After the International Year of Forests in 2011, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 21st as the International Day of Forests. All over the world, this day serves to promote the celebration of trees and forests and makes people realize their importance in their lives. On this occasion, all countries are encouraged to make a local, national and international effort to organize activities involving forests and trees. In 2014, France organized its first International Day of Forests.
The French forest is the third most expansive in Europe, and the forest area is increasing by around 10,000 acres per year. Since 1850, this area has doubled and now represents around 37 million acres, more than a quarter of France’s territory. The French forest consists mainly of private property (74% with 3.8 million private owners), the public forests are managed by the ONF (National Office of Forestry). Every 25 acres or more of forest, private or public, requires the issuing of a management document approved by the State. Most of the French wooded area is transformed into softwood lumber products and the forest and timber sectors represent 450,000 jobs and a 50 billion dollar turnover.
The French forest policy has four main goals:
- To promote the forest in general because it has a great potential for growth and jobs
- To continue with more sustainable management to preserve biodiversity and maintain soil potential
- To develop the forest biomass industry
- To be proactive about the E.U and international initiatives related to forests
For the International Day of Forests, 148 activities have been organized all over the country by associations, schools and forest and timber sector companies. They consisted mostly of outdoor workshops and demonstrations, a great opportunity for children and adults to learn more about trees, forest, timber and their impact on environment, sustainable development, biodiversity etc… Additionally, other types of activities were scheduled, such as film projections, photography exhibitions, and open houses for agricultural schools.
Stephane Le Foll – Minister of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry – presented the first inventory of French forest genetic diversity for the International Day of Forests. 137 species have been counted in metropolitan France against 1712 species and subspecies in French Guyana! This inventory also aims to evaluate adaptation capacities of forest genetic resources to climate change and to follow with the national policy on trees’ genetic resources conservation.
Another goal of this day was to promote the forest and timber sectors: its growth and job opportunities. To tackle this issue, Stephane Le Foll – Minister of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry – and Arnaud Montebourg – Minister of Economy, Industrial Recovery and Digital Economy – have presented a National Action Plan for the Timber Transformation Industry’s Future in October 2013. This plan has been designed to promote the use of wood in construction to respond to the high rate of wood based processed products importation. It follows the path of sustainable and reduced energy consuming constructions markets, which have a high growth potential. In order to achieve these goals, a Strategic Committee for the Wood Sector had its inauguration on March 3rd, which brings together companies, industrial federations, trade-union organisations and representatives of the sector. After discussions, they will release measures to develop industrially the wood sector this summer.
To learn more: FAO