Irreparable damage

It will take 200 years for France to restore its forests that were devastated by storms

Published: Tuesday 15 February 2000

it will take up to two centuries to restore France's forests, devastated by freak Christmas weekend storms which killed over 85 people, said the National Forestry Office ( onf ). The onf said gales blowing up to 200 kph uprooted or broke in half 270 million trees, the equivalent of 100 million cubic metres of wood. "All kinds of trees have been affected -- century-old oaks are knocked over, young pines are broken, beeches, maples are hit," said Jacques Descargues, secretary general of onf .

"In areas where all the trees have fallen, we will have to recreate the entire forest, which means that in certain cases it will take 100 to 200 years," he said. The French government is now drafting a plan to help restore the forests and limit losses to the timber industry. It will include measures to prevent lumber prices from plummeting, utilise the fallen trees and detail a replanting programme.

Forestry experts said that uprooted trees can be stored and sold for construction work, while those which have snapped in two can be sold only for firewood or to paper factories. The worst hit was the eastern region of Lorraine, where some 25 million cubic metres of forest have been destroyed.

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