France – superb potential for pleine naturalité

France SauvageNew national wildness network proposed

Earlier this summer, Wild Europe with its French associates proposed an initiative to coordinate support for creation and protection of wilderness (espaces à haute naturalité) and wild areas (zones sauvages). 

Based on the Wild Europe definition[1] of such areas developed in 2012, this would involve creating “France Sauvage”, the working title for a network of NGOs and supportive entities to champion the set aside of large areas of natural ecosystem where non-intervention allows natural succession (libre evolution), with management by natural processes.

In recognition of this opportunity, and the need to address the twin crises of climate change and species disappearance, in mid 2019 President Macron launched a bold vision to restore “pleine naturalité” (literally “full naturalness” or wilderness – though with a more flexible minimum scale than in the definition) across 10% of France. 

France Sauvage – objectives

France – many remnant wild areas of pleine naturalité

As a result of heavy pressure from traditional landowning interests, the aim of “pleine naturalité” has since been diluted to the potentially weaker “protection forte” – and it is this diminution of ambition which spurred Wild Europe’s proposal for France Sauvage.

Objectives for the new network would include:

  • Full support for the Macron vision in its original form, for pleine naturalité
  • Linkage of local restoration initiatives to demonstrate its practicality
  • Collective representation for policy and funding to support these
  • Exchange of best practice and promotion of environmental & socio-economic benefits
  • A coordinated national strategy for a network of linked wilderness and wild areas

A number of possible partners have been identified, including key association with the IUCN France Working Group on wilderness which Wild Europe has been a member of for eight years.

France Sauvage – the potential

France has superb potential here: substantial areas with little infrastructure, where much current land use for agriculture and forestry is unprofitable in the absence of subsidy and the ecosystem services from a more nature-based economy can offer better livelihoods for local communities. 

…. and many degraded areas awaiting restoration

This is reinforced by world class expertise in conservation management, low impact nature tourism and opportunity from ‘regulatory’ ecosystem services such as carbon storage & sequestration, flood mitigation, water table stabilisation, purification of air and water, avalanche management and many others.

These services can in turn enable greater mitigation and resilience in the face of climate change, support highly cost-effective recovery of ecosystems with their dependent species and produce income and employment for local communities and landholders.

Read more:

France Sauvage – English

France Sauvage – en français

[1] Please note, there is a slightly updated version of this French document currently being produced. However the main criteria for the definitions are correct.