Management plans

CMSi is founded on a logical, structured and evidence-based approach to conservation management planning and implementation. If you already have a satisfactory planning format then you can configure CMSi to work with that. Alternatively you can adopt or adapt the planning format outlined here.

The following is a brief overview of the CMSi standard planning format and fuller details can be read in the CMS Guide to Management Planning.

Another useful reference source is Mike Alexander's book “Management Planning for Nature Conservation: A Theoretical Basis and Practical Guide”. See Amazon for further details or view here almost in its entirety on Google Books.

All management plans should answer six essential questions:

Why are we here? (Legislation & Policy)

All management plans should contain a section on legislation and policy. Together, they provide the foundations that support the plan and act as a guide to the direction that the process should follow.

The management of statutory conservation sites can be governed almost entirely by legislation.  Even non-statutory sites do not escape the implications of legislation: there will be Health and Safety legislation, access legislation and a sometimes bewildering range of other national and local laws, all requiring compliance.

Policies, or more specifically organisational policies, are a high-level statement of the purposes of an organisation (why it exists).  The policy section should begin with the inclusion of all relevant organisational policies.  This should be followed by an assessment of the extent to which organisational policies can be met on individual sites.

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What have we got? (Description)

The description is fundamentally a collation exercise.  All relevant data are located and arranged under various headings.  The order in which the headings are organised is of no particular significance.  The only reason for a list is to ensure that the contents are reasonably comprehensive.

The description should only include statements of fact.  This is not the place for making judgements.  The facts are collated and recorded, and, at a later stage, they will provide the basis for evaluation and decision making.  Management plans are about communication; they should be as succinct as possible.

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What is important?  (Evaluation)

Feature assessment or evaluation is simply the means of identifying, or confirming, which of the features on a site should become the focus for the remainder of the planning process.  It is about asking a question of each provisional feature in turn: is this feature, in its own right or in association with other features, sufficiently important to be regarded as one of the prime reasons for maintaining the protected area? 

For most sites, the presence of conservation features will have been the basis of site acquisition, selection or designation.  This means that at some time in the past the site will have been evaluated and the most important features identified.

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What are the influences? (Factors)

A factor is anything that has the potential to influence or change a feature, or to affect the way in which a feature is managed.  These influences may exist, or have existed, at any time in the past, present or future.  Factors can be natural or anthropogenic in origin, and they can internal (on-site) or external (off-site).

Factors are considered at several key stages in the planning process for each feature: the selection of attributes for features, the selection of performance indicators for features and the management rationale.  However, an individual factor can have implications for many different features on a site; for some it will be a positive influence, for others negative.  To avoid unnecessary repetition, a master list of all the factors is prepared at an early stage in the plan.  The list should contain all the factors that have affected, are affecting, or may in the future affect, any of the features on a site.  Once a master list has been prepared, it can be used to ensure that all the relevant factors are considered for each feature.

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What do we want? (Objectives)

Objectives lie at the very heart of a management plan and, without doubt, are the single most important section in any plan.  An objective is, quite simply, an expression of something that we want to achieve: our aspiration.  It is, and can only be, a reflection of our values, knowledge and expertise at the time of writing.

Objectives contain two basic components: a vision which describes in plain language the outcome or condition that we require for a feature, and performance indicators which are monitored to provide the evidence that will be used to determine whether the condition that we require is being met.  Two different types of performance indicators can be used, these are:

  • Quantified attributes with limits.  (An attribute is a characteristic of a feature that can be monitored to provide evidence about the condition of the feature.)
  • Factors with limits which, when monitored, provide the evidence that the factors are under control or otherwise.

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What must we do?  (Rationale and Action Plan)

This section is the process of identifying, in outline, the most appropriate management for the various site features.  The procedure which is applied to each feature in turn comprises two distinct phases:   It begins with the identification of the status of the feature and an assessment of current conservation management.  We will have some confidence in current management when the feature is considered to be in the condition that we require and little confidence when it is not.  The relationship between factors and the condition of the feature is then considered, along with the implications of the factors to management.  The management of habitats and species is nearly always about controlling factors, or taking remedial action following the impact of a factor.  Control means the removal, maintenance, adjustment or application of factors, either directly or indirectly.  For example, grazing is the most important factor when managing grassland.  Grazing can be removed, reduced, maintained, increased or introduced.

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The action plan

The action plan contains descriptions of all the work that needs to be carried out on a site in order to meet the objectives.  Each individual task or project is identified and described in sufficient detail to enable the individuals responsible for the project to carry out the work.  All the basic information for each project (i.e. when and where the work should be completed, who should do the work, the priority, what it will cost, etc.) is aggregated and used to produce a wide range of work programmes, for example, annual programmes, programmes for a specified period, programmes for an individual, financial programmes, long-term programmes, etc.  An action plan is prepared for a specified period, usually 5 years.  Action plans also provide a structure, and establish priorities, for recording.

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