When you arrive in Oisans (Isère), the high peaks of the Écrins block the horizon with a jagged line of almost impassable peaks, some of which exceed 4,000 m in altitude. For half a century, this landscape and the biodiversity it shelters have been protected within the highest national park in France. It was mountaineers, rather than naturalists, who gave rise to the idea of a park in the 1960s. At a time when the French Alps are being taken over by ski resorts, time is running out. The "de Gaulle of mountaineering", Lucien Devies, then president of the French Alpine Club, was the first to plead for a preserved mountain area. Paul Dijoud, Gaullist MP for the Hautes-Alpes, initiated the project in Paris.
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"The idea of the park dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century, in order to combat deforestation that led to erosion and landslides," says Pierrick Navizet, head of the reception and communication department of the PNE. The birth certificate of the Écrins National Park (PNE) was finally signed in 1973, but not without strong opposition from hunters and breeders. Spread over 93,000 ha and including the Barre des Écrins (4,102 m), it became the highest park in Europe. Today, it operates with a budget of €10 million (in 2021) and 82 permanent staff. The most visible are the rangers, who criss-cross the grounds.
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