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What's Working for Conservation

Keys to Project Success

2016 Information

The following list summarizes "keys to restoration success" that have been compiled from a variety of ecological restoration professionals from agencies, non-profit organizations, consulting firms and contractors. The statements with an * were noted by one or more professionals in a survey asking what they thought were the most important considerations.

Planning and Documentation Topics:

  • Ensuring that project support will be stable (funding, partner commitment, etc.) *
  • Collecting sufficient site assessment information*
  • Assess site stressors including any chemicals/contaminants that may hinder restoration
  • Understanding the limitations and opportunities of project sites*
  • Developing a plan (and contingency plan) and following it*
  • Planning and using well established/proven practices*
  • Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, Time-bound)
  • Using performance standards so everyone involved is clear how to measure success
  • Expect the unexpected (drought, flooding, invasive species) and conduct contingency planning*
  • Using research studies to guide restoration planning
  • Addressing the cause of invasive species, and prioritizing species to target*
  • Collaborating with many partners to get different viewpoints
  • Keeping good project records

Implementation Topics:

  • Hiring experienced/qualified contractors*
  • Considering contractors as key project partners
  • Capitalizing on the strengths of team members
  • Involve passionate volunteers
  • Ensuring clear and frequent communication between project partners
  • Maximizing use of native seedbanks
  • Using high quality seed and plants*
  • Not fighting the momentum of an altered plant community unless goals can be attained*
  • Allowing time for soil health to improve and natural succession to take place*
  • Not rushing a project, such as seeding before site preparation is complete*
  • Not assuming that initial success will mean long-term success
  • Fighting the temptation to rely too heavily on herbicides
  • Focus on projects where there can be long-term management
  • Find innovative methods of long-term management
  • Frequent monitoring and adapt planning based on monitoring*
  • Learning from each other's mistakes and successes*
  • Mentor the next generation of restoration professionals
  • Celebrate project successes


Dan Shaw
Senior Ecologist/Vegetation Specialist