“Nature is not business”: a mayor’s appeal to Macron

“MMr. President of the Republic, we need you. “The mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains (Haute-Savoie), Jean-Marc Peillex (several right), made his “plea” to Emmanuel Macron public on Tuesday, September 20. A long letter in which the city councilor attacks those who perpetuate “the overpopulation” at the risk of natural sites such as Mont-Blanc, in his municipality, and calls on the head of state to take measures to regulate mass tourism.

In 2020, the mayor had already received a decree from the president for the protection of natural habitats to protect Europe’s highest peak, limiting the number of mountaineers who can start the ascent. If the problem of overpopulation has long been known for large cities like Venice, it affects more and more French sites: Étretat, the Gorges du Verdon or the Ardèche, Corsica, the creeks of Marseille… The latter decided this summer , through a compulsory reservation to impose a quota. Radical tools that Jean-Marc Peillex wants to see generalized to protect nature from the tourist flows. He explains to the Point.

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Point : You sent a “plea” to Emmanuel Macron this Sunday, calling on him to help you save natural spaces. What do you really expect from him?

Jean Marc Peillex: The state must play its part. Crowded places and excessive demonstrations should be supervised. Today, in the name of freedom, it is no limit. The state must determine the framework, then the prefect and the local elected officials must sit around a table to determine the boundaries to be imposed problem by problem. It’s good to see the overcrowding, but now we must act!

In 2020, you convinced the president to issue an order to protect the summit of Mont-Blanc. It wasn’t enough?

This decree, which requires a reservation at the shelter to start the ascent, and therefore sets the limit of the shelter’s capacity, has solved the problem of overcrowding. It’s common sense. We now have an average of 200 people per day over the season. But at the same time, we still have 50,000 to 100,000 tourists arriving daily in the Chamonix Valley. And the operator of the Aiguille du Midi lifts is delighted to have done even better than in 2019… The mountain is an area of ​​freedom, but to what extent?

In your letter you also scratch the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc…

It’s madness to put 30,000 people in a natural space in the mountains! They added a race this year, didn’t adapt the event to the drought at all, took people further and further away… Not to mention the deplorable environmental footprint. Nature is not a business.

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Does the regulation you request have to go through the quota, as it did this summer in the Calanques National Park in Marseille?

We must become reasonable and not welcome more people than we can take in. We will not necessarily reduce the number, but spread it out. It is the peaks in emergence and concentration on the season that are destructive. But the answer must be global. We also need to raise awareness: people are going to pet marmots or foxes; they disturb the wildlife because they don’t know the codes.

Is it necessary to financially support tourism professionals in this transition?

The big players took the money, we’re not going to help those who made a profit on nature’s back. They do business every day, they don’t care what happens in fifteen years, they go elsewhere. The chosen ones must dare. It only costs money if you don’t regulate. At the Aiguille du Midi, the day the mountain is so damaged that the anchorages will no longer hold, then there will be no one left at all…

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