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ŠUMARSKI LIST 7-8/2019 str. 22     <-- 22 -->        PDF

In the last decades – after the adoption of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and the increased number of protected areas worldwide – the implementation of nature conservation policy has become one of the main challenges for scientists and policy makers (Grodzińska-Jurczak, Cent 2011). The implementation of nature conservation policy can follow two main approaches (Kraus, Krumm 2013; Schultz et al. 2014): the first approach (segregation approach) is based on the spatially explicit separation of protected areas from productive areas (e.g., agricultural fields, productive forests), while the second approach (integration approach) emphasizes the integration of productive and conservation purposes. Historically, the management of first protected areas in Europe followed the principles of segregation approach in order to protect habitats and species within these areas characterized by a high biodiversity value. Conversely, the implementation of Natura 2000 network in the European Union (EU) member countries followed the principles of integration approach (Jones et al. 2015). The integration approach adopted by EU considers combining human activities (e.g., recreational activities, agricultural and forestry practices) and nature conservation purposes in the same area or at least in close proximity to each other (Stoll-Kleemann 2001). One of the pillars of the integration approach is the protection of natural resources and ecosystems including inhabitants’ wellbeing and better quality of live (Pietrzyk-Kaszyńska et al. 2012).
However, in many cases, the implementation of nature conservation policy – e.g., the establishment of a new protected area or Natura 2000 site – has increased conflicts due to different and competing land use principles, interests, and point of views (Young et al. 2007; Ferranti et al. 2010; Winkel et al. 2015). In many EU member countries, the designation of Natura 2000 sites related to the implementation of EU Directive 92/43/EEC (Habitats Directive) has encountered a strong opposition from stakeholders and citizens (Stoll-Kleemann 2001; Brescancin et al. 2017). Sometimes, the reasons of the conflicts are due a low – or absent – level of information and involvement of stakeholders and local communities in the decision-making process (e.g., implementation process and management of protected site). According to Weiss et al. (2017) the main categories of nature conservation conflicts are: ideological and knowledge-based, interest-related, and institutional challenges. The ideological and knowledge-based challenges include conflicts between nature conservation and the economic use of nature resources due to a different value and belief system and a lack of good knowledge. This category of conflicts is mainly related to a difficulty in understanding the specific conservation approach and objectives of nature conservation policy. The interest-related challenges are related to the distribution of costs and benefits of nature conservation measures. Generally, the costs are borne by the local community (e.g., costs for lost revenues, restriction in the decision-making freedom of landowners, lack of funding for the compensation of costs), while the benefits are enjoyed by the global community. The institutional challenges include the formal rules and procedures, distribution of political authority, administrative responsibilities and cross-sectoral coordination. The issue of inclusiveness of stakeholders and local community in the implementation process is the major institutional challenges for the authorities (Blicharska et al. 2016).
Several authors highlighted that public participation in environmental governance and for the establishment of new protected areas is a good way to lead to a more effective and legitimate policy in the eyes of society (Dimitrakopoulos et al. 2010, Blondet et al. 2017). A transparent and inclusive participatory process could avoid conflicts between stakeholders with different interests, increase the social acceptance of decisions (Rauschmayer et al. 2009), enhance the legitimacy of policy outcomes and increase the quality of decision-making and facilitate implementation (Engelen et al. 2008). Therefore, a key point in the participatory process is to know the stakeholders’ opinions and expectations about nature conservation issues and the relationship between conservation measures and human activities (i.e. forest management practices, hunting, recreational opportunities). The point of views of stakeholders is the results of their future expectations and experiences related to participatory process in environmental governance (De Meo et al. 2016).
Starting from these considerations, the aim of this study is to analyse the stakeholders’ opinions about three main aspects related to the nature conservation issues. The aspects considered in the survey are: (1) possible conflicts in and near protected areas (Natura 2000 sites and other protected areas); (2) opportunities and obstacles for human activities in and near protected areas; (3) possible constraints on forest management related to establishment of a new protected area such as Natura 2000 site or other protected area. The study was implemented in the European countries involved in COST Targeted Network TN1401 “Capacity Building in Forest Policy and Governance in Western Balkan Region (CAPABAL)”. The main objective of COST Action “CAPABAL” is to enhance the forest and natural resources policy and governance, as well as the sustainable, multifunctional forest management in the Western Balkans.
Material and methods
The study was structured in three steps in order to collect and analyse the stakeholders’ opinions towards nature