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purposes. In addition, the participatory process adopted to involve representatives of public and private sectors (e.g., forestry, agriculture, fisheries and water sector) has increased the level of mutual trust (Gallo et al. 2018; Laktić, Pezdevšek Malovrh 2018).
The present study focused on the stakeholders’ opinions about conflicts, opportunities, obstacles and constrains on forest management related to protected areas in 10 European countries. The preliminary results produce an overview of the nature conservation challenges for policy makers. One of the lessons learned is that the social valuation of stakeholders’ opinions and needs about the relationship between human activities and nature conservation measures in protected areas is a preliminary aspect to take into account to facilitate the social acceptance of nature conservation policy and the potential restrictions to the economic activities. Both a national level – during the identification and implementation process – and a local level in the management of protected sites, the involvement of stakeholders and local community is a key point to reduce conflicts between groups of interest, to increase the social acceptance of decisions, quality of decision-making and facilitate implementation, to enhance the legitimacy of policy outcomes. A second lesson learned is that the communication and information to the local community is an essential aspect to avoid misunderstandings and a loss of trust in the public authorities. A rationale and appropriate communication plan could reduce perceptual differences between groups of interest about nature conservation issue that is one of the main reasons of conflict. A third lesson learned is related to the effective implementation of integration approach in the management of protected areas in order not to hinder human activities but rather to enhance those activities compatible with nature conservation such as sustainable tourism and eco-innovation related to the forest ecosystem services.
The main advantage of this study is to provide new data concerning stakeholders’ opinions about nature conservation issue in Europe distinguishing by country and group of interest. Conversely, the main weakness of the study is that the survey has investigated only some European countries and a low number of stakeholders in each country. However, in survey key stakeholders from nature conservation and forestry sector were involved. In addition, a weakness of the results provided by this study is linked to the heterogeneity of the countries involved in the survey with special regard to the national differences in the legislative framework in the field of nature conservation. Probably, these differences in legal arrangements are the main cause of a different stakeholders’ perception of conflicts from country to country.
Finally, the future steps will be to extend the survey to other countries and increase the number of stakeholders involved in order to provide an overview as complete as possible at European level.
The data have been collected within the research activities of the COST Targeted Network TN1401 “Capacity Building in Forest Policy and Governance in Western Balkan Region (CAPABAL)” in the STSM of Tomislav Laktić with the title: “Process of the implementation of the Natura 2000 in selected countries in European Union and recommendations for western Balkan countries”. Authors would like to thank to Karlo Beljan who helped us in collecting the data during his STSM with the title: “Analysis of experiences in the implementation of Natura 2000 and possible lessons to share with western Balkan countries”. Further, authors also want to thank to other partners of COST Action, especially to Aleksandar Stijović, for their support in the research activities and the stakeholders who filled out the questionnaire and provided useful information and suggestions. Zuzana Dobšinska was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under the contract no APVV-15-0715.
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