On 15 December, a new prefect takes office in Toulouse. He will not replace the current representative of the state of Occitanie, 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 hibernation, is at the center of all the fighting. Pro and anti have been torn over his presence since the first protection programs, then the reintroduction, in 1996. A sign of these tensions, in just under a year, he is the third prefect to be appointed. The very first, Jean-Yves Chiaro, didn’t last very long. Like his successor, Denis Olagnon, who retired after only five months of training.
Suffice it to say that the appointment of Thierry Hegay to this position did not cause a great wave of enthusiasm. In environmental and government circles, it is even rumored that these high-ranking officials would come simply to achieve 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 politics 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 in the regional prefecture, which was supposed to bring together all the protagonists of the case around the table. This has been postponed indefinitely, certainly pending the publication of the new prefect’s roadmap. All stick to their positions, and the seventy animals counted in the massif still cause as many divisions.
“Immense political pressure”
Battles managed and arbitrated by successive elected officials, local and national, which sometimes end up in court. On 29 November in Foix, the court sentenced six of these representatives to suspended prison sentences and large fines. Firstly, Philippe Lacube, the president of the department’s agricultural chamber, indicated the FNSEA (National Federation of Farmers’ Unions) and historical opponent of the presence of the animal in its mountains.
On May 5, 2018, he joined hundreds of protesters in a stormy counter-demonstration against bear defenders. The president of young farmers, the president of the then departmental association of farmers’ associations, the president of the departmental association of hunters and the representatives of the association for the protection of the heritage of Ariège-Pyrénées were all given three months’ suspended prison terms and fines of up to 500 euros, as well as compensation of 5,000 euros , which must be paid to the complainant associations. Alice Terrasse, lawyer for the civil parties, believes that this judgment “is eligible” and “despite enormous political pressure, justice has done its job without flinching”.
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