NGOs funding conservation science

I started an NGO aimed at protecting the rich biodiversity and addressing the effects of climate change in the Park de Montnegre, a Catalan Coastal Mountain range, that covers approximately 15,000 hectares. It has been 60 years since Dr. Peter Montserrat made a detail study of vegetation that covers part of this mountain system. It was confined to a small area and a vast majority of the park has been undocumented. We also take in account that the region has changed considerably in the last 60 years. Some species have increased their area of distribution; while others have disappeared or, even, have become extinct in the region. There are many factors that pertain to the lack of scientific research that would help form better conservation policies and protect this amazing ecosystem.

One, there is a lack of public understanding and sentiment. Although, there is evidence provided by the Euro barometer

that there is a public concern towards biodiversity loss, there is greater concern for health care, economics, terrorism and immigration. This lack of sentiment directly influences policies towards funding conservation and protecting our biodiversity.

Which leads us to our next problem. Continuous budget cuts and lack of funding for conservation research. Carmen Vela, the secretary of science said, “One-quarter of the Spanish labour force is unemployed, so although investment in science, technology and innovation is a priority, it must also be realistic.” European commissioner, Carlos Moedas makes a point about supporting science that bears economic fruits. Something, that conservation science does not do well.

Another problem we face is the role of the forest owner and their crucial impact on the biodiversity. The majority of parks are privately owned. The Natura 2000 plan includes the Park de Montnegre and some surrounding areas. Unfortunately, Natura 2,000 is not effective because of some short comings. They being “ a.) Ignorance: the local population is unaware that their land is included in a Natura 2000 area. B.) Rejection: opposition from local residents due to a conflict of use between the aims of the network and certain economic activities, to the extent that in some areas associations of those affected have been formed. c.) Contradictory feelings: in certain cases areas may contain residents who will benefit from subsidies or the possibility of economic development following their inclusion in the network, and other sectors of society who would be against

this inclusion if it hinders them from undertaking a given profit-making activity.” M.C.Fuentes, M.P.Otón, F.J.A.Quintá, X.C.M.Arce / European Journal of Geography 1 (2011)

In order combat these problems and effectively promote conservation, I came up with NGO that focuses on conservation and climate change issues in the area where I live, which happens to be a small village bordering the Park de Montnegre. This community was once dependent on the natural resources of the park but has essentially abandoned the land in the last 50 years. The majority of our population is more worried about socio economic problems, education and crime. This isn’t to say they don’t value biodiversity or worry about climate change because they do, but they need more personal security in order to make it a priority.

Our NGO can give local communities a better sense of understanding and security. We can use the problems affecting our local communities to protect biodiversity and combat climate change. These problems include:

  • Social exclusion due to prematurely abandoned education is a crisis in our community and those that border the park. We can offer an alternative education program to students that aren’t completing their basic studies or learning soft skills that will prepare them for employment. We can provide forestry management skills, conservation and entrepreneurship education through our program. There has been a direct link to prematurely abandoned education and social exclusion. There is a higher percentage of drug addiction, crime and dependency on those that abandon their studies prematurely.

  • Rural poverty. We can provide small grants to local companies and entrepreneurs that want to use our natural resources in a sustainable way. This creates a culture and an economy based on the health and sustainability of our natural resources. It encourages our culture to reflect its environment and protect local crafts.

  • We offer a solution to abandoned and abused farm animals to form small grazing herds for underbrush control. We did this because our community is faced with the inundation of abandoned livestock and no functioning protocol to solve the issue. Spain is known in Europe for slaughtering more horses than any other country. At the moment we are working with a small herd of abandoned horses from our community that have been recuperating secondary roads, abandoned field and cleaning the underbrush with little to no negative impact to the biodiversity.

  • Lack of scientific research and understanding. We can fund research that will help us with methodology as the strategy or architectural design by which the researcher maps out an approach to problem-finding and problem-solving. This will be an invaluable resource towards target areas at risk. We can use our students to augment the support provided to our scientists.

  • Educational outreach programs. There is a list of educational programs we want to implement, from nature walks, conferences, fairs and school programs; we want to educate the public about the environment they live in. When we have an informed public, we have stronger safeguards against poor policy and management.

  • We can support and aid Spanish governmental funded conservation and EU conservation projects. We can collaborate within the policy and institutional framework. Our students can help document the extent of our forestry resources through GIS mapping, collect species data and offer our government’s biologists help with field work. This also gives some disadvantage students a window into natural sciences and educational opportunities.

We are working on a strong application that will let our local population make micro donations. They will become a part of the solution and we can effectively improve the world around them. The money that is raised by our “adopt a tree” plan can effectively replace the economic benefit of destructive forestry practices with a higher monetary incentive for conservation. We can use a small percentage of the donations to offer a monthly benefit to the owner and gain control over the management and conservation of their property. We will work directly with conservation scientists and others in order to create better management plans. As we grow, we will have increased funds to further scientific research and promote satellite NGOs in other areas of risk and work directly towards the EU biodiversity strategy and Natura 2000. As public interest grows the support of conservation policies will increase. Regardless, the landscape is changing in regards to conservation science. We have seen evidence “indicating that conservation research is increasingly reliant on nongovernmental funding sources.” Conservation Letters 3 (2010) 435–444 Copyright and Photocopying: c 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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