Ecoforestry guides our management philosophy. We follow the principles explained in the French-language article "La sylviculture irrégulière : une gestion forestière écologique" ("Ecological Management Based On Irregular Forest Stand Structure").
Briefly, we reject clearcutting in favor of a variant of continuous cover forestry wherein selection cutting promotes a diversity of tree ages and species, protects the soil, wildlife, and habitat, and increases the land’s value in the long term while ensuring steady profitability.
Avenir Forêt was founded in 2013 in Sainte-Féréole, in the French department of the Corrèze. The name means, loosely, The Future in Forests. Avenir Forêt is a "non-commercial property investment company", a French legal structure described at this French-language site, société civile immobilière à but non commercial (SCI).
In addition to being an SCI, Avenir Forêt is a groupement forestier (“forestry group”) a French legal entity specific to forest property management. The founders and managers are a French-German couple, both forestry engineers with a great love of nature.
Today, Avenir Forêt has 308 associates who own jointly 715 hectares (1770 acres) in a region bounded by the cities of Ussel, Aurillac, Gourdon, Villefranche-de-Rouergue and Limoges, on the western flank of the French Massif Central.
Ecosystem-friendly Forest Management
In selection cutting, parcels of forest are partially harvested, or thinned, at 5 to 10 year intervals. The best trees are systematically favored by culling nearby trees that are ready for commercial exploitation but have lower value. The “elite” trees increase in value, for later harvest at peak maturity. At the same time, nearby saplings and seedlings receive additional light & water, ensuring that future generations of high value trees come along.
Dead trunks are left in place. Lying on the forest floor, they contribute to water retention, compost, and biodiversity. Standing, they provide habitat for bats, birds, and insects. We also preserve exceptional old, large trees, for the additional diversity and beauty they add to the forest. We reject the practice of industrially clear-cutting a stand after waiting 40 or 50 years for maturity, to then mechanically plant (at considerable expense) a devastated landscape. Instead, we encourage and nurture the forests ability re-seed and re-generate itself naturally.
Avoiding clear-cutting maintains the root network of the trees and the under-story growth to protect the soil from erosion. Soil compaction and damage to healthy trees by heavy machinery is eliminated. Manual logging by woodsmen in forest parcels further preserves habitat, wildlife, and more generally the entire ecosystem.
Associates’ capital goes to add forests to Avenir Forêt’s portfolio. Forests with large volumes of standing wood at advantageous cost are sought within a few hours drive of the manager’s base in Sainte-Féréole, just north of Brive-la-Gaillarde. Specifically, the French departments Corrèze, Cantal, Lot, Dordogne and Haute-Vienne are preferred.
Potential forests must have a bright future, meaning that high-value trunks will be harvested in the coming 20 to 40 years, but also that subsequent generations of trees will follow continually. The choice of forests is also guided by climate risk management: exposure to storms, drought, fires, and disease are minimized by favoring a variety of ages and kinds of trees over a large geographical area. Finally, the beauty and ecological value of the forest count. Living and working in the area, the managers find forests for sale more easily than investors living in distant cities.
An innovative approach on a people-friendly scale
Associates invest a minimum of 11.500 euros. The forest group’s management practices are open, with a guaranteed 1% minimum annual return. During the annual shareholder’s meeting associates debate policy decisions. They can inspect one of the group’s forests and participate in a work project, such as planting saplings.
Managers Pierre DEMOUGEOT and Susanne BRAUN are certified forestry engineers, who also work with private forest owners. The experienced French-German couple are also associates in the company with a personal stake in its capital.
Three principles guide their management strategy:
Openness, Exchange, and Expertise.