The battle in Burgundy to save a forested land from a job-promising plant

By Anne Duvivier

In a struggling rural region of Burgundy, at the gates of the Morvan national park, locals have mounted a campaign to halt a private company from creating a vast wood-processing industrial site which would bring hundreds of jobs to the area. Local politicians support the project as offering a much-needed boost to the flagging local economy, while its opponents argue the environmental cost for a short-term gain is unacceptable. The future of the site now hangs on a ruling due from France’s highest court, the Council of State. “What’s being played out here is truly a debate about society,” says Christian Paul, socialist Member of Parliament for the region and one of the project’s supporters. Anne Duvivier reports.

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For the inhabitants in and around Sardy-les-Épiry,  a small community sitting in the heart of a traditionally socialist-voting region of Burgundy, hard-hit by rising unemployment and an exodus of the rural population, the project first presented in 2011 appeared as if a godsend.