2.1. A Network of Firebreaks in Bages County, Catalonia (Spain) with Local Community Participation
The network of firebreaks project in Spain's Catalonia province had three main interrelated objectives. The first one, the assessment of risks, was intended to produce a spatial account of the potential forest fire risks occurring in the county by analysing each of the identifiable dimensions that contribute both to the increase in the likelihood of fire and in the negative impacts once the fire has started. This implied a detailed analysis, using a mixture of sources, of the distribution and causes and meteorological conditions of fire within the forested territory. The FARSITE programme generated risk analysis and Geographical Information System (GIS) maps were produced by the ARC/ INFO© programme. The aim was to produce a territorial representation of risks and vulnerability in order to proceed with the assessment, as the second objective, of the human and technical resources available to minimise both the risk and the eventual harm due to forest fires in the county. The purpose, then, was to estimate the correspondence between fire risk and control capacity in the different locations. In turn, such resources were divided into fire prevention, detection, intervention, and infrastructure. The variables taken into account in this respect were (1) structure of fire protection barriers, (2) other measures to break fuel continuity (prescribed fire, grazing, green plantations),
(3) forest management and selective thinning,
(4) number and visibility of look out posts, and
(5) forest mass accessibility. As the third objective, the overall aim of the project was to develop and implement a strategic plan to deal with such risks. This plan was the outcome of the integration of expert and relevant stakeholder knowledge carried out during the empirical research. In a series of 14 meetings, local managers, forest owners, and many other actors representing a large amount and diversity of the county's population were shown, and asked to respond to, the results of the expert GIS analysis of the situation. These maps and results were revised, modified, and enhanced as a result of the discussions. Eventually, specific measures were debated, actors' roles identified, and the actions to be pursued agreed upon with regard to fire prevention, fire prediction, and fire extinction. Thus, the crucial role of local populations was underlined during the whole process of the research and policy action. Participation was carried out at different stages, including for the assessments of fire risk, the estimation of control capacity resources, and, last but not least, at the implementation stage. The meetings were composed of individuals representing the following actors and agents: voluntary forest protection patrols, forest landowners, local public officials, fire brigades, the local environmentalist group, a local environmental consultancy company, a local expert on environmental issues, and the local media.349
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