Addressing stakeholder concerns key to project success
Monday, December 4, 2017
Posted by: Rebecca Shoer
Young mixed species tree planting (Photo by Luke Shoo)
A new Australian study shows just how much environmental restoration projects can benefit by involving stakeholders from the very beginning of the planning process.
The goal of restoration projects is to assist in the recovery of damaged habitats. These projects not only need scientists and researchers to succeed—they need land managers, local officials, and stakeholders, too. Often, however, local stakeholders are left out of the planning process, which ultimately makes the projects less successful.
Dr. Angela Guerrero Gonzalez of The University of Queensland and her colleagues developed a formal “structured decision making” (SDM) system, which clearly guides researchers, planners, and stakeholder groups through the planning and decision process.
“This framework includes tools such as surveys and workshops, plus specific steps for setting project targets” she said. “We also created a method for gathering different stakeholder ‘values’: is it important for a restored ecosystem to provide timber? Walking trails? Wildlife habitat?”
To demonstrate the SDM approach, the researchers partnered with the City of Gold Coast, which was looking for a formal restoration process to ensure that public spending across approximately 800 conservation parks was effective, efficient, and transparent. One key detail of the SDM approach was clearly communicating the objectives of the restoration projects, as well as the benefits, costs, and trade-offs of completing them.
“It’s important to make these trade-offs clear,” says Gonzalez, “so that they can be understood and negotiated between stakeholders.”
The study showed how to account for different values, and also how to incorporate stakeholders’ expectations and preferences. After running planning workshops with restorationists and key decision makers, Gonzalez and her team found that the key objectives of the projects didn’t always match the expectations of the public. Since the workshop, the research team has been working with the local government in the City of Gold Coast to develop a new decision support tool to help allocate restoration funds. This work will guide future management decisions about where to undertake restoration projects in an environment where there are competing priorities, while also maximising the return on investment.
The study, Using structured decision making to set restoration objectives when multiple values and preferences exist, is published in Restoration Ecology (doi: 10.1111/rec.12591).
Funded by ARC CEED and the Australian Research Council Linkage Program, the project also involved researchers from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences, Murdoch University, Griffith University, University of Melbourne, City of Gold Coast, and Santa Clara University, U.S.
About Restoration Ecology
Restoration Ecology is the Society’s bi-monthly scientific and technical peer-reviewed journal published Edited by a distinguished international panel, the journal addresses global concerns and communicates them to researchers and practitioners throughout the world
The Society for Ecological Restoration is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and re-establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.
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Dr. Angela Guerrero Gonzalez