LIFE IN COMMON LAND
Common land management, a sustainable model for conservation and rural development within Special Areas of Conservation. LIFE16 NAT/ES/000707
The project is born to reverse the various threats menacing the target habitats in Serra do Xistral, from which we may highlight the following: the progressive abandonment of traditional land use –mainly grazing practices—, which results in altered landscape composition and configuration; the ambiguity and vagueness of environmental management guidelines; the degradation of habitats that depend on human activities; climate change; and the strenuous conditions of mountain areas, which lead to a gradual loss of the local population.
One of the key elements of the project is the use of collaborative tools with the capacity to generate synergies across common lands, the various administrations and society in general. The aim is to build cooperation frameworks geared towards the economic development and the environmental preservation of areas with high ecological value, such as Serra do Xistral.
One of the key elements of the project is the use of collaborative tools with the capacity to generate synergies across common lands, the various administrations and society in general.
With demonstrative purposes, a methodology of participatory management based on conservation results will be implemented, assessed and disseminated for the management of bog and wet heath mosaics –traditionally subject to extensive grazing in the Special Area of Conservation of Serra do Xistral.
A payment scheme in exchange for conservation results will be designed and implemented for those communities whose farming activities have a positive impact on the conservation of the target habitats. The resulting agri-environmental schemes may be used in the drafting of the next Rural Development Plan for Galicia. To that end, we rely on the commitment of the Xunta de Galicia (Galicia's Regional Government).
One of the peculiarities to be tackled in the implementation of the aforementioned management models is the specific typology of collective tenure of the land in Galicia; more specifically, the legal form of montes veciñais en man común. These are privately and collectively owned (as per the concepts of Germanic law), with the locals holding the title and common rights provided they have their habitual residence in one of the nearby population entities (civil parishes and smaller population units) to which the exploitation rights of the land would traditionally have been ascribed to. Therefore, the status of co-proprietor or commoner (comunero in Spanish) relies on residing habitually in the population in question. In practice, this means that the community holding the title of the land varies in accordance to the current list of residents and is affected by events such as the abandonment or closure of any of the local households.
The peculiar form of land tenure inherent to this type of ownership will entail the need to adjust the schemes currently operating in other Atlantic regions (even when they also belong to the communal management sphere) to the socio-economic and cultural reality of Galicia. Thus, a possibility opens to play a demonstrative role for those areas which, although outside the Atlantic region, do keep in place a similar joint-tenure system –be it in other areas of the Galician Autonomous Community or in Asturias, Castilla-León and Portugal.
The aim is to build cooperation frameworks geared towards the socio-economic and environmental development of an area of high ecological value, such as Serra do Xistral.
The scheme of payments in exchange for conservation results will be exportable to other High Nature Value Farming Systems with similar joint-tenure systems for the land in Galicia, Asturias, Castilla-León and Portugal.
Montes veciñais en man común are privately and collectively tenured, their ownership belonging to the local communities as social groups –provided that those lands have customarily been exploited under community ownership, with no quota assignments, by the members of said communities as local inhabitants of the area.
This methodology will include as an innovation the use of drones to monitor habitat conservation status and will be applied to the actual management of protected areas –for the first time ever in Galicia— within the framework of the project LIFE IN COMMON LAND. This will provide a significant advantage in terms of cost-effectivity in comparison to the tracking systems currently employed to monitor conservation results, which are solely based on field trips.
LIFE in COMMON LAND stems from several management bodies in the field of agroforestry detecting a set of conservation issues and social conflicts related to the bog and Atlantic wet heaths mosaic, tightly bound to High Nature Value Farming Systems present in the SAC Serra do Xistral.