5 years ago

The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

Cheryl de Boer, Hans

Cheryl de Boer, Hans Bressers RIVER RENATURALIZATION AS A STRATEGY FOR ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS 1) Openness to synergies with other policies’ and actors’ goals and interests The wealth of combinations of goals and interests that are observed in these projects is presented as a strategy as such. Openness to synergies helps make the most efficient use of public money from various sources and of scarce space in a dense country. It also increases the likelihood of achieving actor constellations with supportive characteristics for project progression. 2) The management of relations: Learning to build trust This strategy relates to building relationships and trust with relevant actors before the project begins. Various institutional arenas for the process exist because there are different legal and voluntary possibilities for framing e.g. river renaturalization sub-projects. Sometimes it’s better to refrain from institutional settings that provide legal coercion options, because they are hard to use and can cause widespread resistance. Choosing a voluntary approach can be seen as a strategy to improve the likelihood of development of sufficient trust and commitment. Trust is also of key importance in the relationships between the members of project teams. Learning from past projects plays an important role: who to ask (or not), how to build trust, how to build informal contact. Likewise, good cooperation can be presented as a positive example to support the development of relationships desired in the future. More generally, conceding on some issues can be used as a calculated risk to help build a level of shared trust that will have future returns. 3) Blurring the boundaries of the process phases In many examples we saw the early involvement of some actors that would otherwise typically appear in later phases of the process. Landowners in the area and neighbouring citizens were asked very early on in the process what wishes they had for the development of the area. The early involvement of Landscape Overijssel (or other nature organizations that would end up managing the project area) was also seen to have been helpful in a number of projects. The traditional distinctions between the various phases of the process are deliberately blurred through this process. While this can increase complexity when performed in an extreme manner, it can also prevent situations in which the later involvement of new actors blocks the process or leads to other unpleasant surprises. One way to reduce the additional complexity is by dividing the project into smaller geographical sub-projects. This is exactly what was observed to have happened in the Regge renaturalization process. 4) Knowing your context Getting acquainted with local knowledge can improve the projects as it is generally very useful to be aware of existing opportunities. Proactive information gathering can result in acquiring information on municipal plans, which when received early enough can in turn enable cooperation on further studies that can be used to help inform decision makers. Chances to create goodwill in ways that can be included into the project without much difficulty are also made more likely. Through thoughtful and early communication it is possible to understand the motivations of the people involved and can make it possible to influence them. 5) Strengthening your position in advance Purchasing land in the time preceding project development in order to possess the resource position of a private landowner in the area is also often used as a strategy. Sometimes this is a 102

Cheryl de Boer, Hans Bressers RIVER RENATURALIZATION AS A STRATEGY FOR ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS matter of stepping into a “window of opportunity” at the right time such as when a farmer decides to quit farming and is willing to sell the land. In several ways this kind of resource can be put into use during later phases of the process; the land itself can be used for the project, although it can also be exchanged for other lands which are needed for the project. Buying land in anticipation of future project needs is a substantial investment, yet it has the benefit of avoiding both resistance and possible price pressures compared to buying land at the time a project needs to be realized at a particular spot. 6) Seizing opportunities when they arise: Surfing the waves There are good examples of advantageously using timing: opportunities that would support the broader renaturalization vision were taken as soon as they occurred. Actions that would enable the project to move forward with quick wins were taken in order to build momentum, leaving issues related to tougher areas for a later time when more resources would be available. The Waterboard also found that on a number of occasions it was not optimal to start a project on its own, but to wait and to latch onto an existing initiative or when a new Area Development project started. In this case another actor, the Municipality for example, would become the main director of the process. This can have disadvantages under adversarial conditions, but has mainly advantages for the Waterboard when the goals are in accordance with one another. 7) Direct personal communication It was very important to have as much direct personal communication with stakeholders as possible. Often talking with farmers and neighbours is the only way to overcome clashes of fundamentally different “readings of reality”. Open consultation was also key when dealing with institutional stakeholders. Creativity was important in order to be able to support each other’s interests and enable the creation of an upward spiral which would eventually result in the development of other valuable resources, such as trust. Consequently it is not just a matter of communicating, but also of being open and moreover really trying to advance others’ interests whenever they are or can be made sufficiently compatible with one’s own. 6 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION This article outlined how practitioners in the Regge River Valley who are working on establishing and protecting natural linkages zones along rivers deal with the complex and dynamic settings they have to work in. On the basis of a larger research project in which numerous subprojects of Regge river restoration in the Netherlands were analyzed with the help of Contextual Interaction Theory [6], we identified seven strategies that were used quite regularly. These strategies do not seem to be very surprising given the perspective that “flexible governance regimes” and “adaptive management” form a prudent way forward in a web of dynamic and complex interdependencies. They are however still not seen to be commonly understood by actors that still strive for the formal certainty of linear project planning, even when actual project realization can be less, not more certain this way. An implication of this is that both practitioners and their organizations can benefit from developing capacities that typically were not taught in their professional training but are essential for successful “boundary spanning”. 103

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