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Stakeholders matter in implementing ecological networks! But how to get them involved?

How do you convince stakeholders to contribute to the practical implementation of ecological networks? This was the central question of the KEN (Knowledge for Ecological Networks) Workshop, organized by ECNC on 11 and 12 February 2009 in Vught, the Netherlands. An international group of 35 practitioners from the conservation field was invited to discuss the complex issue of ecological networks implementation in Europe. The participants agreed that there is wide consensus at political level that ecological networks are an important feature of contemporary conservation of habitats and species. It was also found that these areas contribute to society in a great many ways by the ecosystem goods and services they provide.

However, in spite of the achievements in planning those networks, their practical implementation often lags behind schedule. Underlying reasons for the slow progress were analysed, and solutions from theory and practice were discussed. It was found that identifying the key stakeholders, those who can influence the process in a positive and decisive way, was an essential first step in each implementation effort. Investing time and effort in building trust with the smallest possible number of the most influential stakeholders was seen as a realistic and efficient way to proceed. Other groups of less influential stakeholders should, however, be kept informed of the process and given the chance to voice their ideas and opinions at key moments in the process through consultation and the provision of public information. Creating alliances with influential and respected organizations could help in creating political support for ecological networks at the local level. Communication and information are crucial to all these approaches, and appropriate techniques should therefore be developed.

The results of the workshop were practised during a field visit to the Green Delta (Groene Delta), an ecological network project involving a wide range of stakeholders in the metropolitan area of Den Bosch. The excursion was followed by a debate with the representatives of five local stakeholder groups: the State Forest Agency (that kindly organized the excursion), the Association for Nature Conservation (Natuurmonumenten), the Water Board of Aa en Maas, the Municipality of Den Bosch, and the Agricultural and Horticultural Association (ZLTO). Among other things, the Dutch ‘polder model’, which is a traditional method for bringing people together to agree actions and responsibilities in relation to water management but which now has wider applications within the country, was seen as a success factor in bringing together the different stakeholders and achieving consensus through discussions and debate.

For pictures of the workshop, visit the KEN/SPEN Picasa Web Album
To view the presentations given during the workshop, visit the Outputs page

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