In 1964, the Minister of Agriculture, Edgar Pisani, and DATAR appointed a task force to set a scheme for inhabited rural areas with noteworthy heritage, that would be less restrictive than National Parks.

From 25 to 30 September 1966, about one hundred key people from all fields (architects, planners, minister, civil servants, organisation directors, etc.) gathered together at Lursen- Provence at DATAR’s initiative, and brainstormed to invent the French “Regional Natural Park” concept.


1st March: General de Gaulle signed the decree instituting Regional Natural Parks, despite the opinion of the Council of State, which regarded it as “soft” law. Should be classed as Regional Natural Park “the territory, in whole or in part, of one or several towns that, due to the quality of its natural and cultural heritage, is of particular interest for rest, leisure and tourism, and therefore needs to be protected and organised”. This new type of park was given three objectives: to provide major metropolitan areas with leisure areas, to boost rural areas experiencing difficulty, and to determine, through new development approaches, how to emphasise natural and cultural richness and preserve flora, fauna and landscapes.

Fourteen future Park coordinators, commissioned by DATAR, undertook a world park tour. The first Ecomuseums were initiated with G.H Rivière Ouessant Ecomuseum in the Armorique Regional Natural Park and Marquèze Ecomuseum in the Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park, both just being created at that time.


May: youth revolts. Consumer society was deemed too materialistic and people were demanding greater participation in public life, and third-worldism, feminism, regionalism and environmentalism emerged.

The 1st Regional Natural Park – Saint-Amand- Raismes – was created on 12,000 hectares, at the gates of the Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing metropolitan area, in the North of France. It has since expanded and been renamed the Scarpe-Escaut Regional Natural Park.


General de Gaulle’s national referendum proposing a regional structure, amongst other things, was rejected with 53.17% of votes against.

While the Armorique Regional Natural Park is being established on 65,000 ha of abandoned rural territories in the heart of the Finistère Department, Regional Natural Park directors and coordinators got together at the Permanent Park Conference to share their experiences, and difficulties, defend and promote the Park’s scheme.


The Club of Rome recommended ending strong continuous growth in its “Limits to Growth” report and the Council of Europe launched the first European Nature Conservation Year.


The newly created French Ministry of Environment took over responsibility for Regional Natural Parks from DATAR. On 17 November, while instituting the Federation of Natural Parks of France, Robert Poujade, Minister of Environment, characterised Regional Natural Parks as “territorial fineplanning tools”. Until 1989, the Federation was presided over by François Giacobbi, President of the Corse Regional Natural Park.

Unesco launched the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB).


There were already 10 Regional Natural Parks: Saint-Amand-Raismes, Armorique, Brière, Camargue, Landes de Gascogne, Morvan, Vercors, Forêt d’Orient, Corse and Haut- Languedoc.

After months of negotiating with the French Ministry of Finance, the maintenance of the goverment’s financial support of the government to operating Regional Natural Park’s budget was approved (CIANE, 6 February). However, this contribution had to be degressive and Regions were to take over after a period of three years.

The Federation of Nature and National Parks of Europe was created on the initiative of parks in Germany and Belgium and the Federation of Natural Parks of France.


15th October: with the creation of Regions, a new decree specified Regional Natural Park’s role and establishment. The first article reiterated: “their purpose is to determine and promote the implementation of joint actions to plan and economically develop the territories in question and ensure their consistency”. Regions were then entitled to propose a Park, draw up the Park’s Charter, and deliberate on a classification. Above all, Regions could finance the operating of Regional Natural Parks. Thanks to the Parks and their Federation, the government maintained its role of approving the Charters and classing Parks.


The French Nature Protection Act stipulated that: “the protection of nature sites and landscapes, the preservation of animal and plant species, the maintenance of the biological balance in which they participate and the protection of natural resources from any degradation are of general interest.” An amendment was added to article 1 in extremis: “the achievement of these objectives must also ensure that both urban and rural populations benefit from harmonious and balanced living conditions”.

After numerous parliamentary discussions, a budget line was added to the Secretary of State for the Environment for operating of Regional Natural Parks “that take part in the general policy of improving the distribution of the population throughout the territory and the human and economic revitalisation of rural areas.” (André Fosset, Minister of Quality of Life, General Assembly of the Federation - 11 June). This governmental financial assistance would vary - from 15 to 45% - depending on the demographic and financial situation of each Park, on its “ecological value” and the Park’s efforts to develop its territory and protect nature.


By this time, Regional Natural Parks had been in existence for 10 years and included 20 Parks, with the addition of the following ones: Brotonne (now known as Boucles de la Seine Normande), Pilat, Lorraine, Normandie- Maine, Martinique, Montagne de Reims, Vosges du Nord, Luberon, Queyras and Volcans d’Auvergne.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, President of France at the time, declared that “In our country, Regional Natural Parks exemplify the harmonisation between economic development and nature conservation” and it was decided to perpetuate the government’s contribution to the operating and equipment of the Regional Natural Parks after the end of the 7th plan, which should have been the last.

The application decree for article 2 of the French Nature Protection Act related to impact studies stipulated that “The director of a Regional Natural Park is necessary in charge of the impact study for any construction projects within the Park area.”

After an amendment proposed by Park Parliament members, the application decree of the French Architecture Act instituting the Councils of Architecture, Urban Planning and the Environment stipulated that these councils can “delegate their missions to the architectural departments of the Regional Natural Parks”. This was an acknowledgement of the pioneer role played by Parks in this sector.


12th September: French Prime Minister at the time, Raymond Barre, sent a circular to all Ministers and Secretaries of State specifying that the government must comply with Regional Natural Park Charters and continue to support their territories. Moreover, the circular acknowledged the economic development role played by these Parks.

A French advertising law regulated displaying posters in Regional Natural Parks to ensure protection of the living environment.


Report on the financial support provided by the government to Regional Natural Parks: Although in 1972 the government funded 43% of the Park budget, it only funded 18% in 1976 (these credits were to be re-discussed each year within the scope of a quality of life intervention fund, or FIQV, and reduced due to the increasing number of Parks). From this date (creation of the Park budget line), the budget allocated by the government to Parks doubled: it increased from FRF 4.7 million to almost FRF 10 million for operating and from FRF 11 million to nearly FRF 20 million for equipment.


The laws of decentralisation were promulgated: The executive power was transferred from the Prefects to the Presidents of Regional assemblies and the economic scope of local authorities was widened.

Regional Natural Parks celebrated their 15th anniversary and their Federation organised the first “National Parks Days” in the Volcans d’Auvergne Regional Natural Park.


The “Bouchardeau Act” generalised public surveys. ZPPAUs (Architectural and Urban Heritage Protection Areas) were defined: 40 ZPPAUs were established and 400 were under consideration.

Huguette Bouchardeau, Secretary of State in charge of the Environment and Quality of Life under the French Prime Minister, stated: “Regional Natural Parks today are noteworthy examples of self-propelled development. They are, and will increasingly be, pilot schemes for policies that will be enforced one day in our entire country”.


While milk production quotas were established to run out surplus stocks, the EEC implemented the first environmentallyfriendly agricultural measures and tackle the agricultural diversification issue.

In the first contracts for Government/Region initiatives, one of the general objectives was the Regional Natural Parks and “the implementation of their Charter”.

An agreement signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Parks Federation acknowledged the role of Regional Natural Parks in the overall development of rural areas, which Park territories belong to.


A first Regional Natural Park was created in the Ile de France greater Paris region. It was called the Haute-Vallée de Chevreuse.

The French “Mountain Act”, law 85-30 of 9th January 1985 pertaining to the development and protection of mountains, came into effect.


France ratified the Unesco RAMSAR Convention on wetlands.

The French “Coastline Act”, law no. 86-2 of 3rd January 1986 pertaining to the development, protection and enhancement of coastlines, came into effect to protect and develop France’s coastlines in the long term.


This was the First European Year of the Environment. The G.H Brundtland report – “Our Common Future” – defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The Parks Federation launched the “PARCS” magazine (three issues a year) intended for the institutional partners of Parks.

The publication of a study on “local heritage as a tool for development” (based on about thirty actions conducted in Regional Natural Parks) was presented at the “First Forum for a United Heritage” at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie de la Villette in Paris.


After being worked on for nine years, a new decree aligned the policy of Regional Natural Parks with decentralisation: the decree reaffirmed the primary objective of Parks (protecting and managing local heritage) and also recognised their role in economic and social development, as well as their objective of experimentation, exemplarity and research. Although Regions were still the initiators of Parks, the decree confirmed that it was the government that, due to performance requirements, classed the territory for a renewable 10-year term.

This classification is by decree issued from the French Prime Minister following a proposal by the Ministry of Environment. The management bodies of Parks had to be consulted when it comes to impact studies and recommendations.


At this point, there were 25 Regional Natural Parks.

Jean-Paul Fuchs, Deputy of the Haut-Rhin Department and President of the Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park, took François Giacobbi’s position as President of the Parks Federation.

The Parks Federation and “Mairie-Conseils” (a section of the French “Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations”) committed in a first agreement to providing analysis and decision-assistance tools to local authorities through the “Cahiers de l’Intercommunalité (intermunicipal structure guidelines)”, while a reference document, “How to enhance the economic power of local resources”, based notably on Park experiences, was published by Editions Syros Alternatives.


The Vercors and Marais Poitevin Regional Natural Parks, along with two other French sites, experimented at the government’s initiative, with the application of article 19 of the EEC regulation pertaining to environmentallyfriendly agricultural measures, five years after its establishment.


25-26th June: under the theme “Regional Natural Parks - Horizon 2001”, the Parks got together in the Morvan Regional Natural Park to uphold the three core values of all Parks – a territory, a plan and a contract – and ponder their future. On this occasion, François Mitterrand, President of France at the time, announced that “Regional Natural Parks are one of the best ways to integrate nature protection into our behaviours and lives…” and that “by organising and managing existing parks in a more demanding and rigorous way, [they will be] an example for the entire nation”.

The law regulating motor vehicle traffic in natural environments stipulated that “Every Park’s Charter must contain an article establishing the traffic rules for motor vehicles on roads and paths in all villages and towns located in the Park.”

In application of the agreement signed in 1989 between the French Ministries of Environment and Tourism on the development of nature tourism, the Federation launched a range of specific holiday tours advertised under the “Natural Parks of France” brand; these “Nature Trips” obtained the “Tourism Innovation Award” from the French Ministry of Tourism a year later.


Twenty years after Stockholm, the second United Nations Conference on Environment and Development gathered 175 countries in Rio de Janeiro for the “World Summit”. A convention on biodiversity was signed and the “Agenda 21” action plan for the 21st century was adopted.

In reply to the “Park image and communications” study (by B.Emsellem Consultant), the Regional Natural Parks decided to claim their specific positioning. The Federation of Natural Parks of France became the Federation of Regional Natural Parks of France.

Of the 35 initial proposals presented by France in application of the European LEADER programme, four initiatives presented by Regional Natural Parks were accepted (Brenne, Corse, Haut-Jura and Livradois-Forez).

The “Water Act” law. 92-3 of 3 January 1992 came into effect. Resource management was planned and organised based on Masterplan for Water Facilities and Management (SDAGE) and Plan for Water Facilities and Management (SAGE).


Article 2 of the French “Landscape Act” provided legal material to Regional Natural Parks for the first time. By specifying the mission entrusted to the Parks, which “work on protection of the environment, land planning, economic and social development, and public education and training… and represent a privileged framework for public authorities’ actions to promote the conservation of landscapes as well as natural and cultural heritage…”, this article above all provided Park Charters with a proper jurisdictional value. From this point forward, urban planning documents needed to be compatible with Park Charters.

Of the 60 French sites experimenting with agroenvironmental measures that had been accepted by Europe between 1990 and 1993, 20 were specific to Regional Natural Park territories.

With the protocol signed by the Parks Federation, the WWF and the Federation of Gîte Holiday Homes of France, the “Panda Gîtes” concept initiated by the Brenne Regional Natural Park and the WWF was extended to to all Regional Natural Parks.

Europarc (the new name for the Federation of Nature and National Parks of Europe) was inspired by the experiences of the Regional Natural Parks of France to publish the “Loving them to death” report, which provided recommendations to develop tourism in protected areas. The Federation of Regional Natural Parks of France was chosen to draw up a European sustainable tourism charter.


1st September: the application decree for article 2 of the French “Landscape Act” specified the three key criteria for Park classification – heritage quality, territorial consistency, project quality and ability to implement the plan – set forth the rules for drawing up Park Charters: Charters became opposable against urban planning documents. The decree also requested the signature of a convention with the government to ensure the compatibility of public policies with the Park Charter.

Regional Natural Parks contributed to the national debate on land planning and reinforced the “4 key approaches to land planning”. An initial inventory of the areas pertaining to the European “Habitats” directive demonstrated that among the 205 such European areas, 140 were in France and 110 in Regional Natural Parks.


The French “Barnier Act” completed the legal framework for Regional Natural Parks. In particular, it specified that new Parks must compulsorily be managed by open combined associations and introduced, among other things, the ability for Parks to recruit qualified “forestry guards”, to exercise a preemptive right on properties upon Departmental agreement and to receive the visitors’ tax, intended to promote the protection and management of natural areas for tourism purposes.

25th March: to raise the public’s awareness on the protection of “ordinary” nature, the “First Night of the Owl” was organised by the Parks Federation in cooperation with the LPO (the French Birds Protection League): over 30,000 people took part in 300 outings organised all over France and Belgium.

The Federation of Regional Natural Parks became a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), where it represented all Regional Natural Parks of France.


The results of a study (conducted by CDC Consultants) undertaken at the request of the French Ministry of Environment provided the proof that the environmentally-friendly development policy implemented by the Regional Natural Parks created jobs (if the long-term nature of these jobs is taken into consideration, the activity of the Parks was generating 30,000 full time job equivalents/year).

The “PARCS” magazine expanded its distribution to all mayors of villages and towns belonging to Parks, bringing the readership to 12,000. Éditions Gallimard publishers launched a collection dedicated to the Parks and the first edition of the “Regional Natural Park hiking guide” was released in kiosks in the first days of spring that year.

On 31st December, since the Marais Poitevin Regional Natural Park was not succeeding in completing the revision of its Charter, it became the first Regional Natural Park to lose its status.


By the time the Parks celebrated the 30th anniversary of the publication of the founding decree with a huge event at the Parc du Luberon (with 1,500 participants), the 32 Regional Natural Parks of France covered 10% of the French territory. Ten or so Park projects were being developed and the Park scheme had been taken up in over 15 countries on three continents.


Three new Parks came into being: Perche, Périgord-Limousin and Avesnois, while the first ever Park, St-Amand-Raismes, after being expanded as one of the divisions of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais Park, was classified as an independent Park named “Scarpe-Escaut”.


The Causses du Quercy and Gâtinais Français parks were created (the latter meant there were now three parks in the Ile de France Greater Paris area). At that point, there were 38 parks.

The “LOADDT Act” providing guidelines for the planning and sustainable development of territories acknowledged Regional Natural Parks as territorial planning tools. Just like the Pays and Urban agglomerations, Parks could sign a special agreement on the territorial section of a Government/Region contract. Territorial overlap between Parks and Pays was authorised subject to a prior agreement structuring the respective missions of the Park and the Pays on the shared territory. The Charter of the Pays needed to be compatible with the Park Charter.

The French agricultural act enabled Regional Natural Parks to bring up charges as a plaintiff. Parks could be represented in Departmental commissions for agricultural strategy according to the application decree.


Regional Natural Parks were represented by their Federation as part of the French delegation to the IInd World Summit on sustainable development in September in Johannesburg.

The legislative provisions of the policies of Regional Natural Parks were organised and codified in the French Environmental Code promulgated on 18 September 2000.

The French act on urban area’s cohesion and renewal (known as “SRU”) redefined urban planning tools and allowed the Parks to cooperate in their design and renewal. The Park Charter was subject to public survey by the relevant Region(s) before the Park classification.


The Monts d’Ardèche and Guyane Regional Natural Parks were created. At this time, there were 40 Parks covering over 11% of the French territory.


The Local Democracy Act enabled the combined associations of the Parks (considered as open combined associations) to freely determine the statutory participation of their members.

Jean-Louis Joseph, President of the Luberon Regional Natural Park, Vice-president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region, took Jean-Paul Fuchs’s position at the head of the Parks Federation.


A Parks delegation prepared a publication on governance for the Vth World Parks Congress, organised by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), in Durban in September.

In application of the LOADDT Act for the planning and sustainable development of territory, 17 Regional Natural Parks signed a specific contract within the framework of the Government/Region projects.

The Urban planning, Housing and Construction Act modified the Pays policy and its association with Regional Natural Parks: agreements with a Park were no longer required prior to the creation of the Pays and the Park ensured, on its territory, the implementation and coordination of Pays’ policies within the remit of Park missions. The obligation for the Local Area Charter to be compatible with the Park Charter was confirmed.

The Narbonnaise en Méditerranée Regional Natural Park was created.

The Parks Federation opened up to Regions: through modification of its articles of association, a special college was opened up to them in the Federation’s decision-making bodies.


The Parks Federation became involved in the national strategy on biodiversity and published “The 4 cornerstones for conserving the biological diversity of Parks”.

Three new parks were created: Oise-Pays de France, Pyrénées Catalanes and Millevaches en Limousin.


The Rural area Development Act extended the duration of a Regional Natural Park’s classification (from 10 years to 12 years) and integrated the public survey into the classification or classification renewal procedure before the Charter’s validation by local authorities.

At this time, 18 Regions were members of the Parks Federation, which released “Lien Parlementaire”, a newsletter providing information on the Federation’s positions and legislative proposals to national and European parliamentary members.

The French government undertook a reform of the National Parks policy and proposed to create Marine National Parks.

The Environmental Charter was integrated into the French Constitution.


The National Parks, Marine National Parks and Regional Natural Parks Act was adopted in April. To meet the Parks’ expectations, Parliament integrated provisions to improve the structure of Regional Natural Parks. The duration of the classification of a Regional Natural Park was extended to 12 years (exceptional prolongations were still possible). This enabled Parks to carry out a land development plan named SCOT, made the Park’s feedback compulsory for various planning documents, made a combined association mandatory as Park management body and outlined compensation schemes for Park Directors.


Februar: The 45th Regional Natural Park, Alpilles, was created. The “Horizon 2020” strategic framework was adopted. Horizon 2020 provided the Regional Natural Park network with four strategic directions: preserve and develop living heritage,share a lifetime project with men and women,make the “Regional Natural Park” concept thrive,turn the Charter into a territorial contract.

The Council for Strategy, Research and Outlook (CORP) of the Parks Federation was created in March 2007. With 22 researchers, professors, experts, elected officials and executives of Regional Natural Parks, the purpose of the Council was to help Parks ponder their future.

Regional Natural Parks celebrated the 40th anniversary since the signature of their founding decree with events organised throughout 2007 and the adoption of a new communication strategy with the following motto: “Creating now tomorrow’s way of living”.


25th June: the French GMOs Act led to the creation of a High Council on Biotechnologies, established the complete monitoring of cultivation on a land parcel level, and specified the conditions for GMO and non-GMO coexistence.


The 47th Regional Natural Park, Pyrénées Ariégeoises, was created.

French act 2009-967 of 3rd August 2009 for programming the implementation of the Environmental Grenelle forum (the so-called “Grenelle 1”) was passed.

The 2009 consultation of the “Trame Verte et Bleue” (a key biodiversity preservation measure) took place under the responsibility of Senator Paul Raoult (who is also the President of the Avesnois Regional Natural Park). The Trame Verte et Bleue Operational Committee (COMOP), to which the government asked in 2007 to carry out the iGrenelle initiatives, got down to defining the content and modalities of the Trame framework.


French act 2010-788 of 12th July 2010 on the French national commitment to the environment (“Grenelle 2”) amended article L. 333-1 of the French environmental code.

French act 2010-1563 of 16th December 2010 on the public authorities reform was passed.

The “Future of the Parks” mission was established with six Park Presidents and six Park Directors as well as two CORP members.


The Ardennes Regional Natural Park was created.

A Seminar for Presidents and Directors of Regional Natural Parks and their partners took place in Lurs en Provence and Forcalquier in the Luberon Park to ponder the Future of the Parks.

A large-scale round table took place with partners, hearings with well-known people, and the CORP report “What does the future hold for parks?” was issued.


The Préalpes d’Azur Regional Natural Park was created.

French decree no. 2012-83 of 24th January 2012 on Regional Natural Parks with various provisions related to Marine National Parks and Nature Reserves was issued.

A political strategy text on the Future of the Parks was adopted by the Federation’s General Assembly.

The “Regional Natural Park Trails” guide was issued by Editions Projection. This 450- page document, containing over 800 photos and original maps, enables people to discover the richness of the 48 Regional Natural Parks. QR codes enable the trails of each park to be followed using a Smartphone.

The Update of the Regional Natural Parks Statement was issued, with over 50 questions and answers on the Parks.

In 2012, there were 48 Regional Natural Parks covering 15% of the French territory and including 23 Regions, 71 Departments, 4,100 villages and 3.5 million inhabitants.