Since the collapse of Central and Eastern Europe's communist regimes in the early 1990s, the ensuing environmental, social and economic changes have permitted development of new forms of multi-level governance. However, a coherent participatory approach to environmental conservation is yet to emerge. This review examines the changing approaches in environmental conservation and protected area governance in Romania during the country's pre-communist, communist, transition and current European Union eras. Three case examples are examined in depth to assess how changing environmental governance is playing out in practice in Natura 2000 sites, in a national park, and on privately owned (unprotected) forest land. Similar to other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Romania's environmental governance practices still face substantial challenges in consolidating an inclusive and integrated approach to environmental governance and conservation. A lack of historical involvement of communities in decision making, reluctance within government to drive forward more inclusive environmental governance approaches, and a lack of non-governmental organizations focusing on environmental conservation, have resulted in slow progress towards more inclusive environmental governance. Civil society and solutions for institutionalizing participation across all levels of governance are needed to reorient environmental governance towards a more inclusive and multi-stakeholder approach that better links economic, social and environmental objectives.