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Epic and great victories of the LPO: 50 years of commitment for species and spaces in Auvergne

They would never have imagined the place that their approach would eventually take. Exactly 50 years ago, at a time when things were still being done to nature that are unthinkable today, a handful of volunteers created the Ornithological Center of Auvergne, in Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme) . What has happened since?

In the 1970s, the laws for the protection of spaces and species came to legitimize the approaches that were viewed, at best, with benevolent condescension. From this core planted in fertile Auvergne soil, the Auvergne delegation of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) was to germinate.Having become the Auvergne delegation of the LPO AuRA, after the merger of the regions, it is today a force for the protection of nature.

1,800 members and an army of 200 active volunteers to coordinate actions that go beyond the sole rescue of birds in distress.

This is the epic told by three of these early pioneers and volunteers:

  • Jean Jacques Lallemant became the very first employee in 1984 (until his retirement in 2016);
  • Jean-Christophe Gigault, salaried research manager, then director of (from 1992 to 2021),
  • Christian Bouchardycurrent president.

1971 The Ornithological Center of Auvergne (COA) is created. First LPO shelter in Auvergne: in St-Nectaire First employee in 1984. 1986 Observation post of the migrations of the Montagne de la Serre is inaugurated. 1994 LPO co-manager of the RNN Val d’Allier with the ONF. 1995 The rescue center for birds in distress is inaugurated in Clermont-Fd. 2009 fauna-auvergne.org created. 2013: 1 million data?! 2019 LPO Auvergne rjoined the LPO AuRA with the merging of the regions. 2021 20 GPS-marked red kites (Planèze de St-Flour)

The most significant stage of this half-century at the LPO Auvergne?

Christian Bouchardy. The law of 1976, passed unanimously! It is the one that fixes the list of protected species. At the time, animals like the eagle owl or the peregrine falcon were on the verge of extinction. The example for us is also the otter: from the moment it was protected, the species could be saved and it recolonized the natural areas of Auvergne on its own.Gray shrike in the plain of Ambert. This emblematic species of the Auvergne areas is disappearing without anyone really knowing why. It is at the heart of actions on spaces and species. Photo Romain Riols

Christian Bouchardy. It is also this law which obliges to carry out impact studies: it has forced to think about the consequences before starting the construction sites. “We have come a long way! Young people cannot imagine all that we have seen at their age…”Barn owl in phase of release on the Erea site, and in partnership with the establishment, in Opme.

Jean-Christophe Gigault. We spent whole nights camping at the foot of the cliffs where the peregrine falcon was known! He was poached to supply traffic with the Emirates. We could also talk about the gray heron that we see everywhere. It is hard to imagine that at that time there was only one site where he was known in Auvergne.

Your best memory with the LPO?

Jean-Christophe Gigault. A set up during a camp. I had heard a corncrake sing: a rare beast, and one that has moreover disappeared in Auvergne. I brought in a recording that we broadcast, hoping to hear it again: you can imagine 60 people, all night, listening intently in a field in the Combrailles!Long-eared owl

Christian Bouchardy. A radio program about cranes in 1986. A listener had told us about a theft in northern Allier, so I asked the listeners to look at home. And as they passed, people were calling live. We were able to follow this migration to Clermont! It was kind of my first experience of participatory science!

Jean-Jacques Lallemant. Observation of migration at the Prat de Bouc pass. I was a high school student, my parents knew an optician who had equipment. It was a wonder! The trigger of my whole naturalist life.

Your worst memory for the LPO?

Jean-Christophe Gigault. A 400 meter riprap of the Allier river in 1979 in the Puy-de-Dôme. What made me happy is that it became inoperative because the river changed its course.

Young people can’t imagine all that we saw at their age: all sorts of terrible traps on the casts of animals that took days to die.

Jean-Jacques Lallemant. A phone call, political, opposing the protection of the Bec de Dore site. But today we have a nature reserve project.

Christian Bouchardy. Chloropicrin gassings of burrows. One morning we found the foxes dead in front of the burrow where we were posted, and inside the gas bomb which had been used to kill them.

Among the great victories of the LPO Auvergne?

Jean-Jacques Lallemant. The entire surface of natural spaces that we have allowed to be protected. It started very small with the Rocher de la Jaquette National Nature Reserve (RNN) in 1971. Then the LPO was the first organization to participate in the creation of the Auvergne Conservatory of Natural Spaces (CEN). There were the Loire nature programs which said that the freedom of this last great wild waterway in France was of general interest…

John Christopher. The reception of the Montagne de la Serre which helped to change the way people look at the Place des Oiseaux. We welcomed people there day and night for 3 months, to do scientific observation and public education, at the gates of Clermont. It lasted 17 years?! We welcomed 100,000 visitors, including 25,000 schoolchildren! It was so time consuming that we had to stop, but people still remember it.June 1993: Inauguration of the reception center at the Montagne de la Serre, by the presidents of the Region V. Giscard d’Estaing and of the LPO A. Bougrain-Dubourg. (La Montagne archives).

Jean-Christophe Gigault. The reconquest of rivers and wetlands by the otter. We were as much interested in the animal as in the quality of the natural environments to welcome it. It was also the subject of the first book we published. It had almost disappeared, today it has returned almost everywhere.

These 50 years of the LPO what does it mark?

Christian Bouchardy. The age when you have to look back to see if you have been useful. And I see an astonishing balance sheet by all that has been done: things on which we would not have bet; already be still there and very much alive! We’ve come a long way! Youngsters cannot imagine all that we saw at their age: all sorts of terrible traps on the animal lanes that took days to die and even jaw traps on the stakes to eliminate raptors; landfills everywhere with all sorts of things flowing into natural spaces and wetlands… Today, all of this seems unthinkable to us, but we must keep in mind that a law is fragile!Refuge care center to regain strength or grow in shelter during the winter, like this little owl.

Jean-Jacques Lallemant. A new youth! There was only one employee in 1984; 37 today! And 200 active volunteers! And a dozen well-structured local groups. This represents 57,000 volunteer hours when other associations are running out of steam!

Jean-Christophe Gigault. The success of collective intelligence! The results of the 50 years show what has been built thanks to all these energies of people who nevertheless had different and strong characters. They knew how to put their hats on their heads to advance a common project and quickly go beyond saving birds to take an interest in biotopes.

On the anniversary program (Clermont Ferrand) Festive day, Saturday May 14, from 2 p.m., in the Lecoq garden: stands, nature walks, discovery workshops, construction of nest boxes, exhibitions, meetings… Exhibition. Until June 15, on the gates of the Lecoq garden (Clermont): history, commitments, programs, emblematic species. Entertainment throughout Auvergne. Program on lpo-auvergne.org.

Sensitive natural areas: 3,000 hectares closely monitored.

Anne-Bourges
anne.bourges@centrefrance.com
Follow @a_bourges

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