Management plan – what is it and what is it for?

There are 409 protected areas in Croatia. In addition, Natura 2000 includes 745 conservation areas important for species and habitat types and 38 conservation areas important for birds (Special Protection Areas – SPA).

The mere declaration of the protection of an area cannot achieve the preservation of the values for which it was declared. It is necessary to monitor changes permanently and, if necessary, implement activities to improve the state of the area. It is also necessary to monitor and influence the human activities that take place in that area. In cases where these activities represent pressure, they should be limited and adjusted, and when they contribute to improving the state of value, they should be encouraged.

Protected and Natura 2000 areas management

When managing protected areas, it is necessary to deal with various issues, from the preservation of natural and cultural values to the sustainable use of natural resources, visitor management, cooperation with stakeholders and capacity building of institutions that manage with these areas.

Protected and Natura 2000 areas are managed by public institutions, based on management documents, such as: management plan, annual program for the protection, maintenance, preservation, promotion and use of protected areas, ordinance on protection and preservation, decision on protection and preservation measures, spatial plan of areas of special characteristics, etc. Management documents are used to plan and regulate the implementation of the preservation of protected area values.


Management plans

One public institution can manage many areas and therefore must allocate its resources to all of them. From the point of view of manager, it is useful to have all the objectives and activities that are planned to be implemented listed in one place, that is, in one strategic document. This strategic document is actually a management plan for a protected area and/or Natura 2000 area, and it is the result of a dynamic, repetitive process in which it is decided what is to be achieved and what needs to be done.

Based on the Nature Protection Law, public institutions are obliged to develop management plans for protected and Natura 2000 areas.

The management plan is adopted for a period of 10 years with the possibility of modification after 5 years. During this time, it is being implemented through annual programs for the protection, preservation, use and promotion of the protected area. The plan includes an analysis of the state of the protected area and Natura 2000 area, management objectives and activities to achieve them, indicators of the implementation of the plan and management zones. The plan should aim to establish ideal objectives, but in accordance with recognized realistic circumstances. Also, the plan should be based on the best available knowledge at the time of its development.

Participatory process of management plan development


The development of the plan is a process in which, in addition to the employees of the public institution, the stakeholders of a particular area are also involved. The planning process is as important as the plan itself. Stakeholders are all those who have their share, rights and/or interest in the implementation of the management plan in such a way that they can lose or gain something from its implementation. Stakeholder participation implies the possibility that those who are directly or indirectly related to the management plan can contribute to its development with their views, knowledge, experience, or ideas. The stakeholder’s involvement in management planning is called participatory planning.

Public participation within the process of the adoption of individual management plan is possible through statements, proposals, and remarks during the public consultations, which is implemented by the competent public institution.

Adoption and obligations arising from management plans

The management plan is valid after the official consent of the ministry responsible for nature protection issues and approval by the management board of the competent public institution. Valid management plans are publicly available on the websites of public institutions for the management of individual protected areas.

The management plan is a strategic document whose primary purpose is the strategic management of activities that will be carried out by the competent public institution in the protected area. However, it is also the strategic basis for the adoption of regulatory documents, by-laws which regulate human activities in the protected area. Everyone (including legal entities) is obliged to respect the provisions of the management plan when conducting their activities and when implementing projects and acts that may have an impact on the protected area.

The structure of the management plan, plan development process and the adoption procedure are described in more detail in the national Guidelines for planning the management of protected areas and/or Natura 2000 areas (Croatian only). Alignment of the development method, structure, and content of management plans at the national level is extremely important in order to monitor protected areas effectiveness.

What is the Sunce role in management plans?

Since 2010, Sunce has been dedicatedly working on the development of management plan standards for protected areas, capacity building of public institutions,  strengthening of intersectoral collaboration and the stakeholder engagement in the process. Sunce also coordinates the development of the plans.

We can proudly say that to date we have held over 100 stakeholder workshops for management planning and coordinated the development of 16 management plans for over 20 coastal and marine protected areas and 70 Natura 2000 areas. These documents are the result of knowledge, expertise, and collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the long-term conservation of these precious areas.


• Nature Protection Law (OG 80/13, 15/18, 14/19, 127/19)
• Decree on the Natura 2000 and the competences of public institutions for managing Natura 2000 areas (OG 80/19)
• Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (2020): Guidelines for planning the management of protected areas and/or Natura 2000 areas. Version 1.1. UNDP, Croatia.