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Designed to limit the impact on the fauna and flora of future constructions, such as the mega-basins in Deux-Sèvres or the future La Grave cable car in the Alps, the impact studies are criticized for their shortcomings.

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A water reserve under construction in Sainte-Soline (Deux-Sèvres), April 11, 2023.

Could a small mountain plant, the androsace of Dauphiné, cause the future cable car of La Grave (Hautes-Alpes), a major contested project of this resort, to falter? According to Sébastien Lavergne, researcher at the Alpine Ecology Laboratory, who himself co-discovered this new species in 2021, it grows on a rocky peak on the work site. However, this rare and protected species is not mentioned in the impact study: the design office in charge of the file claims not to have found it there.

“They missed the site’s only nationally protected species, says this specialist in high altitude flora.There is, however, a biotope of community interest here, with cushion plants[à croissance lente et poussant en tapis] and a microfauna that has not been researched. » A new inventory must be carried out this spring to establish the facts. If its presence is confirmed, the androsace will have to be carefully spared by the shipyard, or will be the cause of a long derogation procedure for the destruction of protected species.

A key stage in the environmental assessment, the impact study aims, among other things, to assess the effects of a development project on protected species, and to limit them as much as possible. It is a necessary safeguard against the artificialization of land, which in France represents one of the main causes of loss of biodiversity. In recent years, these environmental regulations have tended to be strengthened, as has the sensitivity of the administration and judges to these issues, by exerting significant pressure on developers. However, in La Grave or elsewhere, the impact study or its additional request for derogation are singled out in a number of disputed projects, or even taken to court for their shortcomings.

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“Insufficient” inventories

At the end of March, the authorization to operate the biomass power plant in Gardanne (Bouches-du-Rhône) had thus been canceled by the Council of State, after a long battle by environmental associations, due to the inadequacy of its impact study: it did not analyze the effects of wood supply in local forests.Similarly, in the dispute over mega-basins, the Council of State confirmed the ban on filling five reservoirs located in Charente-Maritime, due to insufficient impact studies. And for the Sainte-Soline reservoir (Deux-Sèvres), at the heart of violent clashes at the end of March, the impact study did not lead to a request for an exemption for the destruction of a protected species, the little bustard. , despite the proximity of the site to the territories of this bird. The National Council for the Protection of Nature (CNPN), which evaluates these requests for derogation, self-seized on April 18, to review the case.

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