Conservation conflict: managing forestry versus hen harrier species under Europe's Birds Directive

Nana O. Bonsu, Barry J. Mcmahon, Seline Meijer, Juliette C. Young, Amelia Keane, Áine Ní Dhubháin

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7 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we examine an example of a conservation conflict that is encountered in Ireland arising from the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the Hen Harrier under the European Birds Directive (Directive, 2009/147/EC) and the consequent restrictions that are placed on forestry activities within these SPAs. We examine the causes of the Hen Harrier-forestry conflict; identify what stakeholders believe are the policy instruments and management strategies that may be useful in managing the conflict and finally identify plausible solutions that may be relevant to similar conflicts around multi-functional forests elsewhere in Europe and globally. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with key actors in this conflict. Drawing on Walker and Daniels’ conflict triangle theory, a qualitative analysis of the transcripts of these interviews revealed that the conflict between Hen Harrier conservation and forestry in Ireland has a number of deep-rooted dimensions including those relating to the substance (e.g. restrictions on forest management activity in the SPAs), as well as procedural (e.g. lack of stakeholder engagement) and relationship dimensions (e.g. lack of trust). The polarisation of views in this conflict testifies to how entrenched stakeholders can become through lack of communication and trust. The policy instruments that stakeholders identified as having potential to address the conflict include the introduction of incentives/compensation scheme; changes to restrictions; more data and research on Hen Harrier bird surveys; implementation of landscape management models; and better communication and stakeholder engagement. The study highlights that conservation conflicts persist due to the multi-functional nature of forests and also due to repeated mistakes in terms of the lack of engagement with local stakeholders. Increasing the involvement of local actors has important substantive and instrumental benefits including improving the quality of decisions, as well as creating a greater chance of policies being better socially and politically acceptable. The need for more and better capacity-building across EU Member States for statutory and government agencies to learn from one another in terms of how to avoid repeating the same mistakes from one site to another is highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109676
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date12 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2019


  • Forestry
  • Conservation conflict
  • Hen harrier
  • Conflict triangle
  • Trust


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