This article presents an empirical interdisciplinary study of an extensive participatory process that was carried out in 2004 in the recently established World Natural Heritage Site "Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn" in the Swiss Alps. The study used qualitative and quantitative empirical methods of social science to address the question of success factors in establishing and concretizing a World Heritage Site. Current international scientific and policy debates agree that the most important success factors in defining pathways for nature conservation and protection are: linking development and conservation, involving multiple stakeholders, and applying participatory approaches. The results of the study indicate that linking development and conservation implies the need to extend the reach of negotiations beyond the area of conservation, and to develop both a regional perspective and a focus on sustainable regional development. In the process, regional and local stakeholders are less concerned with defining sustainability goals than elaborating strategies of sustainability, in particular defining the respective roles of the core sectors of society and economy. However, the study results also show that conflicting visions and perceptions of nature and landscape are important underlying currents in such negotiations. They differ significantly between various stakeholder categories and are an important cause of conflicts occurring at various stages of the participatory process.