NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Conservationists Want More Accounting

November 5, 2002

A consensus is reportedly building within the environmental and conservation movements that more audits and accountability are required to measure the effectiveness of environmental protection or restoration projects in a quest for more bang for the buck.

  • Some experts estimate that in excess of $120 billion is spent each year on protecting ecosystems in the U.S. alone.
  • The World Bank has overseen about $3 billion in loans and investments for conservation projects in the last decade.
  • In some measure, the thrust for accounting and accountability stems from demands by wealthy donors and foundations which want to know how their money has been spent and what it has accomplished.

But this emphasis on dollars and sense is new to the world of conservation -- and measuring the effects of conservation projects can be bewildering.

  • Biological systems can be so complex that complete audits are practically impossible, conservation specialists say.
  • Conservation also depends on making judgment calls about the effectiveness of political, economic and social strategies.

M. A. Sanjayan, a scientist with the Nature Conservancy, says that conservation groups rarely rigorously measure success, and they never report failures.

Source: John Christensen, "Fiscal Accountability Concerns Come to Conservation," New York Times, November 5, 2002.  


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