Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice


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Choosing a preferred alternative will involve an open dialogue about trade-offs. The stakeholders involved in an SDM process need to be prepared to learn, to explore competing hypotheses, and to build a common understanding of what constitutes the best available information for 4 estimating consequences and 5 evaluating trade-offs.


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In so doing, they will clarify areas of agreement and disagreement and the reasons for these disagreements. The results of an SDM process are useful to decision makers whether or not a consensus is reached. Public programs often stress the importance of consensus among stakeholders; it is seen as a goal to be striven for, even though it may not always be attainable.

However, dispute resolution and consensus building should be avoided in an SDM approach Gregory et al. Rather, SDM is concerned with 6 developing learning and building management capacity so as to make better decisions in the future. Instead of seeking to resolve disputes, the deliberative process should focus on aiding decisions, both by the stakeholders and by the agency empowered to make the final decision. This requires an open process with thoughtful exploration of the values of different stakeholders. Conflict among group members should not be viewed as a problem to be overcome but as an opportunity to clarify values and facts relevant to the decision at hand.

There is an emphasis on learning over time, including a formal commitment to review decisions when new information becomes available.

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What exactly is done at each step of an SDM process and the level of rigor and complexity will depend on the nature of the decision, the stakes, the resources, and the timeline see Table 1 for a guide to the step-by-step approach. Our review of the literature shows that SDM has been interpreted and applied in various ways in resource management in the past few years.

Recent research has analyzed its use in settings such as supplementary feeding in species conservation Ewen et al. These studies have drawn attention to specific, well-defined problems in marine conservation. However, few studies have looked at the complexity of governing resources with multiple uses. As regards forestry, we have identified studies that address parcelization and forest fragmentation of private lands Ferguson et al. The approach of Ferguson et al. The authors concluded that SDM may well help land owners to identify creative decision options that are most likely to meet their objectives.

Furthermore, they confirm that SDM is an effective approach with which to evaluate options rigorously for decision problems that are controversial. From a different viewpoint, Marcot et al. They came to the conclusion that SDM can be helpful in decomposing and understanding complex problems, yet the key challenge is how to bring these tools and processes into daily implementation. Ogden and Innes identified 30 forest practitioners who were involved in the implementation of a regional forest management plan in identifying climate change vulnerabilities and evaluating adaptation options.

The practitioners identified several decision options, which provided insight into the readiness of practitioners to engage in adaptive strategies in a regional context. Here, we build on these review examples and provide a case-based assessment of an SDM-inspired approach in the Swedish forest sector.

To strengthen environmental considerations in forest management, the Forestry Act of which is still in force gave equal priority to biodiversity conservation and timber production.

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However, the Act sets only minimum criteria related to both goals and does not stipulate how they are to be achieved. However, the current forest policy provides little indication of exactly how, and to what extent, the different objectives should be achieved. The analysis by Beland Lindahl et al. As a result of the deregulation of the Swedish forest sector in the s, the use of command-and-control regulations has decreased, and the use of information and knowledge campaigns, advice, and different forms of collaborative processes has increased Beland Lindahl et al.

Various forms of collaborative processes have been organized by the Swedish Forest Agency on numerous occasions e. For decades, controversies over forestry and environmental issues have been common. The lack of regulatory clarity and scientific uncertainty about sustainable harvest levels and biodiversity protection may also allow stakeholders with dissimilar interests to justify their standpoints Uggla et al.

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It is in this context that adaptive management has come to the fore. This approach to the management of complex systems is based on learning, thus offering a social steering instrument that complements command-and-control regulations Rist et al. However, diversified forest management that deviates from well-established practices carries many uncertainties that are especially evident in cases with diverse land ownership and long rotation periods Rist et al.

The overall aim was to create conditions for higher biomass production and better environmental status for Swedish forests. The government provided special funds for a three-year program in which a working model could be tested. In April , a final report was ready, with the results of the project Swedish Forest Agency a. One of the proposals in the first report was to establish a special stakeholder panel. The main task of this group would be to identify troublesome gaps or uncertainties related to forest management that would be appropriate to test with the adaptive model through a stakeholder dialogue process.

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This stakeholder group would also serve as a reference group in the implementation phase of the project. After an initial phase of process development, the panel agreed on various forest management issues that were suitable for a collaborative dialogue process. The first question to be addressed, and thus the point where the whole approach could be tested, was the management of forests in their young phase Swedish Forest Agency a,b. This first application of the adaptive model provides a case study of feasibility and the practical relevance of collaboration and dialogue in governance when there are multiple forest values Fig.

This case study takes a qualitative approach and includes 14 semistructured interviews. The interviewees comprised all of the stakeholders who participated in the collaborative process in —, two officials from the Swedish Forest Agency who were responsible for organizing the process, and one independent facilitator who facilitated all the meetings.

The stakeholders represented a number of diverse interests: hunting 2 stakeholders , reindeer husbandry 1 , environmental values 1 , energy 1 , forestry services 1 , large-scale forestry 2 , small-scale forestry 1 , tourism 1 , and outdoor activity 1. The interviews were conducted during the spring of , either face-to-face or by telephone, and lasted from 40 min to 2 h.

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All respondents were assured of anonymity. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The quotations included here were translated from Swedish into English. Because the interviews were semistructured, they were generally open, allowing the researcher and respondent to examine new ideas that were brought up during the interview. A number of questions were thought about well in advance, including an interview guide with topics and questions drawing on collaborative governance and SDM reasoning Table 2.

Our results also rely on the analysis of records from the seven dialogue meetings that were held and previous research on collaborative processes and SDM approaches. The results were categorized into two sections. First, we analyze how SDM has been interpreted and applied in practice with particular focus on the adaptive model in Fig. Before the collaborative process began, the Forest Agency appointed a secretariat consisting of a facilitator, or process manager, and two administrators. However, at the start of the exercise, it was decided to make some changes primarily related to the context of decision making.

Instead of acting as the decision maker and clarifying what general objective should be met, the Agency decided to formulate the task of the process in an open-ended fashion IP 1, 4. This also meant that the process came to focus more on developing decision support for future opportunities than on making an actual decision in the near future.


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A working group with a broad representation of stakeholders was set up. Several organizations chose to participate, but some stakeholders were unable to participate, which meant that the Agency had to contact a number of other stakeholders before the working group could be considered inclusive.

Particular importance was attached to ensuring that the participants held different values Swedish Forest Agency b; IP 1, 4. One important aspect of the process was engaging an independent facilitator to moderate the discussions and provide information and feedback regularly after the meetings. Right from the start, the facilitator was given quite free rein on how to interpret and proceed with the SDM approach IP 1, 4. According to the Forest Agency, the main objective of the collaborative process was to develop variants of silvicultural programs Table 3 for even-age forest management that could help landowners meet different land-use objectives.

Groups of participants brainstormed different land-use objectives and possible alternative measures in young, even-aged forest stands, as well as possible ways of estimating consequences IP 1. In other words, the aims of the process were open and general; it was up to the stakeholders to decide how to define the most important aspects IP 1. Although it was important that the discussions stayed within the current governance framework of Swedish forest use because the results would feed into current policy and practice, in reality, Swedish forest owners have considerable room to maneuver in managing their forests.

The stakeholder discussions focused solely on aspects of management in the young phase, leaving out other aspects of the rotation period such as regeneration methods after final cut and commercial thinning. It was also made clear from the beginning that consensus among the stakeholders was neither possible nor desirable. An important point of departure was that the results of the process should be useful to forest owners in their production forests.

This meant that suggestions had to be in line with the current Forest Act and general forest policy, and the Forest Agency had to be able to stand behind the final content. According to present forest policy, it is very important for the future development of a forest stand to take measures before the trees reach the size at which they can provide commercial stem wood. Therefore, precommercial thinning is recommended to improve the overall economy of a full rotation cycle, determine tree species composition, avoid mortality and self-thinning, promote the growth of remaining trees, and favor quality development of the stand.

The Forest Agency has been concerned about the low use of precommercial thinning after the deregulation of the Forest Act in the s. Another specific goal of current Swedish forest policy is to increase variety in the management of Swedish forests Swedish Forest Agency b. Thus, another important objective was to develop management alternatives that could contribute to more varied forestry and increase interest among landowners in managing the forest in the young forest phase, assuming a silvicultural system based on even-aged management IP 2.

Given these broad objectives, it was necessary to have a wide range of stakeholder viewpoints. From this point on, the main objective of the process was linked to the development of various options that forest owners could use to meet their objectives in forest management Table 4.

Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice
Environmental Policymaking and Stakeholder Collaboration: Theory and Practice

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