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Conservation Area Planning

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CAP cycleConservation Area Planning (CAP) is The Nature Conservancy's methodology for setting priorities, developing strategies, and measuring success of conservation projects at parks, reserves, and other conservation areas. The Conservation Area Planning process (also called the "5-S" methodology,  or Site Conservation Planning [SCP]) can be adapted to meet the needs of local planning teams while maintaining the integrity of its guiding principles—building conservation strategies on priority conservation targets and critical threats to those targets. In the late 1990’s, Parks in Peril sponsored the first adaptation of CAP—originally developed in the Conservancy’s U.S. programs—to the socially and legally different situation of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). PIP has been a primary sponsor for adoption and use of CAP in LAC. For example, as a result of PiP’s work in Bolivia, the government ministry in charge of Bolivian national parks has adopted the Conservancy’s Conservation Area Planning methodology as an official tool for conservation planning. The five S’s are:

  • Systems
    Identifying the species, native communities and ecosystems that will be the focus of observation in an area.
  • Stresses
    Determining how our conservation targets are threatened, such as by habitat reduction or fragmentation, changes in natural flow patterns of waterways, or changes in the number of species in a forest, grassland or coral reef.
  • Sources
    Identifying and ranking the causes of the stresses.
  • Strategies
    Finding practical ways to reduce or eliminate threats through acquisition of interests in land and water, adaptive management or restoration of lands and waters, public policies based upon sound science, and promotion of compatible human uses.
  • Success
    Assessing our progress in reducing threats and improving the biodiversity and ecological health of a conservation area.

An understanding of the cultural, political and economic situation behind the threats is essential for developing sound strategies. This human context is often referred to as the sixth “S”.

The methodology has a proven track record for helping conservation managers and stakeholders agree on priority conservation strategies for conservation areas. TNC has used the methodology extensively in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, and the Pacific. World Wildlife Fund International (WWF) has also adapted the 5-S methodology to support Parcs Nationaux Madagascar in conservation planning for an extensive network of parks. The African Wildlife Foundation has adapted the 5-S methodology for its Heartland Conservation Process, and The Nature Conservancy's Guatemala Country Program has adapted it for use where cultural resources and features constitute important conservation goals. Visit the more resources page, where these four different approaches are described in detail to assist conservation practitioners in using and adapting the 5-S methodology.