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» Communications room: News

11/27/2006, Madrid

The abertis foundation debates the public use of natural areas

8th National Environmental Conference (CONAMA 8)

—The heavy pressure on natural areas makes it necessary to control their use and access

—The organisation of this event is the abertis foundation’s main contribution to the National Environmental Conference

Today’s society, with a population increasingly concentrated in urban areas, has made natural areas into territories used by the public for recreational, sports and holiday activities. In fact, EUROPARC estimates that over 50 million people visit Spain’s natural parks every year, a figure which shows the heavy pressure to which these areas are subjected and which might, in the long run, lead to their ecological, social and cultural deterioration.

This was the starting point for the one-day conference on Nature and Public Use: Mobility, Impacts and Proposals, organised by the abertis foundation within the framework of the 8th National Environmental Conference  (CONAMA 8), held between 27th November and 1st December.

The experts advocate harmonising the current regulatory framework as existing regulations are limited to protected areas or certain activities, as well as being different in each autonomous region of Spain. Moreover, they consider it essential to create spaces for dialogue between visitors to and managers of natural areas in order properly to order and regulate the different public uses in the light of existing environmental impact studies (see Conclusions, page 3).

Dr. Martí Boada, a lecturer at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and patron of the abertis foundation, and Dr. Javier Benayas, a lecturer at the Autonomous University of Madrid, ran this one-day conference which represents the abertis foundation’s main contribution to the 8th National Environmental Conference (CONAMA 8).

Dr. Martí Boada stated that the indiscriminate use of the natural environment must be avoided, and the massive use of natural areas makes it advisable to regulate the activities which go on in them. Dr. Javier Benayas, for his part, praised the abertis foundation for becoming involved in an issue such as the use of natural areas, and for having chosen for this a setting like CONAMA where it can be presented before an ideal audience.

The Environment as a priority

The abertis foundation is a body devoted to backing and publishing studies of the repercussions of infrastructures on territory, especially on the economy, population and environment. The foundation is one of the ways in which abertis meets its corporate social responsibility. The priorities for abertis are safety and mobility for people, backing and disseminating culture and protecting the environment. Further information on its activities can be found at the website http://www.fundacionabertis.org/.

Against this background the abertis foundation is taking part in CONAMA for the second year running. The foundation is also to be found at stand 24, where information is displayed concerning the main activities of the foundation and of abertis to help the environment.


Nature and Public Use: Mobility, Impacts and Proposals (Main Conclusions)

—Natural areas have an important social function: they are now providing the setting and the platform for numerous recreational, sports and holiday activities. It is estimated that all the protected areas in Spain are visited by over 50 million people every year.

—This increase in demand for recreational purposes leads to the appearance of new mobility processes and, without proper planning and regulation of activities, this may in the long term incur ecological, social and cultural costs.

—The main goal of management must be to harmonise conservation with public use, as these are activities which are not only compatible but complementary.

—One of the keys to managing public use lies in the information and communication processes. It is proven that measures in this area are more effective. In this respect, a well-informed visitor will potentially cause less of an impact.

—Even though the policies of autonomous regional governments may be positive, the regulatory thicket – regional, with planning schemes for natural resources and schemes to govern use and management – needs to be cleared up and guidelines established on the basis of existing good practice.

—There is also a need to initiate processes of convergence to unify the different autonomous regions’ regulations governing activities in natural areas.

—Furthermore, emphasis was placed on creating spaces for dialogue and communication between the community, managers, authorities and researchers.

—Managing mobility has emerged as one of the main tools for administering public use, through the implementation of measures affecting the networks of infrastructures for moving about (schemes for footpath and road systems), access using private vehicles and the design of public transport services.

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