The national forest park, on the borders of Champagne and Burgundy, the latest of the French national parks.

It was created in November 2019. -


  • Place 30% of the French territory in protected areas, including 10% under strong protection, from 2022. This is the objective that France has set itself, and which could also figure in the objectives that the international community has set for itself. decade to come.

  • These protected areas, in particular those with strong protection, are potentially powerful levers to allow nature to regenerate itself or to implement new cohabitations between man and the rest of life.

  • They still have to be created where there are real biodiversity issues.

    One of the shortcomings of the new national strategy for protected areas presented on Tuesday evening?

Strong protection of 250,000 ha of forest, creation or extension of twenty national nature reserves, creation of two regional nature parks, protection of 6,000 hectares of coastline….

Tuesday evening, the government adopted its national strategy for protected areas, which aims to place, from 2022, protected areas on 30% of our land and sea territories, including 10% under strong protection.

This course was already known.

Emmanuel Macron has repeated it on several occasions, including this Monday again, on the sidelines of the One planet summit, an international summit which aimed to bring about new coalitions of actors on the preservation of biodiversity.

A goal to be carried on the international scene

This objective of protecting 30% of land and sea territories will be at the heart of the COP15 “biodiversity” negotiations, scheduled for the end of the year in China, and which will give rise to a new post-2020 global framework to better protect living organisms. .

Led by Costa Rica and France, “the Coalition for High Ambition for Nature brings together countries committed to reaching this 30% milestone.

As of Monday, it now has about fifty members, ”says Yann Wehrling, who is hopeful that Joe Biden's United States will soon be added to it.

The stake is capital for the French Ambassador for the Environment.

“Preserving biodiversity will of course require tackling profound changes, especially in agriculture,” he begins.

But it takes time.

At the same time, protected areas can be deployed quickly and this is what governments are doing quite well *.


Done well, these protected areas can be powerful tools in preserving biodiversity.

"The idea is to at least stop the erosion of biodiversity or even allow it to regenerate within 10% under strong protection", schematizes Yann Wehrling.

"These areas are not only reservoirs of biodiversity," adds Denis Couvet, president of the Foundation for research on biodiversity.

They are also spaces where we allow very specific ecosystems to develop, where we introduce new rules of cohabitation between man and the rest of life.

In this, they are wild cards in the face of climate change to which we do not yet know how much we will have to adapt.


The specter of "paper parks"?

But it is not enough to increase the number of protected areas for the strategy to be crowned with success.

Both Yann Wehrling and Denis Couvet evoke the “Paper Parks” which exist only in the statutes, but without any human and financial means behind to enforce the rules.

The so-called parks are found in developing countries.

France is not immune to creating empty shells, says Maxime Paquin.

The “biodiversity” project manager at France Nature Environnement (FNE) begins by recalling that France has already almost achieved, on paper, this 30% target.

"It is a generic term behind which there are around thirty statutes, the degrees of protection of which vary," he explains.

The 27,522 Natura 2000 sites are listed there. "The level of protection is quite low * and is based on a participatory approach by the actors of the territory," explains Maxime Paquin.

It could be interesting and there are some very good things going on there but overall the account is not there.

"A 2016 assessment by the National Museum of Natural History showed that, for the most part, these Natura 2000 spaces were in a degraded state," confirms Denis Couvet.

Maxime Paquin also finds fault with the territories placed under strong protections.

This concerns in particular the hearts of national parks which, without being under cover, strongly restrict human activities.

“Except that of the forest national park between Champagne and Burgundy [last national park to be created in November 2019], he regrets.

You can still cultivate cereals intensively there, practice hunting with hounds, clear cuts of forest plots… ”

The big challenge of the 10% under strong protection

Doesn't bode well for the future?

It is on strong protection - the famous 10% - that most of the issues are played out.

France is far behind on this objective, with only 1.5% of the territory concerned today.

Above all, the distribution is very uneven.

With regard to maritime areas, 80% of this high protection is concentrated on a territory: the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF), come under the responsibility of scientists from the Center for Insular Research and Environmental Observatory (Criobe), who have reviewed the 524 French marine protected areas (MPAs).

Not great?

“This amounts to creating strong protection areas where there are few stakes, quite simply because human activities are very low,” says Maxime Paquin.

They would have much more impact if they were created in metropolitan France.

However, they are very weak there.

“59% of French Mediterranean waters are in MPAs, including 0.1% in high or full protection,” illustrate the scientists from Criobe.

Don't put it all in the southern lands?

Will this national strategy for protected areas be the occasion for a rebalancing?

Maxime Paquin doubts it.

“It is in particular a question of transforming the natural marine park of Glorieuses into a nature reserve, which would make it pass into strong protection and would allow France to make a big leap towards 10%, he indicates.

But we stay in the southern lands, still in an area where human activities remain weak ”.

This is Maxime Paquin's main criticism of the strategy as it is presented today.

“We are possibly announcing a twelfth national park, the creation of two regional parks… But it is difficult to see the scientific method for determining the areas that really need to be protected,” he points out.

It is, however, a crucial point.



Biodiversity: Does the new French Office launched by Macron have the means for its ambitions?


To preserve natural sites, should we put an end to mass tourism?


“In 2010, the international community set itself 20 objectives for the preservation [the Aichi objectives] of biodiversity for the decade that was beginning, including that of reaching 17% protection of land and 10% of seas.

And it is one of the only two to have been almost reached ”, specifies Yann Wehrling.

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