France plans subsidies for tree felling to help exterminate bark beetle

By Thomson Reuters Apr 15, 2024 | 12:01 PM

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s agriculture ministry plans to subsidise tree felling and ease regulations on biomass burning as part of a push to stop the spread of bark beetle, a voracious pest decimating French forests whose spread has been boosted by global warming.

Since 2018, successive droughts and high temperatures in northeast France have made trees more vulnerable to beetle attacks, sparking massive mortality of spruce and fir, with an estimated 110,000 of the 520,000 hectares of forest in that region infested, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

To contain the insects’ spread, France will finance preventive felling of trees and debarking equipment, make it easier to burn infested wood for biomass, and help sell timber that has been infested but is still usable, the ministry said.

Debarking felled trees in at-risk areas can help stop the beetles’ spread by preventing freshly felled healthy trees from becoming new breeding grounds.

The government will subsidise timber companies’ acquisition of felling-debarking equipment, which debarks trees as they are cut, funding up to 65% of the cost up to 8,000 euros ($8,510) per unit.

“The more advanced the infestation is, the less effective control measures are,” the ministry said in a statement.

The government is also setting up national and regional crisis units to better map and control the insects’ spread.

Spruce and pine are widely used for construction, furniture and paper. The ministry said that when identified at an early stage and felled at the right time, bark-beetle infested wood is perfectly suitable for construction.

For wood that can no longer be used as timber, the government will ease regulations on burning it in biomass-fueled power or heating plants, allowing wood to come from regions further away from the burning site.

It will also boost state support for replanting forests.

($1 = 0.9401 euros)

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Jan Harvey)