Around the bear, the waltz of prefects and court convictions

On December 15, a new prefect will take office in Toulouse. He will not replace the current representative of the State in Occitania, but will devote himself to a single mission: to restore the dialogue on the presence of the bear in the Pyrenean massif, as is done for the wolf in the Alps. The plantigrade, currently immersed in its winter sleep, is at the center of all the battles. Pro and anti have been torn around his presence since the first safeguard programs, then reintroduction, in 1996. A sign of these tensions, in barely a year, he is the third prefect appointed. The very first, Jean-Yves Chiaro, did not last very long. Just like his successor, Denis Olagnon, who retired after only five months of practice.

Suffice to say that the appointment of Thierry Hegay to this post did not give rise to a great wave of enthusiasm. In environmental and state circles, it is even rumored that these senior officials would come just to obtain the status of prefect before their retirement. For Alain Reynes, director of the Pays de l’ours-Adet association, in favor of the presence of the animal, “State policy is like a drunken boat. We expect arbitration from the government, not the appointment of mediators”. Like other structures or associations, Mr. Reynes also boycotted the meeting of the Pastoralism and Ours group on December 2, at the regional prefecture, which was to bring together all the protagonists of the file around the table. This has been postponed indefinitely, certainly pending the publication of the new prefect’s roadmap. Everyone sticks to their positions and the seventy animals counted in the massif still arouse as many divisions.

“Enormous political pressure”

Battles managed and arbitrated by successive elected officials, locally and nationally, which sometimes end up in court. On November 29, in Foix, the court sentenced six of these representatives to suspended prison sentences and heavy fines. First, Philippe Lacube, the president of the chamber of agriculture of the department, labeled FNSEA (National Federation of Farmers’ Unions) and historical opponent of the presence of the animal in its mountains.

Also read the portrait: Article reserved for our subscribers Jean-Jacques Camarra, tireless bear watcher

On May 5, 2018, alongside hundreds of demonstrators, he participated in a stormy counter-demonstration against bear defenders. The president of Young Farmers, that of the Departmental Federation of Farmers’ Unions at the time, the president of the Departmental Federation of Hunters and the representatives of the Association for the Protection of the Heritage of Ariège-Pyrénées all received three months suspended prison sentence and fines of up to 500 euros, as well as damages of 5,000 euros to be paid to the complainant associations. Alice Terrasse, lawyer for the civil parties, believes that this judgment “is justified” and “despite enormous political pressure, justice has done its job without trembling”.

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