Meta-analysis of Natural Resource Conservation Plan Evaluations

The number of studies evaluating the quality and content of many types of plans have grown in recent decades. Natural resource conservation plans have been included in some of these plan evaluation studies; however, no meta-analysis of natural resource planning literature has been conducted. This focus is needed because natural resource conservation planning differs from other types (e.g., hazards mitigation, urban planning), in that planners often come from natural resource backgrounds, must plan in compliance with federal and state planning mandates, and typically operate under the assumption that natural resources have a use value and are shared resources. We selected 10 natural resource conservation plan evaluation studies in peer reviewed literature, identified the plan components being evaluated and the methods used in each study, and compared our findings to two other plan evaluation meta-analyses in the literature. We found that natural resource conservation plan evaluation studies followed many of the same practices as the general body of evaluation studies but tended to focus more on goals, policies, implementation, and coordination. Compliance and stakeholder engagement were key gaps in natural resource conservation plan evaluation studies, and these findings highlight a need for more emphasis on these components among natural resource planners. We also found that natural resource conservation plan evaluation studies largely incorporated best practices for plan evaluation methodology. However, few studies provided the evaluation tool used, indicated whether or not the evaluation tool had been pretested, or reported intercoder reliability scores. These protocols should be incorporated and reported in future natural resource plan evaluation research. Future work could link planning efforts, planning laws and mandates, and plan quality to planning outcomes.

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