Processus workshops on the future development of biodiversity in the French Pyrenees.

Report for International Bear Association, the world association for bear research and co funder of the  project Processus.

1. HISTORY

Since many years the Brown Bear population in the Pyrenees has come to extreme low numbers due to hunting, bad management of the population, urbanisation and contact conflicts between native and human components.

In 1996 only 6 bears remained. Because of augmentation in 1996, 2006 and 2016 of two males and a number of females, all coming from the Slovenian population, the actual status of the population raised to a minimum of 30 individuals in 2016. Because of the augmentation new births have been observed every year.

During many years bears meant conflicts. Even recently, after the release of a male bear, supported by a EU LIFE project in spring 2016 on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, new actions were observed on both sides of the Pyrenees, as the introduced male bear showed up quickly at the northern slopes of the French regions. Almost any damage on livestock is directly linked to the bear, true or not.

Innovanature has established a strong relationship with both the regional office of the French Ministry of Environment (DREAL, office in Toulouse) and the largest natural park in the region (Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises, 246.500 ha) to suggest a project of dialogue on biodiversity.

Prof. Alistair Bath, consultant on mediation processes and lecturer at the University in Newfoundland (Canada) met all partners and after a 3 year period of talks, visits and agreed actions,during October and November 2016, contracts have been signed with both government bodies.

Presence of the Brown Bear in the French Pyrenees: spread in the years 2010-2014:
green borders: French provinces
red borders: Spanish provinces
blue: occasional occurrence
red: normal occurrence

2. THE PROCESSUS

The ‘Processus’ consists of a series of workshops (between 5 and 10) to take place during  one year approximately. The first workshop with a list of almost 40 participants, coming from all groups of interest, was planned in early December 2016.

The aim of this dialogue is cooperation between all related participants, acceptance and understanding of the various standpoints and objectives. Hopefully this Processsus will contribute to a broadly accepted concept about biodiversity, a coexistence of all groups that have an interest in the region. A better understanding of the conflict between human activities and the presence of wildlife such as vultures, wolf or bears, should lead to a different attitude towards these problems.

The Pyrenees, the mountain range dividing Spain and France, also count Andorra as party. Biodiversity does not recognize frontiers and in ancient times also the locals crossed the border without hesitation, often for seasonal reasons. Nevertheless there has been created quite a difference in appreciation of nature in general and large carnivores specifically. Showing best practice can be one of the ways to convince and taking away hesitations.

Conservation, future access to nature and a wise use of natural sources should be supported by all of us.

 

3. ACTIONS TAKEN

During the period between May 2016 and December 2016, Innovanature agreed with the consultant Alistair Bath about the focus and content of the mediation PROCESSUS.

Two important meetings have taken place in Montehls, near Saint Girons, at the headquarters of the Natural Park on the 18th of May, and in Toulouse on the 21st of October. Both meetings have had previous coordination meetings between the partners of Innovanature and the later meetings have taken place in the offices of DREAL in Toulouse,  mostly with Mathieu Cruège, director of Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises, André Rouch, president of the Park, and  Nicolas Gillodes, in charge of the ‘Mission Ours’  from the Direction Régionale de l’Environnement Midi-Pyrénées.

In the first meeting we agreed on the focus of the Processus, the role of the mediator Alistair Bath, a preliminary list of participants, and budgetary needs. We talked about the resources that could be provided by the Parc Naturel Régional, being in kind or cash and the possibility of signing an agreement with DREAL and getting a grant for the Processus. During the second meeting the details of the budget were discussed and it was clarified that the Parc Naturel would provide staff for coordination of the meetings, all the contact work with participants and provision of material, copies of documents, etc. DREAL would cover up to

€ 10.000 of the Processus and this would include expenses of the consultant, meals and expenses of Innovanature.

4. RESULTS

We have reached agreements with both the Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises and DREAL and they are contributing in different ways to the processus. The Park is helping with logistics, contact with the local players and stakeholders and office work, and DREAL is providing part of the funding needed.

A second result is that the PROCESSUS is expected to start in early December 2016 with a preliminary session. The rest of the PROCESSUS will take place along 2017.

5. EXPENSES

At this stage of this important project, the IBA grant has covered expenses for the two meetings from the members of Innovanature, plus the continued contact with both government bodies, with the consultant and coordination of this preliminary part of the PROCESSUS.

Gerard  Baars- president of Innovanature
Partners within Innovanature:
ArtzaMendi association,  located in Pau-France
Accionatura- foundation,  situated in Barcelona -Spain
International Bear Foundation, residence  in Gouda-The Netherlands

Innovanature/Processus, French Pyrenees mediation project on biodiversity