EUROBOIS PLANTING FOR THE FUTURE
Tancrède Neveu, executive officer and fervent advocate of the French forest
With the demand for timber on a constant increase, French forests aren’t growing enough replacement trees. Over the last 30 years, the yearly number of trees planted has dropped by almost 50%. This situation has prompted the Eurobois trade show to team up with “Plantons pour l’avenir” (plant for the future) to highlight this original endowment fund. We meet Tancrède Neveu, executive officer and fervent advocate of the French forest.
What are the reasons behind this big dip in tree planting in France?
Up to the 2000s, there was a state subsidized reafforestation fund. But the implementation of European regulations forced its disappearance and the fallout was immediate, destroying our foresters’ re-planting momentum. Yet this didn’t instantly set alarm bells ringing as French forests weren’t being exploited to the same extent they are now and were indeed expanding due to the abandoning of farm land and its natural colonization by trees.
Fast forward to 2014: realizing the forest needed help to adapt to climate change, to improve its resilience, to measure up to the increase in timber demand, notably in the context of decarbonizing the economy, forestry cooperatives got their act together to stimulate reafforestation by planting. Our endowment fund, Plantons pour l’avenir, was created to facilitate this project
What is an endowment fund and how does it operate?
An endowment fund is a non-profit structure funded by patronage. Its purpose is to execute missions in the public interest. All our income is donated by businesses and private patrons. We created this structure to make up for the government’s non-investment in reafforestation, and we’re in it for the duration because forest renewal takes a long, long time.
Since 2014, we have managed to attract over six million euros and secure the loyalty of 200 business sponsors. Many of these businesses are unsurprisingly connected to the forestry & timber sector—paper mills, sawmills, board makers—but there are plenty from other horizons: banking, energy, property development, agri-food, DIY hypermarkets, services, and more.
Beyond their self-interest in actively favouring the long-term viability of the resource, they are keen to participate in causes and to commit. Patronage in France amounts to roughly 3.5 billion euros a year, with 10% of companies donating to a cause. There are therefore plenty of prospects for a structure like ours to progress.
What actions are you pursuing?
We act in three complementary areas. First, we support forest owners’ new plantations in the shape of an interest-free advance repayable over 30 years. We have already aided 350 projects of this type, representing 2,100 hectares of renewed forest dedicated to timber production. All these reafforestation projects are monitored by a forestry expert or forestry management professional and all have gained a management accreditation document and sustainable management certificate (PEFC and/or FSC). Second, we run awareness campaigns aimed at the general population, because we often find ourselves up against contradictory postures: everybody likes wood for its looks and durability, but not everybody is comfortable with the productive aspect of forests. Third and last, we conduct research programmes to find the best solutions for adapting to climate change. Hydric stress and heat waves have a big effect on some species, increasing their sensitivity to parasites (bark beetles, ash dieback, etc.), which in turn lead to forest blight. Trialling more resilient species and plantation methods that can help the forest adapt and better withstand this new climatic context is a priority
As a partner of the next Eurobois trade show, what do you expect from it?
First of all, being able to trade thoughts with the sector’s stakeholders and make our actions known. Eurobois offers us a stage. The event will also provide an opportunity to catch up with some of our patrons, like Finnso Bois and SGM, whom have put us in touch with GL events.
This partnership fits firmly into GL events’ CSR initiative and its willingness to commit to causes. The long-term viability of our forests and relocalization of production is sure to sound a positive echo with Eurobois!
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