This article looks at using diagrams to help conceptualize and model conservation strategies. Diagrams can help focus attention within a large number of components and interrelationships without losing sight of the surrounding ecosystem. A brief summary of a strategic diagram project for New Zealand's Department of Conservation is followed by an analysis of user experiences. This demonstrates the potential for diagrams to overcome some pitfalls of text-based language rules. The discussion stresses the importance of presenting socially meaningful strategies for users' greater sense of coherence, when planning for the conservation of New Zealand's natural environments. Remaining challenges for visual modeling practice, and further research, are outlined.