Practical conservation activity is increasing globally and is being undertaken by many different government and nongovernmental organizations. In the majority of cases, justification for proposed actions is experience-based rather than evidence-based, action is often taken without monitoring or evaluation of effectiveness and results are rarely widely disseminated. Conservation has been compared with medicine as a crisis discipline in which action is often required urgently in the absence of good information. The practice of medicine has recently gone through an effectiveness revolution that has improved the criteria upon which treatment strategies are based by progressing from reliance on personal experience to reliance on scientific evidence. We draw parallels between medicine and conservation and present a practical framework to encourage evidence-based conservation action. Our rationale is that conservation actions for which scarce resources are sought should be justified by good scientific evidence. In our view this will also encourage more research addressing practical issues in conservation management.