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SCALETOOL IntroductionDriversBiodiversityPolicies and managementConnectivity and protected areas

First steps in systematic use of public participation programs

In the case of Poland, implementation of N2000 triggered changes in organization of public services for nature conservation. On-going decentralization strengthened regional level administration followed by creation of separate highly independent bodies (Regional Directorates of Environmental Protection, RDEP), less prone to political influence. Delegation of responsibilities for N2000 to the regional level resulted in closer and more functional co-operation between regional and local level, mainly due to incorporating more broadly local actors (e.g. local governments, NGOs, leaders, etc.) into management activities. Institutional changes have strengthened conservation bodies by providing independence from regional administration and financial resource allocation. Drawback of this reorganization is the fact that it has and still is weakening the role of landscape protection areas (landscape parks). Together with a decrease of employees in administration, the responsibility for this type of protected areas and large part of decision making power were shifted to the regional and local authorities, which may cause more development pressure on the protected landscapes. Priority given to the implementation of N2000 and fulfilling the EU obligations towards nature conservation resulted in the state in which too little attention has been given to the development of effective instruments to support landscape protection. Instead, main financial and human resources have been allocated to habitat and species conservation.

Tradition and evolution of public participation in Poland is not as rich and long as in the EU-15 mainly due to the historical and societal factors (e.g., considerable late Europeanization of policy, limited communication between government and public, obligatory involvement activities during the socialistic regime). Public participation is regulated legislatively right now and regarded as a needed and useful tool for PAs management (Bell et al., 2008). First systematic public consultation scheme concerning designation of protected sites within N2000 started in Malopolska - southerly located region of Poland - in 2008. Primarily it was aimed at gaining public opinion on the sites selected by the experts, and then was broadened to the inclusion of local communities into development of conservation plans for each site separately (Grodzińska-Jurczak and Cent, 2011, Cent et al. 2013). Considerable success was achieved practically from the very beginning of the consultation scheme paralleled by gaining detailed information on the local conflicts over N2000. Positive experiences from the program resulted in growing importance of public consultation activities undertaken by conservation institutions also outside the region. Since then, public consultation has been organized as open meetings accompanied by establishing local cooperation groups of various stakeholders (experts, local authorities, NGOs, citizens), and they have become obligatory while developing management plans for N2000 sites (Grodzińska-Jurczak et al., 2012).

Beskid Niski, Poland. Photo by: Joanna Cent

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