President of the rural fire agency warns of new tragedies if nothing is done about forest land


Lisbon, June 19, 2021 (Lusa) – The president of the Integrated Agency for Rural Fires (AGIF) Tiago Oliveira  warned today of the possibility that large fires, such as those in 2017, will continue if nothing is done on forest land, which mostly belong to private parties .

To avoid a scenario that he called “black sky forever” and new tragedies, such as the 2017 fires in Pedrógão Grande and in October in several places in the central region, last week the Council of Ministers’ resolution was published in Diário da República. approves the National Action Program (PNA) of the National Integrated Rural Fire Management Plan for the next ten years.

In an interview with Lusa news agency, Tiago Oliveira said that the PNA, which AGIF was responsible for drawing up, is already in force and mobilizes more than seven million euros from various European funds, including the Recovery and Resilience Plan.

“The question is not whether there will be [fires the size of Pedrógão], it’s when. Because if we don’t all – Portuguese owners, companies, environmental and forestry non-governmental organizations, civil society, political power – become determined to change what is wrong, the situation will accumulate with vegetation and we will most likely have other Pedrógãos ”, said the person in charge of AGIF.

Tiago Oliveira underlined that, among the main measures of the PNA, is “right at the top” the one that moves the property and undergoes the revision of the succession regime, a law in force since 1927, and that made sense when “people lived off the land and a hectare was shared by the children and grandchildren and it was still enough to feed this family”, but “nowadays nobody depends on it”.

“The transition of inheritances has to be the object of political work and it is not enough when people die to qualify for heirs within the next six months and then remain with the indefinite inheritances ‘ad eternum’ for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren”, he maintained, emphasizing that “there is so much abandoned land” because the owners and heirs “do not feel that it is theirs”.

The president of AGIF said that politicians and parliament must have a position on this issue, which is provided for in the PNA, and explained that it is a measure to be integrated into the State Secretariats for Justice and Forests, which must present a proposal to the Assembly of the Republic to be discussed.

Tiago Oliveira recalled that 97% of land owners in Portugal are private.

The specialist also defended that it is necessary to transform small landowners into foresters or make them hand over properties to those who manage them.

In this sense, it advanced with “another great initiative” foreseen in the PNA, which is the contracting of program contracts with organizations of forest producers, to solve the problem of small farms and common lands.

“The State can contract with them according to objectives, the execution of forestry, the execution of the cleaning of paths”, he said, stressing that, if all measures defined in the PNA are implemented, AGIF estimates that 60,000 jobs will be created in the interior of the country, 21 thousand of them in direct operation of forestry or pastoralism.

“This is a very big challenge for Portuguese society and Portuguese society has to realize that, if it doesn’t do this, what it will have is more Pedrógãos and this is what is in the prospective scenario of inaction that we published last week in Diário of the Republic”, he said.

Tiago Oliveira believes that “the country will be able to overcome” all the difficulties, because if this does not happen and, as it is written in the PNA, there will be a scenario that he calls “black sky forever”.

The PNA of the National Plan for Integrated Management of Rural Fires is based on four strategic guidelines, namely valuing rural spaces, taking care of the territory, modifying behaviour and managing risk efficiently.

The program proposes more than 200 initiatives, which are defined in 12 strategic objectives to be achieved through 28 programs and 97 projects.