France implements new six-year Wolf Plan

Starting this month, France implements their new National Action Plan 2018-2023 for wolves and livestock owners. The plan focuses on the support for herd protection measures, regulation of the wolf population, and providing of information and training to a target audience. The return of the wolf is a hot debated topic in France. Farmers demand more killing of wolves, while NGOs want to limit the shootings. Effective herd management, including protective measures such as electric fences and guard dogs, provide a likely solution to this problem. The European Wilderness Society is currently finalising the first edition of an international Best Practice Handbook on herd management in Europe. This handbook can provide local livestock owners with detailed Best practice examples from 7 different European Countries on effective protection measures. Besides France, a common strategy for coexistence with wolves and sheepherding has been developed in Germany.

Please also read: Shepherds, hunters, farmers and NGOs agree on common wolf strategy

A closer look

The first priority of the French Wolf Plan is a balance between the ecological and pastoral stakes. It considers a number of 500 wolves for a viable wolf population in France. Also, it stresses that effective defense of herds is necessary, with electric fences and guard dogs, or by shooting if wolf attacks on protected herds continue. Besides a clear support for herd protection measures and compensation of losses, implementation of population ‘control’ by annual killing is also part of the plan. Furthermore, it focuses on education and training to increase knowledge on the wolf’s behaviour and risks for livestock owners.

See hear why the Forest and hunting Departments of Switzerland welcome the return of the wolves.

 Supporting livestock owners

Important is the continued support for herd protection, as the Wolf Plan states. Studies proved that herd management is more effective than killing wolves. By developing a financial scheme, the plan will provide assistance to livestock owners for implementation of protection measures. It aims to advice and support the owners on implementation of protection and adaptations to new developments. Furthermore, the plan will establish a ‘guard dog network’, to facilitate guard dogs that are effective against predation, but not aggressive towards third parties. Additionally, the government will create a ‘technical support brigade’ to implement protection for newly attacked herds.

Financial support

The plan even supports the livestock owners and shepherds by financing pastoral huts, access to water and electricity, and better accommodation conditions. Compensation for losses due to a wolf attack are only paid when livestock owners have proper herd protection measures in place. Validation of protection measures and wolf presence are therefore essential.

Allowed killing of wolves

Following scientists’ advice, the plan allows hunters to kill 10-12% of the wolf population each year. According to the latest estimate, there are approximately 400 wolves in France. The quota of wolves that people can kill in 2018 is therefore 40. NGOs tried to stop the wolf hunts, which they claim as ‘political killing’. Earlier this year, the government allowed killing of 3 young wolves. Farmers who protect their animals gain the right to fire a gun as a defensive measure. Warning shots or scaring the animal is not mandatory. Also for herds that suffered from attacks at least three times in the last 12 months, it is now easier to gain defensive shooting rights. However, the plan does not allow killing of wolves from September to December.

Sharing information and knowledge

The Wolf Plan updates the existing communication strategy, to focus more on local involvement and provision of information. It targets all relevant stakeholders and the general public. The plan will develop new training curricula for farming schools to increase awareness and acceptance towards the wolf. Through the support of various studies, the Wolf Plan tries to improve the recognition towards shepherds, and the coexistence of wolf and livestock. It will assess the current vulnerable territories and the impact of wolves on the ecosystem.

The French Wolf Plan also states that cross-border and international collaboration should be strengthened to achieve shared ecological objectives. This also supports the exchange of knowledge and experiences regarding the coexistence between wolves and livestock farming.

What can we expect?

The Wolf Plan has ambitious targets to help livestock owners with financial, technical, and informative support to protect their animals. With this plan, the French government is showing the willingness to support both farmers and the wolf. It is now up to the French farmers to show equal willingness for coexistence. For the wolves, it looks like 1 in 10 will have to fear for it’s life every year. It remains unclear what the Wolf Plan recommends when wolf numbers exceed 500 individuals in France. At least according to the European Commission, the wolf remains a protected species, despite continued requests for legal hunting in Europe. It is often a misconception that hunting protects sheeps. On the contrary, hunting can often increase the depredation since killing a wolf in a wolf pack can cause the wolf pack to break up creating 5 and sometimes more individual wolves. Studies show, that individual wolves are much more inclined to attack livestock than wolf packs. Also the wolf plan ignores the many positive side effects of the return of the wolves to the rejuvenation of the forests and the natural education of the pressure on forests by deer and wild boar.

Find the French National Action Plan 2018-2023 for the wolf here:

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3 thoughts on “France implements new six-year Wolf Plan

  1. I think that the winning comment for the preservation of wolves is the fact that a pack will hunt large Natural game animals but if a pack is broken up into individual animals they have litle choice but to kill smaller easier prey like sheep. If this can be published and made common knowledge then there might be an understanding of the intricasies of wolf behaviour. All my young life I read books about the BIG BAD WOLF without any balance in the natural order of wolf behaviour. Long live the wolf. Norman Doak Johannesburg South Africa

  2. The dog I owned the guy said he was 80 percent wolf. He was like a teddy bear and gentle. He was very big but I put his meds down his mouth by hand. The wolf is a dog in the wolf that can be takes. I think WOLVES should be left alone and Cathleen use better protection. SAVE OUR WOLVES!!!

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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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