French conservation groups on Monday withdrew from government consultations about managing the wolf population, describing as “unacceptable” ministers’ new proposals for checking the growing numbers of the once endangered predator.
“We have announced our definitive withdrawal from the National Wolf Group,” said Jean-David Abel of France Nature Environnement (FNE), speaking on behalf of six environmental associations.
Unveiled at the latest round of closed-door talks between environmentalists, elected officials, civil servants, the agricultural industry and hunters, the government’s wolf plan for 2024-29 has failed to satisfy either side, with farmers also complaining.
“It’s not new for the government to listen to (farmers’ union) FNSEA, the (sheep farmers’ group) FNO and the chambers of agriculture, but when it’s this unbalanced we said to ourselves ‘we’re not doing any good here’ and it’s up to the state to take responsibility for that,” Abel said.
None of the environmentalists’ proposals made earlier this year were reflected in the final text, he added.
Wolves had vanished from France but began returning in the 1990s, with farmers saying they suffered 12,000 attacks on their animals last year.
Wolf numbers were estimated at 1,104 individuals by France’s biodiversity authority this month, based on indicators including tracks, overheard wolf howls, genetic analysis and others.
Current rules allow up to 19 percent of the population to be culled.
A government source told AFP that “wolves are no longer in danger, but on the other hand there is a real danger that shepherding might disappear”.
Despite environmentalists’ complaints, FNO representative Claude Font said that under the proposed plan, “the state is trying to have it both ways and is only making everyone unhappy”.
“We wanted something more ambitious for animal husbandry,” he added, saying “the only progress is on the protocol for shooting” wolves.
Another farmers’ union, Confederation Paysanne, said the text showed “extreme weakness, which cannot help but be seen as a fresh insult by farmers”.
Beyond France, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen warned earlier this month that “the concentration of wolf packs in some European regions has become a real danger for livestock and potentially also for humans”.
She announced a review of laws protecting the predators from hunters and called for local communities, scientists and officials to submit data on wolf numbers and their impact.