Stakeholder participation is now widely viewed as an essential component of environmental management projects, but limited research investigates how practitioners perceive the major challenges and strategies for implementing high-quality participation. In order to address this gap, we present findings from a survey and interviews conducted with managers and advisory committee leaders in a case study of United States and binational (US and Canada) Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Our findings suggest that recruiting and integrating participants and sustaining participation over the long term present distinctive ongoing challenges that are not fully recognized in existing conceptualizations of the process of implementing participation. For example, it can be difficult to recruit active stakeholders to fill vacant "slots," to integrate distinctive interests and perspectives in decision-making processes, and to keep participants involved when activity is low and less visible. We present strategies that emerged in the survey and interviews for addressing these challenges, emphasizing the building and leveraging of relationships among stakeholders themselves. Such strategies include balancing tight networks with an openness to new members, supplementing formal hearings with social gatherings, making participation socially meaningful, and dividing labor between managers and advisory committees.