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Improving the Coverage and Management Efficiency of Protected Areas in the Steppe Biome of Russia
Commissioning Unit: Russian Federation
Evaluation Plan: 2011-2017
Evaluation Type: Project
Completion Date: 11/2013
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: Russian Federation
Documents Related to overall Management Response:
 
1. Recommendation:

The project covers a wide range of activities and geographic spread in the second half of the project activities the workplan should be consolidated a little and streamlined to focus on those activities that are critical for achieving planned outcomes and those that have shown promise, while dropping those that have lagged. In this respect, the evaluation recommends that the project formally drop the Specially Managed Steppe Areas (SMSA) activity (Output 2.5). There appear to be a number of legal and policy issues with this activity, and in one of the primary locations for developing this approach the context has changed. The project does not appear to be in a position to establish a nationally replicable private land conservation model, and individual unique instances have limited strategic value. As advocates for steppe ecosystems, project stakeholders are free to opportunistically pursue (as time and resources allow) specific opportunities for steppe protection in collaboration with private land owners, but this should be dropped as an official expected result of the project to allow the project team to focus on other key results.

Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2016/10/21]

The project team supports the recommendation to drop SMSA/PA on private lands from the expected project outcomes. However, work with particular landowners aimed at introducing special management measures on farmlands covered by the steppe will continue, so as to create a precedent for the preservation of steppe sites on private lands by interested landowners.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Hold meetings with landowners, examine steppe areas promising in terms of conservation, conclude agreements and possibly assist landowners with introduction of special measures (e.g. purchase seeds)
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2014/12 No Longer Applicable [Justification: The project wasn’t able to identify a sustainable mechanism and pursue economic incentives for local farmers to introduce particular management measures on farmlands aimed to preserve and sustainably use steppe ecosystems. This key action has been cancelled (as per Evaluator’s recommendation). The released funds re-allocated for capacity strengthening of the Orenburg Reserve, taking into account the expansion of its territory for additional 16.5 thousand ha in 2015. ]
History
2. Recommendation: The evaluation recommends the project logframe indicators and targets be revised, with a number of specific revisions proposed separately. The intention is to improve the results-focus and SMARTness of indicators, while also reflecting some changes to project work planning and improving the alignment of the logframe with the assessment of project results. While there are a number of specific logframe revisions proposed, there are two overall logframe revisions suggested.) The project should consider adding a Threat Reduction Assessment (TRA) indicator for each of the pilot sites, as an additional means of assessing impact level results. There are a variety of natural factors that can influence the population status of species, but, taking a theory-based approach, a project?s efforts to directly reduce specific biodiversity threats should result in improved biodiversity status. Adding a TRA indicator at this stage would require re-constructing baseline values, but this should be feasible, based on the data available and knowledge of project experts for each of the regions. ii.) The project team should review the logframe indicators and targets to clearly rationalize targets and define all key terms.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project team supports the proposed recommendations for amendments of the indicators and logframe targets. The project team is ready to add a ТRA indicator and revisit the logframe indicators and targets.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Determine baseline and target values of TRA indicators for each pilot area
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2014/07 Completed TRA-indicators have been included to the PIR 2014; indicators were revised in accordance with the evaluator’s recommendations. History
Revise and specify the logframe indicators and targets, including consultations with the UNDP-GEF regarding discarding a number of indicators in accordance with the recommendations of the mid-term assessment (such as dropping of SMSA, areas of the restored steppe lands)
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2014/07 Completed The Logfrarme indicators were revised in accordance with the evaluator’s recommendations. History
3. Recommendation: The project should scale down the planned activities relating to steppe restoration (Output 2.2) and integrated fire management (Output 2.1) to a scope that is realistic during the life of the project, but which could still generate some positive experiences and lessons for further replication. Cost-effectiveness of restoration activities unclear, and other activities could have greater conservation value ? e.g. establishing nature monuments in some steppe remnants in Kursk could have as much value as restoration of small plots. In Orenburg there are plans to support natural regeneration through seeding fallow lands with native perennial grasses, to enhance natural processes. While the project?s only input would be purchasing the seeds (with other required inputs provided in-kind by local governments and land-users), this is still a relatively expensive activity, and the cost-effectiveness should be weighed against the investment required to increase protection for steppe areas that are still in good condition but not protected. The experience of developing the integrated fire management plan in Orenburg has shown that this is a complex process requiring significant time, and as such it would not be possible for the project to produce seven such plans. Further, the value of this approach should be demonstrated before significant additional resources are spent to produce additional plans. After the first year of implementation of the Orenburg integrated fire management plan a survey should be carried out among stakeholders to identify the value this approach. If it is found to be positive, stakeholders from Orenburg could disseminate their experience to other regions through presentations and other means of information sharing.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

Activities aimed to restore meadow steppes have demonstrated their low effectiveness in terms of keeping steppe ecosystems, due to great labor and financial costs. According to the recommendations, the project will no longer finance the direct restoration costs, while monitoring of the restored vegetation on the existing sites in Kursk will go on. According to the recommendations, the remaining funds under Output 2.2. will be used to establish new protected areas in the Kursk Region. Stimulation of some landowners in the Orenburg Region by purchasing steppe plant seeds to accelerate restoration of steppe vegetation will continue on a smaller scale upon tentative assessment of financial efficiency; the reason for the continued project intervention in this case would be to prevent the ploughing up of the most valuable steppe sites in future. Development of an integrated fire management plan will be completed only in the Orenburg region, where some progress has been achieved for interaction with different sectoral stakeholders. Once the plan is approved, the experiences of the plan development and its implementation will be handed over to other pilot areas. In the pilot areas, additional fire-fighting training will be conducted for PA employees, farmers and sectoral authorities, in order to train farmers to manage fires at early stages and prevent fire propagation to the PA area.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Establish four new protected area in the Kursk Region
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Kursk State University, Project team 2017/12 Completed Nature monuments in Kursk Oblast gazetted History
Establish a biosphere polygon of the CCZ
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
CCZ, Project team, selected subcontractor 2017/12 Completed Documents for the establishment of biosphere testing ground at the Centralno-Chernozemny Zapovednik (CCZ) have been submitted for the state environmental expert review. With the subsequent closure of the Project and UNDP Office in Russia, further progress fully depends on the national stakeholders History
Train fire-fighting in pilot protected areas, farmers and sectoral authorities
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Pilot PAs, Project team 2016/12 Completed Trainings on fire-fighting have been conducted in all 4 pilot reserves. History
Hold a workshop to assess efficiency of implementation of the Plan for Integrated Fire Management in the Orenburg Region
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Orenburg Reserve, project team 2015/10 Completed An experience sharing discussion on fire-fighting and cooperation with various services of the Orenburg Region within the framework of the signed agreement was held at the CCZ in October 2015. History
4. Recommendation: The project must ensure the annual budget delivery rate is increased and maintained, to maintain the efficiency of the project. While many projects do have short extensions, extensions beyond six months can have a negative influence on efficiency as an increasing proportion of project resources are required for administrative and management overhead costs.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project team will make every effort to speed up the yearly budget delivery. Slow delivery rate so far has been related to lack of available expertise in the regions despite the fact that research institutions are available. For instance, in the Orenburg Region almost all the project activities were performed by the Institute of Steppe Institute; in Dauria, most of the jobs are performed by the staff of the Daursky Reserve. The great amount of work to be done causes delay of execution of ongoing activities and inability to start new work. Employing of experts from outside the project area is frequently inefficient due to their poor knowledge of the local conditions, increased costs, etc. On the other hand, the evaluation report mentions that the project has savings of the management budget; hence a project extension for six months or even until the end of 2015 will not reduce its efficiency. The project team will make efforts to involve new contractors where possible and control that contractors implement planned activities on time.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Constantly monitor timing for deliverables under subcontracts; make efforts to attract more outside expertise where possible
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2017/12 Completed All contracts have been closely monitored to ensure timely delivery of the project outputs. The project ensured 100% delivery of its initial budget History
5. Recommendation: In the second half of the project the project team and key stakeholders should increase the focus on aspects related to scaling-up and replication of project experiences and lessons - for example, relating to the project experience developing integrated fire management plans. The goal should be to have some replications or scaling-up actually initiated by the end of the project, not just information disseminated.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project accepts the recommendation and will undertake all necessary actions to share the lessons learned. Particular positive examples for replication will be identified in the first half of 2014.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Include the information on lessons learned and best results replication into the agenda of SC meetings
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2017/12 Completed Replication schemes for positive project experience and lessons learned were discussed at the Project Steering Committee meetings held in 2015 and 2017. The project prepared a standard Lessons Learned study towards its completion. History
Share lessons learned in the pilot and other regions, replicate positive experience; conduct workshops and trainings, and working meetings with regional authorities.
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2015/12 Completed Project results have been showcased at various events, such as Steppe Day in the Orenburg region and Kalmykia, Tulip Holiday in Kalmykia, opening of the Centre for the Przewalsky’s Horse reintroduction in the Orenburg Reserve, Conference on integrated fire management practices in Centralno-Chernozemny Zapovednik, other scientific symposiums and conferences and working group meetings (such as, Russian-Mongolian working group on environment protection), etc. History
6. Recommendation: Since the project did not conduct a structured capacity needs assessment for the four pilot areas, the project should analyze the recommendations of the three pilot area management audits to identify capacity needs at the site level, in order to support the development of appropriate training modules.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project will continue analyzing audit recommendations and identifying the basic needs of the reserves to improve the capacity to conserve the steppe ecosystem. Subsequently, the project will consider the possibilities of developing the required training modules. At the same time, the project work plan already envisages trainings on various aspects of activities performed by the reserves. Specifically, the fire management workshops increase the reserves? capacity to protect steppe ecosystems in case of destructive fires; a manual is being prepared on grazing in a PA area; in 2014, workshops on the specific management pattern for the steppe ecosystems will be conducted for inspectors and reserve management to improve the efficiency of PA in conservation of steppe ecosystems etc.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Collect additional information on the basic needs of the reserves
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team, Pilot reserves, MNRE 2016/12 Completed The main needs were related to the procurement of additional fire-fighting and monitoring equipment. Associated procurement requests from the pilot PAs were fulfilled in 2015-2016 History
Develop the plan of training workshops and manuals (if needed)
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team, Pilot reserves 2014/06 Completed The training plan was included into the project annual workplan. History
Training for the inspectors of the pilot reserves
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team, Pilot reserves 2014/12 Completed Trainings on fire-fighting and working with GIS-programme on the territory monitoring have been conducted. History
7. Recommendation: The project should work with the Kalmykia pilot site team and key national and regional stakeholders to develop a structured long-term approach to address the issue of saiga management in Kalmykia (e.g. dealing with poaching, etc.). The project should support engagement of all key stakeholders to move toward implementation of the saiga conservation management plan that has already been developed for the region.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project considers activities aimed to help sustaining the saiga population as a priority. Actually, the project currently initiates/coordinates all the newly emerging moves to conserve the saiga in Kalmykia. On the project initiative, a conference was conducted in November 2011 for all the stakeholders to discuss immediate steps required for continuous saiga conservation efforts at the regional level. Another, a higher level stakeholder meeting is to be conducted in the late 2013-early 2014, presumably, in the Russian Geographical Society patronized by the President of Russia. In October 2011 and August 2013, the project conducted a saiga census. In 2012-2013, the project helped the local saiga preservation team purchase fuel, and in November 2013 a vehicle will be purchased for the same purpose. Preparation of documents on establishing a large regional sanctuary will be another step to ensure regional conservation of the species.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Stakeholder meeting to discuss solutions to conserve the Kalmyk saiga population
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
MNRE, project team 2015/12 Completed By the decision of the Russian MNRE, the meeting was held in December 2015. History
8. Recommendation: There has been some engagement of communities in the areas surrounding pilot site protected areas, but this is an area that needs additional work as the project progresses in supporting effective management of steppe protected areas. Successful and effective management of protected areas is usually accomplished through developing positive relationships, communication, and input mechanisms with surrounding communities. One model pursued in some parts of the world is a community advisory council, which may not have decision-making power, but which provides a formal channel linking communities with protected area management. Other models include partnerships with community organizations such as local hunting associations in a form of community-based management for monitoring and enforcement in areas around protected areas. Community-based environmental monitoring programs are another useful potential mechanism.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

At the moment, community boards are being established as part of activities aimed to ensure community engagement. The experience of the operation of such boards in Russia is rather limited; such boards have been established and have been operating successfully in the Altai Zapovednik, and the reserve is ready to share the lessons learned with other reserves. Representatives of regional hunting societies will take part in the work of those boards. As to the programs for community-based monitoring, they are virtually non-existent in Russia, and developing such monitoring implies a number of specific tasks and activities which currently are not in the focus of the project.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Organize and conduct workshops on establishing community boards affiliated with all the pilot PAs
[Added: 2013/12/04]
Altai Zapovednik, project team 2013/12 Completed
Establish community boards for co-management in the Orenburg Region, Kalmykia and Dauria
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Pilot PAs, project team 2015/12 Completed Community advisory councils have been established in all pilot PAs where there were planned - Orenburg, Dauria and Chernye Zemli. History
9. Recommendation: While the management of the CCZ pilot site is considered to be strong, the project should support the MNRE in conducting a protected area financing assessment of this site to ensure that the CCZ has adequate financial resources to ensure effective management. The management audits in the three other project pilot sites have facilitated the identification of key management areas requiring additional resources, and helped rationalize and justify the use of resources for effective protected area management. As a result, the MNRE has been able to increase the planned annual budget for each of these protected areas. The CCZ in Kursk would benefit from a similar process to rationalize and ensure adequate financing.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

According to MNRE?s officials, the Ministry is well informed of the situation in the reserve and its needs, and believes that there is no need for extra funding. Following the evaluator?s recommendations, the project is ready to conduct further consultations with the MNRE.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Conduct consultations with MNRE on the need to audit the CCZ
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2014/12 Completed No need for extra funding for CCZ was confirmed by the MNRE (by the project National Director who's also in charge of the federal PA affairs within the MNRE) History
10. Recommendation: The project should ensure comprehensive documentation of co-financing, and increase emphasis to ensure the expected level of co-financing is reached by the end of the project. The planned co-financing was $15.30 million USD, and to the mid-point of the project, $2.66 million USD in co-financing has been documented ? approximately 17% of the expected co-financing resources. It may be that documentation of co-financing needs to be improved, but the current reported amount of co-financing is quite low for this point of the project. UNDP, the project team, and the MNRE should work together to clarify the co-financing issue, as co-financing is one important indicator relating to various evaluation criteria, including relevance, efficiency, stakeholder ownership, and sustainability. The project should ensure that that at least the originally planned level of co-financing is delivered by the end of the project.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project will make every effort to obtain the planned co-financing and improve relevant documentation.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Get response from all stakeholders which issued the letters on co-financing in 2009; in case of no provision of pledged cofinancing ? develop alternative scenarios to obtain the required level of c-financing from other sources
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2015/12 Completed Co-financing amounts were corrected and re-estimated in the end of 2015 History
11. Recommendation: The project should emphasize the value of the production of peer-reviewed scientific publications related to the project?s work, and should support the extra effort required for project stakeholders to produce such publications, as appropriate. There are a number of project activities that could be further developed as peer-reviewed scientific publications (e.g. steppe restoration in Kursk, climate monitoring in Dauria), and it would be beneficial if these were produced instead of just being published as ?gray literature.?
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project is ready to support the authors that prepared articles for peer-reviewed scientific publications. The main obstacles preventing Russian authors from publishing are the necessity to translate the articles for foreign magazines into English, and a long time to publication in Russian magazines. The project can carry the financial costs of publishing such articles, if necessary.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Prepare publication plan for articles on the outcomes of project work
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2016/12 Completed The project has informed project stakeholders on the possibility to support the publication of their articles in peer-reviewed magazines, including foreign ones. It was not possible to develop writing / publication plan so far given the lack of proposals from the stakeholders’ side. History
Assist in publication of articles
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2015/12 Completed The project has informed project stakeholders on the possibility to support the publication of their articles in peer-reviewed magazines, including foreign ones. It was not possible to develop writing / publication plan so far given the lack of proposals from the stakeholders’ side. History
12. Recommendation: The project is supporting some work on policy and legislation development with regional governments. The goal for this work, within the timeframe of the project, should be actual government adoption of some changes with positive influences for steppe ecosystems ? not just production of draft materials. Adoption of legislation is generally an ambitious effort for projects with limited time, as government approval processes can be complex, long and bureaucratic; but reaching actual adoption of legislation (or relevant amendments) is the critical measure for demonstrating positive results for this particular small aspect of the project.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project agrees that regulatory amendments should be adopted in order to demonstrate project success with work on policy and legislation development. Changes in the statutes and regulations depend on many subjective and objective factors, starting from the personal opinion on the amendments of the official in charge and down to the economic and political situation in the country in general. Hence, it is very difficult to guarantee that amendments will be made. Nevertheless, the project will continue its efforts to do these both at the regional and federal levels.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Arrange for a working meeting in the MNRE at the National Director level and prepare a working plan to tackle this issue for 2014.
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2014/12 Completed The meeting was arranged. Given the lack of special requests from the MNR, the workplan could have not been developed. History
Hold a working meeting in the Parliament of Kalmykia, discuss the proposed amendments and federal-level support for the initiatives
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2016/12 Completed The issue was raised several times with the SC representatives from Kalmykia, as well as during the PM monitoring visits to the pilot region, howerver, there was no progress with the legislative reform due to the lack of interest from the respective regional government bodies History
13. Recommendation: The project should work to increase visitation to the project website, which is well-done and is an excellent resource relating to steppe conservation. The current levels of website visitation are acceptable, but the potential audience for the website is certainly larger.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

At the moment, website visitation gives a fairly good idea of the number of people willing to find out the condition of Russian steppes: they are few researchers, students and NGO representatives. Information about the website and some website materials are also placed on the page of a dedicated Facebook group (ca. 300 members), in the Vkontakte social network etc. Nevertheless, the project will consider and outline measures to increase website visitation.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Develop action plan to increase website visitation
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2014/01 Completed The project performed planned actions aimed to increase the website visitation. The website was highly praised by the project Terminal Evaluation; the website is being sustained by the local stakeholders upon project completion History
14. Recommendation: The project team should work to improve the project branding. It is necessary to have UNDP-GEF logos on publications supported by the project (and in other appropriate contexts), but other aspects of branding are important also. For example, the vehicles of protected areas should have the protected area logo visible, which contributes to increasing local community and government awareness about protected areas.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/12/04]

The project will control placement of its logo on the products produced/purchased from the project funds. More substantial branding, such as targeted distribution of project publications at various events, appropriate outreach to media will also be considered.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Control logo placement (vehicles, equipment, publications). Collect best experience from other projects regarding various aspects of project branding
[Added: 2013/12/04] [Last Updated: 2018/11/07]
Project team 2014/06 Completed UNDP / GEF logos, and sometimes project logo, are always placed on all project-funded publications, as well as on all promotional materials. In accordance with the evaluator’s recommendation all protected areas’ vehicles are marked with the authorized protected areas’ logos. History

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