The brown bear is a protected species in Spain and is a priority species in the European Union according to the Habitat Directive. Though the Cantabrian Mountains are now in recovery, the brown bear is classified as “in danger of extinction” because its population is very scarce, it has lost genetic diversity and its habitat is very fragmented.
This situation requires urgent and continuous conservation measures and a plan so that the conservation of the brown bear is compatible with the rural development of the environments where this species is found. At Endesa, we have participated in various projects at our work sites in the Cantabrian and Pyrenees Mountains, which coincide with the brown bear’s habitat.
We are currently participating in the “Biodiversity Enrichment in Areas Where Bears Live in the Pyrenees of Lérida” framed within the actions carried out by the Brown Bear Foundation (BBF) within the LIFE Piroslife project. The objective is to design a network of spaces for the bear that facilitates their movements and dispersion by improving their habitat.
This objective is achieved by planting 9,000 fruit trees, in order to facilitate the development of species of nutritional interest to bears, such as cranberries and umbellifers. In addition, we restore habitats at risk of deterioration, with the aim of improving the food chain or nutritional quality of the bear habitat in areas with bear connectivity and dispersal in the Alt Pirineu Natural Park and the Red Natura 2000 “Alt Pallars” area.
To guarantee their coexistence alongside human activities, including hydroelectric activity, the planting sites and action areas are carefully selected, with these actions being accompanied by educational and informative sessions. In this way, we opt for solutions that integrate and make the presence of bears in the territory sustainable, as well as options which provide employment in jobs that enrich biodiversity for people in the territory who are at risk of exclusion. This confers a socio-environmental nature on the project.
Together with the Fundación Oso Pardo (FOP, Brown Bear Foundation), we met with all the actors involved in the area, including local administrations, reaching agreements that enable the planting of plantations on their land over the long term. In 2018, in the first plantation campaign, a total of 4,500 fruit trees were planted, which were soon accompanied in the spring of 2019 by another 4,650 specimens, reaching a total of 9,150. In this second campaign, 300 raspberry, 2,000 grafted apple trees, 600 cherry trees and 1,750 2-sap apple trees were included.
The brown bear’s current situation requires continuous conservation measures. For this reason, we have been participating in projects for years that help to improve their living conditions and surroundings. In September 2011, we signed a pact with the Brown Bear Foundation to carry out projects linked to bear conservation and sustainable rural development. The collaboration was established with different initiatives that are still valid:
- The support of sustainable development projects that the BBF promotes in the seven autonomous regions with the presence of bears: Galicia, Asturias, Castilla y León, Cantabria, Aragón, Cataluña and Navarra.
- The environmental education programme in Bierzo and Laciana (León), intended for kindergarten, primary and secondary education students of the populations located in the main areas where bears live in western León to promote the support and social participation necessary to conserve the brown bear.
- The measures to limit the environmental impact of our infrastructure on the bear populations. The BBF’s technical team advised our technicians to address certain improvements in the hydroelectric channels, like covering stretches, opening and adapting passages for fauna, to favour the movement of brown bears and other large mammals.
The measures also contributed to carrying out the LIFE+ project “Bear Corridors”, started in 2013. Among other improvements, all of the previous collaborations allowed us to construct a bear interpretation centre in the Somiedo Natural Park in Asturias.
Brown Bear Foundation website: http://www.fundacionosopardo.org/