Local stakeholder participation as a tool for adaption of national decisions to local claims

The PhD project investigates how local stakeholder participation in a national park planning process resulted in adaptation of the national decision to the stakeholders opinion as much as possible. The specific case is a trailing research work of the protection plan process of Breheimen National Park (2006-2009) in Norway. The planning process has been steered by the County Governor of Sogn & Fjordane. Local participation has comprised land owners, village associations and Luster Municipality.

The PhD study has three focal points:
-    How local participation in the planning process influenced the plan
-    How national authorities influence the freedom of action in the planning process
-    How national decisions could be adapted to local conditions and claims

The over-arching research question: How does the process design influence the plan and the effects of the planning process? I argue that the both the local stakeholders and the County Governor have carried two kinds of rationalities: 1) An exchange rationality where solutions are reached through the logic of exchange of goods (decisions) between to groups of stakeholders (the locals and the County Governor’s Office). The local stakeholders managed to influence decisions, while the authorities tended to avoid conflict. According to this rationale, the issue at stake has been as important as the process design. National authorities limited the possible scope of action for adaptation to local needs. 2) On the other hand, a mutual understanding of what measures are required to secure cultural landscape qualities developed during the process. This change was a result of an innovative process design with various tools and measures intended to absorb the locals stakeholders’ claims, desires and ambitions. In this situation, the County Governor and the local stakeholders managed to create institutional changes approved by the Ministry of Environment in spite of resistance from the Directorate for Nature Management.

Eivind Brendehaug holds a Master’s in Agriculture Economics from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences from 1989. From 1998 he has worked with applied research at Western Norway Research Institute in Sogndal. Research topics have included local and organic food value chain development and how tourism, protected areas, and local community development might be combined to secure living conditions for local inhabitants.