MdD - Fire Prevention Campaign
The Luck of the Draw~
We are thankful to tell you that we made it through last year without any damage from the fires that ripped through Central Portugal in the summer and fall. The fires destroyed more than half a million hectares of forest, agricultural lands, monocultures, 850 houses and 450 businesses...and left 104 people dead. It was really just luck that no fires made it to our part of the Dão valley this year. Some of you might remember the MdD had fires on its 'doorstep' in the past. It can happen anywhere. Many friends and colleagues were not as lucky—they lost their livelihood, homes and the forest around them.
Everybody in Portugal knows this was a man-made disaster that has been in the making for many years. The combination of factors such as inadequate property laws, short-term-gain mindset, cultural disconnection from nature and climate change has proven to be very dangerous. Portugal, as well as the Moinhos do Dão, need all the help they can get to stay green and safe. At our quinta we have always been active with fire prevention and safety measures by cleaning the lands around us and having extra pumps and hoses installed. As conditions change, with more hectares of highly flammable eucalyptus and pine plantations around us and a hotter and drier climate, we need to do more.
This campaign is not just about safeguarding the quinta—as important, it is to protect the ecosystem we are in. In recent years, our stretch of the Dão valley has become an important nature habitat teeming with wildlife. Especially right now, after the fires burned other valleys and forests nearby, we observe new and more animals in the valley, seeking shelter, seeking life. Because of this rich and growing "nature reserve" that the MdD has become by default, we want to do whatever is possible to protect the river valley ecosystem.
Did you know that on and around the quinta, one can observe these species: river otter, red fox, wild boar, badger, water vole, hedgehog, red squirrel, kingfisher, falcon, wood pigeon, Cuckoo bird, Oriole, Cormorant, fire salamander, emerald lizard...and more?!?
Fire Prevention Plan~
Create a larger fire barrier around the main quinta (zone 1), including the restoration of the native (cooler and more humid) ecosystem around the quinta. To make the Moinhos more safe for ourselves and our guests, and so that nature can keep thriving in this piece of 'paradise' in the Dão river valley.
Once a fire has started it needs 2 things to keep going: oxygen and flammable materials. We cannot remove oxygen from the equation, but we can remove flammable materials (cleaning) and make it harder for them to grow back. We will remove the forest understory of dry shrubs and support the remaining and new trees to grow tall and bring back a healthy forest that can keep the hillside cool and retain water in the ground. Our strategy for making it impossible for the dry shrubbery to grow back is: pulling them out root and all (instead of cutting them down), covering the soil with mulch, and planting native trees where needed.
We will do mainly cleaning work along the two access roads (3 and 5 on the map) and cleaning, mulching and planting work on two pieces of land we own on the edge of the quinta (2 and 4 on the map). Once this work is done it will be harder for a fire to reach us. In the other areas that surround the quinta (as you can see on the map) our neighbor is doing cleaning work as well. When our project is completed it will actually be possible to do annual maintenance on all the zones for continual, long lasting fire-prevention.
1. Remove 'fire hazard materials' from all zones on the edge of the quinta (zones 2,3,4 and 5) such as mimosa trees (invasive and highly flammable species), shrubs, brambles and other flammable plant matter.
2. Turn this material into chips/mulch to cover the soil, bring the carbon back into the ground and protect the soil from eroding and drying out. (zones 2 and 4)
3. Plant broad leaf native trees to create a fire brake (cooler and more humid type of forest). (zones 2 and 4)
Practical Planning Calendar:
- February till end of 2018 - reach out to network with the Fire Prevention Campaign
- April till end of June - remove as much flammable materials as possible & chip on site
- October till end of 2018 - continue to remove flammable materials, chip on site and plant broad leaf native trees.
You Can Help in Three Ways~
1. Donate to the Fire Prevention Fund.
The estimated the costs of making Moinhos do Dão more safe from fires are € 4300,-. With our own money and the first donations from family we have collected €1300,-. Thus, our gofundme campaign is setup to raise the final €3000,- necessary to fund the project into reality.
The total estimated costs include:
- € 2600 for hiring a local business with a crew and the right machinery for the cleaning of fire hazard materials from 1.5 hectares of land in zones 2 and 4
- € 450 buying two 'Weed Wrenches' for pulling out shrubs
- € 550 for hiring an industrial chipper
- € 300 for buying trees
- € 400 for feeding the volunteers that will work on this project with us during the year.
Please help us reach our goal to make the Moinhos more safe so nature can keep thriving and people can keep enjoying this little 'paraíso' in the Dão river valley.
ALL LEVELS OF DONATIONS FROM € 5 to € 3000 :-) ARE APPRECIATED!
GIVE TO STAY: In return for donations above € 500 we offer a free stays at the quinta. Contact us for more information.
GIFT FOR THE GIVER:
Donations of € 30 and above will receive an A3 high quality print of our home made 'Summer Fruits' poster (see below). Don't forget to send us your address!
2. Lending a hand
Join the crew for a clean up week in April (14-21) or a clean up and planting week in November (3-10). Enjoy free room and great food at Moinhos do Dão in return for 6-7 hours of group work. Maximum number of participants is 10 and the minimum participation is 3 days.
Volunteers are welcome to stay longer for free before and after the week!
3. Tell a friend of our project and needs.
Maybe he/she is willing to lend a hand!?
2017-the worst fire year in Portuguese history...what's next?
Even though fires have been troubling Portugal for many decades the scale and intensity of the fires of 2017 were 'the next level'. It is heartening to see many new civilian and federal initiatives for reforestation and policy changes, to revive what was lost and try to prevent this from happening again. The severity of the fires and the damage caused have literally and figuratively created space for doing things differently. We are joining in the effort by being pro active in our area. But so much still has to change on the level of lawmaking, economy, culture etc. and this will take time and persistence...in other words: there is a long way to go.
Stay informed about the progress of the Fire Prevention Plan on our website.
Thank you for your help and consideration!!
Some may have wondered in the last months: "What happened with the MdD's Fire Prevention Campaign (FPC)?"
The short answer is that a combined summer program where our attentions were put towards the visitors to the MdD, with the Portuguese rules on prohibition of machine use in the High Fire season to prevent forest fires, we at the MdD were essentially on a 4 month pause in our efforts.
But that has changed in the last weeks, and we're back on track to continue with the good work towards establishing a good example of land management and protection and reforesting lands surrounding quintas in Portugal.
At the moment, we're creating "cuts" on certain parts of the properties in order to disable fires from burning through the valley, and protecting any zones in which we'll be replanting forest. It also helps with removing invasive species of trees and brush. Not a small task!
On that note, we've manged to fulfill 60% of our FPC monetary goal so far...which we are proud and thankful for all those that have helped us along. THANK YOU!
As promised, here are a few images from the initial work to prepare our surrounding lands against wildfires and build a more secure quinta down in the Dão river valley.
As you can see, the high-infested river margin strip of land got a "haircut" of major proportions. It might look stripped now, but the goal was to retain some of the mimosa for providing stable river margins against erosion, to provide shade for new trees (to be planted) and to still give the fishermen of the region a cool spot! We managed well to leave the native species and what small tree growth was already happening near the river. Now, there is little likelihood that fires could jump the river via the nearly touching tree tops, and come on the quinta. FYI, in the past, the Viseu side of the Dão is were the most fires start, and after jumping the river, they have come to the "doorstep" of our terrain a few times. Prevention at work!
You'll also find a first stage broom and thorn cutting photo, which is opening up land for our ambitious tree planting project, in order to reduce non-native species and provide a semi-food forest in the future, as well as grazing land for the few sheepherders in the neighborhood. The combination of hardy shade trees bearing nuts of various sorts—some edible—plus the herding, can be all one needs for viable fire-resistant forestry.
There is still more work to do. We move on to a second stage of roadside cleaning, to and from the quinta. Steep hillside work, but it has to be done, considering how though the new laws of Portugal state that public roads need to be cleaned up from flammable brush/trees to up to 10m on each side, YET our camâra (city hall) has decided to NOT clean our roads (though the Moinhos do Dão has now been classified as a terrain that exists in an high danger fire zone...but then again what part of Portugal doesn't?!?).
The story here is really this: Portugal has far too much none-managed lands, abandoned properties and quintas, and flammable forestry projects to take care of in this moment. The civil services are stretched beyond maximum. Though the reality, it does mean that places such as the MdD, that sit far off on the edge of these municipalities, are not seen as a priority.
Thus, we are doing what needs to be done, to make the MdD a safe and pleasant retreat for our family, friends and guests, this year, and years to come.
-Steve & Freya