2 organisations are working together to create the Froxán Foundation: Verdegaia protects the environment and promotes conservation. Sociedade Histórica e Cultural Coluna Sanfins works with the commons stewardship body in biodiversity conservation, restoration of degraded areas and environmental education and both hold responsibility for the Froxán ICCA Community Conserved Area.
The 100 hectare Froxán Commons in Galicia was the first Indigenous and Community Conserved Area (ICCA) to enter the World Database on Protected Areas after going through a national peer-review process and has been the focus of rewilding and restoration work. It includes a diversity of important habitats, including temperate forests and heathlands. It is also a Special Interest Landscape Site and allows visitors spectacular views of two estuaries from the mountain crest. However, it is threatened by invasive exotic tree species that are hard to eradicate and which increase the risk of fire and reduce biodiversity. Involving the local community, this project will:
– remove Acacia and Eucalyptus trees over 20 hectares and
– plant 10,000 native trees to restore natural woodlands.
– Restore 4 hectares of wet heath through the removal of drainage ditches and the propagation of heather and other species.
– Install a circular 8 km trail for locals and visitors to enjoy the area.
The final report for this project was submitted in the summer of 2021 and made for excellent reading! The project was able to significantly increase the area to be restored, from the 20 hectares initially, to approximately 26 hectares. In these areas exotic invasive species have been eradicated, native tree undergrowth nurtured, more than 10,000 trees of a dozen different native species planted and important habitats restored.
Work advanced relatively quickly in 2018 and 2019, when large areas dominated by Eucalyptus trees were mechanically cleared for planting native trees while controlling returning Eucalyptus regrowth. In 2021 manual work was needed to free up small trees from surrounding scrub. In total, 11,384 trees were also planted.
Actions were carried out by the De-eucalyptization brigades, an environmental volunteering initiative set up as the backbone for this EOCA project and that has grown from some 50 volunteers to over 1,000 during the project, carrying out over 30 interventions. Much of the work in 2020 was devoted to peat wetland restoration. This involved several interventions with volunteers, manually removing Eucalyptus and Pine trees as well as filling in the wetland drainage ditches which were degrading the peatland.
Since 2018 over 200 news items on the interventions carried out in Froxán have been featured in diverse media, including prime time appearances in national television (La Sexta, TVE, TVG, …) and features in documentaries and long television reports. Communication was also central to the trail concept, where 10 panels were created to showcase the project results.
One of the most disruptive challenges during the project has been COVID. Since March 2020, the capacity to bring volunteers from outside the community has been limited. However, in the winter of 2020-2021, the project welcomed single household groups or individuals to work on their own. Still, tree planting during March and April 2020 had to be cancelled. The patience of the EOCA team in being flexible with reporting deadlines has been much appreciated. The fact that all those responsible for the project live Froxán year-round and are fully committed to its restoration and conservation, has helped the challenges.