Power of Forest Stakeholders in the Participatory Decision Making Process: A Case Study in Northern Italy

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In European countries, current forest use aims to enhance goods and services supplied by forest ecosystems, taking into account the multiple needs and interests of society through a participatory process. A successful participatory process requires a thorough analysis of stakeholders’ perceptions and preferences. The aim of this paper is to investigate the differences between stakeholders’ perceived influence and real power in forest management. A questionnaire survey was carried out among 51 forest stakeholders in a case study in the Italian Alps. Perceived influence was measured by asking stakeholders to rate on a 5-point scale the extent to which they can influence forest management issues. Real power was analyzed using social network analysis (SNA), investigating the relationships that stakeholders have with each other in the network. Real power was measured using a Freeman’s degree centrality measure, which focuses on the direct ties coming in and out for each stakeholder. The results show that public administration is the category of stakeholders with the most power in all forest management issues, while the actors of the tourism sector are in a marginal position. In addition, the results of the study suggest that in many cases stakeholders have a distorted perception of their own power.

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