France is characterized by a broad range of protected area categories. These may be created as a
result of initiatives by the national government, or local or regional authorities, and may be established
under environmental legislation or sectoral laws.
Firstly, this case study sets out the national legal and institutional context for protected areas. Secondly,
an analysis is presented of the legal frameworks for various French protected area categories that are
specifically aimed at the protection of biodiversity and vulnerable terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
These include national parks, marine parks, nature reserves and so on. This analysis concludes with
an explanation of the way in which France fulfils its binding international and European commitments
with respect to protected areas.
Protected areas established under environmental law are not the only protection tool available; sectoral
legislation also contributes to environmental protection. Two sectoral laws in particular contain specific
provisions concerning the protection of natural areas: land use planning law may protect certain areas
from urban development, and forestry law may be used to protect forest areas and ecosystems of
The final part of this study focuses more specifically on tools for national land use planning. Regional
nature parks can be used as protection instruments or land use planning instruments, and as such are
subject to a special analysis. The study concludes with a critique of ecological connectivity and an
overview of the latest instruments that have been developed to ensure its realization