On October 28 and 29, 2021, the networking event «What if the brown bear returns?» (www.ursopardo.pt) has been celebrated in Bragança (Portugal) with a meeting and exchange of experiences whose main objective has been to anticipate one of the great challenges of nature conservation in Portugal: the potential return of the brown bear to the north of the country and its coexistence with people. The event has been organized by the environmental NGO Palombar – Conservation of nature and rural heritage, together with the Association for the Study and Protection of the Donkey (AEPGA), the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), the Municipality of Bragança (MB) and the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (IPB), and with the support of the European Commission “Natura 2000 biogeographic process” initiative.
The ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project team has participated in the event, presenting the project’s objectives and approaches as an example to improve the bear’s habitat, contribute to its adaptation to climate change scenarios and promote coexistence with people in bear areas. In addition, Fernando Ballesteros, LIFE project coordinator, has given the presentation «Habitat management, conservation of dispersal corridors and improvement of connectivity conditions – A perspective from coexistence», collecting experiences acquired and lessons learned in the development of LIFE projects for the conservation of the Cantabrian brown bear and the expansion of its area of distribution.
The meeting has served as the first contact to advance in the conservation of the species and in the preparation of its future arrival in the north of Portugal, and joint lines of work have been proposed with the Portuguese organizations to transfer knowledge and experiences that are acquired in the ‘LIFE Bears with a Future’ project.
The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.