A necessary initiative

Photography of the River Mandeo

The Red Natura for natural heritage protection hasn’t worked out as an effective way to conserve nature in Galicia. Created at the request of the European Union, it doesn’t adapt to the specific circumstances of the Galician territory, with small pieces of land and a rather dispersed population; this makes it difficult to achieve its objective of protecting the more representative natural habitats. For this reason, a local group of people concerned with the environment are looking for a new strategy.

Land stewardship is a method to preserve natural and cultural heritage that has been used successfully in many countries. It is provided for in the Ley del Patrimonio Natural y de la Biodiversidad (the Spanish law for nature preservation), which acknowledges its importance and promotes it as a way for private entities –such as associations and foundations– to take part in the protection of natural environments.

Fragas do Mandeo is a Non-Governmental (NGO) and Non-Profit Organization (NPO) of charitable nature. Its objective is to create a fund for nature preservation in the area of As Mariñas (A Coruña, Spain), which allows the acquisition of pieces of environmentally interesting land for the protection of priority habitats. This way, we can preserve landscape and woods, guaranteeing a future for the animal and plants species that constitute the biodiversity of these ecosystems.

More information available in Land Stewardship.

In the pursuit of results

Fragas do Mandeo is a private organization declared of interest to Galicia, placed under the supervision of the Environment Office of the Xunta de Galicia (regional government of Galicia). It counts on the advice of renowned experts in the Natural Sciences and environmental associations who have a deep knowledge of the river basins in the As Mariñas area.

Almost all the funds raised go to the acquisition of lands and woods for preservation purposes. These properties become part of the charity endowment, so it is compulsory to use them only for that specific purpose. They cannot be sold nor transferred with a different objective, even if the organization disappeared.

Fragas do Mandeo is administered by a board of trustees and several contributors. They come from different sectors of society and all of them work for free, spending their free time and using their professional knowledge in order to get the best results with the maximum efficiency.

All that commitment is aimed to comply with the entity’s objectives, as stated in the Articles of Association of Fragas do Mandeo: “performing activities related to land stewardship for the preservation of landscape and natural ecosystems, with the associated fauna, flora and geological features, and also promoting land stewardship as a means to protect nature and to promote its preservation”.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. We began in 2010 with an initial endowment consisting of two pieces of land and some cash. But we count mainly on the experience and advice from other successful initiatives from Galicia and from the rest of Spain.

More information available in Galician charity foundations.

Why land stewardship in As Mariñas?

The As Mariñas area is structured along the protected natural spaces formed by the River Mandeo. It was declared as an area subject to special protection of its nature assets, and it is part of the Natura 2000 network as a special area of conservation, being named SAC Betanzos-Mandeo.

People hardly know about the area’s natural wealth. The river, famous for its salmon, should instead be best known for an endangered mollusk. Its banks are home to scarce mammals, such as otter or desman. Colonies of a variety of protected species of ferns grow in the riverside forest. Among the reptiles there is a protected species too and others that are endemic to Galicia. Birds of prey are abundant in the nearby woods and the estuary allows many aquatic birds to rest and feed during their migrations.

Despite all this biodiversity, the SAC Betanzos-Mandeo is receiving little care, since there are other locations that attract attention and research projects, as well as conservation budgets and initiatives. The consequences of this neglect are obvious. The threat of invading flora and fauna are evident. Eucalyptus is displacing more and more native forest, diminishing the ecosystems and landscape.

The forests along the Rivers Mandeo and Mendo are key to the current biodiversity both of the forests and the river. That’s why the preservation of that habitat is essential. Land stewardship, through the acquisition of land designated for preservation, is an instrument of proven effectiveness.

Sustainable rural development always involves the preservation of natural resources and landscape, of the water we drink and the air we breathe, of forests and rivers, both for locals and visitors.

More information available in Habitats – As Mariñas biodiversity.

First published: 6-10-2010
Last update: 28-4-2014
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