Protected area governance has witnessed a shift from a strict-nature conservation model towards a seemingly more participatory approach in Nepal. Despite some progress, top-down and non-deliberative processes characterise policy making in protected area. However, many civil society actors have increasingly challenged the government to provide space for local people in decision making so that their rights to natural resources are considered. This article examines two key aspects of the politics of policy process: why conservation policy making is often less deliberative than it could be and why civil actors pick up some policy decisions (not others) for contestation. In doing so, we analyse a recent policy decision of the Nepal government on the protected area which encountered civic contestation. Drawing on the review of policy decisions and interviews with government authorities, civic leaders and protected area experts, this paper shows that the government and large conservation organisations continue to shape the policy process while undermining the legitimate voices of local and non-state actors in the conservation policy landscape. Civic resistance as a means of democratising policy processes looks promising, challenging unquestioned authorities of the government and conservation organisations. Nevertheless, the politics of resistance has enjoyed limited success due to the political interests of civic institutions and their leaders, at times overshadowing critical policy agenda such as the severity of rights constrained and issues of poverty and marginalisation. This article suggests that civic actors need to rethink over their politics of resistance in terms of pursuing agenda and strategies to ramp up policy deliberation.