The Sensitive Natural Area of Erretegia (ENS) is a veritable green lung of the town. You can see it from the departmental road, it offers itself generously to us but at the same time deserves its relief as its relief reminds us that Nature is the only mistress in this place.
A real jewel of multiple paradoxes, Erretegia attracts with its different facets: it is both a natural space, a beach, a surf spot, a site of remarkable geological interest.
This valley is home to a small beach at high tide but superb when the ocean retreats.
The beauty of its panorama contrasts with the dangerousness of its cliffs, the age-old aspect of its geological strata has been overtaken by erosion linked to the climatic upheavals of recent years.
In short, here nothing works without depending closely on Nature.
A terrible desire to go back to basics
Take an exceptional playground, convictions and a fierce desire to do well, add a dose of innovation, a taste for challenge and a handful of committed actors and you will obtain the space renaturation project. Natural Sensitive from Erretegia.
Today for our greatest pleasure, we share with you the interview of Peio Lambert, Sensitive Natural Space & Biodiversity technician at the Departmental Council of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in charge of the Erretegia renaturation project.
He is one of those who we would listen to talk for hours, especially since he does not lack superlatives when he evokes Bidart and its landscapes. Passionate and fascinating, Peio is both a field professional and a nature lover: a fervent defender of the environment and of simple things.
It was first alongside his father that he learned to apprehend Nature, decode the elements, read the landscapes, smell the smells, open up to what our ancestors used to do: feel Nature and understand it. , in any weather.
After several years of experience in various nature reserves in the regions of France, Peio returned to his country to exercise his profession-passion.
Today Peio evolves among the most beautiful natural spaces of the department.
A true lookout for the ENS du 64, he divides his days between the office and the field.
Meeting with Peio Lambert
Peio, can you start by explaining to us the link between the Department and the ENS of Erretegia?
What you need to know is that the Department owns and manages several ENS throughout the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, including that of Erretegia. Although the Region is a leader in terms of biodiversity, it is the Departmental Council that has long been involved in the protection of the environment and landscapes in our territory.
So on our scale we manage 17 sites as owners, there are nearly a dozen on the coast, then others in the interior of the department up to the mountains. We are also co-managers of other sites (34) such as the Izadia park in Anglet or the Botanical Garden in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, for example. We are 7 people in my team, made up of different professions and areas of expertise. We also work with several integration site associations for the regular maintenance of our spaces.
Beyond the ENS, we can also position ourselves as a partner if a municipality identifies a space that it wishes to preserve.
The Department collects revenue related to the development tax when building permits are filed, this helps to raise funds to protect natural areas. We often think of transport management when we talk about the department's missions, but there is also this aspect in the fields of action managed by the Department.
What is the principle of renaturation?
It's a new term that's starting to get a bit more recognition. We are not going to say that it has become fashionable, but it has above all become normal today to apprehend the management of spaces in this way.
The objective of renaturation is to restore original nature where it has disappeared, where it has been transformed or artificialized by man.
With regard to the Erretegia project, there were several phases in the renaturation process: that of giving place to the vegetation under the asphalt that had been poured at the time when it was planned to make a campsite or even a housing estate; that of removing the hydraulic network which captured rainwater to restore a more natural circulation to the water which will now follow the natural slopes at a different pace.
This action thus allowed a certain vegetation to grow, to resume its place; for example, in areas where it will run off faster, we will find wooded areas and in areas where the runoff will be slower, there are small mosses, ferns, peatlands very popular with certain species that will be able to find refuge there. Somewhere in the process of renaturation, we accompany a natural evolution of natural habitats.
Initially, when we saw the project taking shape, we were nevertheless challenged by a phase of the work! Luckily you warned us!
I imagine you are talking about the moment when we had to intervene on the pittosporums? Yes, they are beautiful, we appreciate them for their perfume, their tortuous appearance is nice for sure, but they are an exotic species and just like Pampas grass, although they are part of the landscape of the Basque coast, these species were imported to us at one time and they greatly harm the local fauna and flora, in particular by the strong power of dissemination.
The second thing that was also quite impressive is the moment when we had to remove the “terraces” remember! These arrangements had been fashioned in the valley in such a way as to accommodate canvas tents, picnic tables, spaces for barbecues. Today it seems unthinkable in a protected area such as an ENS.
When we “redesigned” this meadow, the idea was to find a slope that respects the process of natural erosion, on which we sowed the most pioneering and local vegetation possible. It is maintained so that the public can come and visit the place, and it is managed as a meadow which now hosts insects and birds. So in summary it is an anthropic management but which is similar to an original nature. To a certain extent, we “garden” a natural space, it's interesting.
“There is always a beginning and an end for renaturation, we try to get as close as possible to what nature could have done.”
Was Erretegia your first project in this spirit?
Yes, this file is a textbook case, it was very instructive and very formative for me. Beyond the technical aspect, I also remember a lot the human aspect, the meetings with the different actors, the elected officials, the partners, the technicians. It is a chance in my career to have been able to work on this project with all the people who contributed to it. We really felt an ambition shared by all, a desire to turn together towards something more virtuous.
And there is something a little stronger here, we feel in Bidart that there is a soul apart, character, there are men and women who are truly invested in the conservation and protection of their heritage.
We don't communicate it enough, Erretegia in the industry has really become a reference. This project won the national call for projects entitled "Nature-based solutions for resilient coastal territories" by the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
But we don't stop there, there is also a whole animation and mediation actions for the public which are set up.
We have seen the program of events and outings on the Erretegia site expand over time, can you tell us more?
We have many quality partners who support us in setting up a fairly rich and comprehensive program. THE CPIE Basque coast organizes themed outings on fauna and flora, geology, nature and heritage or even games.
There's the Water Family who intervenes to talk about his field of action and the preservation of water.
We also organized on several occasions participatory projects open to all who have met with success, I am thinking of the one in September for the spreading of hay and the sowing of local species.
It's interesting to involve the public, it's an exceptional natural and geological site beyond the landscape there are so many things to tell about this place.
What exists in your job that we don't necessarily know?
Perhaps we suspect it without really identifying it, but the naturalistic follow-up of the profession: the counting and the inventory which are carried out by specialized professionals who are called upon, such as botanists for example. They make reports, they observe and analyze the rendering of the site, its progress, it is a real and necessary follow-up to analyze the success of the actions.
There is also the negotiation part, the management of the various actors and project stakeholders.
There is in each project a first political will and then each one brings his stone to the building to carry it out. Being at the heart of this dynamic is exciting, being able to coordinate all these intentions, all these professions in the service of projects that bring together these values is very exciting!
Do you have a message to pass on?
It's not easy to answer this question, I would say, not to be afraid to be curious and to approach the nature that surrounds us. To open our eyes to the reading of the landscapes, to the species to plant, to discover the small changes in our practices which can have an impact on many things.
It's a real challenge: how to make the surrounding nature as interesting as what we see on trips and on television?
And then adapt to the evolution that climate change will impose on us.
For the tourism component, I would like us to develop the very virtuous side of transition ecotourism, that we go more and more towards this type of management of spaces but also of establishments.
If the way of managing Erretegia can give birth to other similar projects, it will already be a beautiful seed planted.