Public participation in decision-making on conservation translocations: the importance and limitations of a legislative framework

Klein, L.G.; Arts, K.A.J.


Conservation translocations are a frequently used management tool applied by nature conservationists. Many conservation translocations have a low success rate, which is caused by various biological and societal factors. While conservation translocations are often set in human-dominated landscapes, they tend to be poorly embedded in social-ecological systems. Indeed, the primacy of biological aspects in translocation processes seems to undercut attention for societal dimensions. A key societal dimension is public participation. In this article, we identified and analyzed processes that affect the implementation of public participation. In addition, we considered whether, and under which circumstances, a legislative framework enables meaningful public participation. We used a Policy Arrangement Approach to grasp the processes at play. Sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with key-actors involved in the design and planning of conservation translocations in Scotland. Interviewees argued that inclusive decision-making was either unintentionally or deliberately neglected. Underlying causes related to regularly witnessed barriers such as traditional expert-driven approaches, entrenched power relations, and uncertainties on how to deliver open and inclusive public participation practices. Moreover, there was a mismatch between conservationists' expectations on how public participation should be implemented and recognized fundamentals of public participation, e.g. transparency and dialogue. The results demonstrate that while a legislative framework raises awareness and provides guidance, it is unable to take away current barriers. Due to the uncertainties around democratic decision-making, it is unrealistic to expect that a mere legislative framework alone would solve current challenges. Yet, conversely the absence of one may increase current challenges.