Stakeholder involvement

The questionnaire sent out by Eurosite to managers of protected areas revealed that reconciling the needs and wishes of stakeholders like hunters, landowners, farmers, foresters, environmental NGO’s and other pressure groups with the management objectives of a protected area is a difficult issue. Engaging with stakeholders helps to harmonise the needs and wishes of stakeholders with management objectives of the protected area, and by doing so increases the likelihood that rules and restrictions are adopted and applied.

Furthermore, involving stakeholders opens up an important source of knowledge that helps to avoid mistakes in management planning and helps to mediate unexpected negative outcomes of management interventions. Well managed engagement of stakeholders facilitates learning and the building of trust between participants and helps to mediate conflicts. Establishing the reason(s) for engagement is a critical first step to take before any engagement is undertaken.

There are many different levels to engage with stakeholders to increase their acceptance and implication. Some basic recommendations when engaging with stakeholders include:

  • Communicate to ensure that messages are understood and adapted to each stakeholder group.
  • Consult, early and often in order to get useful information and ideas, ask questions.
  • Remember, stakeholders are people and work with an awareness of human feelings.
  • Plan accordingly, stakeholder involvement can require additional time investment, but this can be rewarded with significant payoffs.
  • Try to build trust with the stakeholders.
  • It is necessary to find a compromise across a set of stakeholders' diverging priorities.

Existing literature suggests that the benefits of engagement can far outweigh the risks, including risks posed by a lack of engagement. If well planned, and adequately resourced, successful engagement can enrich management and thus improve outcomes for biodiversity and society. Engaging with stakeholders is also important when identifying the ecosystems services of a protected area and discussing who should benefit from these services. For this engagement to be credible and effective, the differences between the identified stakeholders and their interests and power, and also the dilemmas and trade off’s should be recognized and discussed with an open mind. See the document below for further guidance.

Read more about stakeholder involvement.

Links to additional information

Students thinning hazel - Copyright Natural England Chris Gomersall
Students thinning hazel - Copyright Natural England Chris Gomersall