The future of natural areas
||Number 27 - november 2000|
Towards a single management model
It was a decision long-awaited by many sectors of Catalan society. Almost a year ago now, on 29 November 1999 to be precise, the Official Gazette of the Government of Catalonia published Decree 297/1999. It abolished the Directorate General for the Natural Environment of the Department of Agriculture, Stockbreeding and Fisheries and its functions of nature conservation were attributed to the Directorate General for Natural Heritage and the Physical Environment of the Department of the Environment. Finally, logic prevailed: a single model was necessary for the management of natural areas in Catalonia, both public and private. Since then, the management of natural heritage has been undergoing a transition. Affairs are being put in order pending the creation of the Agència Catalana de la Natura (Catalan Nature Agency), the organism which will be responsible for unifying and piloting the management of the country's natural heritage.
In this context of change and in this moment of opportunity, this latest issue of Medi Ambient. Tecnologia i cultura makes its appearance. In recent years, most natural areas have been mistreated, there has not been a single, coherent policy. Now Catalonia has a unique opportunity to adopt the latest management trends and direct an imaginative policy to protect and preserve not only natural areas, but also the whole country.
With regard to the contents of this issue, first of all Martí Boada and Mònica Rivera, of the Centre d’Estudis Ambientals de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, follow the evolution of the idea of conservation, from the "reserves" created in Mesopotamia to the mid-seventies, when democracy arrived in our country. The authors highlight particularly the Montseny massif, the paradigm of protectionism in Catalonia.
The geologist and environmental expert Josep Maria Mallarach analyses the latest trends in management where, increasingly, ecological criteria carry more weight when defining protection policies.
The Ebro Delta Park is a
natural area which has always been characterised by the great deal of human
activity developed there. Rafael Balada, its director, explains how they
have got local residents to consider and defend that park as valuable heritage
after a history of setbacks.
Finally, the lawyer Ignasi Doñate gives a breakdown of the legislative reality of the subject matter of the twenty-seventh issue of Medi Ambient. Tecnologia i Cultura.
The authors examine how the
idea of conservation developed from the “reserves” created in ancient Mesopotamia
to the first references to protectionism in Catalonia. They also deal with
the begunnings of territorial planning in Catalonia and the environmental
revolt in the sixties, the key to protectionism in the presernt day.
The oldest documentary reference to the creation of definitive "reserves" comes from ancient Mesopotamia, the birthplace of the three great Sumarian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilisations that provided important knowledge on agriculture, gardening, stockbreeding and fishing. Various Mesopotamian kings introduced the first animal reserves for the privileged purpose of hunting and these are probably the first examples of territorial space being submitted to regulation for the purposes of leisure (Boada, 1997).
In terms of knowledge of the natural environment and the role that it plays in the balanced nature and health of the individual, it was Hippocrates (460-375 BC) who formulated the "first environmental audits" and expounded that the health of both the individual and society as a whole can only be understood by studying the nature of their surroundings: "On arriving in a city or town, one should observe the location of the place in relation to the winds and its waters, whether the area is marshy, whether the ground is soft or hard, whether it is situated in an elevated or flat area, what the surroundings are like".
The first urban and territorial "planning" occurred during the period of Romanisation as a result of the increase in mobility and in the ability to transform the natural environment. Caton established the first land classification to regulate and organise territory (see Figure Caton).
In Geographika, Strabo (63 BC to 19 BC), the geographer and historian, emphasises the extensive woodland character of the Iberian peninsula, probably the result of his impressions of the dense, closed character of the Iberian landscapes. Strabo made some initial descriptions of his natural systems and wrote: "Iberia has many roe-deer and wild horses. The people from Emporion produce flax and part of their land is good and part is bad with extensive and useless reeds".
The descriptions of the Iberian natural heritage collected by the sage Pliny the Elder when he was procurator of Baetica are also interesting. In his Natural History, he quotes one of the first examples of an "ecological crime" in that storks were held in such high honour because of the number of snakes that they killed that anybody killing one would be given the death penalty.
Planning and the misuse of forests and woodlands
Another well-known contribution is De re rustica by the Hispano-Roman author Columela, which brought together all of the Classical knowledge on agriculture and forestry and produced what can be considered to be the first treatise on good agricultural and forestry practices.
An early treatise on the need to conserve and improve forests entitled Capitullare de Villis appeared in the year 800. This was a Visigothic ordinance on royal properties that reveals a preoccupation with managing and conserving the forest resources: "Our forests must be carefully looked after. Damage by excess felling of the forests, where they are necessary, must not be allowed. Planting should be encouraged of juniper, apple, pear, plum, white beam, medlar, chestnut, hazel, almond, mulberry, laurel, pine, walnut and cherry".
During the long process of feudalisation, certain historical events led to political measures that had a negative impact on the environment. This point will not be gone into but there is the example of the order proclaimed by the viceroy Garcia de Toledo in 1561 for the systematic burning of all woodland located near to all important thoroughfares and, if necessary, all other woodlands in the Principality, for they constituted an impregnable refuge for bandits. He was congratulated for this action by Philip II "for the peacefulness and calm that it established in the principality and earldom" (J. Reglà, 1962).
The first areas to come under a definitive "system of protection" date from the demographic increase and the human impact on the land. The over-exploitation of forests due to the increasing demands of society and the heavy consumption of forestry products by the domestic, handicraft, naval and protoindustrial sectors explain the appearance of a normative document to put abuses in order and to outline the organisation of an incipient form of "forest administration". The first legislation on the "arrangement and conservation" of the forests in Catalonia are the Forest Ordinances or the Solsona Forests Act (1627). The document begins with "Many great excesses have been committed in their exploitation, and limits have been exceeded (...), His Excellency (...) prohibits (...) anybody (...) from removing the marks and signs on the trees (...) or from felling marked trees". This extensive normative document regulated felling, and the making of charcoal and pitch. It penalised fire and other practices considered as being abusive.
Changes in the relationship between society and nature
Likewise, it should be considered that the age-old belief until well into the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century, was that natural resources were inexhaustible due to divine or supernatural reasons. The prevailing belief was that providence protected and regenerated all natural resources that were exploited in any way by society and the idea of limits was non-existent. The continuous exploitation of the forests and the considerable decrease in woodlands during the eighteenth century would explain the appearance of the document by the Marquis of Ensenada, signed 31 January 1748. The document, which was an Order in Council, regulated the exploitation and conservation of forests and woodlands. An outstanding aspect of this ordinance concerning the development, cultivation and conservation of woodlands was the explicit demand that all inhabitants in the whole country had to plant three trees for each tree felled besides that which it was their duty as inhabitants to plant every year, and only poor widows and infants were exempted from this obligation. As has been established with documentary evidence, the implementation of this regulation meant that some villages, by municipal agreement, increased the number of trees that each inhabitant had to plant before the end of the year to five.
The decree made it clear that "for activities in the forest to be carried out correctly, planting, pruning and felling are to be done with the most convenient methods, and it is recommended that there be a place in each village that is well exposed to the south and protected from the winds from the north for planting the tallest, healthiest and most robust beech and oak trees, and that neither grass nor herbage be pulled up for they maintain the humidity and dew in summer."
With regard to felling and
pruning, the appropriate time during the year was given and how felling
should be done without damaging the tree. Orders were given for anybody
felling or chopping down without permission or incorrectly to be strictly
punished. Permission to cut down trees was always required and note was
made of the need to increase both new growth and the amount of woodland.
The first forest inventories originated from this important document managed
by what can be considered to be the first forest wardens, known curiously
enough as Naval Commissioners. This was a corps of agents with a representative
in each main forestry town in the Principality that carried out the control
and inventories of the forest and, if necessary, any tree felling.
The theological view. That is, the belief in a supreme entity that governs the rhythms of nature and society. It coincided with supernatural Providence. (Urteaga, 1993).
The deterministic view. That is, the idea that natural conditions are responsible for the evolution of human societies. Montesquieu had already formulated this idea.
The anthropocentric view, in the sense that, by reversing the order of the previous deterministic view, it is human societies that influence and govern environmental rhythms in a definite and increasing way and not the other way round. This view arose not so much from philosophical reflection, which may be the case with the previous two, but from the practical experience of observing the important initial effects of deforestation.
One cannot fail to notice fact that Humboldt emphasised the importance of some of the modifications introduced by man in natural systems in his "Essay on the Geography of Plants and the Physical Form of Plants". He dedicated this first piece of work on environmental geography to his contemporary, Goethe, whom he would join in some of the social gatherings organised by the latter where artists, poets, writers and scientists would mingle together. The influence that he had on the awakening of studies in natural resource management in the setting of these German Romantic literary groups led by Goethe is well known. Out of this context appeared Heinrich Cotta who was to play an important role in establishing the nascent foundations of the conservationist sciences through his formulation of the need to organise the rational exploitation of natural resources (Boada & Saurí, 1999).
Cotta founded the Tharandt Planning Institute, the first forestry school where Agustin Pascual, the founder of the Forestry School in Villaviciosa de Odon, was trained at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Gómez, 1992). A large proportion of the classes at these institutions were initially made up of youths from rural areas in Catalonia (Boada 1996). At the end of their training, some of them (Bosch i Julià, the brothers Josep and Ramon Jordana, Sebastià Soler, Primitiu Artigas, Joaquim Castellarnau) went on to make what were the first contributions to the management of forest resources, the reforestation of head waters, dune stabilisation, etc. Josep Jordana’s visit to the United States in 1876 and 1877 and that of Rafael Puig i Valls in 1893 put them in contact with the first protectionist formulations in the form of the establishment of the Tree Festival in the state of Nebraska in 1872 and the creation of the first national park in the world at Yellowstone in the same year.
The need for protection
The indiscriminate exploitation of the land and forests in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century led to the appearance of a conservationist trend at the heart of the country’s federal institutions. The main objective was to preserve certain areas from the pressure of colonisation according to the idea that nature was no longer considered to be unlimited. It also began to be conceived as a heritage that needed to be conserved for subsequent generations (Saurí, 1993). The protected area was conceived as a sanctuary of nature and untouchable by man in order to maintain it "virgin". Yellowstone, the most extensive and most visited national park in the United States, was formulated according to this way of thinking.
Following Cotta’s line, the figure of the Tarragona forestry engineer Rafael Puig i Valls played a pio- neering role with his contributions to the gestation of conservationism and environmental awareness in Catalonia. Faced with the continuous and intense destruction of the woodlands, he formed part of a Commission made up of himself, another member of the Catalan Agricultural Institute in Sant Isidre and two others from the Catalan Association for Scientific Excursions in 1884 to organise a league in defence of the environment in opposition to the abusive cutting down of forests and in order to create essential legal regulations for protecting, conserving and restoring forest landscapes. The first job of this commission, which was more than likely one of the first conservationist associations in the country, was to draw up a project for the reforestation of the Collserola sierra.
It was Puig i Valls that made the Tree Fair known in an article entitled "Native land and trees" that was published in the La Vanguardia newspaper on 21 September 1898. Nevertheless, the idea of establishing reforestation from a socially binding or popular perspective has already been mentioned above in the Order signed by the Marquis of Ensenada in 1748.
The first Tree Fair was held on 30 April 1899 in Barcelona. This popular homage to trees had different antecedents such as that mentioned above by the Marquis of Ensenada, and it was more than likely a consequence of Puig i Valls’ visit to the United States in 1893 on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition held in Chicago. During his long stay, in which time he travelled through various states, it would appear that he found out about the Tree Day celebration that was held for the first time on 10 April 1872 in the state of Nebraska. The purpose of this fair was to deploy a broad-based popular initiative aimed on the one hand at the recovery of woodlands and, on the other, at stimulating people’s love for trees and the symbol of being grounded in the concept of one’s native land (Boada, 1995).
Immediately after guiding the Tree Fair, Puig i Valls broached the subject of the protection of natural areas and became the precursor of conservationism in Catalonia, and the whole of Spain, with a proposal to create a protected natural area. On 6 April 1902, he presented the basis for the Montserrat National Park project and suggested that the same was needed for the Tibidabo and Montseny sierras. At the same time, he also proposed that Cap de Creus be declared a place of interest (Boada, 1995).
The first references to protectionism in Spain
As has already been mentioned, the origins of conservation policy in Spain are connected, predominantly, with the sphere of forestry inherited from the forestry tradition linked with the process of the sale of church lands in the nineteenth century. The defence of the wholeness of the landscape and of natural values gave forestryism a field in which to develop its naturalist, conservationist, heritage and educational aspirations. The idea of protected natural areas became one of the privileged meeting points for scientific as well as cultural and informative knowledge on forests (Gómez, 1992).
The first specific form of protection dates from 7 December 1916 when the National Parks Act was passed in Spain (in force until 1957) (1). The National Parks Board was established as the administrative authority by Royal Decree on 23 February 1917. The chief role during this stage was played by Pedro Pidal i Bernaldo de Quirós, Marquis of Villaviciosa from Asturias, the sponsor of the bill and the first commissioner of the Spanish National Parks Service. Pidal agreed with the forestryism ideas of the nineteenth century and established a causal relationship between the impoverishment of the nation and the disappearance of the woodland mass (Fernández, 1998). It is not surprising that the first national parks were originally forest reserves and inspired to some degree by the hygienist and anti-urban movement from the beginning of that century. The father of Spanish national parks maintained that "the national parks represent the virgin character of nature that is being conserved; the less they are touched, the more virgin they will be".
The presentation and defence of the National Parks Act came about within a complex political and socio-economic context, both at European (with the First World War and the Russian Revolution in the background) and national (extensive strikes) levels. Pidal believed that ecological questions could not wait, even though there were more important matters (Fernández, 1998). The fundamental lines of his protectionist policy (based on mountain and forest landscapes) are the functions of tourism (source of income) and recreation (people's enjoyment).
Puig i Valls and Pedro Pidal both believed in regenerationist approaches; both of them believed that education with regard to the environment and the recovery of the natural environment were the only solution for a country engulfed in the colonial fiasco of 98.
Catalonia: the first objections and the social response to the aggression of the natural environment in Catalonia
Apart from Puig i Valls’ context of forestryism, the starting point of the awareness of the destruction of landscape in Catalonia is to be found during the Renaissance when interest in science, learning, art and knowledge of the country was greatly stimulated and projected through various associations and institutions, and also through hiking and rambling which was a very particular way of coming closer to nature. The founding of the Catalan Association for Scientific Hikes in 1876, the precursor of this movement which later became the Catalan Hikers' Centre in 1891, marked a new stage in terms of the knowledge of the country in naturalist terms and developed a new social use for landscape through hiking and rambling.
The first documented objection is to be found by Antoni Massó (1879). Considered a hiking pioneer and the founder of the Catalan Association for Scientific Hikes, he warned that in Montseny, "the destruction must be avoided of these magnificent forests of colossal beech, giants of vegetation, both poetic and useful" .
These early protectors of nature in all probability had been guided by contributions made by the first Catalan naturalists, of which Joan Salvador i Boscà was the first member of a lineage of apothecaries that began the systematic study of the country’s flora at the beginning of the seventeenth century. This research continued throughout the seventeenth century and part of the eighteenth century with the help of his son Jaume and grandsons Joan and Josep. Interest in knowledge of the natural environment led to the creation in 1899 of the Catalan Natural History Institution, founded by Salvador Maluquer, Josep Mas de Xaxars and Antoni Novellas. A pioneering entity in the study and defence of nature, it has been transformed and is fortunately highly active at the present time. Operative for a hundred years, it has been a unifying force for those studying and working in the different disciplines of the natural environment.
The meteorologist Dionís Puig gave a lecture at the Catalan Hikers' Centre in 1894 that went beyond a mere speech. He outlined a hypothesis of global change and explained his theory of how the meteorological regime had changed, with global change being evident in a decrease in temperatures and precipitation as a consequence of the deforestation of the forests and woodlands. He upheld that deforestation at local level was responsible for causing flooding on the Barcelona plain. In this context, Dionís Puig demanded that action be taken to stop the improper tree felling that was going on in the country’s forests and he supported Puig i Valls’ endeavours to introduce the tree fair (Boada, 1996).
At the turn of the century, a proposal made by the La Ciutat Jardí (2) Civic Society in Barcelona at the 3rd Catalan Congress on Hiking and Rambling, held in Tarragona in April 1914, which set a historical antecedent in conservation policy in Catalonia. In the proposal, a request was made to the Provincial Council for a Plan for the Forestry Reserves and National Parks in Catalonia (Fernandez, 1998).
In 1921, a warning cry on the sale of the Gressolet Forest in Alt Berguedà appeared in the journal of the Catalan Hikers' Centre. It demanded a natural park to protect the beauty and wealth of the forest as opposed to the threat of tree felling, alleging the devastation of cultivated land downstream due to the non-retention of rocky material during torrential rainfall. An intense rescue campaign by the C.H.C. succeeded in preserving the forest intact.
Montseny, a paradigm of protectionism
The Montseny massif is a paradigmatic example of popular sensitivity in the defence of exceptional landscape values, and of public intervention in the field of conservation. The history of its conservation is valuable more as a comparable indicator than as a local form of analysis and for this reason it is given special attention in that it shows in a very significant way an important part of the history of conservation, from the perspective of the different agents involved.
Social demands for the protection of Montseny stimulated the participation of the public authorities to bring about a legal framework for protecting this area. In the somewhat timid form of the Mountain Trust, it constitutes the first legal form of protection for the landscape value of an area of territory in Catalonia. It became a natural park at the end of the seventies and almost simultaneously (1978) became part of the world network of Biosphere Reserves through the UNESCO Man & Biosphere programme. It was also the first one in Catalonia to do so.
Much earlier, however, at the end of the eighteenth century, the Montseny forest reserves which were made up fundamentally of fir, beech, oak, Scots pine, evergreen oak and chestnut came under the jurisdiction of the State, together with the forests in Tortosa, La Selva and Empordà (Aragó, 1964). This followed the trend of events in the Enlightenment that had been started by the Bourbon dynasty and realised in a policy of the Royal Navy of protection and encouragement in a Decree by Monts in 1748.
The first serious attempt to give Montseny a legal form of protection stemmed from the study carried out in 1922 by the botanist Pius Font i Quer, in which he made a proposal that appeared in the Official Chronicles of the Commonwealth of Catalonia that the massif be declared a national park. This Institution had stated its interest in creating parks in connection with the publication of the Act of 7 December 1916 and the Decree of 23 February 1917 that defined and created the national parks and places of national interest in Spain.
For this to be accomplished, the areas deserving special protection had to be presented to the Directorate General for Agriculture, Mines and Forests through the chief engineer of the Provincial Forestry District. This was the administrative context in which different entities and societies made proposals and how the District came to propose the creation of two parks, one in Montserrat and the other Montseny. The Commonwealth commissioned various studies that made up the first corpus of interdisciplinary work for the creation of a protected natural area. Given their interesting content, various examples are given below:
"Montseny, National Park"
the botanist Dr. Pius Font i Quer:
"Orientations for the
future National Park" by the zoologist Ignasi de Segarra:
"Report" by Llorenç
i Artigues, secretary of the School of Fine Arts:
"Montseny, National Park"
by the architect Serafí Bassas:
"Pathways of Montseny"
by Lluís Duran i Ventosa, MP:
"The higher animals that
could exist in the Montseny National Park" by M. Rosell i Vila, lecturer
of zootechnics at the Higher College of Agriculture:
Once the Mountain Trust was
constituted, it was entrusted with the main objectives of providing health
services (the construction of anti-TB centres); tourism and sports; forest
resource production, restoration and conservation. As can be seen, the
order or hierarchy of functions put conservation at the bottom of the list.
The naturalistic aspects were obviously considered very little but the
aspects related with the local population counted even less.
The beginnings of land-use planning and the PNAs
In 1932, the Autonomous Government of Catalonia published the Plan for the Distribution by Zones of the Territory of Catalonia or the Regional Planning of Catalonia, which was the work of the Rubió i Tudurí brothers. It was a very advanced planning document that proposed the creation of a system of protected natural areas and forest reserves:
National parks: L’Artiga
de Lin, Alt Pirineu, Sant Joan de Lerm.
Despite the fact that the Regional Planning only reached the blueprint stage, it did determine several subsequent territorial plans (Gurri, 1997). Likewise, the historical involution that the Franco dictatorship represented was obviously bound to affect the field of conservation of natural heritage. It was not until 1953 that a timid territorial Regional Plan appeared that included the city of Barcelona and 27 surrounding municipalities. The document provided for a large natural park (Collserola) for Barcelona and its region (Paluzie, 1990).
Parallel to this plan, a Provincial Plan was drawn up under the name of the General Land-use Plan for the Province of Barcelona. The regulation for this was passed in 1963 and it established a catalogue of possible natural parks: El Corredor, Montnegre, Montserrat, Sant Llorenç del Munt, Montseny, Guilleries, Bellmunt, Rasos de Peguera, La Quar, Catllaràs, Falgars, Serra del Cadí and Tibidabo (Collserola).
In this setting, the Provincial Council of Barcelona developed the previsions of the Provincial Plan during the seventies by means of specific special plans for some of the catalogued parks. The Natural Parks Service of the Provincial Council of Barcelona was established in 1974.
The General Metropolitan Plan was passed in 1976 for the urban planning of the Barcelona area and its region that covered the same area as the 1953 Plan, where the system of free spaces was structured according to urban parks and forest parks (Paluzie, 1990).
The decade of the sixties and seventies was quite prolific in the preparation of territorial planning work influencing the protection of nature and forms the basis on which part of the conservationist legislation in Catalonia has been developed. The parents of this "uncorking" of committed civil servants, scientists and social leaders were a group of scientists that played a decisive role in the knowledge and study of the territory and environment of the country. They included the botanists Oriol de Bolòs and Creu Casas, the ecologist Ramon Margalef, the geologist Solé Sabarís, the geographers Llobet, Casasses, Puchades, Gurri, etc.
Through the Commission for Urban Development of the Provincial Council, they used the scant resources of the 1956 Act on land use and urban planning and the reform of 1975 to begin making the first formulae of protection for natural areas under the most pressure, basically due to urban development. Examples of this are the approval of the Special Plan for the protection of the Montseny Park (1977 Provincial Council of Barcelona, 1978 Provincial Council of Girona) and the Special Plan for Sant Llorenç del Munt and the Obac sierra in 1982. Along the same lines, special plans were subsequently approved and sponsored by the Provincial Council of Barcelona for Montesquiu, Garraf, Montnegre-Corredor and Olèrdola. Approval was given for the Collserola park in the same way in 1987 (Gurri, 1997).
The environmental revolt of the seventies, key to the current protectionism
Mention must be made of the important role that the different forms of civil action played in the protectionist response at the end of the sixties. At the Congress on Catalan Culture in 1975, the Campaign to Save the Natural Heritage served as a unifying and revitalising element for the multitude of groups around the country that had appeared in response to important transformations and their great impact on the natural environment. This broad movement became, in part, highly responsible for saving and subsequently protecting in a definitive way some of the natural areas that are protected at the present time. The most important examples are the Garrotxa Volcanic Region, the Marshes of l'Empordà and the Ebro Delta.
Nature: use or abuse? White paper on nature management in Catalonia was an important document published by the Catalan Institution of Natural History in 1976 that became a fundamental source of reference in the conservation of the country’s natural heritage. That same year, during the blooming of the conservationist movement, the non-governmental organisation League for the Defence of Natural Heritage (DEPANA) was established as a leader of this movement. The first provisions for environmental education were also created in the Santiga nature itinerary that was prepared by the Department of Ecology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Starting from these processes, the conservationist and protectionist movement spread all around the country, together with installations for environmental education (Boada, 1999).
With the establishment of democratic institutions in 1978, a process of political and social normalisation began which in turn led to the normalisation of the PNAs.
1 This initial national parks
service administered the first five parks: Covadonga (July 1918, 16,925
hectares); Ordesa (August 1918, 2,046 hectares); Teide (January 1854, 11,866
hectares); Caldera de Taburiente (October 1954, 3,500 hectares), and Aigües
Tortes and the Sant Maurici Lake (November 1955, 9,851 hectares) (Font
& Majoral, 2000)
• ARAGÓ, ANTONI Ma
(1964): "El Montseny y su signo histórico" in San Jorge: Quarterly
magazine of Barcelona Provincial Council, no. 55-56
The protection of protected natural areas in many countries has developed rapidly over the last few decades as a concerted strategy to save from destruction and degradation those species, habitats or landscapes considered socially —and legally— as natural heritage and answer to the social demands associated with them. It is, thus, a modern phenomenon which aims to counteract, at least on a local scale, the unsustainable tendencies of the type of development that currently dominates, which, globally, brings about the destruction and impoverishment of natural and cultural heritage on an unprecedented scale.
Throughout the 20th century, the protection policy of natural areas has been characterised by three main stages. The first was based on the protection of singular and emblematic natural areas. Their principal exponent are the "wildlife sanctuaries" and "national parks". The terms "sanctuary" and "national" are a clear evocation of their symbolic and political significance. They are publicly owned areas, generally remote, which are promoted and administered by central governments. In recently colonised countries where there is little artistic heritage, its emblematic nature is reinforced even further.
The second stage raised the need to increase the number of protected natural areas and provide them with various levels of protection and management. That was when a lot of legal figures suddenly appeared, in excess of a hundred in the United States, and sixty in the states of the European Union. Amongst them, we can highlight undeveloped reserves, nature reserves, biosphere reserves, natural areas of national interest, wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas, some of which are publicly owned and many others area private or mixed. At this stage, several public administrations are involved, including local governments and, in English-speaking countries, the concurrent initiatives of the private sector are developed.
The third stage stems from the recognition of the global scope of the environmental crisis, the basic principles of ecology and the inadequacy of previous approaches to stem the wholesale destruction of biological diversity and the continued degradation of the peri-urban landscape which houses the largest proportion of the world’s population. From strategic and global approaches rises the challenge of integrating the conservation of natural areas with sectoral policy and land-use planning, that is, to reform the current unsustainable model. It is proposed to conserve functional networks of natural areas which enable the conservation of biodiversity to be guaranteed, with the participation of the social agents. It includes a large proportion of private natural areas, and is supported by economic incentives and formulae for co-operation between the public and private sectors.
This third stage began in the early eighties in a few leading countries, but is not clearly outlined internationally until the Earth Summit in 1992. In Europe, it was marked by the approval of the 1992 EEC Programme on policy and action regarding the environment and sustainable development, the 1994 Parks of Europe Action Plan and the PanEuropean Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy, 1995. The tendencies set forth below are those that characterise this last stage in western industrialised countries and which, therefore, are or could be of significance for our country.
As what characterises new approaches is their comprehensive integrating nature, to give an idea of their scope let us examine how they affect the identification, research, typology, planning, management, financing and assessment of protected natural areas. And, finally, to show the new social trends, amongst both the agents and the users of these same natural areas.
Identification of natural areas needing protection and research
Complying with the recommendations of the most influential international organisms, the identification of natural areas needing protection, increasingly starts from ecological criteria, amongst which the most outstanding are the criteria of diversity, rarity or singularity, integrity, representativeness, fragility or vulnerability, connectivity and size. Amongst others, some of the consequences of this have been that is has been possible to compare and approve rank, to evaluate natural areas which had received little consideration previously (such as the steppes or extensive dry farmlands), or to establish transfrontier protected areas.
Ecological criteria began to be applied within the framework of political units, but it soon became obvious that they only gave coherent results if applied to biogeographical regions, which, in Europe, usually transcend national limits. This tendency has enabled the Habitats Directive, for instance, to define the lists of habitats and taxons of interest for each of the great natural European regions (Boreal, Continental, Macaronesian, Alpine, Mediterranean and Atlantic) which has enabled the proposal of the natural areas necessary to protect them, within the framework of the Natura 2000 network. On the other hand, ecological criteria began to be applied to terrestrial environments, but latterly application has spread to coastal and marine environments, where the shortcomings of protection are greater. In the Mediterranean basin, this is the approach of the Barcelona Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment (1995).
The number of protected natural areas has increased rapidly over the last forty years. In many countries this growth has been exponential, as has also been the transformation and fragmentation of natural habitats. The proportion of natural areas that enjoy a certain level of protection has reached 25 to 60 % of the territory in many advanced states. The new disciplines of the biology of conservation and the ecology of the landscape have shown that when the proportion of territory essentially transformed exceeds 33 %, the losses in biological diversity become inexorable, however well-managed these areas may be, as shown by, amongst others, the example of many German lands.
The application of ecological criteria presupposes considerable knowledge that has fuelled numerous lines of research. In leading countries, basic studies of the different components of ecological diversity has been encouraged: inventories and maps of ecosystems, habitats and landscapes, cataloguing of species and races, etc., which has "red books" to be drawn up for the most endangered components, classifying them according to the degree of endangerment and vulnerability. Likewise, follow-up plans have been established based on ecological and environmental indicators that enable us to measure trends. Finally, applying the principle of the right to environmental information, the resulting biodiversity data bases have been made available not only to researchers, but also to the rest of society, with the aid of new technologies (geographic information systems, internet, etc.).
Typology of natural areas
The rapid development and lack of coordination of conservation policies have given rise to a great variety of protected areas. In the United States, for instance, there are over a hundred different legal figures. In 1994, the International Union for Nature Conservation defined six basic categories, graded from the highest to the lowest degree of conservation. The first protected natural areas to be created were little affected by human activity, remote and publicly owned, and were in the first four of the aforementioned categories. Most notable were the national parks and nature reserves, where recreational and scientific use is —or should be— subordinated to nature protection. The amount of land protected at this level totals 28 % of Denmark, 12 % of the USA and 10 % of the Netherlands, but barely 2 % of the southern European states.
In countries or areas where human activity is more widespread, most natural areas are at the two lowest levels of protection. Thus, in Europe, the total of protected natural areas is 67 %, whilst in the world they represent only 15 %. They are protected natural areas in privately-owned land, which may contain towns and where activities and uses compatible with the conservation of natural values take place. The figure of the national park in England and Wales (Naturpark in Germany, Parc Naturel Régional in France) is the most used. The amount of land that has been protected at this level totals 20 % in Germany, 14 % in the United Kingdom and Luxembourg, and 7 % in France.
The PanEuropean Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy of 1995 exacts protection for a representative sample of all landscapes, seminatural or anthropic, of interest, particularly traditional farmlands that conserve remarkable beauty and associated biological and cultural diversity but which have received little consideration so far in many systems of protected areas.
Aside from the types of natural areas defined legally, another typology series has developed used by private conservation organisations, or even by individuals, which are no less effective for not having official approval. In some western countries these initiatives —known generically as custody of the land— have undergone extraordinary development in recent years. For example, the private American organisation The Nature Conservancy, which has almost a million members, has created and manages the largest private system of nature reserves in the world, which includes over 1,500 natural areas covering 3.2 million hectares in the USA and over 17 million hectares outside the USA, mostly in Latin America, in collaboration with NGOs and local governments.
Planning natural areas and ecological connectivity
Since the approval of the Agreement on Biodiversity and the Global Strategy of the same name, in 1992, the role of protected natural areas has been framed within the strategies or national conservation plans of biodiversity, which, in turn, in the most advanced countries, form part of Green Plans or National Sustain-ability Strategies (Agendas 21). Their translation at European level, promoted by the agreements of the World Parks Congress in Caracas in 1992, was the Action Plan for European protected areas, promoted by the IUCN in 1994. This plan, far-reaching in scope, defines a comprehensive, coherent series of strategies and priorities, and requires deployment through State action plans. The Spanish State plan, is currently being drawn up by a work group from EUROPARC-Spain, and is expected to be approved in 2002.
National or international biodiversity strategies propose action plans that enable biodiversity conservation to be integrated in the public policies and programmes that could most directly affect it. With regard to protected natural areas, current trends are towards completing existing systems on several administrative levels and, above all, establishing and conserving networks of natural areas physically connected and functional. The national ecological network of the Netherlands (1991) conceived as a coherent network of sustainable ecosystems, in one of the most man-made countries in the continent, was the point of reference that inspired the declaration of the Maastricht European Ecological Network (E.ECO.NET) the following year.
The outlook associated with the global climatic change, means that we may expect altitudinal and latitudinal movement of biotas, an increase in the likelihood of natural disasters (climatic, epidemics, fires, etc.) and, therefore, an increase in the risk of extinction for many species and communities. Apart from limiting the gaseous emissions that cause the greenhouse effect, and stemming the direct destruction of habitats, one of the few measures that can be adopted to reduce the magnitude of the problems to come is to conserve a network of natural areas with functional connections that facilitate the natural movements of all the organisms with the capacity to do so.
Furthermore, social sustainability requires that in protected natural areas affected by human activity in disadvantaged rural areas, socio-economic development plans be promoted to improve the quality of life of local populations, establish and recover a rural population, and thus conserve a diversity of land-scape and ecology which would otherwise disappear.
Individually, it is considered that each protected natural area should have its own management plan, and must be endowed with human and economic resources appropriate to their objectives. The management plan model promoted by Eurosite, is the European point of reference for the Natura 2000 network. Increasingly, there is a tendency to approach planning on two levels, a strategic level and an annual level, for both individual natural areas and systems. The strategic plan of the American national parks system for 1998 is an international reference in this respect. Both strategic and annual plans must be closely linked to management and have performance indicators, on which to base monitoring and assessment, as we shall see later.
Natural area organisation and management forms
Gone are the days when natural
area systems were managed by distant central services, the application
of the principle of subsidiariness has led to the decentralisation of governing
bodies, integrating representatives of local public authorities, to extend
the regime of economic autonomy and create and consolidate teams of professional
administrators. The administrative centres of natural and national
parks and other large natural areas are allocated within the area or immediately
outside it to foster good relations with the local population and enable
more effective and less bureaucratised on-site management.
Finally, in the management of natural areas, as in other sectors, quality regulation has been introduced in recent years, based on international standards that guarantee and approve planning and management processes, such as the ISO.
Fiscal and economic instruments of natural areas
The creation and appropriate management of protected natural areas bring about costs which vary greatly depending on the case. Small, private natural protected areas, where nature protection takes preference and where there is frequently no public use, may be economically self-sufficient, although there are usually maintenance and security tasks which are carried out by volunteers.
In contrast, natural areas managed by the public administration which usually have several social uses, tend to have economic problems, even in countries like the United States where they are 100 % publicly owned, access is controlled and one must pay on entry and for many other services. The state parks of New Hampshire are the exception that proves the rule.
In order to face these costs, various policies and instruments have been developed which enable the contradictions of many public policies to be reduced and some of the public benefits generated by private properties within protected areas to be recognised.
To begin with, measures have been promoted to reduce or eliminate direct disincentives to conservation, such as aid for reforestation with exotic species, or indirect, such as disproportionate subsidies for irrigation water. The latter, explain why in regions suffering from lack of water, water prices are artificially low, which leads to an increase in irrigated land which threatens the integrity of the wetlands linked to places where water is extracted and also to the conservation of dry habitats or steppes in areas thus transformed.
At the same time, a series
of incentives for conservation has been established, of which there are
three main types:
The tendency to increasingly concentrate more inhabitants in urban and periurban environments, along with transport facilities, has given rise to increased social demand for natural areas and greater public use of many of them. So much so that the impact caused by visitors to protected natural areas has become a delicate problem in many places. With millions of visitors a year, many a park has suffered the degradation of some of its most emblematic spots.
The European Charter on Sustainable Tourism in natural areas (1999) proposes a clear strategy to confront this situation. Access to existing protected natural areas should be regulated, and the flow of visitors should be controlled to avoid the overloading of the more fragile areas. But this is insufficient; there must be more alternatives. One which offers good results is the creation of green ways and green belts around large cities and metropolitan areas, made up of municipal or regional parks, or some other type. These green belts make resilient natural areas available to the majority of citizens, which are well-equipped to satisfy the logical physical and emotional need to be in contact with nature, close to home. Thus, whilst they help to stem the unsustainable expansion of diffuse cities, they also save on movement —with the corresponding economic and environmental costs— reducing the pressure on natural areas of greater ecological value, which for various reasons, often due to their small size, are fragile or vulnerable.
Monitoring and audits of natural areas
A protected natural area is not an end in itself, however much social demand endorses it, but an instrument which serves to achieve other ends, amongst which are the conservation of natural heritage and the fomenting of a certain public use, generally for recreational or educational purposes. Its adaptation to the social and ecological reality it must serve is not guaranteed, but must be proven. While some protected natural areas have fulfilled very well the expectations of their creation, others have not, and for different reasons have failed to some extent or another.
To assess the state and tendencies
of protected natural areas, the most advanced countries use two basic tools:
follow-up plans and operative or performance audits. Follow-up is a periodic
measuring of previously selected indicators and enables changes and tendencies
to be detected over time through ecological, socio-economic, planning and
management indicators. The operative audit assesses the instruments, management
results, and external factors that affect them.
In the case of individual natural areas, the operative audit focuses on particular planning and management objectives, and assesses them in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, of the different management phases and their results, indicating the extent to which they have achieved their objectives and the costs involved (economic and otherwise). When management problems are caused by factors beyond the control of the managers (such as insufficient administrative coordination), they must also be identified and solutions must be proposed to the corresponding authority.
For them to be really effective, both the monitoring and assessment should form part of the planning and management process of natural areas. Although socially they may have other important motivation, such promot-ing transparency of information and public participation, from the viewpoint of those in charge of natural areas these two tools enable management plans and their execution to be adapted to new situations and thus achieve the proposed objectives with flexibility and efficiency. This enables the managers of natural areas to gain credibility and social and institutional support which would otherwise have been difficult.
Strategic assessment of environmental impact
To reform the prevailing model toward another more sustainable one, it is essential that society be aware of the environmental impact of policies, plans and programmes before they are approved, and take part in decision making. The instrument that enables this to happen is called strategic environmental impact assessment.
The procedure of environmental impact assessment was conceived initially as holistic, that is, as an instrument applicable to policies, regulations, programmes and plans which could have serious effects on the environment. Thus it was included in the American National Environmental Policy Act in 1969. Despite this, however, when sixteen years later this instrument was introduced in the European Community its application was unfortunately restricted to certain types of project. Over the years, several European countries have become aware of these limitations, in terms of environmental effectiveness, as the basic policies, programmes and plans, that is those that define the framework of projects and lower-ranking decisions, do not usually include environmental values or guarantee, consequently, a suitable level of environmental protection. For this reason, it was decided to recover the initial will of this instrument, and extend the application of environmental impact assessment at least to plans and programmes and, in some cases, such as Nordic Countries and the Netherlands, also to policies. In all cases it has shown that it is at strategic level that the environmental impact assessment is most effective.
Territorial plans, sectoral infrastructure plans and town development plans are amongst those with the greatest capacity for transforming and, therefore having a negative effect on the land, ecosystem and the quality of life of the society that lives there. It is not only a question of the direct environmental impact they can cause in natural areas, but above all from the indirect, accumulative impact which is usually much more serious. Ignoring it in a country’s main plans and programmes causes serious environmental dysfunction, such as the degradation or loss of biodiversity, which cannot be solved at lower levels. Indeed, the real alternatives which should be examined, to choose the one that has the least environmental impact, are usually above project level. When the time comes to assess the environmental impact of a project that affects a protected natural area, for example a new road, the corrective measures proposed are all too often of a cosmetic nature. And there are still too few of them, and they are not always executed satisfactorily.
This procedure based on reactive policies contravenes the principles of sustainable development promoted by the Commission of the European Communities in its Fifth Action Programme (1992), principles that were reaffirmed and deepened by the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997), which established a series of mechan-isms to integrate environmental policy in other public policies, amongst which the environmental impact assessment of plans and programmes is the most noteworthy.
To promote the aforementioned natural area approaches, the public bodies responsible are obliged to gain, maintain or reestablish their credibility. As pointed out by Agenda 21, it is a question of encouraging mutual trust between the public administrations and the most affected sectors or institutions. Public participation in decision making is a privileged means, because it enables to know people’s values or worries, promote consensus, and also to prevent and reduce the conflictiveness, which is inevitable up to a point in that very different points of view must be included, which are frequently opposed.
The public cannot participate if they are not informed beforehand. Public information is an essential require-ment for public participation. This information includes operative audits, and when it does not, there are activity reports and follow-up plans for protected natural areas, along with documents of greater scope such as reports on the state of the environment, or on biodiversity, which are not only published in technical versions, but also informative versions within the reach of the public, amongst which are electronic formats. Then comes education, which brings about a deeper knowledge than mere information, as it includes legal instruments or other types within the citizen’s reach. The third level is the formal consultation, which is given for example through consulting bodies of a representative nature, and this is where true participation begins. The fourth level is civic implication in decision making, which is through governing bodies or other participative procedures in the decisions that most obviously affect protected natural areas.
One of the most interesting trends in public participation in the management of protected natural areas is the promoting of voluntary work, as they provide an outlet for the social demand to intervene directly and altruistically and at the same time gain ample support for conservationist management. Deeply rooted in northern and central European countries, in Spain outstanding experiences of voluntary work are those in protected natural areas, coastal areas and conservation of biodiversity promoted by the Junta de Andalucía since 1995.
In short, the new trends developing in protected natural areas in the most advanced countries aim to overcome the contradictions in which they are immersed by applying the principles of sustainability through strategies and instruments previously mentioned, in order to improve their efficiency, contribute to conserving biological and cultural diversity at the same time as they become key instruments in land-use planning and points of reference to head towards more just and sustainable development. •
• AA.VV. (1993) Loving them
to death?: Sustainable tourism in Europe's nature and national parks. Federation
of Nature and National Parks of Europe, Grafenau, 96 p.
Past, present and future of the Ebro Delta Park
Rafael Balada i Llasat
Manager of the Ebro Delta Park
The author gives a detailed account of the past and the present of the Ebro Delta Park, a natural area which has always been characterised by the considerable human activity that has developed there. It is a history littered with stumbling blocks, with few resources and a certain mistrust on the part of the local community of anything foreign have led, ultimately, to the reality of a park that the locals feel and defend as valuable heritage. Although the future holds many challenges.
The figures of nature protection in Europe, in the current sense, have followed the American protectionist movement, which set up its great network of national parks in the second half of the 19th century (1). This, despite its encyclopaedist roots, had been taken essentially from the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and, as a consequence of both this spirit and many other factors, became a reality in that country (Yellowstone 1872).
The protection of natural areas was consolidated at the beginning of the 20th century: The National Park Service (USA 1916) was created, the parks of Covadonga and Ordesa (Spain, 1918) were proclaimed National Parks. The Junta de Parques Nacionales, created in 1917, to later become the Comisaría de Parques Nacionales (1931) published in 1933 (2) a proposal for areas in need of protection and drew attention to the fact that there was no area of Catalonia or any wetland area included. The latter is hardly surpris-ing if we bear in mind that wetlands were traditionally areas that needed "draining", drying them out, and therefore bringing about their disappearance, was encouraged. The reasons for such action are rooted in the ancient past and are extremely interesting. They are, however, beyond the scope of this article.
Thus, the great Iberian wetlands
received no protection until much later: Doñana (1969), Daimiel
In 1931, the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) commissioned a plan of land-use planning (Regional Planning) which, although it never went beyond the preliminary stages, had serious implications for the future. In this plan, as in the Spanish proposal, the question of protection for the Ebro Delta was conspicuous by its absence. It continued to consider these areas from a viewpoint that differed greatly from that of the protectionists.
In 1937, Amposta Town Council placed the l'Encanyissada and la Tancada lakes under municipal control, and made them public. Other parts of the northern Delta, Canal Vell and les Olles, and of the southern Delta, the salt marshes of la Tancada, (1937) (5) ceased to be public as property rights were contested.
Later, the Spanish government took advantage of this and, by means of an agreement with a hunting society (made up for the most part of important members of Barcelona society, who had built the Casa de Fusta in l’Encanyissada and hunted there) kept the area public.
The period 1975-1985 was difficult for the Ebro Delta. In the early 70s, rice was no longer profitable and a system of "mixed" crop growing was introduced. The increase in coastal tourism and the agricultural crisis prompted the drawing up of two actions: Riumar in the northern Delta and Eucaliptus in the southern Delta. At the beginning of the 80s, the rice-growing industry had survived the crisis, tourism in the area had come to a standstill and new goals were set: lakes were to be drained to make way for more crops and new areas developed at the expense of coastal systems, which were frequently public or whose ownership was difficult to prove.
After the death of General Franco (1975), an attempt was made to put Spain on a par with other western countries. From 1975 to1980, Spain was plunged into a period of rapid and important changes which prevent-ed any decisive action on the part of the Public Administration.
In 1977, Josep Terradellas was nominated for president of Catalonia, in 1979 the Statue of Autonomy of Catalonia was passed and the first parliamentary elections were held in 1980.
With the Spanish government overwhelmed by problems, a provisional Catalan government and more enthusiasm than experience, society pressed for modernisation and planning that had previously not existed. The result was the publication of Natura, ús o abús? [Nature, use or abuse?], which provided the basis for future land-use planning, with regard to nature conservation in Catalonia (6).
In 1976, a project was presented for the development of la Punta de la Banya to cater for over 100,000 tourists; the Delta drainage project (1970) ran out of steam and left-wing parties began to demand planning and to oppose action such as that undertaken in la Punta de la Banya and Fangar.
On 30 April 1977, in Amposta, the Institució Catalana d’Història Natural (the Catalan Institute of Natural History or ICHN) presented the results of its interdisciplinary study entitled Els sistemes naturals del delta de l’Ebre [Natural Systems of the Ebro Delta] (7).
The provisional Government of Catalonia, through its Minister of Territorial Policy and Public Works, Mr Narcís Serra, pressured the Spanish government to take action in la Punta de la Banya and proposed that a hunting reserve be created there (1978).
Following the first municipal elections in 1979, Amposta Town Council raised the matter of the Delta having the environment it was entitled to, and on 30 October 1979 a motion was unanimously carried to present a plan for the protection of the l’Encanyissada and la Tancada lakes. The aim of this plan was to make them into a natural park to be administered by the Town Council (8), as provided for in Spanish Law 15/1975 on Protected Natural Areas, even though most of the area in question belonged to the State and it was necessary to negotiate sharing or delegating its administration.
The provisional Government of Catalonia, apart from specific matters such as la Punta de la Banya, had begun urgently to contact town councils (1978) to safeguard the most valuable areas and in most danger of disappearing. These areas differed from previous actions, due to the importance of the wetlands.
Water was a rare commodity everywhere, and the coastal areas of the Mediterranean gained in value as a tourist destination. This implied the disappearance of the coastal wetlands. On a legislative level, the reaction was spectacular and coincided with an increase in protectionist awareness and the consolidation of urban society.
This was symbolised by the MAR project, with a list of 200 wetland areas in Europe and north Africa (1965) which include four Class A areas in Spain: Daimiel, Doñana, l’Albufera (Valencia) and the Ebro Delta.
As a result of the MAR project, an international convention was held in Ramsar (Iran) which established the bases for wetlands of international importance, particularly as a habitat for water fowl (1975). The Spanish State joined in 1982. The European Union itself published its Birds Directive (1979) in which the bird life of the wetlands plays an important part. However, it also contained an unbalanced view of conservationist problems in Europe, which was only recently corrected in the Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora (1992). A series of conventions then appeared, also at international level, which reinforced, directly or indirectly, the protection of these areas: Washington (1973), Bern (1979) and Bonn (1979).
In the light of this international situation, Amposta Town Council's partial proposal regarding the protection of the Delta was not accepted by the Government of Catalonia. Bearing in mind that agreed general protection had failed, the Amposta proposal could signify a revulsive and advantage was not taken of the opportunity, possibly to avoid taking additional risks in an operation that was delicate to begin with.
The fact is, however, that the Ebro Delta Natural Park was created by a partial strategy.
The creation of the Natural Park
After 1980, the Government of Catalonia ceased to be provisional, as a result of the parliamentary elections held in March that year, and undertook to promote the creation of protected areas: Pedraforca (1982), Cadí-Moixeró (1983), the Volcanic Region of la Garrotxa (1982) and the Marshes of l’Empordà (1983).
In the case of the Ebro Delta, negotiations with the Catalan Government on its being declared a nation-al park came to a standstill in 1980. Amposta Town Council took the initiative and demanded a solution be found whilst the landowners, seeing that the rice-growing industry was doing well, tried to turn as much of their land as possible over to its production which led to a transformation of natural areas (wastelands). After the failure of the projects to develop la Punta de la Banya and el Fangar and in the light of the new political structure, ecologist and student movements ceased to take action.
Within the framework of these
transformations, a canal was built to by-pass the Canal Vell lake which
cut off the surface of the water from the reedbed around it. This canal
enables the water levels of the cultivated area to be regulated, without
affecting the lake and it was built in such a way as to keep the connection
with the el Fangar bay free, posing no threat to the fish. The Fishermen's
Society of Sant Pere looked favourably on such action, but Deltebre Town
Council, led by independents with an absolute majority, was opposed for
several reasons and began a series of demonstrations and contacts, even
with the Government of Catalonia, in an attempt to halt the work to transform
the surrounding area into paddy-fields. The Catalan Government, seeing
that the protection of the natural areas of the Delta was slipping through
their fingers, proposed declaring the area in question a natural park as
a solution. The talks did not last long, the movement started at the beginning
of 1983 and in the summer of that year the decree creating the Ebro
Delta Natural Park was promulgated. In practice, the les Olles lake—within
the municipal area of El Perelló—and the isle of Buda—within the
municipal area of Sant Jaume d’Enveja were added to the Canal Vell
area. A large part of the municipal area of Deltebre lies within the Park.
The people of the Delta have
a deep-rooted sense of co-operation and have traditionally been isolated
and alienated. Their social structures have been established only recently,
and are in the middle of a process of transformation and consolidation
(9). The Public Administration's presence in the Delta, even at local level,
has been practically non-existent and mistrust of outsiders abounds because
traditionally, despite the area's lack of wealth, they have taken more
than they have given. If to this mistrust we add the fact that the aim
of the Administration's presence was to create and manage a natural park,
in a country where almost the whole population is involved in the primary
activities (agriculture, hunting, fishing…), the foreseeable result was
not particularly hopeful. All the more so as there were no resources available
to indicate the way to be taken.
A programme of use and management was designed to enable the areas to be planned, rationalised and run within clear outlines, which translated to an increase in the Park's biological wealth. Once the conservation of the natural areas was guaranteed, through the programme and the redistribution of surveillance staff, a campaign was begun to make the Delta known within Catalonia and internationally. The Ebro delta, the social isolation of which was the result of lack of communications and infrastructures, was practically unknown, even to Catalans. The campaign was spectacular, particularly as the inhabitants of the Delta did not understand themselves what it was so many outsiders were coming to see. The people of the Delta, so accustomed as they were to living in that part of the world, did not understand that that microcosm was unusual, completely different from the rest of the country: a great river in a country of ravines, a flat stoneless area in a mountainous, rocky country, a hundred or so kilometres of virgin beach where the coast is a mass of concrete.
Despite the lack of resources,
between 1983 and 1986 a model for the natural park desired was put
into practice. No longer would one speak of supposed action, but rather
of realities. The people of the Delta had learnt not to trust in mere words.
Now they had facts. Moreover, having administrative offices enabled them
to maintain contact and agree on the extension of the Park
to include the rest of the Delta, and to do so multilaterally and multisectorially,
to prepare its future unhurriedly, calmly and with a will to include all
problems and points of view to find a place for them and ensure that in
the future suitable instruments would be made available to solve them.
Many of Catalonia's Natural Parks were created during the first period of office of the Government of Catalonia, following the first parliamentary elections in 1980. This shows, on the one hand, the interest of the Catalan Government in preserving its territory, as previously in Catalonia the only ones in existence were the Aigüestortes National Park, Sant Maurici lake, created accidentally in 1955, and the belt of peri-urban parks of the Barcelona Provincial Council, born with a clear protectionist vocation, albeit within the framework of town planning; and, on the other, that the vicissitudes and apprenticeships of the protected areas would be parallel to those of the government.
Although the ICHN (6) had
envisaged three national parks in Catalonia, that already in existence
in the Pyrenees, another in the Massís dels Ports and an-other in
the Ebro Delta, this did not greatly resemble the reality of a natural
area extremely limited by human activity, so that the figure of natural
park was more suitable, without this meaning less protection for the most
vulnerable and valuable areas.
The evolution of the Park's consolidation, in the fifteen years it was under the DARP, followed a solid line with regard to technical-administrative staff, but the departmental structure underwent many changes: Directorate General of the Rural Environment, DG of Forestry, DG of the Natural Environment, but more than the names, the changes affected the Director Generals responsible. These were: in the technical-administrative area (Martín Arnaiz), prevention and solution of conflicts (R. Graupera), efficiency (J. Santacana), self-financing (J. Peix), responsibility (A. Solé)…
In the DARP, the real drama of this stage of the Park's history was the lack of resources with which to fulfil expectations people had of it. Sponsorship and self-financing were not the answer, as they would have led the public administration to a situation of chaos opposed to its essence and raison d'être. The help offered the Park by the Health and Environment Commission of the Tarragona Provincial Council was thus providential, and enabled important objectives to be achieved: the redefining of the area's limits through acquiring property, completion of infrastructures… It must be pointed out that this has never been questioned by any of the Presidents of the Provincial Council or the Commission, regardless of their political leanings. It has been mentioned previously that the wave of creation of parks in Catalonia coincided with the consolidation of its autonomy and the international legislative reinforcement of conservationism. In the same vein, the Government of Catalonia approved the Plan of Areas of Natural Interest (PEIN) (Official Gazette 1714, of 1 March 1993) which included 20 % of the territory of Catalonia; in the Ebro Delta, 3,000 ha were included in addition to the Park.
Protected areas went from 25 to 35 % of the Delta. Many considered this a failure to maintain the pact of creation of the natural park and the plan was contested by several entities. Even so, the Park's outline was used to define the limits of the territory included in the Ramsar Agreement and the Bird Protection Directive (Official Gazette 103, of 25 April 1979). However, the limits proposed for the Habitats Directive (Off. Gaz.1206, of 22 July 1992) followed the line of the PEIN. This, plus the fact that no one consulted the town councils, has given rise to more mistrust and unrest. We believe we should continue in the same line, objective and agreed by consensus at all levels. Failure to do so may bring chaos for the public admini-stration and create unnecessary unrest. The European Union (EU) itself, under pressure from conservationist groups who wish the whole of the Delta to be protected, aim to extend the protected areas, due to the non-co-ordination of areas proposed by the Catalan administration itself. Such an extension, bearing in mind that the instruments of town planning and health control etc already exist, at this moment in time would only bring problems and no benefits.
A far more interesting approach are the agro-environmental measures co-financed by the EU, and the Spanish and Catalan governments, which enables lines of conservation to be strengthened whilst helping and collaborating with the farmers.
An important aspect of the
Park's management has been to establish its functional limits, which, in
many cases, the decree of 1986 established in a way which was unclear or
inadequate. This redefinition will be the subject of an official study
at a future date. It is very important to bear in mind that, due to their
physical and historical characteristics, the areas of the Delta coastline
posed serious problems when it came to determining their ownership
and status. Conflict arose between private owners, between them and the
Public Administration, and internally within the Public Administration.
The Coast Act and the Park itself helped to clarify the situation, following
numerous disagreements, some of which have yet to be solved, but which
must be solved, if suitable management is to be carried out. This leads
us to another important issue: a natural park situated largely in an area
of public maritime-terrestrial domain, attached to the Spanish government's
Directorate General for Coasts, something which requires excellent co-ordination
for it to be managed correctly. This co-ordination has always existed and
can be qualified as exemplary, to the point where it has enabled
and enables many common problems to be solved without the slightest desire
on the part of either of the Administrations to outdo the other.
With respect to the protection and conservation of the area included in the Park, wildlife reserves and sanctuaries have been declared (Fangar, Canal Vell, Garxal, isle of Buda, la Tancada) and added to those al-ready in existence (Punta de la Banya and the isle of Sapinya). On other occasions, although included in reserves or controlled hunting areas, they act as refuge areas from the hunting area itself (Area XII). It is precisely for hunting activities, in addition to territorial planning that had never existed, and having created a network of refuge areas where hunting is forbidden which includes more than half the Park, that a contingency system has been established which has contributed to the recovery of several species.
In the area of territorial planning, the Park has carried out the important task of managing its natural systems. The most serious problem faced was the degradation of l’Encanyissada, the largest lake in Catalonia covering some 1,200 ha, where the aquatic plants and associated animal life have disappeared. Collaboration with the Community of Irrigation Farmers and the hunters brought about a series of actions which have led to one of the most important environmental regenerations carried out in Europe in recent decades. The coots, for example, which had disappeared from the area 20 years earlier, have returned and there are now about 30,000 of them (winter 1999/2000). This is almost 10 times the number in the whole Delta when the Park was created. Also worth mentioning is the Park's capacity to receive tens of thousands of ducks which arrive from August onwards when their habitats in Doñana and Daimiel dry out. In the case of Canal Vell, hydrological management has traditionally been the responsibility of the Community of Irrigation Farmers and the Hunting Society of Sant Miquel, which has always yielded satisfactory results.
Current problems centre on the small lakes such as les Olles. Its problems can easily be solved, technically speaking but involve high costs (dredging and moving the pumping station).
Frequently, when we think of the administration of a natural park, we only see the tasks of the technicians and scientists who deal with Nature; but the administrative apparatus is the foundation on which this activity develops and is carried out based on the hopes that we, as citizens, have placed in the Admini-stration. Another function, which is fundamental, complex and delicate is the surveillance service. The Servei d’Agents Rurals (Rangers Service) has set up a patrol of the Park which has proved invaluable in achieving the objectives set by the decree of creation of the Park. Aside from the rangers in the Park's own service, although they belong to different services, are the wildlife reserve guards who depend on the Faunal Management and Protection Service, some from old State hunting services, older than the Catalan Government itself, other younger ones, have such important responsibilities as the control of la Punta de la Banya.
Temporary rangers are taken on to watch over the most important areas during nesting and, when necessary, volunteers carry out complementary tasks. In our case, we could not ask for more commitment from them, which means that even rangers who no longer work in the Park are remembered affectionately as great human beings and professionals.
Due to the characteristics of the area, infrastructures have been improved for ornithological tasks (the Canal Vell Wildlife Recovery Centre) and ichthyological tasks (the piscicultural centre of Poblenou del Delta) which support the work to recover different species, which are frequently endemic and in danger of extinction. These infrastructures take in students from all over Europe, especially biologists and vets, who gain practical experience in management and contribute to the smooth running of the centres.
The Park has provided the basis for the creation of a volunteer group, two co-operatives of environmental education and information services and a work-shop school. Several monographs have been published on the area, birds, fish, trees, and aquatic plant life. Also two magazines, one quarterly with information on activities, and another scientific one with no established frequency of publication, and a host of informative and pedagogical material. There is also a documentation centre which houses various naturalist studies and publications, especially those on the Delta.
With regard to infrastructures, a cycle path has been opened across the southern Delta around the lakes of l’Encanyissada and la Tancada, twelve observation points have been built along with nature trails, two large information centres, the Eco-museum, an environmental education centre, la Casa de Fusta which houses a monographic exhibition on the lakes, A second exhibition, on the Delta, can be found in the Eco-museum, along with another on the Delta's fish species. Operative infrastructures include garages, warehouses and houses for the rangers and re-search staff.
•Hydrological works for the
regeneration of many habitats need to be completed (l'Encanyissada, la
Tancada, Les Olles…).
There are many other matters, some of which have not been mentioned because they are currently being resolved, but, in any case, solutions are often interdepartmental and these are the ones that are most difficult to find. As the legendary publication of the Catalan Natural History Institution 6 says in both of its editions: None of the areas dealt with specifically in this work (meaning the Catalan-speaking countries) involves such a notable accumulation of ul-terior motives and controversy as the Ebro Delta. Despite this, the Delta's natural systems enjoy consolidated protection and the inhabitants themselves have taken it on as their own task. Today, it is true that, in Europe, time is on the side of this protection, primary production activities are more closely linked with conservation every day and this enables not only the rural environment to survive, but also the natural environment and a point has been reached where they have met up again and complement each other, which the Delta had never lost. The existence of a protected area has brought about a reinforcement of a leisure activity that complements and diversifies the traditional socio-economic activity, but this must be done properly. If the Delta is to be what it is, a great natural area, or must be within the European framework, it is no use placing restrictions without offering alternatives, or speaking of the future without solving the present situation. It is unthinkable that cyclists cannot ride safely through the Delta, or that electric power lines run over all the natural areas and infrastructures, or that the maintenance of roads used by millions of visitors should be the responsibility of the farmers, as happened in the 19th century when they were the only ones to use and build them… In any case, the challenges, here in Catalonia, have always acted as a stimulus and looking back, one can see that we have come a long way and the future is clear. If we have come this far in such precarious conditions, the future, which has already begun, looks bright for our human and natural heritage housed here in the Ebro Delta.
in protected natural areas
CREAF and Autonomous University of Barcelona
Natural protected areas are good places in which to carry out different types of research into very different subjects. In fact, they are even indispensable in some branches of science. This explains why, in some cases, the only purpose of protection is research and why many universities and research centres have, or work in, areas which have been protected merely to guarantee that researchers' work is not disturbed. In these cases, they are usually described as Experimental Field Stations or such like. Experimental stations not only enable unwanted interference and disturbances of experiments to be avoided. They also enable long-term monitoring, which is crucial to some studies, to be carried out with better guarantees, for instance, in detecting changes linked to processes of a global or regional nature.
Experimental Field Stations have played an important part in the development of agricultural sciences, hydrology, ecology, zoology, botany, etc. Let's remember some famous names in ecology, such as Rothamp-stead, Lancaster or Monks Wood in England, Hubbard Brook, Coweeta, Jasper Ridge or Barrow Point in the United States, Solling in Germany, Los Llanos in Venezuela, Los Tuxtlas in Mexico, Doñana in Spain and a long et cetera. They may be small or large areas, which may or may not be within other areas with specific figures of protection.
Biological Reserves, on the
other hand, are natural areas protected initially for their extraordinary
natural value, but where, because of this extraordinary value the only
activity allowed is of a scientific nature. Even though research was not
the reason for their protection, in many cases experimental stations have
also been set up nearby.
On the international front, some of the natural areas where there are experimental stations and where there is a great concentration of research efforts and resources become real centres of reference and, sometimes, become part of regional- or global-scale process observation networks, thus favouring exchange and co-operation. Some years ago, the expression Biosphere Observatories almost became fashionable (but it didn't take off and I think that's a shame). I say it's a shame because we need this type of facility. We need naturalist research stations which are considered important scientific centres, which have action plans that enable medium- and long-term studies to be carried out, with room to lodge visiting scientists, with auxiliary technical staff and which, in addition to their own research, take an active part in international multidisciplinary research. That is the idea. And what we have had up to now in Catalonia, one must admit, have been pale imitations which are too insecure and voluntaristic.
But in this article, above all, we want to discuss the research that is carried out in protected areas where this is not the only activity possible. The direction research takes then is closely linked to conservation and society's opinion of it.
Changes in the view of conservation
Amongst the arguments that are usually heard when a natural area is declared a protected area, we always find scientific interest. The basic aim of such declarations is frequently still to conserve species, ecosystems, landscapes or other natural values, either because they are rare or endangered, or simply representative of the natural conditions of a wider area. The scientific and educational interest is usually an added justification. It is understood that, if a habitat is well conserved, scientists will have the opportunity to understand how the systems work, whether they are natural or have been affected by human activity. Sometimes, the administrative bodies of protected areas have funded research, partly as a way to justify the protectionist intervention itself, partly to acquire the necessary knowledge for them to manage these areas, or simply to satisfy the researchers' proposals. However, this traditional approach is beginning to undergo an aggiornamento, a bringing up to date, which is related to the evolution of thinking on the subject of conservation.
Indeed, in the last few years, conservationism has evolved from an initial position, which we could term romantic, based on the cultural appreciation of certain values by minority groups, to other ways of viewing the question. I would like to analyse some of the advantages and disadvantages of this evolution. First of all, however, let us see what it consists of. To my way of thinking, it is an evolution that follows three courses.
The first comes from the growing understanding of the services natural systems offer humanity. This is where the social interest comes into it. Natural systems do a series of jobs, such as supplying breathable air and drinking water, hydrological regulation, self-clean-ing water, the retention or dispersion of certain pollutants to harmless levels, etc. which, if we had to do them by artificial means, would be enormously expensive (or quite simply could not be done). Therefore, the idea grew that natural systems should be conserved, not for romantic reasons but, at least up to a point, out of social interest.
The second course appears when we discover that environmental protection has become, in many cases, a stimulant for economic development, above all because it attracts tourists, generates a certain type of trade and an added value for certain products. That's not particularly romantic. Conservation in many tropical countries is becoming an economic instrument at the service of development. Developed countries have long been aware of the advantages of conservation.
The third differs greatly from the first two and, although it ties in with the traditional romantic view, it is acquiring another type of ideological consistency. Conservationist thinking is opening up to the idea that it is essential that, along with rational criteria such as those mentioned so far, there be a reinforcement of values from the ethical point of view: the idea that we do not have the right to do what we want, that nature is not simply our heritage, that nature has its rights, as do other species, which we cannot violate. This, to be perfectly honest, is difficult to justify philosophically, given that ethics, by definition, refers to relationships between people, but many believe it is more feasible to impose new values through education and raising awareness amongst public opinion than to convince, in every single case, of the importance of conserving this or that, as opposed to specific economic or occupational interests. It is true, in any case, that the ethical argument fits in with the collective interest in slowing down environmental degradation (and, therefore, the degradation of the services nature renders us for free), and addresses the behaviour of individuals or of states and administrative organs, which usually act either in the interests of the private sector, or in those of objectives which consider only partially the outcome of a specific action.
The ethical imperative applied to conservation, in a somewhat forced way, has obviously been adopted, in the case of radicalised groups that may become violent, as in the case of animal rights, with acts of terrorism against laboratories where experiments are carried out on animals. This certainly gives ethics a strange twist, which puts animal rights above people's right to life or physical integrity. We shouldn't be surpris-ed, unfortunately, as there are always people who believe that the defence of an abstract idea, which might well be noble in itself, is only effective through murdering certain people. Leaving such extremism to one side, I insist that, in a far more moderate form, many people, including a fair number of scientists, defend the ethical imperative of conservation as the only possible way to bring about rapid changes in collective behaviour.
The changes in conservationist ideas associated with this third course affect social behaviour through ideology, and have little to do with specific scientific knowledge of nature. Therefore, there is no need for us to dwell on that here, as the subject of this article is research in protected areas. But the changes, by follow-ing the other two courses, the services or functions rendered by natural systems and the contribution of conservation in economic development, do have a direct link with science and research. The "aggiornamento" we mentioned now consists, above all, in arguing the objectives and justifications of a protectionist decision bearing in mind services and development, and this implies giving research not only opportunities to widen our knowledge and understanding of certain natural systems, but also more "finalistic" complementary objectives, to answer questions such as: To what extent are natural systems developing their functions correctly? What processes can endanger these functions? What sustainable productive use can be made of natural areas?
Scientists do not usually believe in control in research, but not only did this control exist in the past for research carried out in protected areas, but we can expect it to increase, as a result of the changes in the way conservation is understood and justified. In the sections below, I will deal with the consequences for research in natural areas in greater detail.
The research carried out in protected areas
More or less implicitly, one gathers, from everything we have said so far, that, in protected areas, research is usually naturalist, spontaneous or promoted economically by the administrations responsible, and research directed towards improving the management of the area itself. Truly spontaneous research is becom-ing a rarity, as studies require a great deal of funding, even when no sophisticated apparatus is needed and all that is necessary are vehicles, petrol and minor equipment. Protected areas are sometimes selected as a study area by researchers who receive funding to carry out certain projects, what is known in the trade as competitive projects: projects which have entered for public competition (organised by the European Union, the Ministry, the Catalan Government or some other public or private entity) and have been awarded a grant. In these cases, in theory, initiative lies totally with the researcher. Now, the orientation of this research is very mediatised by the restrictions or conditions imposed by competitions. Some subjects are more likely to succeed than others, and research-ers know that. Consequently, they present proposals which nearly always respond more to a certain opportunism depending on their chances of success than to the researchers' real interests or, even, to the objective scientific interest of the proposed subject matter. It is not, therefore, truly spontaneous research.
The second type of traditional research is that financed by the administrations responsible for the areas. Sometimes, these organisms simply accept researchers' proposals, due to their prestige or a political desire to justify themselves, and that, paradoxically perhaps, has allowed the researcher more freedom. However, such cases, which strengthened the first protected areas in Catalonia, are becoming increas-ingly rare. As more professionalised teams take over the management of these areas, funds earmarked for research are increasingly allocated to studies that may help to justify the creation of a new area, or contribute data and methods to improve management. Examples of such studies are catalogues of flora and fauna, geological maps, maps of plant life, sensitivity or fragility, connectivity, distribution of populations considered important, analysis of gene flow between subpopulations, the impacts of specific activities such as grazing or the trampling linked to frequentation, etc.
In the most advanced stage, managers begin to work with data bases and geographic information systems (GIS), and require both basic work to complete the data base and computer tools with which to handle it efficiently. Most advances have been made in this respect in Catalonia in the Park of the Volcanic Region of la Garrotxa, thanks to the Vulcan programme, which has been mentioned in this magazine, but considerable progress has also been made in other areas. Unfortunately, if we consider the 144 areas of the PEIN, it is evident that studies have been carried out in only a few, be they spontaneous or controlled, and hardly any have a data base.
The recent appearance of private initiative in the field of conservation has increased the number of areas which enjoy some form of protection, in this case not because of any regulations but because the owners have so wished. The Fundació Territori i Paisatge, for example, has become the largest private landowner in Catalonia, and their declared aim is to protect their natural and cultural value. Entities of this type are also beginning to give support to studies, following the two strategies mentioned previously: based on scientists' proposals or for the purposes of improving management. In any case, the fact is that, with public or private funding, studies of protected areas are concentrated, at the moment, on only a few of our areas (La Garrotxa, the Ebro Delta, Montseny, Collserola, Montserrat, Aiguamolls de l’ Empordà, Muntanyes de Prades, Muntanya d’Alinyà and a few others.).
Conserve to study, study to conserve
In Spain, the classic phrase used if you want to pick someone up is "Do you study or work?" - the equivalent of "Do you come here often?". If you take a walk through a protected area, the old "Do you study or work?" could be adapted to conservation. The question could be "Do you research or manage?". Now, I must warn you that you might get some confusing answers (which will make for a longer conversation, a possible advantage after all). In protected areas, there may well be people who research and people who manage as well as people who live, work, educate or are educated, etc. Now, and staying with the dichotomy we are concerned with, those that research often pretend that what they do is extremely useful to management, without providing much significant evidence, and some (though certainly only a few) of those that manage spend all day gleefully observing the comings and goings of some species or other, preferably with feathers, and rapacious, or mammals, fairly large, and obsessively taking stock, an attitude more akin to that of the scholar than the manager. The confusion has nothing to do with ignorance, and, if there is a certain ingenuity on the part of the protagonists, I would go as far as to say that it is becoming a guilty ingenuity.
Let's take it one step at a time, starting with the researchers. The researcher likes to study what he feels like (which is tautology), but also needs his expenses paid (understandably), as they may be considerable, as I said before. Managers do not want to spend money to satisfy the curiosity of scientists, but to improve management, to add to the data they can offer visitors, to justify their own activity or to protect themselves in certain areas. It is for this reason that, increasingly, research funded by the administrations of protected areas is usually called "final" (wrongly, because all research should have objectives), applied (wrongly, because with the best will in the world, the fact is that more often than not it is not applied) or guided (what research is misguided?), in any case research at the service of the management of the flora, fauna and land. Or, if it is not, researchers make it look as though it is, unfortunately a practice which is all too widespread. Let us add, straightaway, that there are researchers that really look for an approximation between scientific interest and the issue of results which are of reasonable social interest. I do not know what proportion of the total they represent.
Now let's talk about the manager. As I have already hinted, he is sometimes a naturalist researcher in disguise, and he does all right as long as he justifies himself to himself. However, it is true that knowing the state of a few well-loved towns is not managing anything, it is only a step prior to managing something (in no case the whole area), a step towards doing something specific. I have already said, though, that this only happens sometimes, and it is probably not the worst case I can think of. On other occasions, the manager does not go near the area, or only bothers about building roads, buildings or other artificial elements, or he mostly organises school or political visits (none of these things is strictly incompatible with the others). There are also, and we can be glad about this, excellent managers, who try to understand the problems of all kinds (ecological and socio-economic) that arise in any area and make the most of the available knowledge or gain the necessary. I am afraid that they are not, however, the majority, but I do not know their exact number.
There have been misunderstandings between researchers and managers for years. About each other's role, for example. About they what they each expect from the other. And they have a lot of difficulty communicating. The researcher has to accept that the manager wants to be more than a current account. That he expects to get some benefit from the research. The manager has to understand that you cannot get benefits without knowing some of the essential aspects of the systems studied. That every ecological system is different and that very few rules or laws, if any, can be transferred from one to the other. This means that a basic knowledge of the workings of the systems you want to obtain some benefit from is essential (particularly, good management). Both must understand that they can only expect answers if the questions are posed correctly. And they must all try to maintain a constant dialogue, a real joint effort, which makes the questions and answers increasingly more precise.
Nobody's perfect, as Jack Lemmon is told at the end of one the best comedies in the history of the cinema, when he confesses to his doddery, old, millionaire beau that he's not a girl. Nobody 's perfect, but we need to improve collectively. And that, in the field we are dealing with, is perfectly feasible. It is a question of doing what the title of this section said: when it is decided to conserve an area, it is not merely an administrative act, it is also a cultural act, an emotionally charged act. Some may find this initial romantic motivation a trifle twee, but, undoubtedly, we conserve because we want what we conserve to continue to exist, because we love it and want to know it better.
And for other reasons, as we have seen, but a love and a desire for knowledge must be the main ones if there are to be no contradictions: you can "protect" formally, thinking only of making a business of it (conservation as a contribution to development), but when this is the only motivation the results of conservation are usually pretty bad, except in a few pockets. You can conserve as the result of a sudden rational awareness of the need to protect certain environmental services. However, this line of argument, which should lead to a generalised improvement in our relationship with the environment, is more difficult to apply to the protection of a specific limited area. I am in favour, therefore, in many cases at least, of the persistence of the romantic notion and the emotional component of conservation, as long as they are backed by rational, economic arguments and by ethical reflection, following the three courses mention-ed earlier. But now it is time to deal with the subject matter of the next section.
What research should be carried out?
As we said, the scientific policy of official research organisms "focuses" resources towards specific subjects. The mechanism works in sequence. Research focussing has positive aspects, and has, undoubtedly, brought about important advances in some fields. There are some negative aspects as well, however, as it often forces researchers to devote a great deal of effort to subjects that are not always scientifically thrilling. And there is a second problem: the assessment of the research based on the number of publications of "proven quality" (that is, in journals appearing in the Science Citation Index, which is a subjective selection). Support from public research bodies is in-creasingly based on a verifiable production of information (in papers published in renowned international journals) from research groups. Information, I might add, which is supposedly, extremely useful and, in overwhelming proportions, also instantaneously forgotten, except by the author. Indeed, the fact that an article meets certain required quality standards is a guarantee, and that a group publishes regularly in this way means that it has reached a high scientific level. However, this guarantees the quality and funding ensures quantity, but it cannot guarantee usefulness. Many works that are published are parts of greater works (the more publications the better), that appear in different journals, usually in English, so that for non-specialists, such as managers, it is impossible to keep up with them. It is, even with the articles in hand, as almost always their interest is short-lived and they are too esoteric (thanks mostly to the concise style and statistical paraphernalia imposed by the editors of scientific journals).
There is yet another problem that may be more important. One consequence of the focussing and the relationship between the different levels of research bodies as they are currently structured is that when, for ex-ample, a certain commission (which is never impartial, because nobody's perfect), in Europe, decides to give priority to this or that subject, it is quite likely that the same subjects become a priority for the corresponding State or Catalan commissions.
In short, hypothetical (and always scant) creativity is preferable in the interests of: a) production (it is better to research subjects with guaranteed publishable results, and b) the possibility that teams here are competitive in order to recover at least a part of the money the country sends to Europe depending on fulfilment of obligations imposed by the membership treaty, etc.
But let's be positive and, as they say these days, politically correct. It is a fact that in natural areas in Catalonia there is notable research activity in the different fields of natural sciences, which has increased rapidly since the end of the 70s (it followed much later in fields of social sciences, and is still not on a comparable level). A string of publications are a witness to this activity, and although many of them are scattered through a series of expensive, unobtainable journals, some of these publications are easier to come by. Examples are: the different volumes of symposia on research held in natural parks (Montseny, Sant Llorenç de Munt, Corredor-Montnegre, Garraf, etc.), published by the Parks Service of Barcelona Provincial Council, the abstracts of scientific research in the Park of the Volcanic Region of La Garrotxa, published by the Department of the Environment of the Government of Catalonia, the volumes that the Institució Catalana d’Història Natural (Catalan Natural History Institution) occasionally publishes on specific areas (Ebro Delta, Medes, Cap de Creus) and a large number of publications on other areas by organisations from all over Catalonia. Let us not forget that those that are unobtainable are no less important because they have afforded new knowledge, at least for our researchers.
As things stand, the existence of different bodies funding research in natural areas is an advantage, from the point of view of the researcher's freedom. Research which is entirely planned would surely just "follow along" behind international guidelines, therefore repeating subjects considered a priority and diminishing creative originality. The flaws in this possibility are evidenced in a real example: the question of fire and its ecological effects, which was a priority in the 4th EU Framework Programme, but is no longer considered as such, probably because the opinion of Mediterranean countries does not carry as much weight as it should. The selection of priority subjects seeks application, often in too trivial a fashion: works that lead to the basic understanding of biological and ecological processes in our ecosystems are not given priority by any guideline and have serious difficulty obtain-ing funding. All these distortions must be corrected with our own funds; this may be carried out by an agency such as CIRIT if it so wishes. Now, years of experience shows that the CICYT or the CIRIT tend to reproduce European schemes and share the rest (more or less) equally, between as many parts as possible. There are so many subjects that it is extremely difficult to satisfactorily assign resources, unfortunately so limited in research (which is no excuse, this could be improved with a little political will). Having a clear strategy, which covers the deficiencies and deviations from community policy is, I think, essential, particularly in a case such as the study of nature.
In Catalonia, the CIRIT has attempted to partially control the resources that the different Departments allocate to studies and research, but that involves a risk of eliminating some sources that still allow the re-searcher a degree of freedom, without completely guaranteeing attention to matters of special relevance here in this country. It is a move that must be made with extreme caution and, in fact, I think that at the moment this is being exercised.
A few proposals
Scientific policy as applied to natural areas, in my opinion, should have some key elements. As in all scientific policy, it should be based on the experienced teams available and, at the same time, able to promote new teams necessary to achieve important objectives which are yet to be fulfilled. It is a basic principle of economy and efficiency to concentrate efforts in certain areas, carefully selected, in line with the contents of the first part of this article. At the same time, we need to find the answers to questions such as: how can we deduce, from the study of a few protected areas, models that can be extrapolated to more extensive territories?
The world over, naturalists continue to carry out their basic studies, but prospection methods have changed. The availability of powerful calculation instruments and tools for processing territorial information opens the door to the mass use of data from different fields of knowledge, but demands a certain discipline of scientists. The systematic observation of large areas, which continues to be absolutely necessary, should be adapted to "compatible" methodologies, to make possible, for example, more complete analyses of the distribution of biodiversity: the efforts to co-ordinate a joint strategy with regard to biodiversity, which are already underway, should make data bases on the different groups of organisations and types of ecosystem compatible.
On other levels, local descriptive studies appear more attractive if they go beyond mere description. That is, if they pose a problem or a question. For instance, and staying with biodiversity, more than proof of this biodiversity in a specific place (catalogues, inventories) the interesting thing is deciphering the mechan-isms through which biodiversity is affected by changes or responds to them. We should favour and promote research directed at processes, at deciphering mechanisms. Here, research in protected areas can play an important part. Certain types of disturbance continue to affect all of them, regardless of the extent (and the efficiency) of the protection they receive. Others persist in some of them or at least in certain parts. Occasionally, protected areas can serve as a point of reference given what is happening in more disturbed regions. We need comparative studies of areas with differing levels of alteration.
An essential aspect of studies of nature is that the fabric of the Biosphere is extremely diverse, and the reaction of the different species and the different ecosystems to a particular disturbance varies. There are non-linear responses, processes are often set in motion which are very difficult to foresee and, as the environmental conditions are dynamic, behaviour also changes depending on the time and place the disturbance takes place. Sometimes, the natural processes and responses to disturbances can only be under-stood with the monitoring of many years over large areas. Logically, neither researchers nor financiers like studying the same process for too long and over a large area, but it is a fact that using too small a sample in periods comparable to the financing (usually only a few years) are insufficient to understand many mechan-isms. For example, the natural development of woods (where the trees are organisms that live for hundreds of years) often depends on events that rarely occur and cannot be easily foreseen, and that therefore nearly always take place outside study periods. The proposal in this field, is to consolidate a few experimental stations and promote projects which are far-reaching in space and time.
The extrapolation of the results of process studies in significant areas requires priority attention to complete field observations (rather ambitiously design-ed in space and time) with model-making efforts. For years now, some of our teams of naturalists have been working in that direction. I think it is essential that research in natural areas be designed, from the beginning, with the production of models in mind that help to understand the processes at stake.
Following this same line of thought, observing processes with territorial significance and drawing up models, it is advisable that studies in different areas (and large geographical regions) constitute networks, like those promoted by different international programmes.
In-situ studies face very complex problems, which involve not only biological or physicochemical mechanisms, but also changes the origin of which lies in social and economic relations. Thus, it is necessary to promote the convergence of scientists from different disciplines, including the human sciences.
To conclude, rather than dictate to scientists what they should study, it is essential that managers and scientists approximate their points of view and converse more. Only if they are in permanent contact may we expect satisfactory results for both parties.
In the last twenty years,
as we have said, we have witnessed a spectacular increase in our research
in these fields. New institutions have appeared. The number of publications
and international exchang-es has increased. Now we need to consolidate
this process and give it greater depth, to better plan the obtaining of
basic information and, at the same time, give greater rein to scientists'
imagination. Drawing scientists nearer to social necessity, but also politicians
and managers to the naturalist scientific culture, in order that, in addition
to certain economic and management advantages, they may comprehend the
immense, inexhaustible interest of nature and its value. Creating positive
complicity between all parties: knowledge of nature, and increasingly better
management of the land, is not the job of a small number of experts, but
a collective task for the culture and future of this country.
National Trust model
This article seeks to explain the finances of the National Trust. With 2.6 million members the Trust is the United Kingdom's (and possibly Europe's) largest non-governmental conservation body, with a turnover of £182.4 million (ESP 50,160 million) in the financial year 1998-9.
The National Trust was founded in 1895 to preserve places of historic interest or natural beauty permanently for the nation to enjoy. That year it was given its first piece of property, a small patch of hillside overlooking the sea on the wild west coast of Wales. This property is 2 hectares in extent, and was (and is) covered with gorse Ulex earopeus, oak Quercus petraea and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus. Today the National Trust owns more than 248,000 hectares of the most beautiful countryside in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, making it one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom. (Scotland has its own, separate organisation, the National Trust for Scotland, which was established in 1931). It also owns over 900 kilometres of coastline. It bought its first piece of built heritage, the Clergy House at Alfriston, in the south of England, in 1896 (for £10 sterling). Today, the National Trust protects and opens to the public over 200 historic houses and gardens as well as 49 industrial monuments and mills.
The National Trust has been closely associated with nature conservation since 1899 when it acquired Wicken Fen, the country's oldest nature reserve. Today it is the United Kingdom's if not Europe's, largest conservation body with a turnover of £182. 4 million (ESP 50.160.000.000) in the financial year 1998-1999. Its activities are many and varied, the fact that it also cares for aspects of the built environment sets it apart from other well-known nature conservation charities and makes straightforward comparisons with other organisations and their finances difficult. There is no other conservation body quite like it.
The National Trust is a registered charity, a status which it shares with thousands of organisations large and small in the United Kingdom, from overseas aid bodies through the caring charities to organisations looking after sick animals, the nation's lifeboats - and, of course, partner conservation Non-Government Organisations (NGO's). It is independent of government and relies on the generosity of its supporters, through member-ship subscriptions, gifts, legacies and the contributions of many thousands of volunteers. It spends all of its income on the care and maintenance of the land and buildings in its protection.
It enjoys a unique statutory power, enshrined in Acts of Parliament, that of being able to declare its land inalienable. Land declared inalienable cannot be voluntarily sold, mortgaged or compulsorily purchased against the Trust's wishes without special parliamentary procedure. This means that protection by the Trust is forever.
The National Trust's 2.6 million members provide the largest single source of the Trust's income, some £55,700,000 sterling (ESP 15,317,500,000) (see table 1). Membership recruitment is thus a very important activity with a membership department developing ever better-targeted strategies for both making and retaining members. Traditionally, the bulk of new members recruited at National Trust properties have been recruited at "house" properties, where there is an entrance fee and where the prospect of future free admission to all National Trust properties acts as a strong incentive to join. That the wider message of the importance of conservation of the countryside reaches people during their membership is indicated by the number of legacies specifically tied by the wishes of the individual benefactor to properties or activities not linked to the built environment but rather to countryside or coastal properties.
A major challenge is to retain members once they have joined. The statistics indicate that someone who pays cash for their membership and who therefore needs to renew it each year by cash or cheque is ten times less likely to remain a member than someone who initially signs a banker's "direct debit". Thus part of the recruitment strategy is to encourage people to take out a direct debit, which can be cancelled at any time but which, once set up, is more likely to be left in place. Another important aspect of recruitment, is the "deed of covenant". This is an arrangement whereby, by completing an additional form and undertaking to remain a member for at least four years, the tax that the member pays on the amount of income represented by his membership description is passed by the government to the charity. If all members who are taxpayers were to take out deeds of covenant (which cost them nothing, merely redirecting their tax from the Government to the National Trust, the Trust's income would increase by £3,500,000 (ESP 962,500,000) per annum.
Another challenge is to broaden the membership in demographic terms. Traditionally, the typical Nation-al Trust membership profile has been seen as somewhat middle-aged and middle class, and the average age of members has been increasing slightly. On the other hand, there is a need to involve younger age groups among whom environmental awareness is high but who are less attracted by the great houses for which the National Trust also cares and who have less disposable income The tension between retaining the older membership while broadening the appeal to a wider audience is a challenging one, and made greater by the multi-disciplinary nature of the Trust's work. It is "competing" (for members and donations) with numerous single-issue or more narrowly-focused organisations with more obvious, headline-grabbing appeal. Conversely, the National Trust increasingly finds itself targeted by single-issue pressure groups who wish to see their point of view reflected in the outlook and policies of the National Trust. A good example in recent years has been the interest taken in the Trust by those in favour of and those opposed to hunting (of foxes and deer). Small increases in membership have been noted in the period leading up to Annual General Meetings as each point of view seeks to increase its voting power. Fortunat-ely, the membership is large enough to absorb such bumps without having to change direction; nor do they make a significant difference to membership fig-ures. Policy is, in any case, made not by the vote of the membership but by the National Trust's Council. (See Table 2 for membership subscription charges).
Legacies and Investment income
Legacies form the next largest section of the National Trust's income (£33.3 million in 842 separate legacies in 1998-1999), followed by investment income. The National Trust may be left property or goods specifically so that these may be preserved for the nation, or it may be left land or property to sell or to provide an income. Of course land left to the Trust as investment land would not be made inalienable (see above) nor would it be of the quality that would be needed for land that was to be preserved for the nation. This led to a well-publicised case recently where the Trust proposed to sell some investment land in North Wales, a proposal which was opposed by a well-organised local campaign by people who failed to realise, or at least to acknowledge, the distinction between the two sorts of property. In the event, the National Trust decided not to proceed with this particular sale. Problems like this are rare, however, with legacies of both money and property generally providing a vital source of funds
Rents, The National Trust and Agriculture - the background
The majority of the Trust's 248,000 hectares is farmed by 700 tenant farmers. Income from rented property forms the fourth largest element in the Trust's income This includes income from buildings that are rented out, but the bulk of it comes from rented farms. That so much of the organisation's land-holding should consist of farmed land is a result of the evolution of the National Trust since the 1930s when it began to accept country houses and mansions on a large scale. Until then, the Trust possessed only two country houses, both in south-west England. In 1934, a suggestion was made that the National Trust try actively to rescue the numerous stately homes that were falling into disrepair in the years following the First World War. The result was the "Country House Scheme", by which the Trust accepted threatened property for preservation. The process of acquisition was greatly accelerated after the Second World War. Death duties - taxes imposed by government on inherited property- had come into existence some years before, but the new labour government, in 1945, introduced high taxes and socialist legislation. Nevertheless, it was the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer who set up the National Land Fund which enabled the Government to accept land and houses and their contents in lieu of death duty payments. These were, in turn, passed to the National Trust for the benefit of the nation. Some owners of country houses passed them directly to the National Trust. Between 1940 and 1970, the Trust acquired 78 houses from the old landed elite.
Along with these country houses came a great deal of land. Most of these stately homes owned large amounts of land, and this was also acquired by the Trust, usually for one or both of two important reasons. One was to secure the landscape setting, and to preserve the historic core of the great estates. The other was to provide an income for the maintenance of these estates. The result was that farm management became an increasingly important discipline, Broadly speaking, the National Trust owns two types of farmland. One, generally lowland, is linked to a country house or estate. The other, either in the uplands or on the coast, will have been acquired for its intrinsic landscape or conservation value, and may be unconnected with the great estates of the past. In England, where about 70 % of the land area is farmed, it is easy to understand how important our farmed landscape is for wildlife. Many of the most cherished landscapes and wildlife habitats in the United Kingdom were created largely by the interaction of agriculture and the underlying geology. To a great extent, our farmland is our countryside.
The National Trust and Agriculture today
Two factors have altered the outlook for the Nation-al Trust's farmed estate in recent years. One is the growing realisation of the nature conservation value of much of this selfsame farmland. This has drawn attention to the increasing incompatibility of farming land for the maximum income with that of farming it with due regard to the nature conservation interests within it. In the years after the Second World War, there was no greater benefit to the nation than the production of food, fuelled by the perceived need to strive for self-sufficiency. Nowadays, the benefit to the nation is seen increasingly in terms of providing access to the countryside, and in delivering nature conservation. This means that the drive to maximise production has to be tempered or altered to allow for a set of priorities led by conservation and sustainability. The other factor is the changing conditions of agriculture in Europe. Here too, there has been an in-creasing questioning of over-production and of an excessive reliance on subsidy, and increasing environmental concerns. Society expects more from the countryside than simply the production of food. It is valued for a range of attributes: its scenic beauty, its historic features and cultural values, its plants and wildlife and the opportunities it provides for open air recreation - the very things the National Trust was created to protect. In addition, society increasingly values clean air and clean water, and questions environmentally damaging practices. It demands food which is demonstrably safe, affordable and of good quality - produced adopting acceptable standards of animal welfare. It is the combination of all these things that now represents the contribution which the countryside is expected to make to the nation's quality of life and to the economic and social fabric of rural areas. The National Trust, through its ownership, manage-ment and partnership with its tenants, is well placed to demonstrate how agriculture can deliver this range of benefits to the nation and contribute to sustainable rural communities.
The implications for farm rents at a time of falling farm incomes and increasing hardship for farmers, especially in marginal or upland areas, are obvious. Rents remain an important pillar of the Trust's finances, but, increasingly, the Trust is working with its tenants to help them to diversify into other areas of rural activity (such as tourism) or into growing specialised or organic produce which commands premium prices.
Grants and Contributions
The current economic plight of agriculture is partly offset by a range of payments available to farmers for undertaking environmental measures under agri-environmental schemes. The schemes available include those for Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Countryside Stewardship Schemes, and (in Wales) a scheme called (in Welsh) Tir Gofal. These grants are available to the farmer rather than to his landlord, but help to ensure the survival of the farming way of life and the rural communities and economy that go with it.
On a wider scale, grants and contributions form an important part of the Trust's income. These are many and varied; important amongst them is funding for projects from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and grants or sponsorship from business and enterprise.
The National Trust's shops, restaurants, tea-rooms and holiday cottages are all managed by National Trust Enterprises. The profit they generate goes to support the work of the National Trust and in 1998-9 they contributed £1.6 million to its funds. Many Trust properties have shops offering a wide range of related merchandise and, in addition, the Trust operates a number of shops in town centres. It operates over 140 tea-rooms and restaurants, which are usually locat-ed in special old buildings such as castles, lighthouses and stables. It owns over 250 holiday cottages set in some of the most outstanding locations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including former farm buildings, a lighthouse keeper's cottage, a manor house and a gamekeeper's cottage. The Trust's Enterprises have grown with the sole purpose of support-ing and promoting the National Trust's conservation work.
Appeals and Gifts
Appeals are most frequently associated with the purchase of new properties. When an important potential comes on the market, the National Trust needs to find not only the purchase price but also sufficient funds to ensure the future management of the property, an endowment, in other words. A classic example, within the last two years, has been the appeal to purchase a large portion of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. The actor and film star Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is of Welsh origin, pledged £1 million, a further 250,000 people contributed to the appeal, and a total sum of over £5 million was raised in less than four months. This was a remarkable example of the degree of support the National Trust enjoys among the general public, and to a wider extent (as other conservation bodies in the United Kingdom also have appeals) of the degree of support for conservation in general.
There have been many appeals over the years. The Trust's most famous and successful, however, has been the Coastline appeal, which was launched in 1965 as Enterprise Neptune. In 1963, the National Trust surveyed the whole coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. One third of that coastline (1,500 km) was still beautiful and unspoilt, but it was being lost to development at a rate of 10km per year. The Enterprise Neptune campaign was launched in 1965 with three aims - to save unspoilt coastline forever, to alert people to the pressures on the coast, and to raise money to buy areas of coastline. It has been out-standingly successful, and has recently been re-launch-ed. By the end of 1997, it had raised over £28 million, and the National Trust owns more than one-sixth of our coastline. The Trust's experience of coastal manage-ment has enabled it to take on a variety of new challenges, such as areas of coast in East Anglia, which are likely to be most affected by rising sea level, and a stretch of coast in Northumberland that was heavily contaminated by coal waste from the local mining industry but which is gradually returning to a natur-al state. More famous stretches of coast owned by the Trust are the Farne Islands, home to 70,000 pairs of seabirds and a large grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) population, and the spectacular Giant's Causeway coastline in Northern Ireland.
Contributions also come from members in the form of local Member's Associations, who have an impressive record of success in fundraising. In 1998-9, the National Trust Centres and Associations raised £62,000 for the acquisition of an area of countryside in Lanca-shire, and contributed £250,000 to the appeal to buy Mount Snowdon. At the other end of the scale, local Associations help with the purchase of equipment for particular properties - they may help by funding any-thing from a digital camera to a minibus. The National Trust's United States membership affiliate, the Royal Oak Foundation, also has an impressive record of fundraising. In 1998, it raised over $2.6 U. S. to celebrate its 25th anniversary, specifically to support the Trust's libraries and to conserve its books.
Admission fees to National Trust properties are one of the (relatively) smaller items on the balance sheet. There are two main reasons for this. One is that the National Trust does not charge for admission to "countryside'' properties There may be charges at car parks, but access on foot to the open countryside owned by the Trust is free. The other is that at "paying properties" admission for National Trust members is free (this being a principal incentive for joining). Membership thus acts as an annual season ticket to visit as many properties as the member wishes - which may be their local stately home once a week for a walk, or a group of properties in an area which the member might visit on holiday. Because a member who remains a member is worth far more financially to the Trust than a casual, one-off visitor, there is a major effort to recruit members at paying properties (see above, "Membership"). With such a large member-ship and such a professional and successful recruiting team, the number of "paying" visitors who manage to escape without becoming members is relatively small.
The remaining items of income on the National Trust's balance sheet are quite small, the biggest being the sale of leases. The Trust finds itself owning a number of properties which, while they may not be sold, are suitable for leasing or letting, and as these include houses in very special settings there are usually people ready to accept the challenge, even if it means they have to undertake the cost of repairs as well (a so-called "repairing lease"). Together with other miscel·laneous income from properties, all these items, from membership downwards, contribute towards an annual income in excess of £180 million. This money, how-ever, is heavily committed, as the Trust spends all of its income on the upkeep of its properties. The Trust as an organisation is characterised as being "asset-rich, cash-poor". Most of its assets are such that they cannot be realised (because they are inalienable), and the cost of maintaining them continues to rise. The second part of this article looks at the ways in which the Nation-al Trust's money is spent.
Volunteers - a Gift of Time
Before it does so, however, we need to examine one more precious form of support which the Trust receives and which does not appear on the balance sheet. This is the "gift of time" which some 38,000 people of all ages give to the National Trust each year as volunteers. Of these, about 8,000 work at the Trust's countryside properties on a regular basis, and in addition around 4,500 people every year attend our annual programme of residential working holidays. These projects are generally for a week, and include projects for all age groups, projects for older people, and international projects. For the last 6 years, a 2-week project in August involving 20 young people from the United Kingdom and Spain has taken place at Stackpole in South Wales. This project has completed a wide range of tasks, including 2 bird-watching hides, footpath repairs, boardwalks through wet woodland and sea defences. The value to the Trust, in cash terms, of its volunteers is enormou. The importance of the volunteering ethos in the Trust can be seen right to the top of the organisation; members of the National Trust's Council and its various Committees are volunteers, and bring an impressive (and otherwise expensive) array of professional skills to the task.
By far the biggest single item of expenditure, at £85.4 million, is routine maintenance and running costs. In 1998-9, some £33.9 million of this was spent on maintenance and conservation in the countryside. The following list gives some idea of how this money might be spent at individual properties:
The nature of the annual maintenance obviously varies according to the nature of the property. At a typical property (Stackpole in South Wales, the one to which the Spanish volunteers come annually) the annual maintenance list includes:
In addition to staff at properties, the Trust also maintains a team of advisors covering all the necessary disciplines, from nature conservation and forestry through archaeology to the conservation of buildings and their contents. Each of the 15 regions into which the Trust is divided for administrative reasons, supports a specialist buildings department, charged with looking after all the structures on Trust properties in the area. Having experienced over the years a number of expensive repairs at large houses, the Trust is concentrating on a "little and often" approach rather than subjecting itself to large capital projects.
Everything falling outside the sphere of annual maintenance is likely to find itself being classified as a Capital Project. This category has always included a number of building projects such as repairing the roof or restoring defective stonework on an historic house. It also includes a wide range of projects large and small that are directly linked to biodiversity, with a new budget allocated specifically to biodiversity being allocated in 1998. This reflects the importance being given to this subject at both national and international level. The United Kingdom's Biodiversity Action Plan lists 1,250 species which are rare, scarce or in need of special conservation action, as well as a number of habitat types all of which, in view of its large owner-ship, are represented on National Trust property. Of the 1,250 species, 511 (or 41 %) occur on Trust property These include 10 endemic and 16 globally threatened species, as well as many internationally important species such as bluebell, Endymion non-scriptus, western gorse, Ulex gallii, and grey seal, Halichoerus grypus. Among the habitats, the National Trust owns 12 % of the chalk or limestone grassland in the United Kingdom, and 7.5 % of the lowland heathland. A variety of projects large and small have been generated by the Trust's specific responsibilities in the area of biodiversity. These range from a £2,000 project to help the water vole, Arvicola terrestris, to a multi-million pound project stretching over many years to restore and extend the ancient wetlands around the core of Wicken Fen, currently an island in a sea of intensively farmed agricultural land. At Stackpole, the Welsh property mentioned above, the current list of properties includes:
Membership, publicity and education
The job of marketing the National Trust and recruit-ing new members is necessarily an expensive one. Communications, public relations and educational work are all essential parts of ensuring that the Nation-al Trust gets its message across to as broad a public as possible, and that its message is targeted as effectively as possible. In addition, education is seen as an important discipline in itself and an important part of the way in which the Trust delivers the benefit of its ownership to the public. To this end, it supports a broad range of educational programmes. These include schemes to enable people from inner city or deprived areas to enjoy National Trust properties, the Young National Trust Theatre which involves children in participative dramatic reconstructions, and two residential school basecamps which enable parties of children to spend a week on a programme of environmental education and outdoor pursuits. One of these is in South Wales, the other in Norfolk in East Anglia. The total budget for the Marketing and Communications Department is some £16 million pounds per year.
Acquisitions present the Trust with a major challenge, because every acquisition carries with it the responsibility to maintain it in perpetuity. Some years ago, a formula was worked out by Lord Chorley, a past Chairman of the National Trust, enabling a calculation to be made as to the future requirements of the potential acquisition in terms of maintenance, and thus for the necessary size of endowment to be determined. If the acquisition package does not fulfil the requirements of the Chorley Formula, the acquisition normally does not proceed. In the past, and for a variety of reasons, properties have been taken on without endowment, and these go on to become a burden on General Funds. Some are fortunate enough (perhaps through healthy entrance payments) to be General Fund in Credit properties, but some (especially if they are countryside properties, where no admission is charged) become General Fund in Deficit properties. Some new acquisitions are fortunate enough to have special trust funds set up specifically to support them; the finances of these properties are ring-fenced and immune from fluctuations elsewhere. Fashions have changed over the century. Very few large houses are taken on these days, but industrial archaeology and vernacular architecture are increasingly well represented. The push to save the coast continues apace, having received a fresh impetus from the relaunch of the Neptune Coastline campaign. Within the Coastline campaign, there is now perhaps less emphasis on saving spectacular cliff scenery (much of which has already been saved) and more on saving "soft" coastline such as salt marsh, estuary and sand dunes. Potential acquisitions are closely scrutinised (by a central committee) and assessed from the point of view of merit, degree of threat, and whether the Trust is the most appropriate owner. Increasingly, the possibilities of partnerships with other organisations are being examined. Spectacular purchases like Snowdon capture the public imagination; many smaller ones serve to fill in gaps between existing blocks of Trust ownership.
Charity Administration, Income Generation, Taxation
The first two of these account for £2.6 million between them and represent the technical requirements of running an enormous charitable organisation. All charities in the United Kingdom find their destinies closely linked to current Government policy, in particular in the field of taxation, and in recent years the taxation policies of successive governments have been damaging for charities in general and for the Trust in particular. The burden of irrecoverable VAT [Value Added Tax] is great, and the steady lowering of the basic rate of income tax reduces the benefit to the Trust of covenanted subscriptions and donations (see above, "Membership"). The Government is well aware of the National Trust's concerns, but does not propose to do anything to reverse the trend. Instead, its view is that charitable giving should increase to fill the gap.
The basic model for the management of the Trust's finances is unlikely to change drastically but it finds itself in a world where rapid change on many fronts is the norm. Increasingly, the work of the Trust, in managing its finances and generally, is about managing change. Agricultural policy is now made in Brussels, and the effect of the changing economic climate on the Trust and its tenant farmers has been referred to above. Whilst agriculture as an industry declines, the use of, and the pressures on, the countryside for recreation increase annually and species and habitats are coming under pressure as never before. The demand for information, and the need to keep pace with the latest methods, of delivering it, expand constantly. As membership of the Trust grows ever larger, the dangers of reaching a "plateau", whilst the costs of managing its estate continue to rise, are ever present. As it is, support for the Trust continues to grow, and it continues to enjoy a unique position of support and affection at the heart of the nation.
For further information,
please visit the National Trust website at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Interview with Lluís Paluzie
Lawyer and town planning expert
"We must conceive and plan the rural areas of Catalonia as a whole"
The lawyer and town planning
expert, Lluís Paluzie was born in Barcelona in 1934 into a family
originally from Olot. He likes to remember his childhood in Olot, where
he acquired much of his vast knowledge of the natural environment and his
love of the country.
You are a pioneer of "using" town planning for the preservation of natural areas. How did that come about?
In the sixties, I was legal
advisor to the Barcelona Town Planning Commission. Those were the days
of the Town Planning and Common Services Commission of Barcelona and other
towns, and the Provincial Commission, with their respective plans: the
regional plan and the provincial plan. This provincial plan, approved in
1963, already had a catalogue of natural areas which formed a system of
areas to be protected in the Barcelona region and which could be deployed
by means of special protection plans.
That was a very innovating approach in those days…
Indeed. In fact, nature protection in Catalonia by means of land-use planning has other precedents such as Regional Planning (1932), by Nicolau Ma. Rubió i Tuduri, with the help of his brother Santiago, which contained the first system of protected areas in Catalonia. However, it was the Provincial Plan of 1963 that granted the Barcelona Provincial Council of the time a technical and legal instrument with which to put into operation a policy of nature and landscape protection, by means of town planning legislation. One must bear in mind that up to that point it seemed that protection of natural areas could only originate in the Ministry of Agriculture and its legislation. It was a great surprise for the experts in the Ministry's local office, to find the first special protection plans promoted by a provincial council for the first time.
Were you a group of visionaries?
Fortunately, there have always been visionaries and idealists. But our landscapes or natural areas have always been described by poets, literati and geographers, and discovered and visited by the people. The description of Montserrat, el Canigó or el Montseny can easily be found in literary works, particularly poetry, by Verdaguer, Bofill i Mates, etc. If we look at the list of areas in Regional Planning, a provincial plan or, nowadays, of the PEIN (Plan of Areas of Natural Interest), we see that there are not many differences between them; you do not have to invent much to protect nature, much of the work has been done.
And the change was made from town planning to a specific park service?
When I worked in urban development and town planning I realised the importance of natural areas and parks in cities. Don't forget that in the 60s, the phenomenon of housing development hit the countryside, with the danger that implied for our landscape. Thus, we favoured a climate that was conducive to the creation of a Natural Park Service within the Barcelona Provincial Council, and we achieved out aim. In fact, it was the first service of its kind created by a local corporation with a clearly defined model: the application of the Land Law, through drawing up plans for the special protection of areas catalogued in the Provincial Plan and the subsequent management, carried out by the service of the Provincial Council, which already had some experience and a precedent in the Montseny Trust.
Did the Ministry of Agriculture, which was the competent body in such matters at the time, offer resistance?
The drawing up of the first special plans, particularly the one for Montseny, was no easy task. It seemed that we were encroaching on some area of State responsibility, and that was how the ministerial experts saw it. However, that was because town planning legislation was still largely unknown. There is no denying that the 1956 Land Law was ahead of its time in this respect and the Barcelona Provincial Council made the most of it. It was also positively influenced by the conclusions of a seminar held in Barcelona in 1976 with the Instituto de Estudios de Administración Local de Madrid (the Madrid Institute of Local Administration Studies) on Los espacios naturales protegibles: posibles actuaciones de las corporaciones locales (Protectable Natural Areas: possible local corporation action). These conclusions established that the special protection plans of the Land Law constitute a fundamental instrument for nature protection.
You were head of the new Park Service. What was that initial phase like?
I was head of the service for ten years and I have to acknowledge the positive contribution made by the different councillors in the area: Bonastre, Burrull, Llobet and others in the initial phase, and Aguado at the end of my time there. However, the real driving force behind the Natural Park Service was Joan Antoni Samaranch who had a clear idea right from the beginning that the most emblematic properties (in the case of Montseny) had to belong to the Provincial Council, as this would give us the necessary heritage for management and defeat some powerful opposition. The acquisition of important properties in the Vall de Santa Fe and in Tagamanent was a sign that the natural park policy was serious. The town councils' change of heart was also positive; they soon saw the need for protection.
A precursory philosophy which, for instance, today is developed by the Fundació Territori i Paisatge.
That's true. I remember the first property to be acquired —on a hectare of land— it currently houses the School of Nature. The building dates from the beginning of the last century and is located in the Vall de Santa Fe. We knew that, in addition to buying land, we had to take action. In fact, the first person in charge of the School of Nature and all the routes and educational activity was Martí Boada. He did a great job. Even today, my daughters remember their school trip to Montseny and meeting Martí Boada.
Why were some property owners opposed to selling?
Actually, following the advent of butane the yield of rural properties had been considerably reduced, especially in woodlands. Therefore, there were always offers, although they weren't always very good. At first, rather than being opposed to selling, there was a certain reticence, as those opposed to the park thought —and they were right— that the Provincial Council's acquisitions favoured the establishment of the Natural Park. It must be pointed out that the Provincial Council did not want, and had no need, to make large-scale purchases in the Park territory. Since time immemorial, private property had administered its heritage perfectly well and must continue to do so.
Apart from slight opposition from the owners, what other obstacles did you come up against?
The processing of the Montseny Plan was complicated because it included part of the province of Barcelona and part of Girona. At that time, in Barcelona we had the so-called órgano desconcentrado or decentralised body which had taken over the responsibilities of the Ministry and, therefore, the Special Plan regarding the Barcelona area was approved here and not in Madrid. On the other hand, the Plan for Girona was approved in Madrid. This caused the approval of the plans to be out of step: the Barcelona plan was approved first and the Girona plan a few months later. It also complicated the processing of appeals against the Plan, which finally all favoured the Provincial Council.
What was the role of the Ministry in the face of the appeals lodged?
Within the Ministry and, particularly, in the Directorate General for Town Planning, there were people who were very much in favour of the Special Plan for Montseny and, so, their administrative reports on the appeals supported the viability of the Special Plan. We must not forget that it was the first Special Plan to affect such a large area; it included part of two provinces and some eighteen municipalities.
The Park Service of the Provincial Council had such collaborators as Ramon Folch, people who have proved to be important in Catalonia's environmental past and present...
Ramon Folch joined the Administration in the seventies and deployed a new unit, that of applied ecology, who made a good job of popularising the subject. The Service was rather small, and its members were, amongst others, Gurri, Panareda, Asperó, then came Castelló, who took over from me… But many monographic or basic works were commissioned from experts at the University such as Oriol de Bolós, Nadal or we received guidance from scientists such as Dr. Margalef and others. Aside from these Central Services, each park had its own on-site team.
What was the significance of the restoration of the Generalitat?
With the Generalitat under Tarradellas, we all thought that the core of natural areas in Catalonia would be the Park Service of Barcelona Provincial Council. We understood that a new model had been created and deployed, that of the Barcelona Provincial Council, and that it should be extended to the whole of Catalonia. Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way.
How did it differ from the Spanish model?
Actually, the central administration's model was never applied in Catalonia. No protected natural area was ever declared. The exception was in 1955, when General Franco, at the request of Victoriano Muñoz Homs, dictated a Decree which declared Aigüestortes and l’Estany de Sant Maurici a national park. It has always been said that the Ministry of Agriculture, in spite of ICONA, was not the best area to get a "conservationist" policy off the ground, a situation which has finally been rectified in Catalonia.
What contribution did the restoration of the Generalitat de Catalunya make?
As I said before, I think
we missed a great opportunity to apply a model of our own, and that delayed
the conception and globalising management of Catalonia's natural areas
We'll return to the subject of the agency later on, but now let's go back to your career. In 1983, in view of the Generalitat's policy, you stop working on environmental issues...
Until 1983, my occupation, and my hobby, was environmental management and the protection of natural areas. That year, I left the Barcelona Provincial Council and went to the Generalitat to work in a totally different area. But I still devoted my spare time to the environment. I worked with naturalist organisations such as Depana, of which I was a founding member, and with others in la Garrotxa. However, 1990 brought the constitution of the Nature Protection Council. I have been a member from the beginning and am currently its Chairman. It is a consultative organ of the Generalitat and the Catalan Parliament, which compulsorily must report on all plans for the declaration of protected areas and all special plans; that is, all activities of the Administration that involve a natural area. These reports are not binding but they are compulsory. In fact, in order to avoid consulting the Council, on more than one occasion, the Courts have overruled a provision approved by the Administration.
How do you assess the task of the Council you chair?
In addition to offering advice, it can take initiatives. It is an independent body: its members are naturalists and scientists, and the owners of woodlands, municipalities and trade unions. There are twenty-one members altogether. At the beginning, the idiosyncrasies of each group were very much in evidence, but they have reached a consensus over time because, after all, the Council's aim is to protect natural areas. I think it has done a very good job and has been of help to the Administration. Amongst its initiatives, I would highlight the motions regarding forest fires and the state of forests in Catalonia.
Unfortunately, forest fires have made all the headlines this summer. There was a serious fire in a protected area, Cap de Creus. What sort of prevention policy should be implemented to avoid further outbreaks?
I have visited the area of l’Alt Empordà that was burned, it was a moving sight. It seems impossible that in our country —so very small and segmented— such large areas can burn. Prevention is essential, as is prompt, decisive action when a fire first starts. But there is no miraculous cure here. Only by applying a series of policies adapted to each area of the country, can we reduce the effects of forest fires or avoid their being so utterly devastating. Deep down, the problem is people leaving the countryside. Rural populations are rapidly decreasing and that gives rise to a process of transformation of a diverse rural environment to endless woodland, and the loss of locals who know the land. In 1994, the Nature Protection Council presented a motion which analysed this question and made a series of proposals. I think their subject matter is still extremely relevant.
As I said before, you were a founding member of Depana. Despite its being an outstanding organisation, don't you think that this country lacks, and always has done, a strong, independent socio-environmental movement? The paradox lies in the fact that we have scientists of renown, initiatives which are ahead of their time, but there has never been, nor is there, an environmental movement with extensive social influence. Why is this?
It's a mystery. In the 70s, a series of interesting events took place in Catalonia in environmental matters: Depana was created, the White Paper came out, and the Provincial Council organised the first seminar on natural parks to be held in the Iberian Peninsula. The speakers were Ramon Folch, Oriol de Bolós and myself. It was organised as a result of collaboration between the Madrid Institute of Local Administration Studies and the Barcelona Provincial Council. People came from all over Spain. It made the news and its conclusions were published. It established many criteria which have since become key. For example, the use of the Land Law with its special protection plans. It determined that one of the clearest paths to protect areas was through land-use planning, through town planning. Therefore, these three things coincided. With regard to the founding of Depana, I remember that I drew up and defended its statutes. The ceremony was held in the Ramblers' Association of Catalonia, it was chock-full. We had over 400 members right from the beginning. The base of Depana were people from the University, the Zoo and the Provincial Council group. With all that enthusiasm we thought great things would come of it; we called it a League so that we could add up all the groups that existed in Catalonia. Years went by, we worked very hard but the League didn't grow. There have been different stages, different groups have led the organisation. I consider myself one of the first group: we failed to make the movement popular. A second group inherited the leadership and they didn't manage it either. The third team, the current one, has improved things considerably, but Depana has not taken off the way it deserves. Let's hope things improve in the future, the country needs this type of organisation.
I wonder how come an international movement like Greenpeace has thousands of members, while a nuclear group in Catalonia has yet to become consolidated. Maybe our character is to blame. A recent publication by the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia, Anuari d’entitats catalanes (Yearbook of Catalan Entities), includes a hundred and thirty dedicated to the environment. Or maybe we have yet to find the type of organisation Catalonia needs, or the most appropriate communication model for our society so they join in larger numbers.
Maybe Catalan environmental organisations should become professional?
Yes. I think non-profit-making organisations, whatever their field, need to become professional. These days, it's hard to find people who are willing to give up a few hours to such work every day. There must be volunteers, but also professional workers. That's how many organisations work.
Let's go back to the model of protection and conservation that has been applied in Catalonia: what are its strong and weak points?
The good thing about the
model is that it has assum-ed that land-use planning and town planning
should incorporate, as basic points, the protection of the natural environment
and landscape. This is consistent with the conclusion of a world congress
on parks and re-serves, which stated that the parks' survival required
planning, without planning they will have difficulty surviving.
Do you think the concrete is taking over?
This is the underlying problem. Building all over the place is fatal. Remember that in many parts of Europe the urban area is compact and, where it finishes there is green space, the country. Here, the policy has been to build houses along the roads, which have become the core of urban expansion. Priority has been given to infrastructures for private cars, instead of promoting public transport. In this respect, we have created a model that is difficult to change.
We need balance. It is not fair that all the infrastructures are along the coast while the inland areas are conserved and poor...
The question is what do we understand by quality of life. For me, it means, amongst other things, clean rivers with plants and fish both upstream and down-stream, that's what we saw as children and we must not relinquish them. Certainly, the areas with the fewest inhabitants should enjoy the same quality of life as the rest of the country. But that does not come with better infrastructure. Nowadays, we are always hearing about annual growth percentages. But biology and Nature show us that you can't grow continually. Maybe we should study the concept of sustainability in depth.
Changes in life style have distanced Man from Nature, we can't identify trees, animals...
The urban culture of recent years has given rise to generations with an increasingly poor vocabulary. The urban environment produces inhabitants with scant knowledge of Nature and the countryside. Maybe the greatest mistake is not conserving better the state of the rural world, country folk. The number of farmers has dwindled in many parts of Europe, but in Spain and Catalonia the figures are terrifying. If that hadn't happened, we'd have a far better-conserved country, far better managed, possibly richer and with a fine quality of life. What this 80 % of rural territory should do is return to farming, combining traditional activities with the new. We cannot afford to lose the wisdom of our country and mountain folk.
How do you see the future with regard to the management of natural areas in Catalonia?
In recent years, in addition to the different management models, there has been economic discrimination. Agricultural parks have been underfunded. The transfer of responsibilities to the Department of the Environment leads us to believe that the La Garrotxa model will be applied to the other protected areas and that, therefore, resources will increase.
In addition to public funding, should we think of other sources?
If an agency were created,
it would be an autonomous body and, therefore, manage its own finances,
with possible sponsorship or patronage.
Frequently, the inhabitants of rural areas are not too sure about the preservation of natural areas because, they say, it is not in their interest. What would you say to them?
The message is dialogue,
dialogue and more dialogue. No matter how long it takes you must listen
and talk to people. Even if that slows things down, there's always a right
psychological moment. A law should never be imposed, it should be agreed
upon and it must be convincing.
The management of natural areas
1.1 Progressive Deterioration of the Environment
The concern currently demonstrated throughout the world regarding environmental deterioration of the planet is a relatively recent phenomenon. The "Conference on the Biosphere", one of the first international meetings on this subject, was promoted by UNESCO in 1968. Within the framework of this Conference, the international scientific community collectively warned the world’s governments that the status of the environment was disquieting and that the tendency was clearly leading to a process of deterioration.
What then seemed to be a catastrophist proclamation now seems more like a timid observation, given the continued deterioration. Files opened by the European Commission for infractions of the Habitats Directive (1992) in the Ebro Delta Natural Park (2000) or the emblem of ecological disaster (1998) and the deficiency of current conservation systems in natural areas such as the Doñana National Park (also a Biosphere Reserve) are only a confirmation that the negative tendencies reported by scientists more than 40 years ago persist today.
Over these 40 years, data and experiences have been accumulated to the point where, today, we have the proper means to improve the management of natural systems. Now it is just a question of wanting to do so. Within the framework of a process in which the "myth" of preservation/conservation has become a reality hallmarked by the progressive deterioration of ecosystems, the need becomes urgent for new, specific and effective actions that will enable this process to be redressed.
1.2 A Tendency. From Global Thinking to Local Action
The proclamation by the scientific
community gave way to global thinking, which in turn gave way to international
conferences that have progressed from the Stockholm Conference (1972) to
the Kyoto Conference (1997) on changes in the climate, without forgetting
the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992).
This process, based on environmental strategies, is not limited to the scope of the strategic definition for coherently taking on the phases of "programming", "planning", "realization" and "evaluation". Too often efforts remain within the scope of defining strategies, suffering from a critical lack of ability to act and complete inability to evaluate. When there are no monitoring or evaluation habits, it is impossible to turn the process around, due to non-identification of social resistance and inadequate comprehension of sustainable thinking. Specific models of sustainable development must be generated on territorial as well as sectorial levels.
1.3 A Process: From "Conserving Closed Natural Areas" to "Integrated Management of Natural Areas in a Broader Territorial Framework"
The process of conserving natural resources began with a delimiting of "territorial areas" characterized by the wealth of their plants or their animals. These areas are subjected to strict conservation systems, which link conservation to prohibiting use of resources. These closed systems, which have almost non-existent manage-ment, have become obsolete in view of the fact that they have not been able to prevent deterioration, nor have they been able to exercise influence in changing the management models for territories considered ecosystems.
The current trend is, therefore, to define broader systems of territorial management, where natural resources are integrated into residences and activities. Only in this way can the flows and processes giving life and conditioning natural resources be studied. In other words, sustainable conservation must shape "territorial planning" so that it includes "town planning" and "management of natural areas" with a broader understanding of them as mainly human areas and, therefore, subject to productive and cultural ebb and flow.
1.4 The Strategy of Landscape Ecology: Tiles, Corridors and Matrixes
From a landscape ecology perspective, territorial manage-ment must include identifying structural elements of the landscape and their function within the territory as ecosystem, which will later be placed in relation to other flows and landscapes on a regional level.
From this perspective the elements of landscape are tiles, corridors and the underlying matrix. Tiles are spots, or territorial surfaces with homogeneous features that are different from their surroundings. Corridors are lineal elements of the landscape that can have different functions (marginal habitats, channels of flow...), and are also called frayed tiles. The underlying matrix is the main territory in the land-scape having a certain homogeneity. As indicated by Ferran Rodà (Landscape ecology: perspectives for conservation. "Natural Parks: Beyond the Limits". Generalitat de Catalunya) underlying matrixes, because of their size, have the greatest repercussions on the ecological operation of the landscape.
In this sense, sustainable management of the environment should have the priority objective of ecological management of the "underlying matrixes", as understood to be the majority territory in which basic sectorial functions develop and are concentrated. All of these functions - production, service, human habitat, transportation – completely condition the landscapes surrounding them. Second in interest, conservation policy would be concerned with the "corridors" as very biologically diverse areas that channel flows to the "tiles" themselves. Lastly, on the third level of priority, there is management of the tiles made up of the natural areas that are of special interest.
In accordance with these guidelines, sustainable management of nature would include; in the first place, proper integrated territorial planning that would take environmental factors into account based on the nature of resources as well as the functions of each territory in question. In the opposite sense, conservationist policies based fundamentally on managing closed natural areas are clearly inefficient. Preserving space as "islands" in a wider, unknown sea is made more difficult by having to fight external flows that limit or even contradict the conservationist management of delimited natural areas.
1.5 Natural Areas under Special Protection and the Different Management Systems
The ripening of this process towards integrated manage-ment does not, however, invalidate more specific processes of management of areas characterized by their natural resources. Having the limits of these policies made evident should in no case mean current policies of specific territorial area management should be declared incompetent. Quite the contrary, this same area management is what made evident the need to work toward more complex processes that are beginning to be possible to put into practice thanks to the accumulation of data that was previously unavailable, the application of new technologies and the growing public awareness of the need to preserve the environment. This is why different systems for managing natural areas are set out in this article.
2 Biosphere reserves
The Biosphere Reserve network
was set up in 1976 under the coordination of the UNESCO "Man and Biosphere"
(MAB) Program. It is currently made up of 300 reserves distributed throughout
the world in over 82 countries.
There are four biosphere
Management of the reserves is structured under three zoning categories: core, attenuating zone and transition zone. According to this management diagram, the core is the central area, where the function of resource "protection" predominates. The "attenuating zone" is that which permits certain activities, as long as they are compatible with protecting the "core". The "transition zone" is that which is summoned to put into practice models of sustainable development.
In this sense, the evolution
of reserve management begins with a primary interest in the "core" and
leads to the challenge of sustainable development that arises in the majority
territorial zones, or "transition zones".
3 Management Systems in the International Union of Nature Conservation (UICN).
The initial UICN criteria
were strictly "conservationist", although this focus has progressively
leaned toward a focus that gives priority to the type of manage-ment as
a specific delimitation for a protected area.
In 1993, the UICN revised
the initial categories by keeping the first five and adding a sixth, which
left the classification of protected areas with six categories (See box
2). The results were published in the Guide to Protected Area Management
Categories. This guide is a general report on the categories of protected
area management that describes the categories and gives explanatory examples
of their applications.
Box 2. UICN categories of natural area management.
The system begun in 1978 is very confusing because names of the areas can vary in each country. For example, the term "National Park" has a different meaning, depending on the country. In fact, there are up to 140 different names for protected areas. Consequently, UICN categories are defined by management objectives, not by area name. Protected areas are set up, in accordance with a country’s legislation, in order to obtain objectives that are coherent with national, local or private objectives. They can receive UICN categories only by the management objectives they pursue. Nevertheless, UICN management categories cannot be considered compulsory, nor can they be guiding mechanisms for governments or organizations when deciding upon objectives for potential protected areas.
4 Conservation strategy of the European Union
In the Communiqué The Environment in Europe: Toward What Future?" (November 1999), the European Commission took stock of the 5th Environmental Program of the European Union.
Despite progress due to having new environmental management tools available, the Commission conclud-ed that the state of the environment merits concern. The 5th Program did not manage to modify the economic and social trends that negatively affect the environment. A significant example is the commitment of the European Union, adopted in accordance with the Protocol of Kyoto, to reduce CO2 emissions by 8 % between 1998 and 2012. This commitment seems clearly unattainable, and there seems to be a tendency towards increasing CO2 emissions in the future, with the increase derived mostly from the transportation sector.
The problem lies in the fact than, on the one hand, economic sectors do not properly integrate environmental considerations in their management and production programs in order to attack the roots of ecological problems. On the other hand, there is a lack of participation and more clear-cut commitment on the part of the public and the parties involv-ed. In this context, European development will continue to be globally unsustainable, even if strict protection measures are established.
The report by the European Commission states that "The future of environmental policy must be understood in a broader context in which environmental, social and economic objectives must be attained in a coordinated and mutually compatible way".
According to the European Environmental Agency, the quality of natural European surroundings has improved in some areas, especially in regard to gradual elimination of substances that attack the ozone layer, cause acid rain, transborder air pollution and water quality.
Nonetheless, nature and biodiversity
in the Community continue to be threatened by the loss of land caused by
urban expansion and road construction, as well as by current intensification
of agriculture. Other threats are those derived from the exclusion or abandoning
of agricultural practice, pollution or the introduction of exotic species.
The Natura 2000 Network will integrate the "Areas of Special Protection for Birds" (ZEPA) –indicated in accordance with the Bird Directive- with the Areas of Special Conservation (ZEC) designated in accordance with criteria from the Habitats Directive. These areas should include areas with significant landscape elements, which should function as biological corridors. However, specification of these areas should be made on local or regional levels, since this planning requires more careful on-site intervention and greater involvement from local communities.
According to the European
Committee, in the future it will be necessary to give priority to the application
of the Bird and Habitats directives and to real integration of biodiversity
requirements in other policies. One important aspect will be preparing
ambitious plans in accordance with the biodiversity strategy and with Agenda
Box 3. Community Legislation on Protecting Natural Areas
5. Protecting natural
areas in Catalonia
5.1 Regulations on Conserving Areas in Spain
In Spain, the protection of natural areas is regulated by Law 4/1989, of 27 March, on conserving natural areas and wild fauna and flora. This law was later reformed by Law 40/1997, of 5 November (BOE (Official Gazette of the Spanish State ) of 6/11/97) and modified by Law 41/1997, of 5 November (BOE of 6/11/97).
The categories for protection of natural areas provided for in Law 4/1989 are as follows. National parks, parks, nature reserves, natural monuments and protected landscapes. The "national parks" category also adheres to Royal Decree 940/1999, of 4 June, approving the Rules on determining and awarding public state subsidies to areas of social-economic influence under the national parks (BOE of 18/6/99) and Royal Decree 1803/1999, of 26 November, approving the Plan Governing the network of National Parks (BOE of 13/12/99). Nevertheless, in Catalonia, which has exclusive competence in natural protected areas and special treatment in mountain areas, as per Article 9.10 of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, protected elements are those defined by Catalan legislation.
Spanish regulations in the specific field of protect-ing biodiversity are included in Royal Decree 1997/1995, of 7 December and establishing measures for contributing to guarantee biodiversity by means of protecting natural habitats, fauna and flora. This decree was modified by Royal Decree 1193/1998, of 12 June (BOE of 25/6/98).
5.2 Different Levels of Protection of Natural Areas
by the Department of the Environment -DMA- of the Autonomous Government
of Catalonia, the protection system for natural areas in Catalonia has
three specific levels:
This level covers legislation of protected species, pollution control and environmental impact, water, coasts, territory, cities, etc. These regulations contain - or should contain - provisions with protectionist content for compulsory compliance throughout Catalonia.
Despite the fact that this is generic protection, it is very important. Protection deficiencies in this area are what most determine natural heritage, so horizontal protection mechanisms must define strategic lines of protection in each sector. The integrated application of these strategic lines will determine the possibilities of applying effective environmental protection policies. Controlling pollution, regulating transportation, preserving species and managing water are all basic elements in any conservation policy. Failure to apply conservation principles to each and every sector would make an effective preservation policy unthinkable.
5.2.2 The Process of the "Catalan Strategy for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity"
In the area of horizontal protection, following the guidelines indicated in the Agreement on Biological Diversity and in accordance with a resolution of the Parliament of Catalonia (1997) the DMA has been working since 1996 on drafting a conservation strategy.
Prior to defining the strategy, the Institute of Catalan Studies made a diagnosis of the status of biological diversity in Catalonia. Structured in 55 thematic studies, it has been summarized in a final document that includes the main data from each study and a definition of the objectives proposed.
In defining strategy, the System of Information on the Natural Heritage of Catalonia created by the DMA opens up new possibilities for working with a range of tools. Currently in an advanced draft stage, the "Biodiversity Data Bank" is available at < http://www.gencat.net/mediamb/pn.htm>. Likewise, the "Cartography of Habitats of Catalonia" –which is also in the draft process with completion forecast for the year 2003- will enable systemization of the protection of habitats by means of land-use and town planning, proper application of the Habitats Directive and stricter treatment of biological connections. The Inventory of Wetlands of Catalonia is also in final draft stage. Finally, the "Data Bank of Figures and Tools for Protecting the Natural Heritage of Catalonia" (PROTNAT) includes all information regarding applicable regulations and tools.
Converging in the process of drawing up the strategy is the formulation of Agenda 21 in Catalonia, for which a joint yet differentiated process should be articulated and coordinated. In this process, the fact that the Department of the Environment has progressively assumed more and more competencies in matters such as protecting natural areas, fauna and flora, forest and hunting management enables it to play a key role in formulating these strategies.
In accordance with the basic
strategy document, made public for World Biodiversity Day (1998), the general
objectives of the strategy should include, at least, the following elements:
5.2.3 Territorial Protection
A second level of territorial protection corresponds to formulating and developing partial territorial plans and the sectorial plan for protecting natural areas. This level of protection is strategically defined in Article 4.3 of Law 1/1995, of 16 March and approving the General Territorial Plan of Catalonia:
"Development of the general
territorial Plan by means of partial and sectorial territorial plans must
be carried out considering the objectives of preservation of the environment:
5.2.4 The Plan for Areas of Natural Interest (PEIN)
The PEIN -approved by Decree 328/1992, of 14 December- defines and delimits a network of 144 natural areas representing the wide variety of environments and formations found in Catalonia, from the high mountains to the coastal plains and from the EuroSiberian woods to the semi-desert wastelands. The accumulated global surface of these areas is approximately 21 % of our territory.
The PEIN represents a reserve of land in Catalonia with the most remarkable natural value. Applied to all delimited areas is the basic preventive system that essentially includes a particularly strict town planning system opposed to urban development processes and other measures that are likely to significantly damage the protected values.
However, the PEIN is not just a passive protection tool. Starting with an individualized diagnosis of the problems involved in each area, the Plan also determines in each case the current or potential risk factors for preserving the set of natural values and the additional protection measures that need to be applied. These measures can take the form of specific norms or specific actions to be included in the development Program of the Plan. This development program has never been formulated, which is indicative of the complexity involved in any territorial definition. This is why the PEIN has never had programmed development and is, only now, completing the formulation of plans for territorial delimitation of each area. That is why, in this first development stage, most areas are still lacking a Special Plan for protection.
As Josep Mª Mallarach stated in his article "Protected natural areas in Catalonia and the new conservation paradigms" ("Natural parks, Beyond the Limits". Generalitat de Catalunya. 1999) "The lack of means of the responsible agencies and the absence of an evaluation tradition in Catalonia explains why the foreseen follow-ups have not been finished, which does not allow us to learn in detail the real conditions of protected natural areas and properly characterize their trends. In an initial approximation, between 20 and 35 % of Catalonia’s protected natural areas have suffer-ed, from their official protection, losses in their habitats, landscapes, communities or species".
The PEIN is a sectorial territorial
plan and, for that reason, compliance with its determinations is obligatory.
Consequently, partial territorial plans approved in the future must indicate
as natural areas of interest all those delimited by the PEIN, while establishing
the necessary provisions for their preservation, adaptation and improvement.
Likewise, the new instruments for town planning and specific planning in
high mountain areas and regions must adapt to the contents of the PEIN.
Furthermore, town councils must adapt their urban planning to the corresponding
special plans for PEIN areas within a period of two years from approval
of the plans.
The PEIN area network shall be included in the Natura 2000 European network, which will provide it with greater importance in applying community programs, and will give PEIN areas a preferential application in the Rural Development Program of Catalonia.
Nevertheless, this is still quite far from an integrated approach to conserving natural heritage. The current process of concentrating a series of environmental competencies in the DMA can make it easier to develop integrated planning that must be coordinated, however, with the sectorial policies of other departments, while attracting the interest of private initiatives in a process of environmental valorisation.
5.2.5 Protecting Natural Areas of Special Protection
A third level of protection
is that made up of what are generically called natural areas of special
protection. According to Law 12/1985, of 13 June on natural areas, these
are classified as "national parks", "natural areas of national interest",
"nature reserves" and "natural parks". These areas, although they are part
of the PEIN, have specific rules and individualized management.
Box 4. Tipology of natural areas under special protection according to the law on natural areas in Catalonia (Law 12/85)
The legal system of protecting natural areas in Catalonia should be updated with a proper revision of Law 12/85 on Natural Areas, introducing the criteria derived from implementing the Natura 2000 Network, Agreement on Biodiversity and the processes of sustainability that can be derived from Agenda 21. Nonetheless, the largest deficiency in regulations is, on a territorial level, in the failure to approve and develop with sustainable criteria the partial territorial plans of each of the six areas into which the territory of Catalonia is divided.
However, the challenge that, above all, hovers over each and every one of the protection systems for natural areas is the challenge of management. In this sense, the major trends show special interest in management tools and in greater involvement in conservation guidelines on the part of society.
Public initiative, with deficient participation, has marked limited but coherent conservation plans. The lack of involvement by private initiatives has taken away transforming ability from the planning process, turning involvement of the social body into one of the strategic poles to be continually revised. "Civilization" of the management of natural areas should be nei-ther "public" nor "private". "Civilized" management is characterized by mutual acknowledgement of "public" and "private" areas, with their respective objectives and functions, in awareness of the need to find a space for democratic "reconciliation" and, above all, a space for participation.
This challenge is formulated in the trend towards "private management" with "public" criteria. From shared public strategy to concerted action. From myth to reality. From the management of closed natural areas to the sustainable management of the under-lying matrixes bound with biological corridors that give meaning to a system of protecting natural areas that are increasingly subjected to human activity but which does not have as an alternative an increasingly naturalized urban space.
• UICN. Unió Mundial
de la Conservació. 1994. Guia del Conveni per a la Diversitat Biològica.
Llibres i revistes
Un món nou [A New
Director general of UNESCO until last year, the Catalan biochemist Federico Mayor has always proved to have a vast knowledge of environmental and social problems and great sensitivity in seeking solutions. In this lengthy work, written in collaboration with Jérôme Bindé, Mayor covers the great challenges posed by processes such as technological development, the third industrial revolution and globalisation.
The book is divided into four parts. "For a new social contract", "The natural contract of the future: science, development and environment", "Towards a cultural contract: from the information society to the society of knowledge" and "For a new ethical contract". Mayor's study, built upon abundant documentation, is complete and detailed. Overpopulation, development, food, the role of biotechnology, transport, desertification, water, the future of books and reading, linguistic diversity, education, peace and the chances of there being an "African miracle" are some of the subjects he discusses.
This is a book full of data which poses problems, but which also proposes possible solutions. But, above all, it draws attention to the complexity of our society, the imbalances, the rapid change and the great challenges before us. All because, as the Nobel prize for Chemistry Ilya Prigogine says in the first sentence of the introduction, we cannot foresee the future but we can prepare for it.
La guerra de la cocaína
[The Cocaine War]
With the recent initiatives of the US President Bill Clinton to combat the cocaine problem, this book by the journalist Belén Boville Luca de Tena is hot news. Despite the fact that the subtitle speaks of drugs, geopolitics and the environment, the last of these subjects is dealt with only briefly strictly speaking. But given that environmental problems are almost always very closely linked with social and political problems, the book is also interesting from that point of view.
The author talks about coca - used by the Indians for centuries - and cocaine - one of its alkaloids - and gives an in-depth geopolitical analysis. The author's view is clear and Boville makes no bones about it: in addition to American puritanism, it is America's strategic needs - economic, political and military - that have given rise to a war against a drug that accounts for 17 % of the world market - as opposed to 35 % of hashish and 48 % of heroine.
According to Boville, military intervention leaves aside the social problems that are the basis of the cocaine problem. The author tells of the more than shady relations between drugs dealers and those who theoretically pursue them.
It would probably have been interesting to stress environmental problems a little more - it is also a highly topical subject - caused by the destruction of plantations with micro-organisms and the possibility of alternative crops. Even so, this well-documentedbook offers the reader a new view of the subject of cocaine.
El gen escarlata [The
There is a way of disseminating science and of reflect-ing on the ethical and social problems this poses, which reaches readers who would otherwise never choose an essay as reading matter. This way is scientific fiction - unfortunately, somewhat neglected by the best-known authors, despite its potential for possible plots. The physicist and biologist Pere Puigdomènech has chosen this formula to describe the potential of genetic engineering and to reflect on what is sometimes hidden behind the latest scientific research.
The story of El gen escarlata has intrigue and information and gives food for thought. It alternates the story with tables that explain the key elements of molecular biology. This is what makes it an interesting initiative to diffuse science with the added attraction of fiction.
Comunicació i medi
ambient en la societat global [Communication and the Environment in the
In February 1998, the 5th International Symposium Una Sola Terra [One Earth] discussed the subject of communication. This book contains contributions from the symposium. The first part contains tributes to personalities such as Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Gerald Durrell and Maurice and Katia Krafft. The following three sections contain contributions on the right to environmental information, cyberspace and a round table on environmental communication as the 21st century approaches. Three appendices on the evolution of environmental communication, environmental ethics in the deontological code and a list of web-sites, along with a bibliography and an index of names, complete the book. We would like to point out an error in the first appendix which could affect the image of plural entity and of this publication: the Associació Catalana de Comunicació Científica consists of a large group of professionals, and has been since it was founded, and not, as stated in this book, of different journalists linked to Medi ambient. Tecnologia i cultura magazine.
Bioma is a new bimonthly publication on nature, published in Olot (la Garrotxa). The magazine aims to reach all Catalan-speaking areas and its first issue contained articles by various specialists on the subjects of botany, invertebrates, vertebrates and natural areas, such as the Pego-Oliva marsh, in Valencia.
Mètode is not a new magazine, but this publication published by Valencia University commences a new phase in which it will be available from news-stands and newsagents' to reach a larger public. The magazine reports on university research, but is interesting for readers concerned with scientific subjects, as it contains informative articles that are food for thought. The first issue of this new phase (Summer 2000) included a fact file on our coastline.
Finally, The Ecologist appears in Spanish. Founded in 1969 by Edward Goldsmith, it contains diverse articles and reports. Without entering into an analysis of its contents, there is no denying that this publication offers the viewpoint of fairly radical environmentalism. This, which each can judge for himself, is no less a contribution to informative plurality in this field.
- Other opinions
Number 27 - november 2000
|Medi Ambient. Tecnologia i Cultura does not necessarily get identified with the opinions expresseded in the signed articles|
Departament de Medi Ambient de la Generalitat de Catalunya