Forestry policies, institutions and programmes


The multifunctional nature of forests, acknowledged through the extension of the concept of sustainable development to forest management, has been the basis of French forestry policy for a long time.

The ministries primarily responsible for forestry issues in France are the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes care of questions of French representation and participation in international forestry bodies and debates (the Commission on Sustainable Development [CSD], the International Tropical Timber Organization [ITTO], the FAO Committee on Forestry [COFO], the Development Assistance Committee [DAC] of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] etc.), and French aid for the forestry sector in other countries.

Each of the 22 metropolitan regions has revised its Regional Forestry Guidelines, acting through Regional Forest and Timber Commissions, which include professional forestry and timber federations, the National Forest Office, representatives of nature protection and forest users associations, one farmers¿ representative and five elected regional representatives. State-region contracts covering plans also provide an appropriate framework for integrating national forestry strategy into the regions while taking into account the specific features of the latter and the local stakeholders¿ expectations and hopes.

France has undertaken a far-reaching reform of its national forestry policy. In line with the recommendations of the report La forêt: une chance pour la France (Forests: an Opportunity for France) published on the initiative of the Prime Minister in December 1998, the forestry policy law was passed in June 2001 and put into force in July 2002. This law articulates the concept of sustainable forest development in combination with the aim of making the forest production, harvesting and processing sector more competitive.

The national forestry strategy presented to the Ministry of Agriculture in July 1999 is based on four key areas:

  • the ambition to win markets and establish wood as an ¿ecomaterial¿ suited to contemporary needs;
  • the desire to respond to the French people¿s social and ecological expectations, while ensuring the development of the forest-wood-paper sector within the framework of land use planning and development projects;
  • the desire to build a strong national alliance among foresters, the State and society;
  • the desire to strengthen the French presence and the competitiveness of the French forest and timber sector at the international level.
The forestry policy law (revision of the Forest Code) is a response to the fact that forestry policy is moving steadily towards interministerial and communal management. This draft law is intended to support and expand the contribution of forests to the management and development of the countryside. A decree of the law on air (1996) lays down minimum quantities of wood to be used in certain new constructions from 2000 on.

New measures
With a view to sustainable local development, there are new measures in the spheres of wood production and processing (extension of the uses of wood, improved harvesting and marketing, and improved management of private forests), protection of natural areas (strengthening of sustainable management and initiatives to combat the greenhouse effect), and promotion and development of the recreational functions of French forests (contribution of the latter to a recreation and leisure policy).

Payment of financial compensation to forest owners is anticipated in connection with obligatory protective measures for forest areas. A first type of protection corresponds to the ¿protection forest¿ category (80 600 ha at the end of 1997), a system established in 1922 to protect forests considered necessary for the maintenance of soil on mountains and slopes and defence against avalanches, erosion and invasion by water and sand. Forest stands may also be protected in areas around towns.

A second type of protection corresponds to State biological and forest reserves (15 800 ha in 1998). These are rich, protected, rare or fragile forest zones, in State forests and in private forests subject to forest laws, by an agreement among the two ministries responsible for the environment and agriculture and the National Forest Office.

At the beginning of 1999, private professional organizations from the wood sector decided to launch a process of ¿ecocertification¿ of French wood within the framework of the Pan-European Forest Certification (PEFC) system. This process is coordinated by the Interfederal Timber Council and backed by consumer and nature protection organizations, elected representatives, and the scientific and technical institutes concerned.

The Wood Energy Programme 1999-2006 launched by the Agency for the Environment and Energy Management is aimed at providing financial support to promote projects concerning the use of non-recyclable wood residues for energy production and cogeneration (combined production of heat and electricity).

The Wood and Furniture Technical Centre, which is financed jointly by sector professionals and the State, has been working to find out more about the material and its behaviour under various types of condition and stress and has helped to draw up standards that would give wood the status of a real industrial product. These activities have also helped to promote wood as a ¿modern¿ material.

France has worked to establish criteria for sustainable forest development, both by setting up a national process and also through its involvement in the European process established to achieve this.

International activities
France follows a very active policy of cooperation in the forestry sector, which should be seen in the setting of three international conventions (the Convention on Combating Desertification [CCD], the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [FCCC] and the Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD]) and international debates on forests. French cooperation policy in the forestry sector is guided by the objective of defining and implementing sustainable management and an optimal rational development of forest ecosystems. Initiatives implemented by France are based on the principle that the preservation of forests cannot be ensured unless they help to meet the basic needs of the people and the State. France has therefore assumed the mission of helping to establish practices of use and sustainable economic development of forest ecosystems that will enable society at large and the local population in particular to derive a sustainable profit from forest resources. France also intends involving industrial partners in forest management. Consequently, the French Agency for Development (AFD), the only development bank to adopt this type of approach, provides support to forestry operators in their management efforts, particularly for innovative projects in both moist tropical zones and dry zones. French forest cooperation is implemented by various institutions involved in tropical forest research (mainly the International Cooperation Centre on Agrarian Research for Development [CIRAD] and the Institute of Research for Development [IRD]), forestry training and institutional support.

The extra environmental and social costs arising from measures to ensure biodiversity conservation within the framework of forest management are covered by grants from either AFD (in the case of developing countries) or the French funds for the Global Environment Facility (FFEM), which also helps to fund various projects directly concerning sustainable forest management.

Over the past ten years, French cooperation in the forestry sector has been actively involved in preparing Tropical Forests Action Plans and National Environmental Action Plans in several countries (Cameroon, the Congo, Gabon, Guinea and Mali) and in building up their national forestry institutions. It has actively supported the development of forestry policies and legislation in partner countries, as well as the execution of local programmes and projects aimed at helping local people to participate in managing their forests and improving their standard of living and income. French cooperation has also contributed to training those responsible for forest protection and management, research activities, and the creation and transfer of scientific and technical knowledge. It has helped to boost cooperation and technical exchanges between countries of the South (support for the African Timber Organization [ATO] and the International Tropical Trees Network [RIAT]) and has carried out diagnostic studies of timber pipelines and ecocertification. French cooperation has also devoted major efforts to giving concrete shape to the concept of sustainable development in closed rain forest zones, assisting in the design of comprehensive pilot management schemes for this type of forest. Lastly, it has lent support to regional and national forestry institutions in order to help African countries contribute to major national debates on forests and the environment.

France has played an active role in meetings of the Intergovernmental Group on Forests (IGF) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF). The French Government is a member of all relevant international bodies and is very much involved in international-level forest debate.

Last updated: April 2004

last updated:  Friday, February 19, 2010