Public engagement with nature and nature policy

Over the last decades, conservationists and policy makers increasingly realise that for the long-term conservation of nature and biodiversity, citizens need to support and be involved in nature conservation policy and management. This was the reason for the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency to initiate research into public engagement with nature and nature policy. Since 1996, Wageningen University and Research has conducted five public opinion surveys in order to understand how the Dutch think about and interact with nature. Public engagement has always an important topic in nature policy, however, the interpretation of it has changed throughout the years: initially nature management was considered to be a task of experts and policy makers, currently green self-governance and other forms of co-management are considered to be good alternatives.
Unclear is how public engagement with nature has developed and how it interferes with the development in policy discourses regarding public engagement. Consequently, the aim of this research is to analyse how changes in nature policy are related to changes in public engagement with nature and nature policy.
Research methods are twofold. Firstly, we will conduct a discourse analysis of nature policy. Main input for this analysis are interviews with key policy makers and key policy documents during the period 1990-2015. We will distract both the main arguments with respect to public engagement as well as the way they are used in mutual coherence.
Secondly, we will carry out a longitudinal analysis of public engagement survey data during the period 1996-2017. We will develop indicators for (i) importance of nature conservation, (ii) support for nature policy and (iii) public behaviour while using, protecting and deciding for nature. Thirdly, we will analyse the interdependencies between policy discourses and public opinons. Main output  will be: report (early 2018), workshops and scientific articles.