objectives. Resources or project outcomes determined in the REF to be important will likely be the resources monitored for performance after project implementation. Both short-term and long-term efforts and projects could occur within the framework and vision of the REF. During the planning stages of those projects, a clear understanding of what a project does and is intended to accomplish must be developed.

Environmental Management Systems

Environmental Management Systems (EMSs) comprise a set of procedures to ensure that an organization's daily operations comply with environmental regulations and commitments to support environmental stewardship objectives. An EMS addresses identified operational and management issues, such as energy conservation, efficient water use, vehicle emission reduction, materials recycling, and hazardous materials management. Organizations that have implemented EMSs are better able to manage their environmental obligations, and they report cost savings, improved bond ratings, reduced insurance premiums and better community relations.

Logic Models Can Link Objectives with Performance Measures

A logic model can be used to visually present and share the mutual understanding of a project's purpose and intended results. A logic model uses words and images to illustrate how project activities are linked and how they are intended to effect change. It is a map describing the sequence of related events and how those events support specified goals. A basic logic model for assessing the effectiveness of a wildlife crossing, as an example component within a REF, is found in the figure below.

graphic depicting Example Logic Model for a Wildlife Crossing

* Adapted from W.K. Kellogg Logic Model Development Guide. December 2001. Updated January 2004. https://www.wkkf.org/resource-directory/resource/2006/02/wk-kellogg-foundation-logic-model-development-guide

The extent to which the outcomes and impacts described in the logic model reach the goals and milestones determined as inputs during planning can help provide information about the crossing's value as well as strengthen support for future investment and vision of the REF. The following four steps summarize the development of an appropriate logic model and performance measures.

1) Identify Resources to Monitor and Inputs Needed
The resources for which performance data will be collected - species' population size, water quality, or connectivity, for example - should be identified. These resources likely correspond to those recognized as priorities or as significant during REF planning.

2) List Possible Outputs and Outcomes
It is necessary to list ways that project performance can be appraised. Evaluation(s) can occur at the various steps in the logic model: Were all the Outputs realized? To what degree were the expected Outcomes achieved? In the long run, has the project created the desired Impact?

Some potential ecosystem performance goals and outcomes/impacts for projects existing as components within a REF are suggested in the table below:

Possible Performance Goal Possible Outcomes
Sustain Population Ecology Maintained or Increased Population Size and Density
Balanced Population Sex and Age Structure
Reduced Mortality and Sustained Viability
Maintained or Increased New Growth
Maintain Species Distribution and Abundance Sustained Direct and Indirect Presence
Preserve Prevalence of Indicator Species Increased Population Size
Long-term Wildlife Crossing Use
Preserve Prevalence of Indicator Species Increased Population Size
Long-term Wildlife Crossing Use
Maintain Number of Species with Improved Population Status Species Counts
Reduced Take of Migratory Birds
Maintain Fish and Wildlife Connectivity Removal of x-Number of Linear Feet of Barriers
Improved Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) Scores
Maintained or Increased Number of Adjacent Habitat Areas
Improved Foraging Conditions
Streamline Regulatory Compliance Reduced Time for ESA Section 7 Consultation
Reduce Vehicle-Wildlife Collisions
No New Critical Habitat Modification
Reduced Number of Collisions (Monthly, Seasonally, Annually)
Minimized Maintenance Costs
Restoration of Native Vegetation Amount of Land Managed for Native Vegetation
Ensure Stream Integrity Sustained Water Temperature
Improved Floodplain or Riparian Buffer Protection
Public Awareness Increased Participation, Creation of Shared Regional Vision
Coordinate Scientific Data Shared GIS Data
Shared Ecosystem Assessments
Shared Monitoring Data
Improved Recreation Increased Wildlife Populations for Viewing, Hunting, Fishing and other Activities

3) Match Measures to Expected Outcomes
Once a comprehensive list of potential performance goals and Outputs/Outcomes has been compiled, choose activities that will measure and yield data most closely matching the purpose of those Outputs/Outcomes. The activities should be clearly defined, and the calculation methodology, including required equations and key term definitions, should be described. The data-gathering protocol for the monitoring activities should also be logical, understandable, and repeatable.

The Riverside County (California) Multi-Species Conservation Plan offers an example of a multi-species conservation plan within an ecological context that the plan defines by vegetative communities. Conservation outcomes are defined for each species in variety of ways, including acres of suitable habitat protected, numbers of reserve or core areas protected, and linkage areas or mechanisms between reserves, among others. The plan identifies management and monitoring objectives, as well as anticipated levels of effort and estimated costs. For more information, see http://wrc-rca.org/about-rca/multiple-species-habitat-conservation-plan/.

4) Reach Agreement
After choosing and agreeing on activities that will measure effectiveness through Outputs/Outcome defined in the REF, it is necessary to reach agreement on the following:

  • Time before Outputs and Outcomes are to occur - Should the project have immediate effects? Will the anticipated results happen after three months? Six months? A year?
  • Frequency of monitoring and other activities - How often will data be collected? Continuously? Is it important to collect data year-round or during certain time periods? A monitoring plan developed in conjunction with the selection of performance measures can help ensure that activities selected are affordable, feasible, and adequately represent the stated objective.
  • Frequency of reporting - Once data has been collected, how often will performance be reported? What will the format of the performance measurement report look like?
  • Review of performance - Who will review the performance reports? Stakeholders? The crediting agency? Agencies commenting on environmental documents? Some agencies require adaptive management monitoring evaluations to be available for public review. The cycle of integrated planning allows a process that supports planning and implementation of remedies and refinements.

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