Wolf Management Program was introduced

On March 19, 2020, the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic introduced the "Wolf Management Program":

The document, on which the experts of the OWAD project also participated, can be found here: http://www.zachranneprogramy.cz/vlk-obecny/program-pece-pp/ or https://www.navratvlku.cz/download/438/program_ -pece_o_vlka_2020.pdf.

The return of a strictly protected wolf to our country has brought with it a number of ambiguities and conflicts in the last two years. There is mainly damage to livestock, but also the public is concerned about a possible attack by these beasts. A systematic response to the expansion of the wolf population in the Czech Republic will be enabled by the new strategy of the Ministry of the Environment "Wolf Managament Program". It is a set of measures aimed at reducing the damage to livestock and reducing other conflicts related to the presence of wolves in our country, including the future determination of the so-called favorable population and establishing a uniform approach of competent authorities in non-standard wolf behaviour. The management program was prepared by the Ministry of the Environment together with the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic and scientists, and was commented on by representatives of breeders' associations, the Czech-Moravian Hunting Unit (ČMMJ), the Ministry of Agriculture and other entities. The "management program" will be updated in two years.

Seven years ago, wolves did not reproduce in our country, they occurred only in the Beskydy region, near the border with Slovakia, where the western edge of the Carpathian population of this species extends. In recent years, however, wolves have also spread to us from the so-called Central European lowland population, from neighboring Germany and western Poland. The return of the wolf to our country, where it was exterminated almost 200 years ago, brings with it a number of ambiguities and conflicts. The Ministry of the Environment therefore proceeded to the elaboration of the Wolf Management Program, which primarily focuses on resolving conflicts associated with the return of the wolf to our country [1]. Thus, it does not introduce or tighten the protection of the wolf. The wolf is protected by European legislation in practically the whole of Europe and the management program doesn'nt change and can't change this - it is not a legislative norm, but a management plan (access plan), the individual measures which will be fulfilled by the Ministry of the Environment in cooperation with relevant nature conservation authorities and the Ministry of agriculture, breeders' organizations, hunters and other farmers in the countryside.

"The management program is a strategic document that identifies the basic steps that need to be addressed to prevent and resolve conflicts related to the occurrence and development of the wolf population. In accordance with the management program, the Ministry is already working on legislative changes in the area of ??damages with the aim of simplifying and facilitating all related administration by providing compensation to the entities concerned. This was also one of the requirements of breeders' associations [2]," explains Vladimír Dolejský, Deputy Minister for Nature and Landscape Protection of the Ministry of the Environment.

"To maintain our landscape, it is essential to preserve the pasture. These are mainly the foothill areas, where every livestock farming needs to be maximally supported. On the other hand, wolves help reduce excessive numbers of ungulates, causing billions in damage to forests and crops. It is not easy to combine the existence of a wolf with the grazing of livestock. The Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic is therefore dealing with the specification of effective measures for the protection of herds, it is also preparing a "manual" for cases of problematic wolves," adds František Pelc, director of the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic.

In addition to the Ministry of the Environment and the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, experts and scientists from universities and other institutions also participated in the preparation of the Program. Already during the elaboration, the Program was consulted with representatives of breeders' associations, the Czech-Moravian Hunting Unit (ČMMJ) and also the Ministry of Agriculture, and a number of specific proposals and comments were successfully incorporated.

The Management Program also includes the task of cooperating with Germany and Poland (or in the Carpathians and Slovakia) to determine by next year the so-called favorable population status - thus the size of the population (and the corresponding share in terms of the Czech Republic), at which when achieved the Czech Republic can together with neighboring states start negotiations with the European Commission on the adjustment of European legislation and the setting of possible quotas for wolf hunting. Specific target numbers for wolves have not yet been set in neighboring countries (such as Saxony, where the wolf population has been growing since 2000 and the first management program was adopted in 2009). One of the few countries in the EU which indicates the number of the "viable population" of the wolf for its territory (not the limit value) is France, but it is a country where the development of the wolf population has been addressed for many years and this figure is part of the latest, the third management plan in 2018.

The Program also includes measures that should respond to situations where a wolf behaves abnormally. Such behavior needs to be properly evaluated and individuals with disturbed, problematic behaviour, who could be a threat, for example by specialization of such individuals on livestock, should be removed from nature. The procedure of elimination of a problem individual is possible only on the basis of an exception under the Nature and Landscape Protection Act (and the relevant European legislation). The management program requires that a detailed procedure must be established in these cases, up to the level of actual implementation, in which both the state administration in the field of nature protection and hunting and specific users of hunting grounds will participate.

The most serious problem with the presence of wolves in the landscape is the damage that occurs to livestock. The main objectives of the Wolf Management Program therefore include, in particular, ensuring a functioning system for providing financial support for the implementation of preventive measures for the protection of herds and improving the investigation process and the payment of compensation for damage. It is also important to provide quality information to the public and also professionals, ie to ensure the necessary monitoring and collection of other information, their sharing among stakeholders (state administration bodies, breeders, hunters).

One of the important topics of the program is the already mentioned financing of preventive measures. "Currently, they can be paid for thanks to the Operational Program Environment. However, it is a complicated and administratively demanding tool," notes Vladimír Dolejský, Deputy Minister for Nature and Landscape Protection of the Ministry of the Environment. He adds: “We therefore strive for the most effective setting of support conditions so that it is as accessible as possible for breeders. Logically, the most appropriate solution would be to link with the system of other support in the field of agriculture, but so far the Ministry of Agriculture has not adhered to this proposal, we are discussing and therefore looking for an alternative solution."

Management programs are usually accepted for a period of 10 years, but in the case of a wolf, the Ministry of the Environment expects to update it in a shorter period, in as little as 2 years. By this time, some important measures should be implemented, such as determining the size of the population (the so-called favorable status of the species according to the requirements of European regulations) or setting conditions to support the introduction of measures to protect herds in the 2021-27 programming period.

[1] The Wolf Management Program is available at http://www.zachranneprogramy.cz/vlk-obecny/program-pece-pp/ or also here.
[2] Act No. 115/2000 Coll. on compensation for damage caused by selected specially protected animal species.

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