Changes in Selected Aspects of Environmental Management: The Case of Natura 2000 in South-Eastern Poland
Purpose: The aim of the study was to check whether in recent years there have been changes affecting selected, important aspects of managing Natura 2000 areas at the local level towards their more effective protection, and whether the attitude of local authorities to these forms of protection as a potential factor stimulating the socio-economic development of communes is changing. Design/Methodology/Approach: The panel study included a group of people managing the work of local governments in 87 municipalities located in the Lublin Voivodeship in south-eastern Poland. All these administrative units are characterized by the presence of Natura 2000 areas. The method of a diagnostic survey based on a questionnaire was used. The form contained closed-ended questions, one of the proposed options had to be selected at each point. The answers were assigned an appropriate score and statistically tested using the signs test based on the Bernoulli binomial distribution. Findings: As a result, positive changes from the point of view of nature conservation were found, such as: an increase in the number of officials with appropriate education and substantive preparation, possession by local governments of newer documentation in the field of nature inventory, increasing the frequency of carrying out environmental impact assessments and a more favorable attitude of commune mayors to the presence of Natura 2000 areas in the context of its impact on local development. At the same time, there has been a deterioration in the timeliness of spatial development studies on which local development plans are based. Practical Implications: The conclusions of the study can be used primarily by institutions responsible for the development and implementation of environmental policy. In particular, mechanisms should be taken to encourage local self-government authorities to even greater involvement in various activities for the protection of natural resources. Originality/Value: The article indicates the trends of changes in the management of protected natural values at the lowest local government level. These changes will gain in importance with the implementation of formal Natura 2000 protection plans.