Our experience and observations show that the number of comprehensive initiatives aiming at protecting National Parks in Poland and optimising their functioning is insufficient. The current legal system prevents the creation of new Parks and expansion of the existing ones, while Parks as such are constantly underfinanced. High positions happen to be filled with people lacking necessary knowledge about the natural environment but having the ‘right’ political connections. We can see that the functioning of National Parks often generates negative reactions among local governments, foresters and hunters, even though most Poles approve of activities supporting National Parks (according to an opinion poll conducted by Kantar Public in 2018, 84% of respondents supported the extension of the National Park to the entire Białowieska forest). At the same time, however, there are no initiatives building communication between various stakeholder groups and addressing the existing conflicts.
We will address these problems by organising two workshop cycles with a mediator for the representatives of both National Parks and local authorities in 5 locations in Poland in which the topic of National Parks is most controversial. During these workshops we will gather participants’ demands and will work on possible changes in the functioning of National Parks. We will hold a survey and consultation meetings among current and former National Park employees to discuss their fears, expectations and proposed changes. We will also invite trade unions to join the consultations. We will organise a social campaign on problems and opportunities related to the functioning of protected areas. We will create a white book of proposed changes in legal regulations and will present it during a conference attended by invited politicians, representatives of local governments, National Parks, the world of science and media.