Shepherds, hunters, farmers and NGOs agree on common wolf strategy

A joint statement called “Protect Diversity” was published by 8 diverse organisations of shepherds, farmers, nature conservation NGOs and hunters focusing on a coexistence strategy of sheepherding management and the return of the wolf in Germany.

“Natürlich sind Beutegreifer eine ernste Bedrohung. Das gibt uns aber nicht das Recht, Arten auszurotten. Die Zukunft der Schäfereien und der Erhalt der Artenvielfalt sind untrennbar miteinander verbunden. Wir arbeiten gemeinsam daran, dafür Lösungen zu finden.”

“Of course, predators are a serious threat. However, this does not give us the right to eradicate species. The future of sheep farming and the preservation of biodiversity are inseparably linked. We are working together, to find solutions.” 

Günther Czerkus, Bundesverband Berufsschäfer (BVBS)

Key principles for minimal conflicts

The wolf is back in Germany and is confronting livestock owners with new challenges. The signing organizations see prevention and compensation of wolf-attacks on livestock as a central task of wolf management, to support species conservation and livestock herding practices. They acknowledge the conservation status of wolves in the established laws. The acceptance of the wolf by people in the rural regions is inevitable for its successful return.

The organizations consider extensive livestock herding as a particularly sustainable form of land use. Their efforts for nature and landscape conservation are irreplaceable. Their businesses are confronted with big economic challenges. They are urgently in need of sustainable perspectives. This includes the prevention and mitigation of conflicts with the wolf. Economic disadvantages of livestock owners in wolf areas need to be addressed appropriately.

Key principles for minimal conflicts in coexistence of livestock and wolves

  1. Wolf management must be planned and effectively implemented. Wolf management plans should be designed and adapted by involving all stakeholders. To support these processes, a national network of competence for herd protection must be created, which focuses on previous experiences.
  2. Prevention of wolf-attacks is the primary goal of herd protection. Herd protection must be done professionally, in the entire wolf areas and has to be adjusted to local conditions. Therefore, livestock owners need suitable fences, well-trained livestock guardian dogs, training and advice.
  3. Support of herd protection should occur in the least bureaucratic way. All wolf-related investment- and maintenance costs, including labour costs, should be covered by national funding.
  4. The damage compensation for wolf-attacks on livestock is the responsibility of the public authorities. The economic consequences of an attack require quick and unbureaucreatic compensations. Not only animal losses have to be considered, but also other wolf-related business damages and consequential damages. Professional herd protection in wolf areas is required to qualify for damage compensation. In case a wolf cannot be excluded as the reason for damage, compensation should nevertheless be provided. The evaluation of damages has to be done by qualified and independent experts and in case of doubts genetic tests should be performed.
  5. The shooting of wolves is no alternative for herd protection methods. It always has to be the last resort and follow strict criteria of the wolf management. In case a single wolf repeatedly causes livestock damage, despite of proper herd protection, its shooting by an expert may be necessary to avoid further damages.
  6. Livestock guardian dogs provide essential contribution to herd protection. They live independently together with their herds on pastures. The animal welfare act has to meet the needs of those dogs, without interfering with proper herd protection. Therefore, the organizations demand an adaptation of the animal welfare act for dogs and the regulations of some countries regarding the keeping of dogs. The organizations will present corresponding suggestions.
  7. European protection of the wolf is regulated in the Habitats Directives for Flora & Fauna (92/43/EWG). Herd protection is therefore a European responsibility. There is currently no existing autonomous public body to support herd protection. Wolf-related financial assistance for livestock owners are therefore only available in tightly regulated funding laws. This results in disadvantages for the affected businesses and state budgets. The organizations demand the Federal Government and the states to establishment a public body for funding herd protection in the common agricultural politics of the European Union.

Berlin, the 31st of August 2017

Bundesverband Berufsschäfer (BVBS), Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), Deutscher Grünlandverband (DGV), Deutscher Tierschutzverband (DTSchB), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), Ökologisvher Jagdverband (ÖJV), WWF Deutschland (WWF).

Translated and fully supported by the European Wilderness Society.

Original statement available here.


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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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