In the Basque Country, as in other areas of Spain, large, mature forests are almost non-existent. Most of the land in the country has been used for plantations of fast growing tree species, mainly pines and eucalyptus. More than 90% of the area that was once occupied by forests of the most-widespread species, the oak (genus Quercus), has been lost. And this loss has dramatically changed the landscape, the ecological processes (water cycle, nutrient loads, etc.), and biodiversity, not to mention the effect it has had on the local economy.
Fundación Lurgaia, by means of the Quercus program, aims to restore part of the lost forests for their biodiversity benefits, as well as for the goods and services they provide society.
In the Basque Country, most of the land is privately owned, and because of this, individual agreements were brokered with landowners in the region whereby they provided their land for use in this project.
This approach to land management for conservation purposes is known as land stewardship. In some cases, when land is public, agreements are signed with public bodies.
More than 35 species of trees have been planted in this project to date: Quercus robur, Betula alba, Corylus avellana, Fraxinus excelsior, Acer campestre, Ilex aquifolium, Salix sp., Taxus baccata, Castanea sativa, Alnus glutinosa, Cornus sanguinea, and Fagus sylvaticus, to name but a sample of the tree species.
The main goals of the project include: