Pastoralism is the extensive grazing of animals on natural pastures and rangelands. It is based on the interdependence between the farmer, the herd and the natural mountain environment. Although it provides numerous ecosystem services and favours extensive production, pastoralism faces a number of challenges, including a lack of valorisation and the impact of climate change. Euromontana advocates for greater support for pastoralism, focusing on working conditions, promotion of products and constructive dialogue.

Supporting pastoralism in the face of multiple challenges

Pastoralism is key to maintaining vibrant mountain areas, providing environmental services and preserving traditional know-how. However, pastoralists face a number of challenges that have led to a drastic decline in pastoral practices in Europe in recent years. On the one hand, they are confronted with inadequate European policies, a lack of differentiation between intensive and extensive farming methods and the declining attractiveness of pastoral jobs. On the other hand, the increasing impact of climate change threatens the future of pastoralism.

We call for
  • Adopting an EU Action Plan for Pastoralism, focusing on the promotion of pastoral activities and the improvement of working conditions in the sector. In particular, the EU and Member States should focus on favourable working conditions (ensuring infrastructure such as road connections and housing), on training opportunities for shepherds through the creation of pastoral schools, and on facilitating recruitment procedures, including for seasonal workers.
  • Promoting adaptation of the sector to climate change with the support of advisory structures such as chambers of agriculture and European programmes such as LIFE and Horizon Europe. Particular attention should be paid to water resources, the resilience of forage crops and the use of adapted breeds.
  • Enhancing the value of pastoral products, in particular by implementing the Optional Quality Term “Mountain product”.
  • Taking advantage of the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists in 2026, and of the CAP reform post-2027 to raise awareness of pastoralism in Europe.

Valuing the ecosystem services provided by pastoralism

Pastoralism provides a large number of ecosystem services. These services are obviously supply-related, providing products such as fodder, milk or meat, or biomass resources used for ornamental or textile purposes. In addition, by maintaining open landscapes and traditions, pastoralism provides so-called cultural services, linked to educational, recreational and ecotourism activities.

Pastoral activities also provide a wide range of ecosystem services which are less visible yet essential in mountain areas. They play a crucial role, for example, in providing support services that create the basic conditions for ecosystem development, such as regulation of the water cycle and soil fertilisation. Pastoralism also provides so-called regulation services, which are particularly important for preventing natural hazards and adapting to climate change in mountain areas. In this respect, pastoral activities make a major contribution to preventing forest fires by limiting the spread of small shrubs in fire-prone areas, storing carbon in permanent grasslands, controlling soil erosion and preventing flooding.

In Europe, the total value of ecosystem services provided by pastoralism amounts to 71 billion euros each year. Yet little attention is paid to these benefits for society and ecosystems.

We call for
  • Better promoting pastoralism as a sustainable livestock farming method and raising awareness of the environmental and social benefits it provides, in particular through EU Promotion Policy and through activities strengthening rural-urban linkages.
  • Developing further research activities on the ecosystem services associated with pastoralism, in particular through the European LIFE and Horizon Europe programmes.
  • Encouraging payments for the ecosystem services provided by pastoral activities, in particular via the Common Agriculture Policy‘s eco-schemes.

Fostering coexistence for the maintenance of pastoralism

For several decades now, the pastoral sector has been facing increasing pressure from large carnivores, particularly wolves. The wolf population trends appear to be on the increase, and it is estimated that there are around 20,000 wolves in the European Union in 2022. Euromontana, which brings together a wide range of mountain stakeholders, stresses the importance of preserving both mountain biodiversity and traditional, sustainable farming methods, and aims for a balanced approach to coexistence with large carnivores.

We call for
  • Harmonising large-carnivore census techniques in all European countries (EU and non-EU) and create a European database available online to all.
  • Raising public awareness and organising constructive multi-stakeholder dialogue at national and regional level on the return of the wolf to mountain areas to encourage better communication between political decision-makers, farmers and environmentalists.
  • Communicating with the general public about protection dogs in order to avoid any conflict of use between pastoralism and mountain tourism.
  • Maintaining the Common Agriculture Policy‘s funding to help prevent or compensate for predation, in particular the acquisition of protection dogs and compensation for losses.
  • Revising the Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention if necessary to adapt to positive or negative developments in the conservation of large carnivores.
  • Investing in research and innovation and in the exchange of best practices that promote coexistence, as case studies have shown that coexistence is possible when effective protection measures are adopted.