Over 20,000 hectares of sea pines smashed into smoke in the Gironde, nearly 1,800 hectares of vegetation burned in Monts d’Arrée in Brittany, 1,200 hectares charred in the Ardèche, a gigantic fire in the Gard, a fire in Bouches-du-Rhône , in Landes … July was a particularly hot and destructive month for the French forests. In total, more than 587,868 hectares have been burned since the start of the year, when the average was 132,910 from 2006 to 2021, according to the latest records from the European Forest Fire Information System (Effis) cited by the scientist, while the fire season is not even over. However, the fires that affected France this summer will increase in the future, with the fire season extended (June through the end of September) and focus on danger zones, warns Benoit Raymond, a fire defense expert at the ONF (National Forestry Office). This situation is more problematic because the forests are mostly private, and poorly secured.
Three-quarters of the forests in France are private
Private owners concentrate three-quarters of the forests in the territory, i.e. 12.6 million hectares out of 17 million. Alone, 2 million “very small owners” own more than three million hectares of private land. However, these small forests are often unmanaged “by default,” Benoit Raymond explains. However, it is the most unforgiving forests that carry the greatest fire risk in the event of a fire, warns François Carrillo, an engineer in charge of development at Fransylva, the federation of private forestry unions in France.
There is no risk to the environment
Faced with the disaster scenario of the proliferation of “massive fires” in France, “it is clearly linked to climate change, which makes vegetation more available for fires”, according to the ONF, only 9% of forests are secured against damage to third parties (the owners of Foresters are responsible for the damage their trees do), or finance their reforestation.
Marked by the deadly 1949 fires that destroyed 50,000 hectares of the Landes de Gascogne forest and killed 82 people, the Landes stronghold is the safest French territory: 25% of the massif, versus 6% of the 12.6 million private French hectares. On average, only 9% of French private forests are insured against fire, According to a study by Assurland.com.
Lack of (optional) insurance discourages owners from reforesting in the event of a fire, and thus can be a problem for the environment. The French forest park already accounts for 17% of its land’s annual carbon emissions, according to the Federation of Private Forestry Unions. After a forest fire, “except in certain areas,” such as the Mediterranean, where plants adapt to the climate (to a certain extent), and regenerate, “reforestation (covered by insurance) must be privileged to store carbon and store high-quality timber” As François Carrillo recalls, not to mention the benefits of forests to biodiversity.
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No regular income
Into the question: Too expensive insurance in relation to income from logging, which discourages private owners from protecting themselves, explains major insurers and comparisons, Sylvassur, XLB Assurances and Assurland.com. “Forest exploitation does not provide a regular income. You have to wait 40 to 50 years to get the fruits of the exploitation of pine, when 120 years are necessary for an oak tree. So some owners see no interest in ensuring there is wood from which they can see no benefit. If you are The generation that harvests, it’s all right, and if you’re the generation that sows, or worse yet, the middle generation, that has to conserve wood, it’s less fun,” analyzes Xavier de la Bretesche, CEO of XLB Assurances. . “On average, the specialized market for forest insurance offers contracts of about twenty euros per hectare and per year, for compensation of between 1,000 and 5,000 euros per hectare insured, depending on the type of forest, the species of nature and the damage threshold,” according to Olivier Mostakakis, Director General and co-founder of Assurland.com, knows that reforestation costs between 3,000 and 8,000 euros per hectare, according to President Fransylva, citing france news, Antoine Damourt.
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90% tax cut on storm insurance, nothing for fires
Since 2011, the Agricultural Modernization Act allows for a 90% tax reduction on expenses incurred in underwriting an insurance contract that covers timber and forests against storm risks. A gesture from the state that does not extend to the risk of fire, unfortunately for Xavier de la Bretesche, while this would make it possible to finance fire insurance by means other than forest revenue. In addition to the loss of forest capital, the problem of fires destroying forests has become a collective problem, the ONF explains. If there are no more trees, nothing can stop the rain: in areas sensitive to natural hazards such as falling rocks, heavy falls, or fallen trees, these threats will be exacerbated by the occurrence of fire.
But unlike these risks classified as natural disasters that can be offset through Barnier’s Fund, the primary natural hazard prevention fund (FPRNM) — which is fueled by a 12% tax on home insurance — fire risks do not. They do not fall into this category, in question are of human origin. So the state can’t support them. Only one-time state assistance can compensate the uninsured. “Some would like to include fire risk in a natural disaster, but the state is already running short: it compensates more than it collects,” explains Olivier Mostakakis.