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National park under discussion

Vanoise National Park: the new charter aims to increase solidarity between the Park and municipalities. © Matthieu LIENHART/flickr.com

The Vanoise National Park in Savoy has a new charter. Representatives from the worlds of politics, economics and civil society have been working on it for over five years. Environmental groups have given it their support, but criticise its limited impact. The municipalities are nevertheless reluctant to sign up to it.
The bone of contention is the 240-page charter. In a law of 2006, the French government granted more governance to protected areas. In other words, the 29 municipalities constituting the Vanoise National Park, France's oldest, were to draw up a charter together with representatives of local authorities, politicians, environmental groups and park employees. The Park's administrative board, on which municipal representatives are in the majority, adopted the text in March. Each municipality was then to agree its adherence to the charter during the spring - but most have already indicated their unwillingness to sign.
More say for municipalities
Vanoise National Park will celebrate its fiftieth birthday in the coming year. From the very beginning there were rules for the core area, but not for the rest of the Park. The charter is now intended to enable lasting co-operation between the individual municipalities and the Park and define common priorities. "At issue is the solidarity between the National Park and the municipalities of the surrounding areas", says National Park Director Emmanuel Michau. If the municipalities do not sign up, the Park will have no competence within individual municipal areas. Or, in other words, no support, no projects, no money. "It would be a step backwards as we would have to work with a piecemeal action programme", he says. That would suit some, however, as they fear for their economic development and resent interference in their urban planning operations: the Park borders on some major winter sports areas.
A charter with no impact
There is criticism of politicians by the environmental groups. The municipalities themselves worked on the charter, with all of the contentious and visionary elements dropped from the text during the tough negotiation process. "The Charter must be an instrument for the development of protected areas that at the same time recognises their special value", says Vincent Neirinck of Mountain Wilderness France.
For the time being it is the citizens who have the final say: already in the first two weeks of October, nearly 6,000 people from all over France have signed an online petition requesting that the municipalities endorse the charter. At the end of December the opinion of the inhabitants of the park will be sounded out in a public consultation exercise. "The National Park belongs to everyone", says Michau. "It is important that citizens have their say in this case".
Source and further information : www.avaaz.org/fr/petition/Appel_pour_la (fr), www.ledauphine.com/savoie/2012/10/09 (fr), http://charte.parcnational-vanoise.fr/fr/calendrier (fr)