Assessing the efficacy of community-based natural resource management planning with a multi-watershed approach

Natalie J. Mountjoy, Matt R. Whiles, Greg Spyreas, James R. Lovvorn, Erin Seekamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Community-based natural resource management groups often develop plans with management objectives and conservation goals for specified areas. However, assessments of the environmental outcomes achieved by such planning initiatives are rare at large scales because of: 1) the lack of appropriate data collection and monitoring, 2) difficulty in isolating the effects of management actions from external environmental variables, and 3) the inherent variability in implementation timing across multiple managed areas. We developed a methodology that partially overcomes these common barriers. Using a unique time-related measure and trend analysis, we tested our methodology with community-based natural resource management plans across Illinois along with plant and bird community data. We found evidence that community-based natural resource management planning is having positive ecological influences across these habitats. Effects were most evident for habitat-dependent and area-sensitive bird species, and for bird species richness, which showed a positive threshold change 7–8 years post plan implementation. We recommend our analytical framework and methods for those working to link management actions with ecological change. Our approach is particularly relevant for community-based natural resource management groups looking to implement self-assessment and adaptive management, as well as bridging organizations (e.g., state or federal agencies) seeking to assist community-based natural resource management groups in management efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-128
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Adaptive management
  • Community-based conservation
  • Community-based natural resource management
  • Management plans
  • Monitoring framework

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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