By Markus Klauer
Over the last several years now, the massive Bark Beetle infestation has changed the face of Verdun’s battlefield. Approximately 30% of the state forests (French: foret dominale) have been infested. The conifers in those areas have largely died and have been felled in bulk. (See our blogpost of September 2020, “Europe’s Forests are now Witnessing Another Battle: Against the Bark Beetle.”)
The state forestry association, ONF, responded quickly to this challenge. Since 2020 it has held several discussions together with DRAC, the French monument authority. The goal of these discussions is to preserve the traces of the Verdun battlefield in an appropriate manner. Approximately 500 kilometers (300 miles) of trench lines are still recognizable. In addition, various components of the French fortifications and countless structures that were built during the war still occupy the landscape.
In addition to the ONF and DRAC authorities, historians have been invited to these discussions. I have been selected to participate as the only German historian; and I consider this a great honor as well as a great responsibility.
The latest discussions took place on 1 June 2022. In these meetings 15 protective zones were identified. For each zone a summary is being prepared that will explain why it should be protected and to document the specific structures to protect. Much of this work has already been completed. Additional discussions are expected to take place during the year to complete this work.
In the future, it is expected that these parcels of the battlefield will be reforested and harvested as carefully as possible.
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