Decisions to grant derogations concerning wolves are always made on a case-by-case basis
In its meeting on 10 December 2018, the working group established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to prepare the updated Management Plan for the Wolf Population discussed derogations granted for hunting wolves, population management-based hunting and changes to the guidelines proposed by the European Commission for interpreting the Habitats Directive. The discussions emphasised the fact that the decision to grant derogations concerning wolves are always made on a case-by-case basis.
The working group viewed that derogations are a part of the Management Plan for the Wolf Population, which must be developed comprehensively. The working group felt it was particularly important that applicants for derogations are not left alone in their situations.
It is essential for applicants for derogations to have a clear and realistic understanding of the grounds for which derogations can be granted. With this in mind, the Finnish Hunters’ Association is setting up an advising service for derogation applicants, and the Finnish Wildlife Agency offers guidance in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. Authorities should also provide more active support to derogation applicants in looking into and implementing other satisfactory solutions, such as taking action to prevent damage.
As the name suggests, derogations based on damage caused by wolves are exceptions to the protection of wolves. Under the EU Habitats Directive, the wolf is a strictly protected species in Finland, meaning that derogations from the protection can be made only under the conditions defined in the Directive and in the national legislation. The decision to grant a derogation is also restricted by case law. The Finnish Wildlife Agency is responsible for processing and granting derogations.
The fact that there are wolves in the area is not sufficient grounds for a derogation. A derogation must always be the last resort in a situation where, for instance, a wolf is causing damage that cannot otherwise be prevented or a wolf poses a threat to people’s safety.
Some applicants for derogations have asked why, for instance, the same number of sightings in the area around a home has led to different decisions on their applications. This is because the decision to grant a derogation is always made on a case-by-case basis and requires the consideration of several different perspectives at a time. The number of sightings is not a sufficient criterion in itself, as the quality of the sightings must also be taken into account. There are no clear-cut criteria for granting a derogation; instead, a derogation can be granted if all of the conditions are met.
The decision to grant a derogation takes into account, for instance, the size and vitality of the wolf population in the area, the damage caused by the wolf or wolves, the threat assessment and the targeting of the application to the individual wolf that is causing the disturbance. Before granting the derogation, the agency must also determine whether there are other satisfactory solutions to the problem.
Commission proposes more stringent guidelines for interpreting the Habitats Directive
Next year will be significant as concerns the implementation of Finland’s large carnivore policy. In the spring, the European Court of Justice will deliver its decision on population management-based hunting of wolves and the Commission will propose possible amendments to the guidelines for interpreting the Habitats Directive. The Commission’s proposal for amending the guidelines would place restrictions on granting derogations for the population management-based hunting of bears and lynx. A separate appendix will be proposed for wolves.
In its statement to the Commission, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has emphasised that the proposed tightening of the guidelines is not in line with the statements of the European Parliament on the matter. In addition, it is undeniable that the hunting of bears and lynx in Finland has had a favourable impact on population management and on the overall acceptability of large carnivores.
In its next meeting, the working group in charge of preparing the Management Plan for the Wolf Population will focus its discussion on questions concerning reindeer areas.