Deforestation, wild deforestation and Chinese trade: the truth and the falsehood of the forests of the Lot

the essential
It is not easy to dispel the clichés about the management of the Lot forests. Between what everyone imagines and the reality of the industry, received ideas die hard. La Dépêche du midi explains how our 99% private forests are managed without jargon.

The forest occupies 50% of the territory of Lot, one of the most wooded departments of metropolitan France, 99% belongs to 66,000 owners. An important resource and sector for our department but clichés still circulate.

“There is less and less forest in the Lot”

Impostor. The department has an annual growth of 680,000 m3. Only 1/4 of the annual increment is collected. Nationwide, 30% of the metropolitan area (excluding overseas forests) is forested. After doubling in two centuries, the area is now relatively stable. “Since 1291 laws have been put in place to protect and frame this property which was not like any other. The kings of France applied them in their royal forests then in 1669 Colbert imposed rules in private domains even 75% of the French forests today ” explains Jean-Pierre Charpy, state forestry technician at the DDT lot.

“There is illegal logging and wild logging everywhere”

Impostor. Forestry policy is the responsibility of the State, which ensures its national consistency with the Forest Orientation Law of 9 July 2001, which emphasizes the notions of sustainable and multifunctional management. At the regional level for French private forests, the Regional Forest Management Systems (SRGS) define the main management rules taking into account human, geographical and natural specificities. The Simple Management Plan (PSG) is a mandatory document for forests of more than 25 hectares in 10 or 20 years. Below are the codes of silvicultural good practice.

Misconceptions about our forests

“Wood cutting is regulated, we don’t do what we want. Each owner draws up a management document that schedules maintenance and crop cuts. We need to distinguish between clear cuts where the entire parcel at the end of a long process. And cuts of thinning: cuts as you go that allow other trees to progress and reach maturity for quality wood” insists Eric Simon, president of Fransylva Lot, union of private foresters.

On these cuts, the stumps remain unlike the clearing. “There, we put an end to the forest use of land for parking, agricultural cultivation, construction. These logging projects of more than 4 hectares are subject to prefectural authorization. We explain to elected officials and our partners: be careful when you have files involving the disappearance of the forests, you give them to us so that we can issue an opinion”, explains Jean-Pierre Charpy.

“Failed to detect violations”

Impostor. Most of the time, the authorities receive reports from citizens. The DDT then inquires with elected officials and goes on site to check if necessary. The Regional Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Forestry (DRAAF) also sends an analysis of the satellite photos every year. “A software will compare the images in two years. We see the changes in land use and identify the anomalies. We often carry out lengthy investigations, identify the infringements, conclude an average of 6 complaints and for the most serious cases, we reach the public ministry of Cahors. But the companies are careful of their reputation” notes the forest technician.

“Most of our wood goes to China”

True and false. According to Ademe and CNPF, 46% of the wood harvested in the Lot is used for heating: logs, pellets, heating networks and boiler rooms, 31% is intended for wood for carpentry and carpentry and 23% for industry ( paste, panels, etc.). But difficult to obtain figures on Lot’s exports. In recent years, the national federation of timber has also sounded the alarm to curb exports to China and protect the supply of French sawmills and processors. In 2021, Chinese purchases of French oak increased by 42% at the end of May, compared to 2020. And even by 66% for softwoods. In February 2022, the entire timber industry pledged measures to stem the exodus of oak trees to China. The agreement plans to open up the EU label to private forests (which require initial processing in the EU before any export) and to increase the number of pre-agreements between suppliers and buyers. But the bleeding seems to continue, the independent media Disclose even revealed illicit trafficking under the eyes of the state a few weeks ago.

“France has a positive trade balance, it exports a lot of round wood to China. Then our wood comes back to us in the form of manufactured goods. The government is aware of this, it is helping to create sawmills. “Let’s work, we must create the desire to use wood in furniture, make our children want to work in these trades” concludes Jean-Pierre Charpy who supports education in this sector.

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