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“Bringing the public closer to the world of the forest and those who take care of it”

You are at the origin of a diversified and experimental forest. Could you define what a diverse forest is?

We actually have a plot that started from scratch. Trees were planted there, but the decision was made to let all spontaneous species come. In fact, no less than 26 species of trees have been identified in addition to those planted. Sometimes we even cut down planted trees because we have just discovered an infrequent or even rare species.

I don’t know if we can speak of an experimental nature, let’s say that this practice serves as an example, just as it is a bet. An example because it is assumed that forests with diversified species are more resistant to droughts (like the one in progress in 2022!) and to pest attacks. A catastrophic view of future developments would be to add: if one or more species die, there will always be a forest. This is the case, for example, of the ash tree suffering from an incurable disease which literally disappears with rare exceptions when it was the hardwood king of the Vosges forest.

A gamble, because the value and use of tree species is very unequal. Some accuse the “industrialists of the forest” of favoring what suits them, in particular softwoods, which are very numerous here in the Vosges. But you have to be very blind and hypocritical not to see how much we need wood: it is the same people who want to eliminate plastic packaging and give up concrete who denounce this industry which provides them with this extraordinary material that is wood. So what are the books on deforestation made of? Above all, they have no idea of ​​the history of the forests and their overexploitation until barely 200 years ago. This bet is therefore that in several decades, we will be able to make use of various woods while reconciling with biological diversity.

Why did you choose to take over this forest?

It is a family property, and we are lucky that our house is in the middle, in the heart of the Vosges forest. I used to spend my holidays there from a very young age, which is to say that contact with the world of the forest has always been very intimate. After being trained in a major forestry school, I worked for 3 years at the National Forestry Office, which I left for a career as a musician, which was my first vocation. But I never lost this organic attraction to the forest. Now I can devote myself to it, with the desire to share with the public. Our forest is a little over 5 hectares: it’s far from being a big property. In this sense, I join the 3.5 million French owners: another thing that the general public does not know since three quarters of the French forest is private. Unfortunately, as soon as we talk about forests, we pour over the concerns of the National Forestry Office (ONF) which are certainly legitimate from all points of view, but we forget the vast majority of forests which have their own problems. , but also their own wealth. Hardly anyone knows about the National Forest Property Center (CNPF), which has the heavy task of boosting private forests with 20 times less resources! There are also associations of forest owners, such as Fransylva, of which we are members. A whole world of people, organizations and researchers working to ensure that the French forest exists.

What tree species are found in your forest?

We can say that we have three kinds of trees, divided into several zones. Trees with a forestry vocation, such as spruce, fir, larch, supplemented by the Canadian sugar maple, or the chestnut which tended to disappear in our region.

The different species of the Tigaroutte forest

Trees that can be described as “spontaneous” that have settled by the wind and birds. Of course birch is very present (it’s a conqueror), sycamore maple, hornbeam, hazel, beech to name only the most common. There is also the mountain elm, which almost disappeared from Europe about fifty years ago due to an incurable disease. We are lucky to have beautiful adult elms, and above all, we discover young trees, proof that they are fertile. Collectible trees, even plantations with a symbolic character, such as the cedar, this tree so despised because it is used to make urban hedges, whereas it is a superb forest tree which is on the list of species which will resist -being to climate change. It grew naturally in France 8000 years ago after the last ice age!

In all, that’s just over 80 species.

What work do you do in your forest and what is it for?

There are people who from their couch believe that nature does just fine on its own and that should be a guiding principle. The forest being seemingly the ultimate world of what is “wild”, it should not be touched. The role of the forester is to sculpt with light. When 20 birches have germinated on the same square meter, their future and that of their neighbors is more than uncertain: to intervene is to save time for the forest, it is to detect beautiful trees, planted or not. The purpose of this work is therefore to promote them in their diversity, whatever they may be. I must say that the result is spectacular…and beautiful!

Why are you taking part in the Les Nuits des Forêts initiative?

Forest Nights, I started them on my own! I must have been the only teenager who got up at 5 a.m. to face the night and the creaks of the forest to watch for the animals. Later, I realized that during walks in the forest with friends, I naturally told them everything I knew. One day, on leaving our forest, we entered an extraordinary patch of forest, with the feeling of entering a forgotten place, out of time: the dark trunks of fir trees resting on an ocean of moss bursting with greenery on a thick carpet of humus, a small torrent marked by deer. My friends walked slowly, noiselessly, as if they were entering a wild world, on the territory crossed by multiple animals. I had just read an article by botanist Francis Hallé who invites his readers to compare a “primary forest”, (that is to say, untouched by humans) to a vintage champagne, the “fields of trees” (this way odious to define the forests that would be subject to shameful exploitation) with a glass of “warm coke”. I watched my friends reverently explore what Francis Hallé said was a horrible monoculture of “nothing growing” spruce trees that are described as ecological horrors. This is where I decided that I had to explain, convey what the forest is, where it comes from and perhaps where it is going, so as not to give in to sadness and anger. Unlike a small elite who claim to love trees and the forest, supported by NGOs who do not hesitate to lie, most often by omission, we want to bring the public closer to the world of the forest and those who take care of it.

The Tigaroutte forest opens its doors to the general public

But the big difference is that at the Tiragooute Forest, we love all trees, whatever they are. They are there whether they are in monoculture plantations or “natural” places. We observe the neighboring parcel of a monoculture of spruce trees planted with good sense by a former forester, then abandoned by his heirs who didn’t care and sold it to a forestry SCI. This is how. We take forests as they are. I go more and more to meetings of foresters and players in the timber industry: we are far, very far, from the laughable caricature of “industrialists destroying biodiversity”. These people also love the trees and the forest, some even leave feathers there out of passion, others do nothing and need to be helped. Our fellow citizens have many other occasions to be taken for frogs at whom red rags are waved. Clear cuts, large softwood replacement, overexploitation of wood, destruction of biodiversity (this word overused excessively) are the usual clichés that serve to generate emotion while distancing our fellow citizens from reality.

We must not hide it: it is players in the wood industry who finance the Les Nuits des Forêts festival. There is a mountain of messages to convey to our fellow citizens, it is a healthy reaction to what is on the way to becoming a subject of society. We explain this to them in the middle of a magnificent plot of diversity which was nothing more than a clear cut (which made it possible to acquire it!) 11 years ago. A lady came to thank me during the last visit, telling me how much the anxiety-provoking speeches distorted her perception of the forest and those who take care of it.

What do you expect from this event?

On the posters created for the Nuits des Forêts, the artist used all the colors except green. I take it as a strong symbol: we are invited to take another look at the forest, to shed new light on them. Of course, we have many more people during night visits with small illuminations and a concert in the forest than during an exciting outing with a geologist or a historian, but we intend to make both options permanent, because the message is the same: that’s Forest Nights. I hope that this event will take on the importance it deserves and that more and more owners and foresters will participate.

In this sense we can speak of public utility!

What are your future plans for the Tiragooutte forest?

The Tiragotte Forest is both a forest and an association whose activities are precisely to inform the public in the form of visits all year round, but also to be a place of exchange, why not research, with forest actors. We have frequent visits from the latter, most often organized with the CNPF. Next July, we are welcoming 30 children and their teaching staff as part of the Learning Holidays. Tomorrow morning, we welcome the village school for the third time.

The message is always the same. Without the existence of our species, there would be forests everywhere, it is a fact. But without forests, our species would simply not exist.

Find more information on the Tiragoutte Forest here: www.tiragoutte.info

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