Professor Geir Ulfstein at the University of Oslo has also been commissioned to conduct a similar study.

Professor Fauchald was asked to undertake the inquiry following the Norwegian Parliament’s controversial ‘wolf compromise’ last year and later decisions by regional authorities to permit the felling of up to 47 wolves. This in turn was sparked by the growing numbers of wolves in Norway and claims by sheep farmers that wolves were taking more and more sheep.

Deemed not legal

Ole Kristian Fauchald. Photo: Jan D. SørensenParliament’s compromise sparked public protests and political debate, not least since most of the wolves to be felled lived in the ‘wolf zone’, a government-designated wolf-protected area. Opponents said permission to fell the wolves was in conflict with the Norwegian Nature Diversity Act (Naturmangfoldloven) and the international Bern Convention, to which Norway is a signatory. Environmental NGOs lodged an appeal and the Ministry of Climate and Environment asked legal experts at the Ministry of Justice for an opinion. They concluded that the decisions of the regional authorities were not in fact legal. The government thus lowered the number of felling permits from 47 to just 15.

New proposal

Parliament has since asked the government to clarify what needs to be done to reconcile Parliament’s decision regarding the size of wolf populations and establishment of a wolf zone with the Nature Diversity Act and the Bern Convention. The Ministry of Climate and Environment has therefore asked various scholars in environmental law and international law for their legal advice . Professors Ulfstein and Fauchald will conduct two separate legal assessments. Specifically, Fauchald will assess the relationship between Norway’s regulations on large carnivores (Rovviltforskriften) and Section 18 paragraph 1(c) of the Nature Diversity Act in light of Article 9(1) of the Bern Convention. Ulfstein will also assess the case in light of the Bern Convention.

Based on these assessments and other input from relevant stakeholders, the government will submit a new proposal to Parliament on 10 March regarding Norway’s management of its wolf population.

Update 28 February 2017: You can read professor Fauchald's legal assessment (in Norwegian) here.