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


“MSir. president of the republic, we need you. “The mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains (Haute-Savoie), Jean-Marc Peillex (right), published this Tuesday, September 20, his “request” addressed to Emmanuel Macron. A long letter in which the councilor attacks them, who maintains the “business of overcrowding” at risk to natural areas such as Mont-Blanc in his municipality, and calls on the head of state to act to regulate mass tourism.

In 2020, the mayor had already received from the president a decree on the protection of natural habitats to protect the highest peak in Europe, limiting the number of climbers who can start the ascent. If the problem of overcrowding has been known for a long time for large cities like Venice, it affects more and more French places: Étretat, the Verdon or Ardèche gorges, Corsica, the Marseilles creeks… These last have this summer, decided to impose a quota via a forced reserve. Radical tools that Jean-Marc Peillex wants to see generalized to protect nature from tourist flooding. He explains to Point.

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Point: You sent an “appeal” to Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, urging him to help you save natural spaces. What do you really expect from him?

Jean-Marc Peillex: The state must play its role. Overcrowded spaces and excessive demonstrations must be monitored. Today it is in the name of freedom no limit. The state must set the framework, then the prefect and the local elected representatives must sit around a table to determine, problem by problem, which limits must be imposed. It’s good to see the overcrowding, but now we have to act!

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

This decree, which requires a reservation at the refuge to begin the ascent, and therefore limits the capacity of the refuge, has solved the problem of overcrowding. It’s common sense. We now have 200 people a day on average over the season. But at the same time we still have 50,000 to 100,000 daily tourists arriving 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 a space of freedom, but to what extent?

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

Putting 30,000 people in a natural space in the mountains like that is madness! They added a race this year, didn’t adapt the event to the drought at all, brought people further and further away… Not to mention the deplorable carbon footprint. Nature is not business.

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Should the regulation you are calling for go through quotas, as experienced by the Calanques National Park in Marseille this summer?

We must become reasonable and not welcome more people than we can accommodate. We don’t necessarily have to reduce the number, but spread it out. It is the spectator peak and the concentration on the season that is devastating. But the answer must be global. We also need to raise awareness: People want to pet marmots or foxes; they disturb the wildlife because they don’t know the codes.

Will it be necessary to financially support tourism professionals for this transition?

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


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