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Wild River in France

In France, a new voluntary-based river certification system “Rivières sauvages” has officially labelled the Valserine as first wild river. Located in the South-East, in French departments Jura and Ain, the Valserine stretches over about 47 km and encounters only few urban zones. Its well preserved natural character includes numerous emblematic species (home to 155 protected species), excellent water quality, relevant trout populations and high quality river bank habitats largely covered by forests.

The Valserine is however not totally intact and threatened by invasive species, garbage deposits, and modified portions. A small dam dating from 1912 and a hydrological station led to discussions whether or not to discern the label, but these relatively low human modifications were finally tolerated by the scientific committee.

To engage towards a future protection of the Valserine, local partners and managers have signed a four year commitment (2015-2018) to maintain the river quality, improve critical points and protect the Valserine against threats such as eventual oil and shale gas exploration.

A workshop was held in Lyon on 11 May 2015 to discuss modalities on how to adapt the certification criteria to larger river systems.

The label and trust fund “Rivières sauvages” has been founded in 2011 by WWF-France in partnership with the European River Network. The Valserine was the first pilot river to become certified following a set of 45 criteria (looking at water quality, hydromorphology, biodiversity, soil occupation, habitats, human presence), six further pilot rivers in France are planned to undergo the labialisation in 2015 and 3 more rivers are planned European-wide.

The European Wilderness Society welcomes and congratulates the French initiative which meets its objective to develop a wathershed wilderness criteria system to be implemented across Europe jointly with leading partner organisations and institutions.

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About Author

Max A. E. Rossberg is an avid WIlderness Advocates with extensive experience in Sustainable Tourism Strategies and Multistakeholder planning processes.

2 Comments

  1. Alexander Zinke on

    Thanks, this is good news from wetsdern Europe! Even if we have only very few 100% untouched rivers in Europe (most being rather small), it is important to maintain those rivers with still long dynamic sections, such as the Tagliamento in Italy, the Oulanka in Finland or the Vjosa in Albania. For candidates like the Ammer/DE or the Soca/SI I am afraid that already too many deteriorations exist and one should refrain from labelling them “wild river”.

  2. Katrin Schikorr on

    Thanks for the comment – for information
    further planned pilot rivers in France are parts of the Ain, the Doubs, the Ardèche Gorges, the Dordogne, Allier, Loire and Moselle, within Europe pilots are planned for the Owenduff in Ireland, Artoise in Belgium, Ara in Spain, Ammer in Germany, Sense in Austria, Soča in Slovenia and Italy.

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