Ecrins National Park (Parc national des Écrins)

Ecrins National Park

The Écrins National Park is a French national park created in 1973, having been prefigured since 1913. It is located in the Alps, extending over a large part of the Écrins massif. It is located in municipalities of two departments: Isère (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region) and Hautes-Alpes (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region) and straddles the boundary between the Northern Alps and the Southern Alps in France, formed by the watershed line between the hydrographic basin of the Isère and that of the Durance.

Its heart is classified as a category II protected area by the World Commission on Protected Areas of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, the world's leading non-governmental organization devoted to nature conservation), while its optimal area Membership is classified as category V.



Location: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur   Map

Area: 226,837 acres

Highest mountain: Barre des Écrins 13,458 ft (4,102 m)


Description of Ecrins National Park


The history of the park begins on December 31, 1913, when the French State acquires 4,000 hectares of mountain on the heights of Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans (municipality of Isère located in the Écrins massif). Thus was created the “Parc de la Bérarde” (hamlet of Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans), modeled on the Swiss reserve in the Engadine founded four years earlier. It was a question of defending the mountain against the invasion of the pastures, which involved erosion, deforestation and torrential disorder; but quickly, the scientific and educational aspects of the project emerged. The call for subscriptions had barely been launched when the First World War broke out and the process of giving national parks official status was interrupted.

The Water and Forests Administration did not, however, renounce the protection measures already implemented and, without a regulatory basis, continued to administer the state land acquired and leased with the idea of ​​leaving it to evolve freely. The Bérarde park then changed its name several times, being unofficially assimilated to a national park during the interwar period: "National Park of Oisans", then in 1923 "National Park of Pelvoux" enlarged to 13,000 ha. . The park nevertheless lost this qualification of "national park" in 1962 and became a state park, "private domain of the State subject to the forest regime", before being reborn as the Ecrins National Park in 1973.

In 1960, in fact, the status of national park was created. The first four parks were then born, the Vanoise national park and that of the island of Port-Cros in 1963, that of the Pyrenees in 1967, and that of the Cévennes in 1970. That same year, a creation mission was formed for a Écrins national park, based on the former Bérarde park, which since 1962 has become a simple national forest. And it was finally on March 27, 1973 that the Ecrins National Park was created, by decree of the Prime Minister.

The first agents of the park were recruited by competition from 1974, and from 1976 the park acquired a reception area: the Maison du Parc, in Vallouise; this house was visited by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing on August 27, 1977. It was this year that the first actions of the Park began: an unsuccessful attempt to reintroduce ibexes, and the creation of the first scientific databases on August 25 June 1977. The following year, in 1978, the first action plan for the reception of tourists in the peripheral zone was set up.

The 1980s were marked by major works: the Haute-Romanche hydroelectric development project caused much ink to flow in 1980, then the securing of Lake Arsine (Briançonnais) at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters from the spring of 1986. Finally, in 1989, sixteen ibexes were successfully reintroduced in the Valbonnais; the animals came from the Vanoise and Vercors parks.

In 1990, a new graphic charter was introduced for all national parks. It includes in particular the famous spiral composed of a multitude of elements (animal, vegetable and mineral silhouettes) organized according to a spiral structure. It is a metaphorical representation of the movement, richness and complexity of life. In 1991, the headquarters of the park was moved to the Domaine de Charance, in Gap, where it is still located.

The 1990s were marked by conventions: the first climbing convention was signed in 1992, and many mountain pasture management contracts were signed with the shepherds in 1993. In 1995, in addition to the reintroduction of thirty-one ibexes, the park innovates by creating the first integral nature reserve in France, in the Lauvitel valley. On July 11, 1996, the park signed the Sustainable Development Partnership Charter with the Minister of the Environment, Corinne Lepage; this charter will then be rolled out with local authorities, the National Forestry Office and the chambers of agriculture of the Hautes-Alpes and Isère.

In 2006, a new law laid down the principle of a "heart of the park" protected zone (former central zone) and a "membership area" (former peripheral zone): the reform of 14 April 2006 provides for the writing of a new charter, signed by the municipalities of the peripheral zone and the public establishment that is the park. The draft charter was adopted unanimously in May 2011, and in 2013, for the fortieth anniversary of the park, 46 municipalities signed this charter. The Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the Écrins National Park was set up in 2008, in Monêtier-les-Bains.


2010 saw the structuring of the “Sentinel Alpine Pastures” program, allowing a study of alpine pastures and the repercussions of climate change on them, with a dialogue established between shepherds, breeders, scientists, pastoral technicians and Park agents.

The park charter was voted unanimously by the Board of Directors of the Ecrins National Park in 2011. On December 28, 2012, a decree from the Council of State approved the charter of the Ecrins National Park.

In October 2012, international recognition for the scientific work carried out in the Lauvitel Integral Reserve came with an IUCN classification (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

The 2010s saw the creation of several elements and services intended for the general public: the new Maison du Parc in Vallouise and the Rando-Écrins website were inaugurated in 2014, and the following year the Esprit Parc national brand was born in the Écrins. In the same decade, several additional municipalities joined the Écrins National Park charter, bringing their total number to 53 in 2015, which corresponds to a membership rate of 90%. At the same time, scientific studies are continuing, with, for example, the study of the evolution of the geographical distribution of flora species and the geolocation of ibexes in the park in 2013. An online atlas of the fauna and flora of the park, Biodiv'Écrins, was launched in 2016.

In April 2019, the park was included in the IUCN Green List, a certification that recognizes protected areas whose management is effective and whose governance follows the standards established by said organization.

At the end of December 2019, the core zone of the park was extended by 705 ha with the integration of two contiguous reserves in the heart of the park: the national nature reserve of the upper valley of Saint-Pierre and the national nature reserve of the peaks of Combeynot, in order to simplify the management of these spaces.

The park has been distinguished by the Council of Europe as a European High Mountain Park. In 1996, the Council of Europe renewed the label obtained 5 years earlier.