Forest fires are said to go out in winter. But this is only true if the forests are properly cared for and managed, which is unusual because it is unaffordable for most owners. Having a forest today is more of a burden than a blessing.
The effects of climate change have a direct impact on forests. It rains less, spring is confused with summer and autumn is confused with winter. With thirsty trees and an impassable undergrowth, the forests become a potential tinderbox. Forest fires are part of the landscape in our Mediterranean climate, but experts tell us that the power of fire is increasing and that in addition to having the most modern means of extinction, it is essential to apply a prevention strategy that includes management forest.
The head of the GRAF of the Generalitat Bombers, Marc Castellnou, a recognized expert in the field, explained in a recent interview that the real solution to fighting forest fires, in addition to material and personal means, is to revitalize areas of mountain facilitating the creation of a rural economy based on the rational exploitation of forests. In our country, talking about cutting down trees sounds like sacrilege, but we forget that the forest mass has not stopped growing in Catalonia due to the abandonment of many farmlands. So far this century, the area of Catalan forests has gone from occupying 59% of the entire territory to 64%. Our lack of forest culture prevents us from understanding that, many times, the best way to take care of a forest and protect it from fires is to manage it well, cutting down some trees and making rational use of it, in accordance with technical plans for management.
Despite our potential, the lack of incentives to manage the forests leads us to the absurdity of having to import wood from abroad, especially from France, where there is a consolidated forestry tradition. Unfortunately, in mountain areas, today money is lost with agriculture, with extensive livestock and with the wood industry, but this situation must be reversed because, precisely, these sectors must be the lever of change to combat the emptied Catalonia. Few dispute that, on a recurring basis, millions in aid are given to strategic industrial sectors such as the automobile, which are key to the economy. But the activity linked to the care and maintenance of the territory is equally essential and deserves, inexcusably, that more resources be devoted to it. Measures such as tax credits, reductions in social contributions, support for young entrepreneurs, simplifying suffocating bureaucracy or ensuring fiber optic connectivity can be a driver for reactivation.
The primary sector is in free fall. Farmers are getting fewer and older, but their problems often go unnoticed and rarely make it into the news, and they are too few to decide majorities. As with health, we will only understand how important and necessary farmers and ranchers are for a country when we do not have them. If it is not remedied, the day this happens we will regret the serious mistake made for years, abandoning a good part of the territory to its fate.
It is urgent to place a determined strategy at the top of the political agenda, with own, state and European resources, to promote the rural economy, rationally managing the resources of the territory, without falling into the caricature of believing that those who live in the mountain and they will make a living turning the farmhouse into a rural tourism house. Crop fields that have been filled with trees due to their abandonment must be recovered, which will be effective firebreaks, herds must be recovered to keep the forests cleaner and the wood must be used following technical forest management plans, giving oxygen to the industry of wood and biomass. At the same time, the consumption of local products must be promoted to help farmers and ranchers.
Neglecting the territory is a luxury that we cannot afford. As long as the trees do not let us see the forest, we will continue to regret that there are more hectares burned and more abandoned towns, believing that it is a fatality that has no solution.