Nature parks mark 50th birthday

Dawn image with mist in hollows and rising creamy light
The sunrise starts to come over the misty valleys of the Vosges du Nord near Lichtenberg

Idea has spread round the world with Chinese asking for advice on protecting natural heritage

France’s regional nature parks today celebrate their 50th birthday with the announcement that four more are to be created to bring the total to 51.

The Parcs Naturels Régionaux cover 4,300 communes in 15 regions across the country and overseas with four million people living in them.

They were set up by President de Gaulle and work today under the slogan “A new life is imagined here” pioneering sustainable development projects, work on biodiversity and the countryside and on cutting the distance between supplier and consumer.

The first park to be created was at Saint-Amand-Raismes, north-west of Valenciennes in Nord department and is nowadays called the PNR Scarpe-Escaut. It is the smallest of the parks and is known for its range of habitats, with coal mine spoil heaps being preserved for biodiversity and recreation activities.

Map of the Parcs Naturels Régionaux in France
The 51 Parcs Naturels Régionaux de France cover 15 regions and four million people

Since then the idea has been taken up by many countries, with Chinese visitors being shown round the Parc des Ballons des Vosges last month to find ways to protect their natural heritage.

Of the 8.7million hectares that the parks cover, they make up nine of the 14 Unesco World Network of Biosphere Reserves in France with woods and forests covering 37% of the area. They include many emblematic plant and animal species: Alpine Ibex, Common Crane, Pink Flamingo, Mountain Arnica, Capercaillie, Bonelli's eagle, Martagon lily, Sea-calf seal, Leather turtles…

There are four in Ile-de-France and one, the Gâtinais, has seen European beavers return for the first time, in the river Essonne.

Four new parks are to be created in coming months, with the Baie de Somme – Picardie maritime, Sainte-Baume, Aubrac and Médoc.

Today and this weekend an exhibition at Bercy village in Paris will show the range of activities in the parks and will show plans for the future.

France also has a network of national parks, find out more in our article from last year on the Parcs Nationaux de France on how they work and where they are.

Parcs Naturels Régionaux

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