This year we wanted to mark the day of the forest in a different way, calling attention to the fact that the best way to show our love for the forest and the trees, is to protect the ones we have”, said Prime Minister António Costa in the presentation of a structural prevention against rural fires and the provision of heavy machinery to forest producer organizations in Lousã.
On the day of the forest, instead of planting a tree, as usual, “we are using machines that will save millions of trees and it is much more than just planting a tree”, he said, referring to the heavy machines, worth total of 12 million euros made available to producer organizations and inter-municipal communities, which will only have to pay for their maintenance and fuel.
The Prime Minister stated that “protecting the trees we have is, often  cleaning the bushes that create a very high fuel load, because only then can we have a forest more resistant to fire ”and that has economic value for the populations.
Work on prevention
This emblematic act “also reflects the change in the strategy we announced in 2017 and which assumed that, when we talk about forest, when we talk about rural fire”, “we have to talk about these track machines, which have to work in the cold season, to create the forest prevention space”.
António Costa referred to the change in the ICNF culture, “which today delivers a better quality product to the country than it delivered”, pointing out “the number of kilometers of the fuel interruption strips already recovered, the work of cleaning forest areas already developed , all these landscape design operations, which are of the utmost importance”.
“This is a long-term job”, “it is a permanent job for the next centuries and it will be increasingly demanding because, with climate change, the risk of forest fire will be increasingly high”, he said, adding that “if humanity manages to fulfill the objectives of the Paris Agreement, of containing the increase of the Earth’s temperature by 1 degree, this means that the risk of fire in Portugal increases six times”.
Thus, “we must work more and more on prevention”, he said, referring to the decisions of the Council of Ministers of 4 March on the forests that draw “all we have to do until 2030, foreseeing an investment of 7 billion euros . It is an investment in fire-fighting equipment, in fire prevention equipment, but, above all, for structural transformation of the forest”.
The Prime Minister stressed that “structural transformation of the forest means avoiding monoculture, creating the landscape mosaic, where we have both fast-growing trees and native trees, some of which are slow-growing, whose ecosystem services we have to pay for, so that this investment is profitable ‘.
Do the reverse
We have to “create the conditions to reverse the cycle that the 20th century gave us of depopulation of the interior with consecutive degradation of the forest, in order to make it a source of income again, that helps us to create more wealth in the interior and to attract more population”.
“It is to do the opposite of what happened in the last century”, creating, with the investment of these 7 billion euros by 2030, “60 thousand jobs in the interior” and “all the other sources of wealth that we have to transform the forest, which has to stop being a threat and become an added value ”.
António Costa said that «no one can understand that, given that Portugal has such a strong, competitive and robust furniture industry, it cannot use the wood from our forest because it is not certified» and imports wood, just as it wastes «much of the fuel mass instead to transform it into products with higher added value or to recycle it for industries such as textiles and footwear ».
«What today is left to abandonment, because it is believed that it has no value, may have value. And on the day when everyone realizes that it has value, there will be an associated economic activity »that makes it worthwhile« to invest in cleaning the forest, in the slow growing trees, in the certified forest, in the quality forest, which will give value and help to revalue and repopulate this entire interior ”, he affirmed.
365 days a year work
The Prime Minister said that “the State invests in the acquisition of this equipment to make it available to forestry producer organizations”, “because they are the first interested parties and are the only ones able to reach each plot of land where it is necessary to intervene and that they are the owners’.
Prevention work “is 365 days a year and not just the distressing months and days when the inevitable happens, the fire starts to plow”.
“We know that the pandemic hinders and delays this process, and that is why we have extended the deadlines for cleaning, but we should not forget what we have seen since 2018: it is essential to clean the areas around each house, each village, the margins of carriageways, railway lines, electricity, all risk areas, ”he said.
The ceremony was attended by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, and the Secretary of State for Nature Conservation, Forests and Spatial Planning, João Paulo Catarino, and the President of the Rural Fire Management Agency, Tiago Oliveira.