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Marais de Sacy Association        FR

Natura 2000 in the French Region: Picardie

The Picardie Region has 48 Natura 2000 sites including:

·         1 Marine Site concerned by Habitats Directive. The area consist on 33 300 hectares shared by Pas de Calais and Somme Department. 

·         37 Habitats Sites representing 48 000 ha (1.9% of territory).

·         10 Birds Sites, representing 85 000 ha (3.7% of territory).

Altogether, Natura 2000 sites are 4,7 % of the region area, which is low in comparison of the national percentage : 12,5 %. Historically, the recommended area for Natura 2000 site, by local specialists, was twice bigger. This fact makes that present sites under Natura 2000 are a strong issue which ask for a greater vigilance.

Natura 2000 : A European Network

Natura 2000 is the centerpiece of EU nature and biodiversity policy. It is an EUwide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. The aim of the network is to ensure the long term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It includes of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by member States under the Habitats Directive (case of Sacy Marsh), and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which they designate under the 1979 Birds Directive. Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. Whereas the network will certainly include nature reserves most of the land is likely to continue to be privately owned and the emphasis will be on ensuring that future management is sustainable, both ecologically and economically. The establishment of this network of protected areas also fulfils a Community obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Natura 2000 applies to Birds Sites and to Habitats Sites, which are divided into biogeographical regions. It also applies to the marine environment.

In the European scale more than 26 000 sites are concerned, covering around 950 000 km² of the land territory and about 200 000 km² of seas and oceans. (Credit : http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/index_en.htm)

French approach

In 2001, France completed the transfer of the nature protection directives into its legislation by enacting separate legislation on site designation and on site management. Three essential choices were made: 

  • acting in transparency and cooperation, at all the stages of the procedures, in particular through the steering committee set up for each site; 
  • development of contract management, based on the initiative and motivation of the owners and managers of the territories concerned; 
  • incorporating environmental aspects into the management and development of rural areas. 


Essential elements of the French approach to implement Natura 2000 are the following:


The ‘objectives document’ (document d’objectifs — DOCOB)


The DOCOB defines the management guidelines and the contractual conservation measures and indicates, if necessary, the administrative and regulatory measures to be implemented on the site. It specifies methods of financing the contractual measures. It is established by a technical operator chosen by the State administration, in cooperation with the local actors concerned who meet on the steering committee for the site. On the basis of the objectives document, approved by a prefect’s decree, Natura 2000 contracts are drawn up.

To help with drawing up objectives documents, several tools are at the disposal of the public services and the operators:

  • a methodological guide worked out following an experimental operation on 37 ‘pilot’ sites, cofinanced by the European Union;
  • a training plan which has been functioning since 1999 for officials and operators, and which includes exchange of experiences between the regions;
  • a series of habitat guides giving a synthesis of knowledge on the habitats and the species targeted by the habitats directive and their management.


The steering committee


The steering committee is the main instrument for the exchange of information and for cooperation on each site. It is set up by the local prefect and brings together partners concerned with the site such as elected representatives, owners, users, association, government agency.. etc. It meets regularly and can set up specialized working parties.

This committee is associated with the drawing up of the objectives document. The technical operator reports to the committee on the results of his work and takes account of its opinions. After approval of the DOCOB by the prefect, the committee is informed about its implementation and is asked to come to conclusions about the measures being applied and subsequently to evaluate them.


Natura 2000 contracts


Individual participation in the implementation of the DOCOB by the actors who are in charge of management and maintenance of the natural environments will be regulated by public service contracts called ‘Natura 2000 contracts’. These contracts will enable the signatories (owners, farmers, foresters, hunters, associations and communes) to be remunerated for the work and the services rendered to the community and have to be passed directly between the State (via the prefect of the department) and the holders of land-use rights to the sites concerned.

Their duration will be at least five years.

Natura 2000 contracts will define the tasks required to achieve preservation or restoration of the natural habitats and the species which justified the designation of the site. They will give the nature and the modalities for remuneration by the State (and the local authorities if necessary) in exchange for the conservation benefits to be provided. Partly financed by the European Union, under the rural development budget in particular, this public aid will be granted as investment subsidies or annual aid per hectare. The contracts will have to be in conformity with the regulations of the objectives document and will offer attractive conditions of financing in the case of Natura 2000 sites. In this way, Natura 2000 will be endowed with substantial financial resources, and will be a genuine tool for territorial development, guaranteeing the conservation of flora, fauna and natural habitats.


(Credit : European Commission - Natura 2000 and forests ‘Challenges and opportunities’ p 56 and 57

Interpretation guide Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2003

2003 — 101 pp. — 21 x 29.7 cm - ISBN 92-894-6069-5

From http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/info/pubs/docs/nat2000/n2kforest_en.pdf) 


Apart from the Natura 2000 contracts, another tool can be used to prevent the degradation of habitats: Natura 2000 Charter.

It consists of a list of engagements which aim to protect the site against degradation and pollution of natural habitats. Each owner or renter on a Natura 2000 site can sign it, in exchange he will be exempted of land taxes.

Natura 2000 has also an additional regulation on its French sites. In France, activities are ruled by different laws such as water or town-planning policy. On top of it, in Natura 2000 sites, an additional regulation applies "Natura 2000 Impact Analysis". The goal is to ensure possible damage of plans, programs, events and activities on natural habitats. For more information, you can visit the following website (in French)Natura 2000 en Picardie

Sacy Marsh - Natura 2000 Zone 

Natura 2000 Steering Committee Chairman: M. CUGNIERE Raoul

Natura 2000 coordinator: MARAIS DE SACY ASSOCIATION


The map presenting the limits of Natura 2000 site can be downloaded here. DREAL Picardie (Regional Government Agency) has a website in French about Natura 2000 en Picardie. It includes a description of all the regional Natura 2000 sites, in particular Sacy Marsh Site.


Exotic Invasive Inventory Study

An invasive specie is a non-native specie whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic harm, environmental harm, or harm to human health. The term "invasive" is used for the most aggressive species. These species grow and reproduce rapidly, causing major disturbance to the areas in which they are present. (Credit: http://www.invasive.org/101/index.cfm)

Sacy Marsh is highly concerned by this threat (large-flower primrose willow, parrot feather, Japanese Knotweed, panicled aster...) on patrimonial species (characeae, bladderworts…).


The purpose of this study, which began in 2010, is to map the population of the invasive species on Natura 2000 Sacy Marsh site. The impacts on natural habitats were also identified. Therefore, for each species an action plan was created, and prioritization between species was established.

This study was carried out by DREAL Picardie (Regional Government Agency) and finished in 2013. Documents (french language) are available on the website Natura 2000 en Picardie (http://www.natura2000-picardie.fr/etudesScientifiques.html).

Natura 2000 Contracts - The works

Eleven Natura 2000 contracts were signed on Sacy Marsh. For five of them, the restoration and maintenance work was concluded in 2013. 

The concerned area is about 120 hectares, a little bit less than 10 % of the Natura 2000 zone area (1394 ha). The parties involved in those contracts are:

  - 4 Contracts by surrounding towns

    - 1 Contract by Conseil départemental de l’Oise  

    - 2 Contracts by a NGO Conservatoire d'Espaces Naturels de Picardie, 1 on a            town territory, 1 on a private territory

    - 4 contracts by private owners 

         The action plans in those contracts were organized and followed by Marais de Sacy Association and his partner Conservatoire d'Espaces Naturels de Picardie. The work has been done in challenging work conditions (bearing capacity of the ground, stability...). For that reason, projects have often being executed by specialized companies and machines. The main types of works are : 


  • Mechanical or manual deforestation of about 30 hectares. Those works are sometimes done over unstable ground which requires special mechanism like the use of wooden floor to improve the bearing capacity and to avoid that the machines fall in the peat.
  • Mechanical or manual mowing and exporting of grass for fodder purpose of about 16 hectares. Peaty meadows have often a low bearing capacity, the tractor and the mowing machines can damage strongly the soil. In order to protect the soil and the habitats, special machines must be used such as low pressure tyres tractor or tracked baler.
  • Uprooting of invasive species. 5 hectares of large-flower primrose willow were totally uprooted. Currently 3,12 hectares of large-flower primrose willow and parrot feather are under work. Moreover 150 m² of Japanese knotweed were removed. Those works are mechanical or manual according to the species target. Prevention of invasive species spreading is an important matter before uprooting, for example electric fences (against cow spreading) and net in the canals (against hydraulic spreading) were set up. 
  • New Pasture fencing (3,7ha) and 3000 linear meter fences fixed. Cattle's grazing is also taken into account in Natura 2000 projects, because since it maintains and sometimes even restores natural habitat. In Sacy Marsh 33,7 hectares of marsh were grazed in that purpose. In those cases, the beneficiaries have already the cattle. 
  • Pond restoration by dredging (20 to 50 cm deep) and lowering bank slope. Thus, fauna and flora diversity should increase.
  • Topsoil stripping work and materials export, the aim is to restore native habitat by excavating the top layer of the ground which leads the seedbank to be on the top of the soil and the pioneer habitat to develop.
  • Fencing for habitat protection against grazing. It has been also done to determinate the comparative impact of grazing and manual mowing on patrimonial species.


The works take place all around the Natura 2000 site which includes the wetland but also around 400 hectares of forest and heat in the south of the area. Among those works 2,5 hectares of Northern wet heats were restored by deforestation. 


Natura 2000 Sacy Marsh Steering Committee Account

(French language) : 

Map of works and properties concerned by Natura 2000.

Articles (in French) :

- Summary of works in Monceaux and Sacy le Grand.

- Towns newspaper articles ( Monceaux Infos N°72 )

- Invasive species works (Courrier Picard)

L'echo des Marais de Sacy