An interdisciplinary research initiative about law and biodiversity conservation

Patterns of litigation in France during two decades of recovery of a large carnivore

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We have posted a new manuscript on the bioRxiv server:

Chapron, G., Marfaing, G. & Betaille, J. (2002). Patterns of Litigation in France during Two Decades of Recovery of a Large CarnivorebioRxiv October 14, 2022, p 2022.10.11.511781.

The recovery of large carnivores in Europe’s human dominated landscapes is an unexpected conservation success. In France, where the wolf disappeared in 1937, the species population is now approaching one thousand individuals after the species naturally returned in the country in 1992 from Italy. Large carnivores in Europe are protected by several legal instruments, ranging from international law, to European, national or regional laws (in federal countries). There has been a limited attention allocated to how this legal protection is in practice activated in Member States of the European Union. In particular, there is little research on the role of public interest environmental litigation for large carnivore conservation. We take the example of the wolf (Canis lupus) in France and describe wolf-related litigation in the country during two decades. We compiled a database of case law decisions (i.e. court rulings) relating to administrative litigation about the protection of the wolf and collected a total of 275 court rulings. We found that wolf litigation occurred unsurprisingly more often in administrative courts located in regions where wolves first returned (i.e. South-East of France). Animal welfare or protection associations were the most active and successful plaintiffs. The State administration represented by its Préfets was also a plaintiff in lawsuits against illegal culling decisions made by mayors. The Préfet des Alpes Maritimes and the Minister of the Environment were regular defendants for decisions to cull wolves that were litigated by nature protection associations. Nature protection associations overall had a case winning rate higher than 50%. There were no immediately obvious inter-annual trends in wolf litigation. Our database did not allow us to quantify the total number of wolves that were effectively protected from culling decisions because court rulings made after the execution of administrative decisions did not specify whether the animals were killed or not. Bet it as it may, nature protection associations appear to conduct legally relevant litigation in view of the high success rate they achieve and conservation lawsuits belong to the portfolio of available conservation instruments.

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