Protected areas play a vital role in preservation of nature and the goods and services people receive from it, i.e. ecosystem services. A protected area is a clearly defined area (geographic space), which is recognised, legally established and managed through legal or other effective measures, in order to achieve long-term conservation of nature and associated ecosystem services and cultural values of that area. The World Conservation Union defines a system of several categories of protected areas (strict nature reserves, national park, natural monument, nature park, protected area and multipurpose area), which have their own gradation in regard to scope and form of protection and the inclusion of human activities. The focus on protection, from pure nature protection, transfers to nature protection with the active involvement of local communities and the business community. By signing the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993, 168 countries pledged to increase the extent of protected areas. All this led to adjustment of local and global economic flows, changing the way of using resources, adjustment of legal regulations and application of an interdisciplinary approach in protection and development policies. This is a big challenge to this day!
YOUR CHALLENGE IS:
You are the mayor of a municipality, and you have to lead the process of declaring a new mountain protected area, which territorially covers part of your municipality. It is in the interest of the municipality to preserve the natural values of the mountain, to encourage the development of tourism, to put order in the manner of how natural resources of the mountain are used and to ensure a better living standard for the local residents.
On the other hand, you are aware that there are numerous conflicting interests and mixed competences regarding the use of natural resources. The mines must not be closed because they employ about 35% of the population, and the concessions contribute to the local economy. In addition, you have signed contracts for the construction of several infrastructure facilities (ski centre, small hydroelectric power plants, construction of hotels, etc.), which contradicts the declaration of a protected area.
Concessionaires of mineral resources, small hydroelectric plants, wildlife, pastures and forests are against the declaration of a protected area. They consider that the natural resources of the mountain are well managed. And the local population believes that declaring a protected area will stop the use of resources.
A European Union fund appears that can support the process of declaration and is correlated with the obligations that the state has to fulfil towards the protection of nature.
How would you act in the situation?
Watch the video to learn more about the declaring protected area:
Therefore, effective stakeholder engagement requires an open and transparent two-way communication process, where stakeholders can participate and contribute to the decision-making process. This approach can help to build trust, foster collaboration, and create a sense of shared ownership and accountability, leading to better outcomes for all stakeholders involved.
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