EU: Costs for livestock protection and damages can now be fully compensated

The European Commission has decided that farmers and livestock owners can now receive full compensation for investments and damages. More specifically, the compensation covers investments in protective measures and damages caused by large carnivores, such as wolves. In addition, the farmers also receive full compensation for indirect costs. Until now, farmers and livestock owners had to pay 20 percent of the costs themselves. This decision is a big investment to help the people adapting to new circumstances.

Please also read: The art of proper herd management

Direct and indirect costs covered

The decision of the European Commission allows farmers and livestock owners to claim direct and indirect costs. This means both investments for protection measures, as well as damages to livestock. For example, famers will get fully reimbursed when building electric fences, or when purchasing suitable guarding dogs. These measures will help protecting livestock from large carnivores, like the wolf. Member States can now also fully cover veterinary bills for treating wounded animals, as well as search and rescue operations for missing animals. Altogether, countries can now reimburse 100% of costs related to prepare and deal with the return of large carnivores in Europe.

The European Commission showed earlier that livestock protection is the key towards a coexistence with nature. This will contribute to the human-wildlife conflicts, which are actually always human-human conflicts about nature. Especially in Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria, people welcome full compensations as the wolf populations continue to grow. Earlier, the governments already decided to invest millions of euros in livestock management to provide proper protection.

Member States now can implement

As the European Commission opened the door for full compensation, it is now up to each EU member state to implement the decision. Most likely, these funds become available through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and state aid funds. The claim that protective measures are too expensive and a cull of large carnivores is more effective, became even less relevant. Studies showed that allowing culling actually increases poaching, which causes more problems for species protection. On the other hand, proper livestock protection measures are more effective than killing wolves.

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5 thoughts on “EU: Costs for livestock protection and damages can now be fully compensated

  1. Dear Lauren, thank you for your question. As the official announcement from the European Commission states: “Support to help resolving conflicts associated with the conservation of the protected animals can be granted from EU funds, notably under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and from national funds (state aid).”

  2. Thanks for the article. Do you know where the money comes from? Indeed, if it’s the rural development fund which is due to increase the share of money going to compensation, it’s not such good news for rural areas as there will be less and less money for other rural issues. I am wondering for example if the LIFE funding has started to pitch in, or if national co-funding has been increased.

  3. Dear Elena, thank you for your comment. You are right that not all kinds of indirect costs are included in the decision of the European Commission. Nevertheless, indirect costs from searching missing animals, or veterinary bills after attacks that were previously not covered, are included now. So it is definitely a step in the right direction in finding a coexistence with people and wildlife.

  4. Thanks for this informative article! However, when costs of fencing material are reimbursed that doesn´t cover ALL indirect costs – I was really surprised and happy when I first read that, but indirect costs relevant especially to small-scale farmers (in Germany) are also related to e.g. constructing the fence in the first place, or to mowing below electric fences for cattle keepers — extra working hours that they can´t necessarily put in. I just wanted to point that out – that there´s still some indirect costs left that would be good to compensate. In Germany, volunteers are helping the farmers out here, but can´t and shouldn´t have to cover all the work that comes up.

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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