Cleaning the woods

Instead of reorganizing the Forest Services, modernizing them as is done all over the world, the neo-liberal wave that with “less State we have a better State” was taken advantage of and the result is in sight.

We have another "deadline" to clear the woods! It is in this way that the State tries to get rid of its responsibilities in the management of the forest area and the lack of vigilance and operation throughout the year.

If in the meantime it rains, as expected, by June the bush will grow again, more deadlines and more fines...

There are people who, out of fear, cut everything and, if the measures and distances for felling and thinning trees are complied with, the landscape and ecological disaster will continue.

I, almost obsessively, always come back to the same subject: when there was the regional and local structure of the Forest Services, the maintenance of an acceptable state of balance between the dead blanket (dry plant residues) and the shrub strata of the forests, always allowed that there was a start of fire, it could be fought in good time.

Now everything is shaved, as required by law...

The network of forest houses and surveillance posts maintained by the forest guards were fundamental for the safeguarding of our territory, because they watched over and monitored throughout the year, not like now with administrative deadlines!

Was there a need to readjust the structure? Were there changes to be introduced in the dimension and complexity of the hierarchical chain of this structure? There was, of course, but in Portugal there is also this unhealthy tendency that, when an organism functions badly, instead of correcting itself, it destroys itself and something else is created – or nothing is created, there is emptiness.

That's what happened in this situation: instead of reorganizing the Forest Services, modernizing them as is done around the world, the neo-liberal wave that with "less State we have a better State" was taken advantage of and the result is in sight .

We must be one of the rare, if not the only country in the world with a considerable forest area, which does not have Forest Services with its own Forest Guard Corps (gardes forestiers, forest rangers, forest rangers, forster…).

Perhaps someone will remember that forest fires were fought by foresters, from the Administrator to the guard, and by firefighters, and there were rarely any disagreements, because both Entities knew the regions, the forests, the accesses, etc. - until the Civil protection.

Of course, a dome to protect the territory is essential, but those commanders so far (and it's been a while) want to know everything, but who knows about fires are even the firefighters - although they are always blamed for the command failures that come from above…

Firefighters standing on the roads waiting for a commander who is not theirs to give the order to act has already become a current image on television.

Involving the Municipalities in the management of municipal forest areas is useful and right, as long as this does not happen without a specialized technical coordination of a national body implanted in the territory, which ICNF does not do today.

It is the neo-liberal state of the right (or of a left that forgets its roots) to evade its responsibilities using a peregrine and attractive idea of ​​“decentralizing functions”.

And it also represents the little specific weight and little consideration that forestry technicians, after all, find in society and among politicians who, fallen by parachute in the context of Agriculture and Forestry, also think they know everything!!

Millions of euros are spent every year trying to plug the hole in the lack of a Forestry Service, just not to admit that they were wrong – even if it leaves us all out of pocket.


Author Fernando Santos Pessoa is a forestry engineer and landscape architect…and writes with the spelling he learned at school