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The presence of multiple objectives and subjective preferences often determine the solution of the problem to be better-or-worse and not true-or-false (Nordström 2010).
To develop better solutions in sustainable forest management, it is almost essential to include a group of decision makers rather than one decision maker. Stakeholders, rather than the general public, most often participate in the process, as interested organizations, groups, or individuals. Thus, they choose to be active partners in the decision making (Rowe and Frewer 2000).
The power that stakeholders possess in the participatory process can vary substantially and has been described using a ladder of participation (Arnstein 1969, Macpherson 2004). The extent of the power can vary from nonparticipation, where the agency or the owner decides alone, to a level at which people are informed of the decisions without an opportunity to comment. Next, partial involvement of participants is described as stakeholders being involved in appropriate aspects of the planning, implementation, and management of the process. The highest level of involvement is participants’ control, where stakeholders are in full control of the decision process. The power can vary also between the stakeholders because of their varying levels of knowledge and experiences (Mianabadi et al. 2011).
When the only goal of forest management was to maximize timber production, the owner of the forest was often the only decision maker. In participatory planning, different interests are represented by different stakeholders such as forest owners, governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, local communities, hunters, environmentalists, and recreationists.
The inclusion of stakeholders in the decision process offers many advantages, from increasing public awareness of forest management and building trust in institutions, the decision process, and its solutions, to avoiding and resolving conflicts between stakeholders, sharing information, and including local knowledge, various prospects, and preferences in the decision model (Hiltunen et al. 2009). At the same time, some disadvantages can emerge. In addition to increased time and costs, the main problem can be the disappointment of the manager or stakeholders, who do not see a "higher-quality" solution (Reed 2008).
Therefore, it is important to establish whether a group result is a consensus, about which the stakeholders are convinced regardless of their initially different beliefs (Hartmann et al. 2009), or only a compromise, which the decision makers agree to support in the spirit of cooperation, despite not believing it is necessarily the best option (Steele et al. 2007).
One of the necessary conditions for stakeholders to be satisfied with the solution of the decision process is that they are satisfied with the participatory process itself. The criteria for evaluation of the participatory process are normative (such as fairness and structured group interaction), substantive (quality and selection of information, opportunity to influence process design and outcome), and instrumental (clear goals, transparency, and acceptance of outcome) (Menzel et al. 2010).
The main contribution of the present paper is that it shows how to incorporate different goals and a group of stakeholders in multi-criteria model in order to select an optimal strategy for the development of highland Pohorje in Slovenia.
The paper is organized as follows. In the methods section, we review multi-criteria decision methods, with an emphasis on the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). We present the NATREG project that took place in Pohorje. We proposed an AHP model for selecting an optimal strategy for development of Pohorje. In the results and discussion section we provide the results of the model. The final section presents the main conclusions and suggestions for future work.
Group decision making can be divided into two branches: unstructured and structured. Participatory approaches include newsletters, websites, public meetings, telephone surveys, interviews, and internet-based decision support applications. A commonly used form of group meetings is workshops, in which stakeholders can share their opinions and seek common decisions. They can be based on brainstorming and discussion or connected with any of the social choice or multi-criteria decision methods (MCDMs). Social choice theory is based on voting systems (plurality voting, approval voting, Borda count, pairwise voting, multistage voting, utilitarian voting, proportional voting, fuzzy voting, or probability voting), the efficiency of which has been proved throughout the history of democracy. The voting schemes can be evaluated according to consistency, independency, Pareto-optimality, and other criteria. Their result is usually compromise since a kind of majority