Ours in the Couserans: Ariège’s elected officials urge the state to “respect its commitments”
Several elected officials met this Friday, May 19, 2023 to take stock of the thorny bear issue in Ariège. Feeling that they are not being listened to, they want the commitments made by the state to be respected.
The setting of the press conference is somewhat unusual. In a modest lodging in Castelnau-Durban, commune of Couserans, several elected officials from Ariège gathered this Friday, May 19, 2023. A black dog slalom between the chairs. Every guest shows a smile.
But once we get to the heart of the matter, the faces come close. The local actors and the parliamentarians present were dissatisfied. Well mostly disappointed. On October 27, 2022, a delegation from Ariège traveled to Paris to discuss the issue of bears in the Pyrenees and the animal’s strong presence in the Couserans, a sensitive topic if ever there was one.
Ariège: on the bear, a meeting in the ministry “high quality” for some, “mixed” for others
Christine Téqui, president of the departmental council, was part of the group received by Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau and two state secretaries responsible for rurality and ecology: “When we went there, we heard words. These words have a importance and commit the state”.
With Laurent Panifous and Martine Froger, deputies, Alain Servat president of the pastoral federation of Ariège, as well as Elodie Amilhat, elected to the chamber of agriculture, today shows his annoyance with the continuation of the ministerial meeting, during which Marc Fesneau had assured wanting to ensure the “politically sustainable” and the “legally valid”, while working on national and European regulations.
“Count to Relieve”
“Today, six months later, what’s the discovery? Nothing. It’s nothing. So let’s say the state has to go from hibernation to action.” For the elected officials present on this Ascension Bridge day, the 3 million euros granted in favor of means of protection in the Pyrenees massif do not constitute an answer, given the consequences of the presence of the animal for pastoralism, the economy and tourism.
Ariège: the state strengthens anti-brown bear measures in the Pyrenees
According to them, the commitments made last autumn have not been fulfilled. One of these concerns the counting of the number of bears living in the area, carried out at the level of the Pyrenees by the OFB (French biodiversity office), while the Ariège policies require a study centered on the Couserans.
“Eighty bears throughout the Pyrenees is one thing. But sixty in the Couserans is another. The government has tried to bring this topic to the scale of the Pyrenees. It’s not about falling asleep”, thunders Laurent Panifous. The idea is as follows: “count to relieve”, taking the necessary measures based on the result.
“We’re heading for disaster”
Recently elected to the first constituency, Martine Froger thus underlines an “urgent need for an answer”: “Because otherwise nothing will work and we are headed for disaster […] It drags on until the day there is an accident.”
Marc Fesneau’s visit to Ariège on April 17, 2023 is considered disappointing in this respect. “We discussed these issues at length. The Minister left saying that he had undertaken to give an answer within two weeks. But a month has passed, and we have not had a real answer”, points out Elodie Amilhat, the email received considered unsatisfactory,
Requested by the Secretary of State for Rurality on 27 October, then sent to Paris at the end of January, the proposal for a pact of commitment between Ariège and the State also remained unanswered. The representatives of Ariège wish to work on this point.
Laurent Panifous, pulls out his claws: “When you have a territory that comes to bear a peaceful but determined word, it is extremely disappointing and not very serious […] Everything is done so that there is bear development. We are calling for some form of regulation to be put in place. If the goal is rewilding the Pyrenees, please let us know.