The mismanaged forests invading rural France

By Aurore Staiger

With the steady desertification of many areas of rural France has come a parallel invasion of forests reclaiming abandoned land. A combination of unsustainable and mismanaged forests, many hurriedly planted to provide timber for the post-war reconstruction, and the division of private forestland into myriads of tiny plots has resulted in disfigured landscapes and villages overrun by fir and spruce trees. The problem is nowhere more acute than in the Puy-de-Dôme département in central France, from where Aurore Staiger reports on the efforts of local officials to claim back the landscapes of the past and to reorganise woodland within a diverse and sustainable environment.

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The village of Saint-Éloy-la-Glacière is situated in the vast Massif Central region in central France, lying at an altitude of about 1,000 metres in a sub-region called Le Livradois. The permanent population of about 60 inhabitants is doubled, even tripled in the summer months by holidaymakers drawn to an environment of thick forests of fir and spruce trees.