International agreements, environmental laws, resource management agencies, and environmental nongovernmental organizations all establish objectives that define what they hope to accomplish. Unfortunately, quantitative objectives in conservation are typically set without consistency and scientific rigor. As a result, conservationists are failing to provide credible answers to the question "How much is enough?" This is a serious problem because objectives profoundly shape where and how limited conservation resources are spent, and help to create a shared vision for the future. In this article we develop guidelines to help steer conservation biologists and practitioners through the process of objective setting. We provide three case studies to highlight the practical challenges of objective setting in different social, political, and legal contexts. We also identify crucial gaps in our science, including limited knowledge of species distributions and of large-scale, long-term ecosystem dynamics, that must be filled if we hope to do better than setting conservation objectives through intuition and best guesses. ?? 2005 American Institute of Biological Sciences.