The company that is bringing new forests to life in France

Créateur de Forêt launched in 2021 and has already planted a 2ha forest in western France

‘Our objective is to create ecosystems which are favourable to the preservation of biodiversity over the long term’

As fire and drought ravaged forests this summer, Baptiste Trény was trying to make people feel a little less powerless.

His company, Créateur de Forêt, helps towns turn unused land into forests using a crowdfunding model.

Once a commune has got in touch to suggest a piece of land, the company will work with ecologists, foresters, horticultural schools and others to plan and then plant a forest.

“Our objective is to create ecosystems which are favourable to the preservation of biodiversity over the long term,” Mr Trény told The Connexion.

‘Nature was doing well and didn’t need us’

“I would have preferred not to create the business, as nature was doing well and didn’t need us.”

A legal tool called an obligation réelle environnementale protects the sites for 99 years, meaning no concreting over the area, and no cutting trees for financial gain.

Read more: French environmental news: tree valuations, wonky veg, pesticides in tea

Since its creation in February 2021, Créateur de Forêt has already planted a 2ha forest in Deux-Sèvres in western France.

Four others are set to be planted this year, including projects in Deux-Sèvres and Charente-Maritime, with several planned for 2023. All use land owned by local authorities, except the first, which Créateur de Forêt bought to prove the project’s viability. The plots include clearcutting sites and a former water treatment plant. “It is mainly land which has been damaged by man,” Mr Trény said.

Loss of biodiversity root of wildfires

For the 38-year-old entrepreneur, a loss of biodiversity is at the root of the massive wildfires seen from Brittany to Gironde.

By the beginning of August, fires had ravaged more than six times the average amount of woodland for that time of year.

“We are seeing fires in forests where there is only one type of tree,” Mr Trény said.

“These are mainly resinous trees – pines or firs – which are like candles. And they are planted in rows, meaning air passes through, which is what you look for when having a barbecue: optimal conditions for them to burn.

Read more: GRAPHS: See how recent French wildfires compare to previous years

Other advantages to planting trees

“Nature is resilient when it’s diversified.” There are other advantages to planting trees, too.

One of the projects is located in a zone where drinking water is collected. The trees should, through a process called phytoremediation, decontaminate the soil and improve water quality. Studies have also shown that trees contribute to increased rainfall.

Créateur de Forêt sprang from its creator’s love of nature, which comes from a youth spent in rural Charente.

“I remember going to pick mushrooms with my grandmother. It’s thanks to her that I love the forest,” he said.

It is this love of nature that he hopes to pass on to others through the funding model – so far, 95 businesses and more than 640 individuals have contributed. “We could have larger projects with public funding, but it would be less unifying.

“Public funding comes from our taxes. Personally, when I pay my taxes, I don’t feel like I’m planting trees. It’s important for people to participate in a concrete way. Everybody is anxious at the moment – actively participating allows people to be happy and to feel useful.”

Spirit of education

In the same spirit of education, primary schoolchildren were invited to the planting of the first forest. Trees, Mr Trény said, are a useful entry to get people to care about all the things they cannot see, such as the thousands of bird and insect species present inside the forests.

Donations start at €6, as this is the cost of one square metre of forest, including the planning and monitoring stages.

Depending on the level of contribution, donors might also be invited to the planting and receive regular updates over the following five years on the progress of the trees and wildlife.

After five years, the forests should be able to continue growing by themselves. “Nature only needs one thing to be in good health,” Mr Trény said. “To be left in peace.”

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