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Vue sur le synclinal perché de la forêt de Saoû.

Portrait of the Saoû forest: a Sensitive Natural Area

On the edge of the village of Saoû, in the centre of the Department of the Drôme, is one of the most beautiful forests of the Department. Listed in several inventories (Natura 2000 zone and designated a National Monument in 1942), the forest, with its 2,354 hectares, is the largest Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) in the Drôme.

Encircled by a limestone wall, the massif is home to an exceptional biodiversity. One of the valley’s natural wonders, the forest climbs upwards, and a path leads you to its highest point (1,589m), the famous Trois Becs: the Veyou, the Signal and Rochecourbe, easily visible in the Drôme landscape.

This extraordinary geological site has encouraged a unique ark of biodiversity.
To preserve it and open it to the public, the Department has chosen a sustainable and shared management.

A remarkable geological site

The Saoû massif, well-known to geologists, is a particularly fine example of a perched syncline.
This remarkable geological formation looking like a ‘stone ship’ is the result of aeons of folding, distortion and erosion of the rock.

Illustration d'archives d'un étude géologique de la forêt de Saoû.
© Fonds Marius Villard

An ark of biodiversity

Owing to its diverse habitats and its distinctive shape, the Saoû massif is an ark of biodiversity.

Sometimes fresh and damp, sometimes sunny and dry, the forest is home to rich and varied ecosystems. The ecological wealth of the massif is based on the, sometimes surprising, cohabitation of species and milieu not usually found together.

Choosing a sustainable and shared management

The management of forests can be very different depending on the objective sought.

Yesterday the Saoû forest was lived in, exploited, deforested and reforested.
Today the forest is uninhabited but still exploited.

The current challenge is to combine:

  • structured human activities, such as the cutting of wood or grazing of livestock
  • the preservation of biodiversity
  • use by the public, allowing them to explore this unique natural heritage.

So, with a vision for the whole site which takes into account the diversity of its natural habitats as well as its varied uses, the Department of the Drôme, with the help of a management committee made up of local partners, has opted for a reasoned and sustainable management of the site.