The Bercé Forest (Wikimedia Commons)

The French Ministry of Agriculture’s National Forestry Office recently recognized the French forest of Bercé in the Loire Valley as an “Exceptional Forest.” France’s Exceptional Forest program highlights well-managed state-owned forests. The forest of Bercé was officially declared an Exceptional Forest during a ceremony March 18th.

These forests, often former royal forests, are the fruits of history. Several of these emblematic forests, some of which are known around the world, are today the symbol of historical, cultural and environmental richness of French heritage. The French National Forestry Office, which leads their management, has implemented an ambitious policy of increasing the value of these forests. The Exceptional Forest policy’s objective is to build a reference network for sustainable management of this forest heritage.

The state-owned forest of Bercé illustrates the ancestral links that unites forestry workers and forests. The result of several centuries of forestry work, the oak trees of Bercé have acquired a global reputation for their exceptional quality. Formerly a royal forest used for providing wood for the navy, this forest today produces trees that are primarily used in barrel making. Its groves make it one of the most beautiful forests of France.

The Bercé forest occupies a vast plateau that dominates the Loire Valley, between the cities of Tours and Le Mans. The clay earth mixed with silt makes it particularly favorable for oak trees, except in the west where the soils encourage the growth of heaths and pines. Several valleys, traversed by streams that dry up in the summer, cross the plateau, and the forest is filled with numerous small ponds. Originally created by humans to water their animals or to extract shale, these points of water bear witness to the ancient human occupation of this forest and are today ideal habitats for biodiversity, particularly amphibians.

The forest of Bercé possesses a large amount of landscape and habitat diversity. Several plant species are protected, particularly in wet areas. Different large animal species also make their home here, including roe deer, wild boars, and red deer.