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Accepted Paper:

Reintroduced bears and 'return shepherds' in the Central Pyrenees. Restoring and creating socio-ecological dynamics in the high mountain pastures  
Lluís Ferrer (McGill University) Ferran Pons (McGill University)

Paper short abstract:

The French and Spanish Central Pyrenees have undergone herding transformations since the brown bear reintroduction program took place in 1996. This paper focuses on the recent implementation of 'regrouping' sheep herds, using shepherds, protection dogs, and pens to prevent bear attacks.

Paper long abstract:

The European Union launched a brown bear reintroduction program (LIFE project) in 1996 to recover the bear population in the Pyrenees, considered to be almost extinct at that time. The current total population is estimated at around fifty animals along the entire mountain range. However, most of them dwell in the Central Pyrenees. Despite program efforts to make the growing population of brown bear compatible with livestock and farming practices, the project has so far failed to gain farmers' acceptance, and social conflicts have periodically arisen.

This presentation will focus on the implementation of 'regrouping' sheep herds in the Central Pyrenees due to increasing bear attacks. New shepherds have been hired, protection dogs 'reintroduced' and fenced sheepfolds installed with European Union funds to prevent livestock loss.

By conducting a comparative ethnographic approach among the Ariège (France), Pallars Sobirà and Val d'Aran (Spain) districts, our analysis revolves around the contrasts on both sides regarding the environmental conservation narratives and the actual changes lived by farmers and shepherds on the ground. The brown bear is presented as a win-win scenario by conservation advocates, since it allegedly entails the restoration of both Pyrenean natural and cultural heritage values. Framed as an 'umbrella species', its presence is meant to recover dwindling natural habitats, whereas it also implies both the restoration of traditional sheep herding practices that were progressively abandoned since the mid-20th century and the creation of new ones. And yet, protests and uncertainties around the bear are increasingly spreading over these territories.

Panel Rur03
Transforming transhumance pastoralism, 'heritagization' and new rural economies
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 April, 2019, -