Natural Resource Management and Common Land: examining the PLAN 42 project in Northern Spain
Consejería de Medio Ambiente Junta de Castilla y León, Ingeniero de Montes, Spain
The autonomous community of Castilla y León is not only the largest region of Spain, but the largest region of all the European Union. Most of the terrain of Castilla y León consists of a large portion of Spain's Meseta5 Central, surrounded by mountainous regions, including the mountain range of the Cordillera Cantabrica to the north. Large forest fires are becoming more frequent in this area (and all over Spain) due to climatic factors, social factors including depopulation of rural areas and reduction in numbers of grazing livestock, and economic conditions. These fires are one of the most important causes of environmental alteration and land degradation because of the post-fire exposure of bare soil to rainfall. The Environment Ministry and Forestry Administration of the autonomous government initiated Plan 42 in 20036 with the main objective to reduce forest fires.
Plan 42 has, and is, promoting cultural change in pasture management systems on common land. Scrub burning has been banned since 2008 and replaced by mechanical scrub clearance. It is also supporting pasture improvement (lime and fertilizers), division of common land and activities to add value to the products from the area, including promoting collaboration between farmers, developing/ increasing market share of local products such as horse meat and supporting the set-up of cooperative ventures. Much of the work of Plan 42 is paid for through agri-environment measures of the CAP and local community funds administered by the municipalities.
This paper will outline the success of Plan 42 in sustaining the role of common land in the Twenty-first century. It will also highlight changes that have taken place within the institutions that govern commons and their role in securing sustainable natural resource management as well as other beneficial developments such as increased social capital and biodiversity and landscape management.