How External Financing Influences National Commitments to Biodiversity Conservation (Spring 2020)


Protected areas, like National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges in the United States, are areas of land that are set aside and shielded from significant development. These lands often have special ecological or geological features, high biodiversity or serve as home to indigenous communities. The conservation community has willingly committed technical and financial support to low- and middle-income country governments to help manage their protected area networks. A key tenet of this support is the reasonable assumption that governments lack the human resources and financial means to assume sole responsibility for protected area management. However, after decades of investment, there is growing concern that external support of state-protected areas is potentially self-defeating because reliable, long-term external funding may serve as a disincentive for governments to spend their own treasury resources on protected areas when they know funding will come from elsewhere.

This project will be conducted in partnership with the Conservation Measures Partnership, a consortium of conservation organizations that seek better ways to design, manage and measure the impacts of conservation actions.

Project Description

Using expert interviews, the project team will compile and analyze a set of case studies exploring the conditions under which low- and middle-income nations finance some, or most, of their protected areas’ operating costs. The team will also examine the role of external support in either encouraging or discouraging government investment in the protected area system.

For example, do states reallocate treasury funds from protected areas with access to external support to those that do not, or do they simply return treasury funds to government coffers for use on other priorities? Does the structure of long-term external support influence government commitments? The assembled cases will span a range of country profiles, regions and biomes, and reflect various models of external support.   

Anticipated Outputs

Summary of interview results with organized collection of all interviews; literature review with annotated Zotero bibliography; synthesis of findings; presentation to the Conservation Measures Partnership; final project report


Spring 2020

  • Spring 2020: Begin weekly meetings; introduction to topic and project materials by Conservation Measures Partnership members and consultants; test and adjust draft interview guide; conduct interviews and develop list of additional people to contact; conduct literature review and literature to review; conduct progress checks in weekly meetings to address issues, share what is being learned and think about how to organize and synthesize the information collected, including the selection of specific case studies to be further developed

Team Outputs to Date

Financing of Protected Natural Areas (Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase 2020)

Image: Measuring impact, courtesy of Conservation Members Partnership


Team Leaders

  • Sara Mason, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Lydia Olander, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

/graduate Team Members

  • Ha Do, Master of Environmental Management
  • Fanqi Jia, Master of Environmental Management
  • Katherine Lyons, Master of Environmental Management
  • Courtney McCorstin, Business and Environment
  • Hannah Royal, Master of Environmental Management
  • Mariana Vedoveto, Public Policy Studies-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Autumn Burton, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • Jwalin Patel, Economics (BS), Environmental Sciences (BS2)
  • Justin Zhao, Economics (BS), Statistical Science (BS2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Richard Carroll, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Elizabeth Losos, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Alexander Pfaff, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • John Poulsen, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Paulina Arroyo, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  • Conservation Measures Partnership
  • David Wilke, Wildlife Conservation Society