Forest fire prevention project in the municipality of Sant Martí Vell (Catalonia, Spain)

Project location: SPAIN, Sant Martí Vell
Project start date: January 2017 - Project end date: May 2017
Project number: 2016-050
Beneficiary: Consorci per a la Protecció i la Gestió de l'Espai d'Interès Natural de les Gavarres

The Gavarres Massif is a natural, protected Mediterranean forest located in the north-east of Catalonia (Spain). The biggest threat to this area is the emergence of a large forest fire. The most important solution to this threat is to implement a fire prevention framework for the Gavarres Massif. This initiative focuses on fire prevention works.

The Gavarres Massif is 30,000 hectares of well-preserved Mediterranean forest, located in the region of Girona (Catalonia, Spain).  The Massif contains the most important Cork Oak (Quercus suber) and Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster) forests in Catalonia. This area boasts outstanding flora and fauna thanks to an abundance of typical Mediterranean species. The cultural heritage of the Gavarres Massif is rich and diverse with more than 1,600 documented items of ethnological, archaeological, religious and architectural interest.

This Massif of acknowledged scientific, ecological, scenic, cultural and social values was declared an Area of Special Interest (EIN) in December 1992, and recently it became part of the Natura 2000 EU Network. The aim of this protective status is to ensure the compatibility of use and conservation in this outstanding natural area.

The institution in charge of this protected natural area is the Gavarres Massif Consortium. This institution was established in November 1998 to manage and safeguard the conservation of the Gavarres Massif. Its members include 23 public administrations (19 Local Councils, 2 County Councils, the Provincial Council of Girona and the Catalan Government) who work together to preserve, manage and promote this protected area of Mediterranean forest.

Due to the large surface area and the continuity of the forests, the biggest threat in the Gavarres Massif is the emergence of a large forest fire. The natural protected area holds a very innovative Fire Prevention Framework (FPF) which preserves approximately 40,000 hectares of Mediterranean forest. This framework focuses on 1,189 hectares of a strategic forested area that could help to stop a forest fire.  The municipality of Sant Martí Vell has 1,154 hectares of forests and 51.32 hectares are designated as a strategic area for fire prevention.

This initiative funded by NaEPFdac (The Nando Peretti Foundation, Delegació a Catalunya), seeks to respond to the threat of forest fires with the implementation of fire prevention work in the Gavarres Massif. The project will take place in the municipality of Sant Martí Vell (Girona-Catalonia-Spain). The purpose of the project is the maintenance of 4.67 hectares of strategic area for fire prevention. The works will consist of selective elimination of trees, scrubland and herbaceous vegetation, to reduce the amount of vegetation prone to fire.

The works will be done by a foundation that employs workers at risk of exclusion in the region.
This strategic area of 4.67 hectares will help aid the mobility of the fire service during a forest fire and will contribute to a decrease in potential forest fires in that area and their possible spread to the surrounding area. For that reason, the works will directly help to protect a surface area of more than 1,000 hectares.

It is important to highlight that all the work will be performed by workers at risk of social exclusion. In this sense the project is not just about conservation - it will have a more holistic approach incorporating a response to natural and social problems.

Forest fires are the biggest threat to large Mediterranean forests like the Gavarres Massif. The solution to fight against the threat from fires is to work on fire prevention. The purpose of this initiative is to implement a strategic area for fire prevention of 4.67 hectares in the municipality of Sant Martí Vell, this will help to protect an area of more than 1,000 hectares being destroyed by a large fire. The initiative will also help tackle social issues due to the works being done by workers at risk of social exclusion.

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