Promoting transboundary co-existence of large carnivores

Full Solution
Participants of the stakeholder workshop held in Mojstrana, Slovenia
Triglav National Park

The project used a participatory decision-making process to develop a transboundary bear management plan for a nature park in Italy (Prealpi Giulie) and an adjacent national park in Slovenia (Triglav). The project led to a joint agreement for the allocation of resources (money and staff time) toward satisfying all stakeholders concerned about brown bears in the Transboundary Julian Alps Ecoregion. Some of the actions will be implemented through jointly funded park projects from 2017-2026.

Last update: 17 Apr 2020
Challenges addressed
Loss of Biodiversity
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Managing ecological connectivity across international borders is challenged by differing laws, regulations, cultural differences, and lack of awareness and understanding of the importance of maintaining broad-extent ecological processes. There is a need for initiatives that engage local and regional stakeholders on both sides of the border through concrete transboundary management topics.
Scale of implementation
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Protected and conserved areas governance
Land management
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Outreach & communications
Science and research
Resia, Province of Udine, Italy
West and South Europe
Summary of the process
The decision process described here is a special application of the participatory structured decision-making (SDM) process being used and taught by the National Conservation Training Center (USA) and is also being taught in graduate-level university courses. Whereas previous SDM cases focus within a single country, we describe an application to a decision context for transboundary conservation involving two protected areas cooperating to conserve a common landscape subdivided by an international border. SDM is a process to inform decision-making that is often implemented using steps referred to as PrOACT (Problem framing, Objectives, Alternative strategies, Consequences, and Tradeoffs). The management decision question developed during the problem framing step (Building Block 1) helps guide the remaining SDM process. PrOACT steps are usually iterative; for example, quantitative measures for objectives (BB2) must often be defined when modelling the consequences (BB4) of management options (BB3). Conducting a sensitivity analysis (BB5) ensures the implemented option accounts for uncertainties about representativeness of stakeholders (BB1) their value trade-offs (BB4), and modelled consequences of management options (BB4).
Building Blocks
Identifying and framing the transboundary decision problem
The first step is to form a core team composed of two structured-decision-making (SDM) coaches with skills in decision analysis and workshop facilitation along with one authority representing each protected area in the transboundary region. In consultation with park directors, one primary contact person is identified as having the necessary knowledge and time availability to participate in the entire decision process. The core team then holds a series of conference calls or meetings to identify a joint transboundary management question. Between calls, the core team reviews any available management plans from the two respective protected areas and a guidance document on transboundary cooperation between the parks to identify shared management topics. The core team then formulates a concise 1-sentence transboundary conservation question, which summarizes the focal decision, associated objectives, and time-horizon: “Over the next 10 years, how can the managers of Triglav National Park and Julian Prealps Nature Park allocate their resources to best satisfy all stakeholders concerned about brown bears in the Julian Alps?”
Enabling factors
During a stakeholder workshop where the decision analysis was conducted, 10 of 12 participants provided independent feedback on each step of the SDM process via a questionnaire. Of the 10 respondents, 9 indicated that the decision question was clear and relevant to their own interests, which confirmed that the problem framing and question were valid for developing a solution.
Lesson learned
Authorities from the respective parks found it useful to independently determine whether there would be added value of transboundary cooperation on planned activities listed in their management plans and transboundary guidance document. The authorities also indicated that management of brown bear is relevant for multiple objectives for both protected areas and invokes strong interest in their stakeholder communities. By focusing on brown bear, the managers believed that it would be easier to engage a diverse set of stakeholders in addressing a key transboundary conservation issue and could serve as a useful example for applying SDM and transboundary conservation to other management topics in the Julian Alps and beyond.
Identifying joint transboundary management objectives
The first step is to identify stakeholder groups that should be considered when addressing the transboundary management question, including but not limited to the protected area staffs themselves. Six stakeholder groups were identified: nature conservation, agriculture, forestry, tourism, research, and local communities and municipalities. The core team then identifies up to 8 stakeholder representatives to include in the decision-analytic process. Each participating park authority then independently identifies 2-5 concerns and/or wishes from the perspective of each stakeholder group. Next, each core team converts the wishes and concerns into statements of objectives, and ultimate objectives are then distinguished from intermediate objectives that are only means to achieve ultimate objectives. A reduced set of three ultimate, quantifiable objectives are then identified to represent the main trade-offs and concerns across stakeholder groups while serving as measures of success for the focal transboundary conservation efforts. Focusing on a smaller number of ultimate objectives ensures feasibility and understandability for conducting the participatory decision analysis.
Enabling factors
To avoid the objectives and stakeholders being driven by one of the two participating parks, initial lists of stakeholder groups and objectives should be based on independent input from park authorities of the two respective parks in each pilot region. A group of >8 stakeholder representatives (including the park authorities) would likely require a professional facilitator, and the process described here would need to be considerably modified to address issues related to participatory decision
Lesson learned
Park authorities found it useful to organize an original set of 18 objectives into a hierarchy to recognize interrelationships among objectives and “Maintain coexistence of bears and humans” as an ultimate objective. For the decision analysis, the team selected the following ultimate objectives: 1) maintain bear population carrying capacity in the transboundary area and beyond, 2) maintain sustainable agriculture in the transboundary area, and 3) minimize stakeholder conflicts regarding bear management. Half the respondents to the stakeholder workshop survey indicated the ultimate objectives were clearly understood and representative of their concerns. Some stakeholders indicated the following issues were not addressed sufficiently: actual numbers of bears, ecotourism, positive impacts of bears, relationship between bear management and local communities, ecological requirements of bears, relevant regulations (national and regional), and practical day-to-day problems.
Transboundary management options and external factors
Working with the coaches, the park authorities identify a list of factors that have strong potential influence on the ultimate objectives and that are at least partly beyond the control of park staff. They then narrow down the external factors to a focal set that has a high degree uncertainty about their magnitude and effects on the ultimate objectives. Next, park authorities develop two alternative scenarios representing possible future trajectories for the external factors. A status quo scenario assumes that system dynamics (i.e., external factors along with their impacts and effectiveness of management activities for achieving objectives) will follow the most likely future trajectory. An optimistic scenario assumes that system dynamics are more favorable than expected for achieving the objectives. To keep the participatory decision analysis feasible, additional scenarios (e.g., pessimistic) may be documented for future analyses. After listing possible management activities, park authorities independently assign a percent allocation toward each activity in a way they believe will most likely achieve the objectives under each scenario for external factors.
Enabling factors
Initial lists of external factors and management activities were provided independently to ensure that no one park authority drives the final selection. During a workshop the core team developed a comprehensive influence diagram representing hypotheses about how ultimate objectives are influenced by management activities, resulting in a list of 9 possible activities. Joint discussions about percent allocations among activities led to adjustments to better reflect management realities.
Lesson learned
The core team identified two external factors for inclusion in the decision analysis: 1) Agreement by Alpine countries in common politics concerning large carnivores. 2) Perceived level of competence of protected areas from perspective of stakeholders, allowing for their acceptance of carrying out park management activities and associated outcomes related to bear management. Eight of 10 respondents to the stakeholder-workshop questionnaire indicated that the external factors and possible management activities were clearly understood, although some suggestions were given to consider: 1) changes in stakeholder perceptions of large carnivores; 2) bear management in other parts of the population; 3) economic conditions for sheep breeding; 4) hunters lobbying for an open bear season; 5) adequate prevention tools for mountain pastures; 6) bear-related ecotourism should account for differences between parks in accessibility for tourists.
Modelling transboundary consequences and trade-offs
Through workshops and conference calls, the core team develops a concise influence diagram that represents the key hypothesized relationships between the possible actions, external factors, and ultimate objectives. The coaches use this diagram as a conceptual basis when developing a Bayesian decision network, which allows for assigning stakeholder values and probabilities within the influence diagram. The Bayesian decision network therefore provides a visualization of the quantitative decision model. Within another workshop setting that includes the 8 representative stakeholders and up to 2 experts, the coaches ask each participant to individually provide numerical inputs for the model. There are two types of questions for the elicitation on a scale from 0 to 100%: 1) percent chance that a given external factor or ultimate objective will follow a particular trajectory while accounting other external factors and allocation options; 2) percent satisfaction with each possible combination of outcomes for the three ultimate objectives. During a following discussion, stakeholders agree on set of predictions and satisfaction scores to represent the averages among participants in the decision analysis.
Enabling factors
Face-to-face interactions among core team members are essential for developing and filling in the decision model, considering that many participants are not accustomed to modeling. Reducing categories per variable in the Bayesian decision network to 2-3 ensures that the analysis is feasible. Conducting the analysis requires expertise in workshop facilitation, elicitation of quantitative inputs from stakeholders, multi-criteria decision analysis, and Bayesian belief networks.
Lesson learned
For transparency it is useful to have two versions of the influence diagram: a comprehensive one representing all hypothesized relationships and a concise one representing only the relationships with a high degree of uncertainty and relevance to the decision. To ensure understanding of the elicitation, coaches should provide participants background information and a written guide for providing their independent inputs for the analysis. It is essential that participants provide their inputs individually to avoid a subset of participants driving the outcome of the analysis. The coaches should inform participants that the model inputs only represent perspectives of participants at the workshop and that a forthcoming sensitivity analysis can guide future modeling and estimation work. Participants are more motivated to provide quantitative inputs for the BDN when they are informed that it provides a visual and quantitative justification for how the recommended decision is determined.
Determining & implementing transboundary resource allocation
The recommended allocation option is defined as the one with the greater expected stakeholder satisfaction, which is calculated based on inputs and structure of the Bayesian decision network. Recognizing uncertainties about elicited predictions and satisfaction levels, analysts conduct a sensitivity analysis explore whether the recommended allocation changes depending on the set of inputs used for the analysis. In particular, they run the analysis twice: once using the averaged inputs and then a second time based only the input (from the individual) for each variable that is most favorable for the opposing allocation option (i.e., the option with the lower expected satisfaction under the averaged inputs). If the recommendation changes following the second model run, then the analysts use results from both model runs to calculate the expected value of perfect information. This calculation represents the expected percent increase in satisfaction if the uncertainties about the variables and relationships in the model are fully resolved through further research. This provides a way to check the robustness of the recommended allocation to uncertainty and can lead to recommendations for further research to improve decision-making.
Enabling factors
Conducting the sensitivity analysis requires expertise in multi-criteria decision analysis, Bayesian belief networks, and calculating the expected value of perfect information.
Lesson learned
Using averaged inputs, expected satisfaction with the optimistic allocation option was 11% greater than the status-quo allocation. Some participants indicated that local farmers and agriculture interests were poorly represented at the workshop. When using only those inputs from the agricultural representative at the workshop, the optimistic allocation remained the preferred option by 10%. The status-quo allocation only became preferred when status-quo favourable inputs were used for at least two of the three ultimate objectives. This indicates that if more evidence becomes available that supports the inputs that favour the status-quo allocation, then this could change the recommendation to following the status-quo. If uncertainty about management effectiveness is completely resolved through additional information, expected satisfaction could increase by up to 5%. This is the maximum expected value of conducting further research to inform the decision model.

The joint, participatory process led to improved stakeholder engagement and allowed for more frequent communication between authorities of the two protected areas. Authorities from each park came to a common understanding of shared objectives, actions, external factors at least partly beyond their control, and their linkages regarding bear management. The project generated a decision-analytic tool that can be expanded to inform an adaptive bear-management program. The authorities also learned about structured decision making as a participatory decision-analytic process, which they recognized can be applied in other projects. The agreed upon actions are expected to help increase carrying capacity of brown bears within and beyond the TB area by >50%, maintain sustainable agriculture by retaining small farms, and minimize conflict among stakeholder groups. During the project, Slovenian park authorities successfully lobbied for a change in legislation that reduced administrative hurdles to remove bears from the wild following disturbances to private property. Reducing this administrative burden will improve the public perception of protected area management of brown bear in the TB region.

Protected area authorities; Stakeholder groups: agricultural organizations, local research institutions, local tourism organization, local municipalities.
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 15 – Life on land
Triglav National Park
Stakeholder workshop on transboundary bear management held in Mojstrana, Slovenia
Triglav National Park
The one-day stakeholder workshop held in Mojstrana, Slovenia was an important moment for the Julian Alps Transboundary Ecoregion, as it was the first time that stakeholder groups from both sides of the Italian- Slovenian border met to address a focused natural resource management and transboundary conservation issue. Although much time was spent on the decision analysis, there were also opportunities for the 12 participants to speak together openly about their concerns and wishes regarding bear management in the TB area. One participant talked about how challenging it is to manage conflicts between bears and mountain farmers. Bear-proof fences are next to impossible to install due to the rugged terrain, and so to protect their sheep the farmers must hire personnel to help them monitor and deter bears around the clock. They struggled to see the value in discussing long-term allocation decisions for the protected areas when stakeholders need immediate help in dealing with human-bear conflicts on a day-to-day basis. The park managers, however, were convinced that the process was useful and they were happy that the workshop brought these representatives together and worked through this very contentious and complex issue in a productive way. They acknowledged that the day-to-day issues can only be addressed if there is a good transboundary coordination between both protected areas and other stakeholder groups, which requires first a long-term strategy before focusing in on the finer-scale issues. Indeed, most participants indicated in the workshop questionnaire that the structured decision making process could be successfully applied to address other natural resource management and conservation issues in the Julian Alps and beyond.
Connect with contributors
Other contributors
Brady Mattsson
Institute of Silviculture, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna Austria
Andrej Arih
Triglav National Park, Bled, Slovenia
Stefano Santi
Prealpi Giulie Nature Park, Resia, Italy
Harald Vacik
Institute of Silviculture, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna Austria