European Alliance for Wolf Conservation

The European Alliance for Wolf Conservation held its annual meeting beginning of June in Helsinki. Several organizations from all over Europe including Spain, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia , Belgium, Estonia, Portugal and Austria discussed Livestock Protection, the increase in derogation based killings of wolves all over Europe, exemplary educational programs, success in multistakeholder monitoring involving hunters and the latest steps the European Union is discussing to protect the wolves. 

At the end of the two-day conference, the European Alliance for Wolf Conservation issued the Helsinki Manifest calling for increased Livestock protection, extra funding to support Livestock owners, and a European strategy for Wolf Stewardship that includes a clear definition of what constitutes a favourable conservation status and the minimum standards for livestock protection and preventive measures required to define the parameters of a European livestock damage compensations system.. The group also demands a praise definition of behaviour defines a bold wolf and what accepted reactions are permitted under the FFH directive.

EUROPEAN ALLIANCE FOR WOLF CONSERVATION

HELSINKI MANIFESTO TO IMPROVE THE ENFORCEMENT OF CURRENTEUROPEAN LEGISLATION FOR WOLF PROTECTION

Helsinki, 8th of June 2019: The European Alliance for Wolf Conservation (EAWC) is a Platform of NGOs from different European States, advocating on behalf of the civil society and the scientific community for a fact-based wolf conservation model, and a more rigorous enforcement of the European Environmental policy and legislation the national level and across Europe, demanding the strict protection of this species declared of “Community Interest”, in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive, and within the frame of the Bern Convention.

WHEREAS the wolf is a key species for maintaining the balance in ecosystems, and its slow but continuing recovery throughout Europe brings a new opportunity for this invaluable ally in the fight against global biodiversity loss and climate change, to help our continent heal its nature by means of a true ecological transition, in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

WHEREAS international treaties and binding legislations such as the Bern Convention (1979, Annex II, Strictly protected species), EU Habitats Directive (92/43/CEE, Species of Community Interest), CITES (Appendix II, 04/02/1977), regulate the conservation of the wolf and state the clear obligation for member states to ensure that its populations reach a Favourable Conservation Status wherever the species is naturally occurring.

WHEREAS until now the most widespread method of management practiced in European Countries is the culling of individuals, which has proven not only to be counterproductive and scientifically unjustified, but to perpetuate an outdated cultural perception of the wolf as “vermin” and ”problem species” which prevents the citizens from realising the positive aspects of the wolf for nature and for the improvement of human life standards… The signing organizations, gathered in Helsinki on June 8th 2019, submit to the recently elected European Parliament and the Environment Commissioner the following 10 demands from the civil society and the scientific community, concerning the conservation of the wolf in our countries:

  1. States should enhance the implementation of livestock protection measures and fully assume their responsibility on the matter, demanding livestock breeders subject to EU’s C.A.P funds, to implement the most appropriate combination of protection measures meeting the sciencebased minimum standards.
  2. Compensation subsidies for livestock damages must be subordinated to the use of preventive measures. EU has recently encouraged member states to compensate for up to 100% of the cost, lost profit included, of protection against large carnivores through the “Amendment to the State aid Guidelines for the agricultural sector, to better address damages caused by wolves and other protected animals”, such as building predator-proof fences. So there is no excuse for paying such subsidies to breeders that deliberately refuse to comply with their obligation to protect their livestock.
  3. Lethal control practices such as culling and hunting of wolves must stop immediately, because they disrupt family structure and other aspects of their natural behaviour, increasethe attacks on livestock, and prevent wolves from performing their function as apex predators, that contribute to the ecological balance through trophic cascade effects. The social unit of the wolf, the family, must be preserved, without human interference, in order to be functional and consequently enable the species to achieve a true Favourable Conservation Status. Also, member states need to fight more actively against poaching and other causes of non-natural wolf mortality.
  4. An in-depth ongoing study of genetic variability in the European wolf populations is necessary in order to provide a clear definition of the species’ Conservation Status, that is scientifically credible, legally valid, and politically acceptable. Populations with low genetic variability are especially vulnerable regardless of population figures, which are often inflated in official counts.
  5. Natural dispersion of wild wolves among neighbouring territories and countries must be facilitated and not obstructed, being of utmost importance for the ecosystems, and crucial for the genetic viability of the species in the long term. Such natural movements should never be hindered with the establishment of “Wolf Free Zones”, an arbitrary concept, that implies local extermination of the species and is thus against the spirit of European regulations.
  6. More effective methods for identification need to be developed and put in place as a way to verify if an attack was really caused by wolves. Currently, in many rural areas where domestic dogs are at large, attacks are routinely attributed to the wolf, without scientific proof. This practice has the detrimental effect of inflating wolf predation statistics, and perpetuating the negative image of the wolf.
  7. European, national and regional authorities must stop using derogations as a solution for perceived wolf-human conflict. A lax use of derogations sends the wrong message to the public, so that the perception of “problem animals” is replaced by the perception of a “problem species”, thus betraying the whole purpose of the concept of derogation.
  8. The Administrations must provide clear and accurate information about the status of the wolves, the ways they are managed, and their positive role in the ecosystem. The expectation, that officially sanctioned killing of wolves would improve their social acceptance has been proven wrong, and it is now evident, that the proper way for governments to foster a positive perception of the wolf, is to treat it and refer to it as an asset, not a nuisance. Informing the public about large carnivores must be a joint task and responsibility of governments and NGOs. Unjustified and unreasonable fear of wolves will only be reduced by foresight of long-term, educational work.
  9. Administrations must make sure that hunters take responsibility for the control of their hunting dogs as any other dog owner. Uncontrolled dogs should not be allowed in areas known to be inhabited by wolves and other protected large carnivores.
  10. EU authorities need to define an European level strategy for Wolf Stewardship that includes a clearer definition of key concepts, such as the following: What is the Favourable Conservation Status; what are the minimum standards for livestock protection and preventive measures; what is a bold wolf; what is the appropriate livestock damage compensations system.

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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.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

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