Common Evaluation Criteria

There are a number of criteria that are common across most or all of the 25 project types. The following information provides additional detail on these fields and how they are evaluated.

Project Start Date

Projects must have been implemented or “on-the-ground” long enough to have a measurable impact to be qualifying. Although the evaluation of an application focuses on the past 2-3 years, the total number of years the project has been occurring is also included in the evaluation to recognize the value of long-term projects. 

The requirements for how long a project must be on-the-ground for a specific project type can be found in the corresponding project type’s Scoring Sheet. For planning purposes, a full year is considered a good rule of thumb for the time a project should be on the ground to ensure the project will meet this criterion.

The time a project has been on-the-ground is measured in years and may include increments as small as ¼ of a year (e.g. 5.25 years). As long as the specific criteria outlined in the rubric is met, a value of less than one year can earn points.

Conservation or Conservation Education Objective

A conservation or conservation education objective outlines what the end goal of the project is. Revisiting an established objective over time can help ensure that a project remains on track to accomplish the desired goal.
Providing a conservation objective for habitat and species project types, and listing the goals for education project types is required to qualify for certification. As there can be some variation and subjectivity involved in evaluating objectives, this criterion is evaluated as either being relevant or not relevant.

Employee and Other Participant Involvement

WHC encourages and recognizes employee and partner engagement can strengthen a project. This recognition is evaluated both through the quantity of involvement (number of hours) and the quality of involvement (depth of engagement).

Hours of Involvement

The number of hours that all employees or partners actively work on each project in a given year should be recorded. The partner and employee hours recorded for each year are divided into planning and implementation (on-the-ground work). 

Jane and Jason lead a one-hour training for 10 other staff members about managing for an invasive plant. Jane and Jason would list 2 hours for their training project (1 hour each for leading the training). The employees who received the training would not be included in the hours recorded as they were not planning or implementing the training project, they were recipients of the training. Since the activity was a teaching/learning activity and no actual actions or planning for invasive species management was occurring, Jane and Jason's two hours would not also be listed under an invasive species project.

Calculating Hour Averages

Certification terms can vary in length from 2 to 3 years, so to fairly allocate points for employee/partner hours, the average number of hours/year is used for scoring. The average is based on the annual total of both planning and implementation hours. 

If the total number of hours from the current calendar year is less than the past 2-3 years, the current year will be excluded from the calculation. This ensures that average hours are not decreased due to the time of year an application is submitted. 

To avoid counting the same hours from the previous application, the calculation should only include the hours from the year last applied if applied before the July 15 deadline in that year. 

Depth of Engagement

The description of how the employees and/or partners are involved provides insight into the depth of engagement. 
  • Indicators of one-off or irregular involvement include mentions of a specific event or day
  • Indicators of regular involvement in implementation include mentions of participation in doing work needed for the project to function such as management, monitoring, teaching, etc. 
  • Indicators of regular involvement in long term planning include mentions of team meetings to assess the project, annual project assessments, etc.

Technical Advice

Seeking out and utilizing technical advice improves projects. Technical advice can take many forms, including written material (e.g. website, guidebook) and relevant experts. Sources of technical advice must have a demonstrable background in the relevant subject matter. Examples include: an author who has been published, an individual with multiple years of experience, or a publication or employee of a reputable organization.

Points are awarded for technical advice that has already been implemented. The maximum points for this criterion are awarded if there is ongoing regular use of the technical advice (i.e. implemented or used at least once per year for at least two years). 

Regulatory Requirements

All projects must exceed any relevant regulatory requirements. For projects that do relate to any regulatory requirements (e.g. a mitigation wetland), an explanation of how the project exceeds that requirement must be included in the application. For example, if 5 acres was required for mitigation and 6 acres were created, this would exceed that regulatory requirement for the Wetland project. Many projects will not have any associated regulatory requirements, if this is the case the project meets this criterion because the project is entirely voluntary. 

Corporate Commitment
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Projects may be part of an organization-wide initiative, such as a corporate level commitment to grassland habitats. As such, documentation must be uploaded to demonstrate the formalized commitment and to earn points for this criterion.

General corporate commitments to the environment, biodiversity, or education are not recognized through this project-level criterion. There must be specific mention of the project type for the commitment to be awarded points. Documentation for a commitment that is uploaded into more than one project can be counted for multiple projects only if each project type is explicitly included as part of the documentation of commitment. 

Alignment with Large Scale Initiatives

Large scale initiatives are established plans or priorities recognized or authored by experts in the field. Alignment with large scale conservation and education initiatives can magnify the impact of actions and ensure that they contribute with regional priorities. 
The name and website link of the conservation plans or large-scale initiatives the project aligns with must be included in the application. In most cases, a website link should be available for a large-scale initiative. If a website link is not provided, the initiative must be described with the primary objectives or focuses and the parties who developed the initiative. 
To earn credit for aligning with the large-scale initiatives, the application must specifically explain how the project aligns (e.g. what objectives or actions from the initiative are addressed through the project). Alignment with a general plan, such as a State Wildlife Action Plan, can earn points. To earn the maximum points, the alignment needs to be with a project type specific plan.

Examples of project type specific plans:
For Habitat Projects: A southeastern grassland conservation initiative
For Species Projects: A shorebird conservation initiative
For Education Projects: Relevance to conservation or education plans

Third Party Certification

A third-party certification specific to the project type demonstrates not only a commitment to the project, but also serves as an additional verification of the work being done. In order to earn points for third-party certification it must be:
  1. Project type specific
A forest project has a general habitat certification. This does NOT meet the requirement.
A forest project has a forest certification. This DOES meet the requirement.

2. Credible – Third-party certifications must include at least some of the following characteristics to be considered a credible certification program:
  • Requirements and/or evaluation criteria are publicly available
  • Some form of verification (documentation or audit) 
  • Applicants are not guaranteed to receive certification just for applying (not all applications are successful)
  • There is a renewal aspect (certification is not awarded on a permanent basis)
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