The collective ownership of forest in Spain called “Montes de Socios” is a type of private forest where several stakeholders have a percentage of ownership of the land. These forests can be found in rural areas, where the inhabitants of the local communities often freely use the natural resources provided by the forest as part of their livelihood. Therefore, this initiative was born with the aim of overcoming the difficulties of managing forestry areas, commonly assumed as abandoned, that had no clear status about their owners or use even though they were part of the community daily life.
The beginning of “Montes de Socios” accompanied the need for preservation of the forest as part of the communities and fostered a collaborative activity within different stakeholder groups, who were related to these areas in various ways (e.g. unclear ancestor’s inheritances) and gather enough money to be part of the lands’ auctions and in this way, have the complete ownership to these lands.
Currently, there are still ongoing “Montes de Socios” campaigns, moving forward to have better forest management, specficially focused on forest multifunctionality where the land stewardship will be a main tool to work with.
In order to meet this goal, three main steps are taken into account. First, finding the areas and the people who may be involved with these lands. Second, to have some pioneer examples of forest management that can improve the forest conditions. Finally, the development of legal frameworks which can define what the rights and duties of the landowners are as well as the state role of the land management.
So far this attempt to develop a better forest management strategy has been successful in northern areas of Spain and now the goal is to bring this strategy to more areas all over the country.
One of the first steps to promoting this project in other areas of Spain is to establish legal owners of the forestry areas that are not yet assessed and thus create a sense in the rural areas about the importance of land recognition. After this, forest specific management boards can ease the legal activities to recognize the forest by their owners and promote the proper management of the land.
Some of the outcomes of this initiative are related to the promotion of rural areas where sustainable use of the different ecosystem services provided by the forest can be achieved, creating a bond within the forest and the people.
At the European level, it is possible to find this kind of initiative supported by the LIFE Programme, Natura 2000 network. Natura 2000, representing 18% of all EU land, helps protect the most valuable and threatened habitats and species and is active in all 28 EU member states. Additionally, countries such as Estonia, Bulgaria and Sweden are currently developing projects where private forest owners come together in order to maintain the forest of their area while adding a social value to them.
By: Julia Pazmiño HNEE – Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development