The world lost an icon of conservation and hunting
10 January 2017

It is with great sadness to relay to you the farewell of a family friend, a long standing CIC member, a highly honored personality in environmental law worldwide, Dr. Wolfgang E. Burhenne.

Dr. Burhenne always believed in conservation through sustainable use and played a critical role in establishing the Statutes of the CIC as legal advisor. His continuous support and guidance contributed to the organization’s achievements. He was not only part of the Executive Committee of the CIC, but a key member in the organization’s history. He will always remain our Honorary Legal Advisor.

He obtained his youth hunting license, when he was 16 years old, and since then, hunting was his life, the passion for the outdoors and nature determined his entire life and career. During an interview conducted by Vivienne Klimke on September 25, 2014, Dr. Burhenne summarized what hunting means to him:

“Hunting is my way of being active in the outdoors. I want to be creative. I enjoy being challenged, and I like to be a manager.”

After the Second World War, Wolfgang Burhenne took part of the re-establishment of the South German Hunters and Hunting Dog Association by drafting the official documents, and by making sure that the association is officially registered.

Wolfgang Burhenne started working with the Head of the State Hunting Department of the Bavarian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and he was among the first ones, who got hunting permits after the war, and he then joined the supervision of the examination of professional hunters.

Due to the political, the international, and regional situation, the creation of a Bavarian hunting law was already on the table. Thanks to the work of Baron Wolfgang von Beck (Head of the State Hunting Department) and Wolfgang Burhenne, the first Bavarian hunting law was adopted on December 15, 1949.

Dr. Wolfgang Burhenne was involved in the formation and negotiation of numerous environmental agreements: the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which establishes the international legal framework to prevent the trade of endangered species and regulate the trade in others; he was one of the signatories of the Morges Manifesto in 1961, the founding document of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF);  and he was one of the founding fathers of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). He also served as the Executive Governor of the International Council on Environmental Law in New Delhi, and since its founding, has been re-elected every two years as one of the Executive Governors.

Dr. Burhenne has also made very significant contributions to international environmental treaties. In 1982, it was the World Charter for Nature was born and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly; a few years later it was the Association for South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and most notably by serving IUCN as Chair and Deputy Chair of the Commission on Environmental Law (1960-1990), as Legal Adviser to the Union (1990-1994), and by being a long standing member of the IUCN Council and a constant source of support to the Secretariat at every General Assembly and Congress since 1950.

In 1949 he co-founded of the Schutzgemeinschaft Deutsches Wild, and served on the Board of Directors since. In 1952, he and other environmentalists founded the International Alpine Commission (CIPRA).  That same year, he was involved in the preparatory work for the establishment of the Interparliamentary Working Community.

Among his many honors, he was a recipient of the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, the Environmental Law Institute Award, the IUCN Harold Jefferson Coolidge Medal, and the UNEP Sakakawa Prize.

An amazing pioneer of environmental law, nature conservation and promoter of sustainable use for conservation – we will miss him, but he lives on in our memories.

His early days

Burhenne was born in Ditges, Germany. After Secondary education, he was recruited to serve as a soldier, and during the Second World War, he was arrested in Dachau and sent to its concentration camp, where he remained a prisoner for 37 months. On April 27, 1945, he fled to his parents’ home in Oberbayern. Subsequently, he was dismissed by the US troops in Bad Reichenhall and served in the auxiliary service at the forestry office in Bischofswiesen.

In 1945, he began studying forestry in Munich and worked as a freelance consultant until 1948. Until his resignation in 1949, he was a lecturer in the Bavarian Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry. In the same year, he became a member of the Bayerischer Landschaftsverlag and advised members and committees of the Bavarian Landtag. In addition to his professional activities, he studied from 1950 to 1953 at the Munich College of Politics.

Read more about his life: Vivienne Klimke: A sustainable life

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