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.