The European Committee of the Regions has adopted an opinion on Promoting coexistence with conflict species within the framework of the EU Nature Directives . Conflict species compete with human activities for common resources and space. The opinion mostly refers to large predators. The EU is home to five: the brown bear, the wolf, the wolverine and the Eurasian and Iberian lynxes. At least one of these species is currently found in 21 EU countries. The CoR supports more preventive measures and the creation of new platforms and cooperation mechanisms to tackle shared concerns and best practice solutions. The objective is to reconcile biodiversity protection and human settlements where conflicts exist.
Europe reveals large carnivores and humans can generally share the same landscape. Yet the situation is not without conflicts. Many of the problems related to the cohabitation between humans and 'conflict species', mainly large carnivores such as brown bears and wolves, can be caused by the pressure of human activity on natural habitats and often inappropriate behaviour, from invasive activities in protected areas to active grooming for hunting or tourism.
'Our aim is to improve the balance between conflicting species and human activity. To achieve that we have to put an emphasis on preventing conflicts and finding ways to tackle them, said Rapporteur Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of the Harghita County Council in Romania .
Rapporteur Borboly is in line with the CoR's opinion on the REFIT process for the EU Birds and Habitats Directive of rapporteur Robby Biwer (LU/PES) which points out that EU legislation is fit for purpose yet more actions need to take place to improve its implementation.
'There is no need to amend the environmental directives: from now on we have to focus on implementation', stressed rapporteur Borboly. 'We must develop preventive measures. The lack of long term planning and management plans in many regions concerned jeopardises both the preservation of protected species and human life and property' added rapporteur Borboly.
While close to extinction during the XX century, large carnivores are having their coming back on the continent thanks to EU legislation. Brown bears are the most abundant large carnivore in Europe, with an estimated total population of 17,000. Wolves are the second most abundant species, with an estimated total number of 12,000. The estimated total number of Eurasian lynx is around 9000, while the total number of wolverines is estimated at 1250.
Members support further evaluating the impact of road and railway infrastructures in planning stages to avoid as much as possible encroachment upon large carnivores' habitats. This situation requires particular attention at the level of land-use planning and the design and management of protected sites and neighbouring areas.
On research and development, rapporteur Borboly flags the need to address disparities between regions and localities and focus particular attention on areas of great natural value and important habitats but which are considered as 'less developed'.
Members agree that new measures need to be put in place to encourage positive externalities – so often mentioned in relation to biodiversity and large predators.
The CoR's opinion suggests a number of concrete further steps. First, to hold a joint conference with the European Commission in 2019 on coexistence with conflict species and in particular large predators. Second, to ensure that local and regional communities are directly involved and can participate effectively in platforms and cooperation mechanisms on conflict species and in shaping policies in this area. Third, to request the European Commission to publish recommendations and guidelines in this domain to assist Member States and other levels of governance in exchanging good practices of implementation of the EU nature directives. Finally, to explore the possibility to create a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) for local and regional authorities affected by large predators.
Large Carnivores in Europe. Science. December 2014 Recovery of large carnivores in Europe’s modern human-dominated landscapes.
- Brown bears are the most abundant large carnivore in Europe, with an estimated total number around 17,000 individuals, and all population ranges have been relatively stable or slightly expanding.
- Wolves are the second most abundant species, with an estimated total number larger than 12,000 individuals.
- The estimated total number of Eurasian lynx is around 9000 (table S6), and most populations have generally been stable in the past decade.
- Finally, the estimated total number of wolverines is 1250 individuals.
DG Environment, European Commission, Large carnivores in the EU
The European Union is home to five species of large carnivore. These include the brown bear, the wolf, the wolverine and two species of lynx, the Eurasian lynx and the Iberian lynx. Historically these species have all suffered dramatic declines in numbers and distribution as a consequence of human activity. Due to increases in their prey and forest cover and favourable legislation the last few decades have seen a positive response, with most populations stabilizing or increasing again. A result has been the return of these species to many areas from which they have been absent for decades. At least one of these species is currently found in 21 EU countries.
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