Management of Natura 2000 sites in Italy: An exploratory study on stakeholders’ opinions

https://doi.org/10.17221/52/2016-JFSCitation:De Meo I., Brescancin F., Graziani A., Paletto A. (2016): Management of Natura 2000 sites in Italy: An exploratory study on stakeholders’ opinions. J. For. Sci., 62: 511-520.
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The Natura 2000 network includes the sites of community importance identified by Directive 92/43/EEC and the special protection areas defined by Directive 79/409/EEC. This network can be considered the cornerstone of the European Union (EU) nature conservation policy in order to ensure the long-term protection of endangered species in their natural habitats. The European Union has adopted an integration approach to the Natura 2000 network. The integration approach is based on combining human activities and nature conservation purposes in Natura 2000 sites and in neighbouring areas. Furthermore, the stakeholders’ involvement in the site management is considered a fundamental point for the success of the network. The application of integration approach in Italy was different from one region to another, often presenting a framework where institutional actors collaborate with environmental non-governmental organizations and other groups. These stakeholders influence the Natura 2000 implementation with different strategies, increasing the complexity and unpredictability of the policy outcomes. The objective of this study is to analyse stakeholders’ opinions concerning the coexistence of different human activities in the Italian Natura 2000 sites. In order to achieve this objective a semi-structured questionnaire was administered by email to 146 stakeholders. 56 stakeholders filled in the questionnaire and the collected data were statistically processed. The stakeholders assessed the importance of five human activities (nature conservation, environmental education, recreational activities, agricultural activities and forestry activities) in Natura 2000 sites through a pairwise comparison and identified the main opportunities and obstacles of the network. The results show that the most relevant activities are nature conservation and environmental education according to stakeholders’ opinions. In addition, the respondents highlighted that the main opportunities are the possibility of access to EU funding and the enhancement of local green economy, while the main obstacle is the restriction of agricultural and forestry practices not adequately compensated.
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