Is the model forest approach to sustainable forest management right for France? Four third-year students in the Forestry Engineering Program at the École Nationale du Génie Rural, des Eaux et des Forêts, (ENGREF) in Nancy, France, spent six weeks in Canada this summer doing preliminary research to find out.
As part of their studies, Camille Garin, Gwénaelle Gibaud, Sophie Pitocchi and Eric Boittin, spent three weeks at the Bas Saint Laurent Model Forest, near Rimouski, Quebec, and three weeks at the Eastern Ontario Model Forest, near Kemptville, Ontario, shadowing the daily activities of foresters, agronomists and other technicians and generally learning about the types of projects and activities undertaken by Canadian model forests. The goal? Obtain information that would help determine whether the creation of a model forest in the Lorraine region (Nancy) is feasible.
“Before coming to Canada, we had only heard negative stories about how Canada’s forests were managed,” said Camille. “This visit was a real eye-opener.” The students also noted that while the two model forests they visited were very different, the staff shared a strong commitment and motivation to better manage their regions’ forests.
The students are now writing their reports and arranging a symposium at ENGREF in January 2005, to discuss model forest challenges in greater detail. Invited to the symposium, among others, will be representatives from the newly minted Vilhelmina Model Forest in Sweden (launched September 1, 2004) — Europe’s first model forest.
The students’ visit to Canada was preceded by a meeting in Paris in May 2004, hosted by UNESCO, during which the IMFNS’s Peter Besseau discussed the possible creation of a French model forest with French forestry professionals. The next step in the process of determining the feasibility of a French model forest involves exchanges at the professional/practitioner level between Canada and France.