The national park pilot process introducing new forms of governance in Danish nature politics

Citation:
Boon, TE; Lund DH; NI. The national park pilot process introducing new forms of governance in Danish nature politics.; 2009.

Abstract:

The present report constitutes part of the Danish contribution to the European research project New Modes of Governance for Sustainable Forests in Europe (GoFOR). It builds on the conceptual framework developed during the GoFOR project and is structured according to the corresponding Terms of Reference. The National Park Pilot Process (NPP) was to identify options for establishing national parks in Denmark. The expected output was a non-binding input to policy formulation. The Minister of Environment (MoE) enquired counties and municipalities of six areas whether they were interested in hosting a pilot project. The Outdoor Council, an umbrella NGO for outdoor and environmental NGOs, entered the political arena, adding 2 ½ million Euro to the project and entered into an agreement with the Minister of Environment regarding how to implement the pilot projects, and it was decided to support pilot projects in seven areas. In the following phase, the MoE initiated the process by sketching out rough guidelines for the organisation of the pilot projects to the counties and municipalities. The pilot projects were to elaborate a report with recommendations on how to organise a prospective National park. Locally, the pilot projects were led by steering committees headed by (in most cases) mayors from the municipality assisted by the local state forest districts and with representatives from a broad range of organisations. At the national level a national advisory group was set up with members representing different Ministries, NGOs and the chairmen of the seven steering committees. The purpose of this committee was to assist in carrying out relevant investigations and to compile the reports from the seven pilot projects elaborating one final report to be submitted to the MoE. So far the process has resulted in the elaboration of a draft proposal for a National Park Act. From the initiation and onwards, the Government rhetoric was dominated by wanting a voluntary approach, extensive participation by landowners and other local stakeholders, and an intersectoral solution. Along with a participatory approach, expert knowledge was attributed a significant role. Participation The NPP was initiated and framed ‘from above’, and can best be characterised as a governance process induced and embraced by Government. The identification and appointment of the pilot project areas was a bilateral communication between the MoE and the mayors of the municipalities. If a municipality did not want to join, that area was omitted. From a local perspective this may be fair insofar as the mayors are elected representatives of the local population. But it also meant that possible areas of national interests were omitted without national stakeholders having a say in it. Within this government induced process, the pilot projects took a bottom-up approach. In pilot project ‘Kongernes Nordsjælland’ the steering committee initiated the establishing of thematic groups which prepared a number of proposals which were brought up at a citizen summit for (what was intended as a socio-demographically representative) deliberating dialogue and voting procedure. There was a high degree of transparency and information, tending towards information overflow in the pilot projects. The process managed to involve new stakeholders, notably the local mayors, who traditionally have not been involved in nature policy, since nature and agriculture was beyond the jurisdiction of the municipalities, until the Structural Reform in 2007. But the organisers of the process, the Forest and Nature Agency found it difficult to mobilise the ‘ordinary citizens’ despite active efforts. iv Experiences from pilot project ‘Kongernes Nordsjælland’ indicated that the NPP had problems dealing with minority viewpoints: The one main conflict was that Agriculture wanted to restrict the national park area to already publicly owned areas, whereas the proposal that evolved from the steering committee included corridors on privately owned land. The Agricultural organisations played a hesitant role in the process and left at the end, proposing their own suggestion for demarcation. Intersectoral coordination There is tradition for involving interest groups from different sectors in decision-making in Denmark, yet the ISC was more formalised and deliberately emphasised in this process than formerly, and as a new thing, the local level was involved. Prior to the Structural Reform 2007, nature policies related to the national and county level, and agricultural policies entirely to EU and the national level. By establishing a discussion at local level too, the ‘column-like’ character of the nature and agricultural sectors was partly dissolved. Multilevel governance The degree of Multi-level governance varies with the phase we look at. Seen as a whole, the NPP was a top-down governed process. The pilot project phase was bottom-up with active involvement of local levels, but the pilot projects were evaluated by the national advisory group, and the parliamentary statement and draft Act on National parks was prepared by the National Forest and Nature Agency for the Minister of Environment. It appears the decision-making power lies with the MoE, the National Forest and Nature Agency and the Outdoor Council. Expertise There was a focus on the need to investigate specified topics, defined by the MoE/NFNA. Many experts participated from various research institutions, consultancy firms, counties and NFNA. In principle there was rich opportunity for contesting viewpoints. In practice, it was division of work within strictly limited time. The final expert reports were not included in the discussions for time reasons. Still, the new thing was that experts got closer to the public, i.e. experts were asked to report on their methods towards the broad public, possibly strengthening accountability. A report about biodiversity came up in the middle of the process, showing that the chosen pilot projects were not optimal from a (insect) biodiversity perspective. This information was deliberately set aside by most stakeholders, even the Danish Society of Nature Conservation. Adaptive and iterative planning The aim of the process was to decide if and how National parks should be established. In that sense the process was part of and adaptive, iterative planning process, because this question was addressed at national, local and then again national level. There was a great degree of complexity and uncertainty, as during the pilot project phase it was uncertain if pilot projects would ever be implemented.

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