In French forests, foresters victims of attacks

In the collective imagination, the forest is a calm and soothing place that calls for serenity, even meditation. A vision that probably does not share the forestry workers, victims almost daily of verbal and physical violence.

In a grandstand at the Obseighteen representatives of the forest-wood sector share their concern about these attacks and give a few examples. “On March 17, 2022, an arson attack devastated a forestry machine belonging to a forestry cooperative in Brassy, ​​a town in Nièvre. A few days earlier, the foresters of this same cooperative were the target of death threats, which were the subject of a complaint to the gendarmerie,” lament the signatories of the text. An isolated case ? Unfortunately no.

Since the end of 2018, in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Nouvelle-Aquitaine regions, around twenty forestry machines have been set on fire or sabotaged. To which are added the looting and uprooting of plants, but also numerous malicious acts targeting the forest workers themselves.

Public/private, all targeted

In order to measure the exact scale of the phenomenon on the scale of Ile-de-France, the National Forestry Office (ONF) launched an internal survey among its 230 forest agents in the Ile-de-France. In total, 88% of respondents say they have already witnessed or been victims of an altercation. More in detail, 45% of respondents would have suffered verbal reproaches, 22% oral or written insults, 19% would have witnessed damage and 10% physically taken to task.

Foresters suffer “daily violence” from “ walkers, residents or associations (who) sometimes react violently” ; “It is unfortunately not uncommon for them to suffer criticism, violent insults, even physical attacks”regrets the Public Office questioned by France Blue.

Independent forest workers and forest cooperatives that manage private forests are not spared either. The senator from Corrèze, Daniel Chasseing, had already alerted the Ministry of Agriculture in a document published in Official newspaper December 5, 2019: “A certain number of activists, in fact, because they refuse the clearings necessary for the management of the wood, start – this is a novelty! – to attack morally and physically the employees of forestry cooperatives (stevedores and transporters), as well as their equipment” The senator then asked the Ministry of Agriculture to take concrete measures. These attacks, particularly those aimed at damaging or even destroying forestry equipment, have a significant impact on small businesses whose activity can be suspended for several days.

The administration responded three months later and expressed concern about this phenomenon, which ” hinders the professional activity of a sector essential to the maintenance, management, development and sustainability of our national forest potential “.

Obviously condemning the attacks, the Ministry of Agriculture recalled that the protection of foresters was the responsibility of the gendarmerie. He also encouraged industry players to “better communicate about their professions, the usefulness of forest management to preserve the multifunctionality of forests and the importance of wood materials in national climate objectives”.

Irreconcilable points of view?

These are all themes that the sector is committed to making known to civil society, with the backing of communications, information and public events such as the SIA and other fairs and exhibitions. If these actions have undoubtedly reached their target, the attacks do not stop for all that.

Malicious acts that reflect “a radical conception of the place of humans in forest areas”, can we read in theObs. This vision goes against the multifunctional role of the forest, enshrined in the Forest Code, argue the representatives of the sector. And the co-signatories recall that, yes, the forest fulfills essential societal and ecological roles, but that it is also a resource that must be managed and exploited responsibly. The harvesting and transformation of wood into a renewable material and energy is “essential to the energy transition”, they recall. A harvest that does not prevent the development of the French forest, the area of ​​which is growing every year.

An admission of failure? Certainly not in the opinion of the co-signers for whom these attacks are a sign that “the awareness work carried out by foresters (owners, managers, cooperatives, loggers, operators, etc.) with the general public, to explain their role and the principle of sustainable forest management, is more necessary than ever and must be continued” . Professionals in the sector say they are ready for controversy as well as the pursuit of the debate of ideas, while denouncing “loud and loud these attacks” and requiring the implementation of measures to ensure the safety of foresters.

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In French forests, foresters victims of attacks

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