SIMON SPENCER Friends and colleagues and all who share a passion for butterflies welcome to this conference in Digne les Bains. My name is Simon Spencer and I am the chairman of the European Interests Group of Butterfly Conservation which is a UK charity and has 20,000 members and 50 staff. In the UK we have only 57 species and many of those are still declining. On my first visit to France in 1954 I remember to this day a picnic somewhere in France with my parents, it was the first time I had seen machaon and I soon realized that France was a paradise for butterflies. A few years ago we formed the European Interest Group to help British people who are Butterfly Conservation members find butterflies in Europe and where possible to work with local butterfly enthusiasts to survey for butterflies. We have done this in many countries. Ten years ago I had the great pleasure of accompanying Tristan Lafranchis on one of his butterfly tours in Greece and we became great friends. We have met up most years since then. I am so glad I have persuaded Tristan, the expert on French butterflies to speak here in Digne. He has not spoken in France for many years. From Tristan I heard of the Jardins de Papillons here in Dignes and of Proserpine and several years ago I visited Nicholas Maurel and the Jardins. I was present when Nicholas recorded his 130th species – Aphantopus hyperantus . Whenever I can I visit le Jardins as they are a paradise for butterflies. It is not just a pleasure to see the butterflies but the groups of school children being shown the wonders of their natural heritage. I have many butterfly friends in France including several English people who have escaped our horrid weather and opted to live in a paradise with lots of butterflies or are frequent visitors to France. I often ask why is there no equivalent of Butterfly Conservation in France? Are none of these butterflies threatened? In the UK there are lots of people counting them every week and many species are declining. Many have become rare in my lifetime. For much of the last 20 years I have been trying to save the last few euphrosyne sites in Wales – it was my job! This butterfly is one of the most widespread in Europe and when I was young was widespread in the UK. Even with money for management we still lose sites. Last year when I was with Nicholas I suggested a conference with EIG to bring all those people interested in French butterflies together. We also celebrate the 10th anniversary of Proserpine. Everyone blames farmers for the decline of butterflies. Yes that is true. However in France you still have some traditional farmers who keep livestock in the mountains and sell high value meat and cheese to a nation whose passion is good food. This type of farming has been going on for thousands of years and butterflies are used to it. What they don’t like is maize where there were hay meadows and dense forest and scrub where there were pastures. Farmers need financial incentives to go on farming in a traditional way. It is the same all over Europe. Butterfly Conservation and other Butterfly organisations in Europe which are partners in a ‘Butterfly Conservation Europe’ lobby in Brussels for special subsidies for High Nature Value farmland and for the CAP to be more wildlife friendly. I would like to end by thanking Nicholas Maurel for all his hard work in organising this conference, to Mayor of Digne and all the local organisations that have given us so much support. Enough. The sun is shining we must get through our program and get out and see some butterflies.