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Land and Resources, Conservation

conservation movement, soil pollution, national parks, wild animals, urbanization

For centuries the French devoted few resources to the protection and conservation of the environment. Like most of the world’s peoples, they have focused mainly on economic development of national lands and waters. A conservation movement arose in France in the 19th century, as environmental problems associated with industrialization accumulated. However, the movement did not gain broader popular support until the end of World War II (1939-1945). Rapid industrial expansion, urbanization, and the proliferation of automobiles further degraded the environment, leaving the nation’s air and water supplies severely polluted, and its remaining forests and wild animals threatened.

Since the early 1960s, France has undertaken a variety of initiatives to conserve and protect its environment. A cornerstone of this effort was the creation of a system of parks and reserves. Today, about 10 percent of the French national territory enjoys some type of protected status. This includes six national parks, several dozen regional nature parks, and more than 100 smaller nature reserves. In addition, widespread measures have been taken to reduce air, water, and soil pollution.

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