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Accepted Paper:

Wildlife conservation as landscape design. The bear reintroduction programme in the Pyrenees  
Ferran Pons-Raga (Spanish National Research Council (IPNA-CSIC))

Paper short abstract:

The bear programme was launched in 1996 in the Pyrenees once the population was considered extinct. Today, this programme employs a double manoeuvre around restoration and improvement that urges us to look critically at conservation as design through the moral and territorial views of the landscape

Paper long abstract:

In 1996, the bear reintroduction programme was launched in the Pyrenees. This project consisted of translocating individuals from Slovenia, but it also entailed hiring shepherds by the public administration. Twenty-five years later, the programme is assessed in terms of biological success, considering that the bear population was considered extinct whereas today amounts to seventy individuals. However, the social conflict, especially with local farmers, has persisted throughout this period. Faced with this conundrum, the bear programme employs a double discursive manoeuvre around the notions of restoration and improvement to appease these conflicts and conceal their political essence. While the renewed presence of bears and shepherds aims at retrieving parts of the past and is associated with the restoration of natural and socio-cultural heritage values, the resulting landscape is presented in terms of improvement through the moral ecology of wilderness. Considering that conservation is never about conserving but rather a set of socio-ecological transformations that shift the control over natural resources, the move from nature conservation to landscape design urges us to understand how restoration and improvement play out in wildlife programmes. In this paper, I show how designing-as-if-restoring and designing-as-if-improving are crucial in the depoliticization of conservation. In response to this mechanism and to better understand the persistence of conflicts around the bear programme, I propose to approach rewilding initiatives through the moral and territorial views of the landscape by addressing the following question: Whose views and whose rights prevail in wildlife conservation as landscape design?

Panel P050a
Transformations in the anthropology of conservation I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -