Achieving acceptance among local stakeholders is crucial for biodiversity conservation, as their often diverging interests can hamper the success of conservation projects. While research exists on the different narratives and arguments used in the international policy debates, there is not much evidence on how effective alternative arguments are in communicating the value of biodiversity to local stakeholders. This paper used a multiple case study design for sites of the European Union’s Natura 2000 network to investigate which arguments have been successfully used to persuade local stakeholders of restoration projects, funded under the EU’s LIFE program. Particular focus is given to the role of ecosystem services as arguments for nature conservation and how these relate to other instrumental and non-instrumental arguments. Instrumental arguments appeared particularly effective for commercial users, where economic interests stood against the conservation activities. But also stakeholders without commercial interest tended to be more receptive to arguments that implied a benefit for themselves or their communities, such as recreation or a cultural value. Regarding ecosystem services this study found that they should be understood as an addition to the category of instrumental arguments. Where pure economic factors were not sufficient to create a business case for conservation, ecosystem services were frequently applied to make the case for conservation stronger. Finding consensus among the different stakeholders is a key factor in achieving any conservation at all. The argument strategy should therefore always consist of a mix of instrumental and non-instrumental arguments, as only focusing on instrumental arguments might repel those individuals who seek a strong ethical motivation.