Topic: Rewilding: Management, adaptation, and power/lessness in carnivore affected communities
Key words: Large carnivores, management strategies, animal husbandry, rural communities, adaptation strategies
Conservation designations protecting large carnivores have been a success in terms of a strong increase in carnivore numbers and an extension of their range in Europe after 100 years of near extinction. This conservation success raises dilemmas and challenges, involving questions of rural sustainability, indigenous and local communities’ land use practices; ideologies and policies concerning the rural as wilderness and arena for rewilding processes, versus the rural as countryside, cultural and worked landscapes; the potential of developing rural economies; and power relations. Foremost it involves how conservation strategies, management and attached conflicts are played out locally, while at the same time being part of a national and international biodiversity conservation scene, and how to maintain or develop legitimacy for policies, management, and trust.
What are the experiences of living with the majority’s decision making and international obligations on the local level? What adaptation strategies do various actors choose?
Norway has implemented a geographical differentiated carnivore management model, with targeted carnivore stock numbers and zonation of grazing prioritized, respectively carnivore prioritized areas. Due to limited farmland (only 3%), sheep farming has been based upon utilizing grazing rights in the outfields.
We present results from a study in Hedmark, the only county in Norway with targeted stock aims for all the four large carnivores: bears, wolves, lynx and wolverines, with interviews with some 20 sheep farmers, and supplemented with statistical analysis at national level. Within the designated carnivore zones losses to carnivores has decreased significantly, as sheep farming is more or less closed down or sheep are moved elsewhere for grazing. In adjacent grazing prioritized areas losses have been high, in spite of adaptation measures.
We identified three main strategies:
1) Phase-out: They have experienced big losses, heavy psychological pressures, and they see no future for outfield pasture use. Farm closure or production changes
2)Wait-and-see: They are waiting to see how the carnivore situation will be solved/managed. If it gets ‘worse’, they will not continue. Postpone decisions.
3) Develop the farm and fight for the continued utilization of grazing rights in the outfield pastures.
We place these strategies into a context of political and conservation ideologies, agricultural restructuring, and urban-rural, as well as production versus consumption based lifestyles and life worlds. We argue that material reality may be more relevant than a class-based or environmental values based analytical perspective to understand adaptation and resistance to large carnivores.