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Prevention of forest fires in the Serra d'Espadà National Park.

After the events that occurred in the Valencian Community, with two important forest fires this summer, the inhabitants of rural territories, especially those who live in small mountain villages, observe their landscapes in a more respectful way, with a mixture of fear and despair at the high risks to people and property in case of fire.

This is the case of many inhabitants of the villages that are located in the Serra d'Espadà Natural Park. From the technical office of the Park, the Director-Conservator convened a workshop on the prevention of forest fires for discussion and participation with the intention of collecting each and every one of the initiatives and proposals that, individually or collectively, they want to present and that can be channeled into specific projects in order to, among all, raise the competent administrations in order to minimize the risk of forest fires in the territory.

From Offset Trail Coop.V., we were invited to participate in the table, which was held at the visitor center of the Natural Park in Eslida on October 15.

Visitor center at the Serra d'Espadà National Park.

Although all the mayors of the 19 municipalities that make up the park were invited to participate at the table, the representation of the local administration in the conference was practically nil, which denotes that the matter is not a priority for the consistories, since neither representatives or delegates of the same were presented. Even so, the day was made up of participants of various kinds, such as neighbors, representatives of associations, technicians in matters related to the day, etc.

Among the main problems that were discussed at the beginning of the table, the following stood out:

  • High degree of smallholding in ownership of forest land. Bearing in mind that 80% of the park's land is private, this problem complicates management in the park given the difficulty of coordinating large-scale management actions, as well as the difficulty of knowing who the owners of the land are, whose relationship with the park can go back several generations.

  • High density of vegetation. The numerous fires that occurred 30 years ago were repopulated by a natural regeneration of the wooded mass, without any type of forest management, a fact that has caused a high density of trees in many areas, where they exceed 30 feet/m2, which prevents the healthy development of the forest mass, alarmingly increasing its vulnerability to disturbances such as fires, droughts or pests.

  • Need for defense infrastructures in case of forest fires. The focus of attention was focused on the need to have fuel discontinuity areas, supported by the network of highways and paths in the park (approximately 750 km), which would allow both the action of the firefighting services and the segmentation of the masses. forestry, reducing their continuity, as well as improving evacuation capacity in case of emergency.

After exposing these points, the pros and cons of the possible solutions were evaluated, taking into account a main axis that came to light on various occasions: the low profitability of the works and products of the forest as the main barrier to management and active and lasting maintenance over time, with the exception of the use of the cork oak in some plots of the park.

Possible solutions proposed for this inconvenience included maintenance through the transfer of uses to third parties, such as the introduction of pastures and their management through extensive livestock farming, or the sale of biomass resulting from uses such as chips for heating or cogeneration in large centers, like hospitals for example.

On the other hand, the possibility of exploring payment methods for the environmental services produced in the Natural Park was raised, both supply, regulation, support and cultural. For this, it was proposed to explore the possibilities of carbon forestry where the absorption of CO2 emissions, resulting from the management of wooded masses, is accounted for, thanks to the investment of third parties, interested in participating in these projects to offset the impacts and GHG emissions to the environment produced by its activity.

Among the conclusions reached in the working group, the following stood out as the most important:

  • The need for human resources to carry out tasks such as requests for aid and subsidies, which would improve financial availability, as well as the technical capacity to draw up and execute plans on forest management actions.

  • The necessary coordination between municipalities of the Natural Park to address a common objective, as well as the need to collaborate to transmit information between administrations and to the inhabitants of the municipalities.

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