Portugal’s €615 Million Plan for Forest Fire Management
Updated: Jul 15, 2022
2017 was Portugal's worst year for fires: 520,000 hectares burned (Photo by Lusa)
The Portuguese government agreed to a transformational land project mainly aimed at preventing forest fire and covering 100,000 hectares in 26 municipalities.
The Recuperation and Resilience Plan (PRR) project costs 615 million euros and is scheduled to last 20 years, according to the National Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives and Credito Agricola of Portugal (CONFAGRI) (July 19).
Oliveira do Hospital and Arganil are two of the municipalities that signed contracts for some of the 47 targeted Integrated Areas of Landscape Management (AIGP) on July 19 in a public ceremony at Pampilhosa de Serra. Since the 20th century, Pampilhosa de Serra is one of the municipalities in Coimbra District that has been most plagued by fires and desertification, according to Diario de Noticias (October 14, 2018).
The contracts were signed by the Directorate-General for Territory; the Environmental Fund; the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), and the respective municipalities and organizations, according to the municipality of Arganil website (July 23).
There are four aspects of the project: identifying landowners; creating firebreaks; crop diversification to generate income; and development of bio-industries (resins, textiles and footwear), and fighting forest fires, according to Portugal’s government website. However, less than 10 percent of the funds will be used to combat fires, said Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
Environment Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes said: “This is a very different reform from what has been carried out over the years in Portugal". The project intends to “bring more income to the territories and rebuild the landscape that existed in the country.
“Monoculture is always negative. The propagation of a single species (such as eucalyptus and pine) is always bad because it impoverishes the territory and the landscape.”
The fact that 98 percent of the Portuguese forest is privately owned makes “everything more difficult”, but “it cannot be an alibi for doing nothing.”
Joao Paulo Catarino, the Secretary of State for Nature Conservation, Forests and Spatial Planning, said that the program contracts include payments of 1.8 million euros for the identification of the landowners, and the preparation and execution of the project, reported CONFAGRI. A total of 170 million euros will be invested in integrated areas (AIGP), in addition to 190 million euros over 20 years for maintenance of the areas.
The integrated areas provide for different types of relationships with landowners, who may delegate the management of their land to an organization (sometimes an association of producers) or manage it themselves.
An estimated 170,000 rustic buildings are covered by the project. If there is no known owner of a particular building, it is in the custody of the State for 15 years and if the owner refuses to give up the land, a forced lease is the resort with payment of an annuity to the owner of the building, according to CONFAGRI.
The government website described the PRR program:
First, the program will carry out land registration and learn the composition of each parcel as well as making the information available to owners, investors and those who have to protect the land, said Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
Second, the program will complete the primary forest protection network with the creation of firebreaks.
“There are thousands of linear kilometers that have to be cleared to interrupt the forest masses to allow firefighters to circulate and stop their combat, when necessary.”
Third, it will transform the landscape into a varied one, which generates greater income, because it is the way to break the cycle of loss of value of the forest and of abandoning the territories that history has bequeathed to us. The way to reverse this cycle is to generate income that secures the population, creating a more prosperous and cohesive territory, more populated in the interior.
Fourth, “a twin of the integrated areas of landscape management, is the 145 million euros for the development of bio-industries with the three priorities of resins, textiles and footwear.”
The Prime Minister saluted “the boldness, courage and non-conformism of mayors and members of forest producer organizations” who signed the program contracts for the first 47 areas for “rolling up their sleeves and saying that this cannot remain as it is” so that fires do not recur regularly.
Highlighted 47 Integrated Areas of Landscape Management (AIGP) (Directorate-General of Territory)
At the public ceremony in Pampilhosa da Serra, Jose Carlos Alexandrino, president of Oliveira do Hospital signed two contracts as a partner entity in two integrated areas (AIGP) whose administrator is CAULE (Associaçao Florestal da Beira Serra), according to Noticias de Coimbra (July 26). The following week, Oliveira do Hospital signed five more program contracts.
In addition to the integrated areas in the southern Serra da Estrela and in Alva and Alvoco of CAULE, Oliveira do Hospital has five more areas covering approximately 3,000 hectares. It is estimated that the number of buildings to be registered is 2,500, which will contribute decisively to complement the earlier cadastral operation.
The five integrated areas are located in the hydrographic basins of the River Alva – AIGP Riba d’Alva; AIGP Castelos do Alva and AIGP Ponte das Tres Entradas; from the Seia River – AIGP Ribeira Dam; and the River Mondego – AIGP Palheiras a Penha.
Oliveira do Hospital has the most integrated areas (AIGP) in this new model of forest management. The October 2017 fire burned 43,191 hectares, of which 24,000 was forest, according to Observador (October 27, 2017).
The mayor of Arganil, Luis Paulo Costa, signed contracts on July 19 for three integrated areas: AIGP da Ribeira from Parrozelos-Vale Grange, the AIGP of Carrica and the AIGP of Moura Alva, according to the municipality of Arganil website (July 23). Arganil assumed the role of promoter in the first two areas. However, CAULE - Associaçao Florestal da Beira Serra, the Management Entity of the Zone of Forestry Intervention (ZIF) Moura Alva assumed the role for the later. The PRR funding totals about 85,000 euros and covers more than 2,600 hectares.
Another municipality and geographical area in this PRR project is Silves, according to Diario Online: Regiao Sul (July 29) and Serra da Gardunha, according to Diario Digital: Castelo Branco (July 28).