Case Study

Enhance controlled grazing as a cost-effective and ecological tool for fire prevention in Collserola Natural Park

Contact name

Marià Martí

Institution name

Collserola Natural Park

Region & country

Catalonia - Spain


Collserola park promotes controlled grazing by paying shepherds to clean the forest shrub layers with the use of sheep and goats herds. With this action, the park saves money by reducing the use of machinery and human task forces to clean the fire protection strip (low combustibility strips – 25 m wide,  located on each side of the main fire prevention track, and also around built-up areas. They are designed for firefighters safety).

Sheep flock - Collserola Natural Park (Barcelona)

Photo by: Collserola Natural Park

Farm for sheeps, Montcada - Collserola Natural park

Photo by: Collserola Natural Park

Signpost indicating grazing area

Photo by: Collserola Natural Park

Background of the project

Managers of periurban forest parks – especially those located in the Mediterranean zone- are faced with several challenges: fire risk prevention, loss of biodiversity, lack of economic resources. During the last 70 years, intense urban development has been coupled with progressive abandonment of agricultural activities and cessation of forest exploitation. These changes in land-use are responsible for the expansion of forests, which in populated areas becomes a synonym of fire risk increase.

To clear fire protection strips at a low cost.  

Solution and actions taken

The use of animals to clear fire protection fringes is a way to reduce costs while favoring an increase of biodiversity. Collserola pays for the services provided by shepherds. Payments are in function of the type of grazed area. Fire protection strips are better paid because they consist of long narrow areas: sheep have to walk a lot to eat little. In fact, they need to be supplemented with straw fodder. The parks make savings because the use of machinery and human resources is more expensive.

  • The construction of a farm with capacity for 500 reproductive sheep;
  • Building sparse water points for sheep;
  • Building closets for shepherd’s usage;
  • Issuing a Park brand certifying the product quality;
  • Helping shepherds to sell the lamb meat in the ecological market.

Other institutions or parties involved

  • Shepherds;
  • Ecological meat sales company;
  • Agricultural department of the Catalan government.


  • Farm and other facilities have been built;
  • The correct channels to sell the meat have been found;
  • In periods of drought, we need to complement the feeding of the sheep with straw fodder.


  • Obtention of the municipal permit to build the farm;
  • payment of the investment of the construction of the farm;
  • Establishment of the channels to sell the meat;
  • Presence of allochthonous vegetal species toxic for the sheep;
  • problems with dog walkers that don’t leash their dogs;
  • Incivic behavior of people.

Lessons learned

The model is valid and it is worthwhile to promote its replication in other areas of the park. However, this project was more difficult and expensive than expected and more involvement of public administrations is needed.

It is a good example of a public-private collaboration and a way of preserving traditional jobs, that are being lost, especially in an urban context.

Contact name

Marià Martí

Institution name

Collserola Natural Park


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