The Nature Access Committee of the Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports (FEDME)
The Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports (FEDME, Federación Española de Deportes de Montaña y Escalada) is a sports federation that was set up in accordance with the Sports Law as a private, non-profit-making legal entity, but with the remit to perform public functions relating to the practice of mountain and climbing sports.
In accordance with its Statutes, the Spanish Federation has been allocated the powers to oversee excursions and treks through the lower, middle and upper reaches of mountain areas, including the pursuits of mountaineering, rambling, rock climbing, canyoning, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, paraclimbing, Nordic march, camping for mountaineering purposes and competitions relating to such sports, including mountain races.
FEDME is made up of 17 federations, each coinciding with the territorial extension of an autonomous region (Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, The Balearic Islands, The Basque Country, The Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre, and Valencia) and a further two federations corresponding to the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
FEDME has a person responsible for the Nature Access Committee on its Board of Directors. The Nature Access Committee designs the annual strategy and is composed of the people in charge of wildlife issues for all the regional federations, with meetings being at least once a year. The Technical Committee of the Nature Access Committee is responsible for setting up various projects that have been approved that fall within the FEDME in this area, and is composed of six representatives with special qualifications in this area. In order to carry out its activities it currently has a professional member of staff working on a part-time basis.
Traditionally speaking, the relations enjoyed by FEDME with the various administrative bodies responsible for sports management, both at state and regional level, have proved to be satisfactory. Nevertheless, the “playing field” for mountain sports is not regulated by the sports bodies but by the environmental authorities, with whom two decades ago not used to be any regular or satisfactory form of contact.
From 1978 Spain went from having around thirty Protected Natural Areas to more than 1600 such areas. This means that many Spanish mountains -our “playing field” - have started to see regulation in various aspects such as access, public use and the practice of mountain and climbing sports, without the people that practise such sports being consulted by environmental managers. The federations integrated in FEDME have 64 representatives serving on governing boards and trustees for Protected Natural Areas.
In 1995, the General Assembly of FEDME adopted the so-called “Declaration of Caceres”, drawing initial attention to the progressive restriction of access to the areas in which mountaineering is practised.
With the aim of mitigating the lack of dialogue between the different parties involved in the practice of mountain sports in protected areas, FEDME, together with The Canary Islands Mountaineering Federation, The Canary Islands Government and the Ministry of the Environment organized the 1st Seminar on Protected Natural Areas and Mountaineering Sports on the island of Tenerife in December 1999. This brought together representatives from the Autonomous Organization for National Parks (Ministry of the Environment), the Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports (leading a delegation of 14 regional federations), the Civil Guard and Ecologists in Action, for the basic purpose of opening up initial lines of communication between mountaineers/climbers and environmental managers. These had hitherto been non-existent with the exception of - precisely - the Teide National Park in Tenerife.
With all parties eager to work towards achieving an initial agreement, FEDME was the only party to set out an address in writing, focusing the debate of the Seminar, in which it invited people to reflect on the issue of practising sports activities in Protected Natural Areas from the point of view of the sportsmen involved. After the initial address, discussion moved to the five workgroups, who approved a total of forty-four conclusions. The points on which there was agreement between the mountaineers and the environmental managers seemed to be clear: there was a need to regulate sports activities, rather than banning them, and to do so with good robust arguments wherever these were based on the results of existing studies.
As a result of the 1st edition of the Seminar, talks commenced with the aim of reflecting the conclusions drawn from the conference in specific agreements. One of the lines of work that opened up was that of negotiations concerning mountain refuges to make accommodation facilities in the mountains compatible with the conservation of the environment. It is thought that whilst providing a service for sportsmen, these should also play a key role in conservation and in disseminating the objectives for conserving protected areas.
Representatives from mountaineering federations and managers of national mountain parks signed the Picos de Europa the Declaration on “Mountain Refuges and National Parks” on May 12th , 2001, in Cangas de Onís (Asturias). The first step was laid to promote a new type of mountain refuge for the 21st century.
FAO, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared 2002 to be the International Year of the Mountains, numbering amongst its objectives the conservation of mountain ecosystems, protection of mountain cultures and the promotion of sustainable development in the towns and villages in these areas. FEDME participated in the commemorative acts and study events by approving the creation of the Scientific Mountain Advisory Board at the first Assembly in 2003, formed by mountaineers specializing in biology, sociology, law, etc., to find out more about the reality of the mountains and to support mountaineering activities in natural areas in a sustainable fashion by organizing studies and research work.
One result of the International Year of the Mountains was the historic appearance on February 3th, 2003, of the Chairman of the Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports before the Senate Environmental Committee to examine mountaineering problems after the year dedicated to this sector had come to a close. FEDME’s Chairman suggested the great problem affecting mountaineering in Spain was the lack of debate concerning the restrictions and limitations imposed on the practice of mountain sports in regulating Protected Natural Areas without any scientific grounds as justification.
The positive results from the Seminar held in Tenerife led to the II Seminar on Protected Natural Areas and Mountain Sports from 17 to 19 October at the Residencia Universitaria de Jaca (University Halls of Residence in Jaca, Aragon) organized by the Club Alpino Universitario (University Alpine Club), Aragon Mountaineering Federation, Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales (Autonomous Organization of National Parks) and the Government of Aragon, which also enjoyed the financial support of the Provincial Council of Huesca and the Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports (FEDME). Ninety people attended the seminar, half of whom represented Mountaineering Federations, with the other half being managers of Protected Natural Areas from the Autonomous Communities and the Autonomous Organization of National Parks. Also invited to the seminar were representatives from the Civil Guard’s Mountain and Nature Conservation departments and environmental organizations.
The organization of this II Seminar was based on previous experience and set up with two workgroups who discussed the issues presented in a paper produced by environmental experts and federation members. The aim was to reach an agreement that would actually signal a consensus and commitment between mountaineers/climbers and environmental managers. The scope of the seminar would be derived from the future actions of the representatives of the federation and administrative bodies involved.
In the technical group working on "Terminology in the Regulations governing Protected Natural Areas" an agreement was reached between those practising mountain sports and the managers of Protected Natural Areas to define the meaning of the terms and promote standardization in their use. Amongst other issues, a resolution was adopted on the following terms: Mountain Sports, Mountaineering, Canyoning, Rambling, Waymarked Trails, Approved Trails, Classic Climbing, Sport Climbing, Vía Ferratas, Nordic Skiing, Freeride Snowboarding, Overnight Stopovers, Camping, Bivouacking, Overnight Camping, Mountain Huts, Wardened Huts or Hostel Refuges.
In the technical group working on "Rambling in Protected Natural Areas" an agreement was reached to ensure that the design of the basic network of trails through Protected Natural Areas reconciled the potential corporate identity, the standardization of trails and the regulations governing waymarking procedures, endeavouring to make the restrictions of use for the trails conform to a scientifically valid reason, along with the promotion of agreements and other mechanisms for joint action.
Continuing with a biannual tradition, the III Seminar on Protected Natural Areas and Mountain Sports was held in the city of Granada on 5 November 2005. The seminar was organized by the Autonomous Organization of National Parks, the Government of Andalusia, FEDME and the Andalusian Federation of Mountain Sports. Of the one hundred people meeting at the Conference Centre in Granada, 40 were representatives from the state and regional mountaineering federations, and 40 were environmental managers for Protected Natural Areas, from both the Autonomous Organization of National Parks and also the autonomous environmental authorities. These were joined by government specialists, academics and other guests, who played a very active role in the conference. Once again, two topics were selected for discussion in each workgroup culminating in a set of written conclusions that had been arrived at through the consensus of opinion.
“Rock climbing in protected natural areas” attempts to encourage respect for the environment on the part of the climbers, while at the same time environmental managers admit that legislation should be drawn up in keeping with scientific criteria that take account of the real impact of climbing.
“The contribution of mountaineering to sustainable development in Natural Areas” focuses on the role played by mountaineers in the development of mountain areas and nature conservation and lays the foundations for continued cooperation in the future.
Two years later, from 20 to 22 April 2007, the IV Seminar on Protected Natural Areas and Mountain Sports was held in Covadonga, and attended by over 60 representatives from the Mountaineering Federations and Managers of Protected Natural Areas, belonging to 12 Autonomous Communities. The Seminar was organized in this case by FEDME, the Mountain Federation of Asturias, the Principality of Asturias and the Autonomous Organization of National Parks. As in the previous seminars, two approved texts were adopted aimed at establishing guidelines for action in the immediate future.
The technical group on “Canyoning in Protected Natural Areas” tackled a similar subject to the one raised two years earlier on rock climbing. However, this time around the focus was on finding a solution to problems located in specific places, such as Asturias and Aragon, that do not occur in other autonomous communities, or at least have not done so for the moment.
The technical group working on “Mountaineering and environmental education” takes as their starting point the agreement that mountaineering has been linked, since its origins in Spain and Europe, to a wish to explore and discover the natural environment through sports activities whose very essence involves respect for nature, plus learning values and positive attitudes for the individual and society, and also extends the mountaineers’ commitment to environmental awareness in the future.
With the aim of obtaining information and designing common strategies, since 2007 Meetings of Representatives from Federations have been held in Protected Natural Areas. This consists of annual meetings that may be attended by anyone that is in contact with managers of Protected Natural Areas where mountain sports are practiced.
Throughout all these years, conferences have been held on specific topics through meetings of mountaineers with managers of Protected Areas. Hence, from 8 to 18 May 2008, the 1st Meeting of Mountaineering Professionals in Protected Natural Areas was held in the Sierra de Gredos Regional Park (Castilla y Leon). It was attended by representatives from the mountaineering and climbing federations, managers of Protected Natural Areas, mountain refuge wardens, active tourism agents, and mountain guides, from various autonomous communities, which culminated in the Declaration of Gredos.
The Conference “Glaciers as indicators of global warming: mountaineering and climate change” was held in Benasque (Aragon) on 20 September 2008, organized by the Scientific Mountain Advisory Board from the Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports, which enjoyed the cooperation of the Government of Aragon, Barcelona Provincial Council, Benasque Town Council, and the Aragon Mountaineering Federation. The Conference was attended by 60 people associated with research, science and mountaineering from various autonomous communities, who were able to learn about the studies that have been carried out on glaciers in Spain and the rest of the world by distinguished scientists, ending with a proposal for FEDME recommendations on climate change.
From 28 to 30 October, 2009, the V Seminar on Protected Natural Areas and Mountain Sports was held in Los Barrios (Natural Park of Los Alcornocales, Cadiz). The seminar, organized by FEDME on collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs, under the Honor Chairmanship of HM the King, discussed and agree the document “Hiking and Rural Development”, as an integrated vision of the points of view of mountaineers/climbers and environmental managers that hopefully can serve as guideline for future actions.
After ten years of fruitful meetings, the celebration of the V Seminar was taken to reflect on the development of such meetings, as well as the best way to adapt to the future under the compendium of previous seminars organized with the presentation of the book: “Ten years of Seminars on Natural Protected Areas and Mountain Sports”.
From 17 to 19 September, 2010, it took place at the Institute for Advanced social Studies (IESA-CSIC), the III Conference on Science and Mountaineering, organized by Scientific Mountain Advisory Board from FEDME, in particular by its Access and Nature Committee.
The Conference discussed about the “new participated management models in natural and rural areas” attended by fifty experts, researches and members of the Natural Committees from the Mountaineering Federations, representatives from IESA, Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM) and Government of Andalusia.
Throughout 2010, the FEDME Access and Nature Area has made, through members of the Scientific Mountain Advisory Board, the study “Socio-economic and environmental impact of mountain races in the rural and natural environment in Spain” in the framework of its collaboration with the General Directorate for Sustainable Rural Development from the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs.
With the collaboration of the Technical Area of FEDME and the mountain races competition leaders, it wanted to know the perception and opinion of various political, economic and social groups, about the socioeconomic impact of mountain races, and determine the environmental impact generated by the competitions with the aim of establishing a minimum recommendations to organized mountain races in the future, in order to more sustainable integration of these activities in rural areas.
From 8 to 10 April, 2011, the VI Seminar was held in the beautiful seetting of Sanctuary of Arantzazu (Oñati-Guipuzcoa), FEDME was joined in the occasion by the Guipuzcoa Mountain Federation (integrated in the Basque Federation), also with the Rural Development Department from the Provincial Council of Guipuzcoa to organized the event and with the collaboration of the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, Kutxa and Town Hall of Oñati.
As a novelty, two previous round tables were organized during April 6th and 7th in the towns of San Sebastian and Beasain, open to mountaineers and climbers. First about overcrowding in the mountains and second on mountain races, with satisfactory results.
April 8th the opening ceremony was held in Oñati. On Saturday 9th, the day was focused on the issues of the seminar with the title: “Mountain races in Natural Protected Areas” and “Traditional uses, Rural Development and Mountain Sports”. The seminar was attended by over 90 people between mountaineers/climbers and park managers, representing 14 autonomous regions. As final seminar activity, on Sunday 10th several tours through the Natural Park of Aizkorri-Aratz were organized.
In 2011, a multidisciplinary group of specialists from the Scientific Mountain Advisory Board, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs developed the study “Signed trails and Sustainable Rural Development”. Its conclusions and recommendations aspire to become guidelines for future networks of trails.
“Paths, marked trails and hiking promote social cohesion and fix population, available to discover the potential of the territories and their natural and cultural resources, and also can serve as an economic engine for areas with difficulties in their develop process”.
In the attached video there is an approach to the main conclusions and recommendations of the study, VIDEO: “Marked trails and Sustainable Rural Development”.
From 15 to 17 November 2013, the “VII Seminar in National Parks and Mountain Sports” was held in the National Center for Environmental Education of Valsaín (Segovia), organized by the Spanish Mountain Sports Federation, FEDME, in collaboration with the Autonomous Organism of National Parks. During working day, 64 experts from 15 autonomous communities, discussed and agreed the document “Safety in the Mountain”, which establish guidelines that make up the compromise between mountaineers/climbers and environmental managers in safety issues.
On June 15, 2013 during the annual meeting of the Access Commission of the International Mountain and Climbing Federation-UIAA, Juan Jesús Ibáñez Martín , member of FEDME Technical Committee, was elected as President of the Access Commission, which has favored the visibility of the work carried out by the FEDME Access and Nature area.
Joining the International Mountain Day, December 11, 2013, FEDME publishes Environmental FEDME Award which the aims to highlight the work of individuals or institutions that have important position in common work of mountaineering and nature conservation. As first awarded, the work of Javier Sánchez, a prominent mountaineer, climber, Himalaysit and director of the National Park of Sierra Nevada was distinguished.
On march 22, 2013 the IV Meeting of Representatives from Federations in Natural Protected Areas was held in Granada with the support of the of the Andalusian Mountaineering Federation, where remained a very interesting discussion about the fundamental role of these mountaineers who represent us in the Parks organizations as well as the current situation of different regulations, focusing on canyoneering, climbing and the growing concerns about safety in mountaineering. It was presented and adopted the “Declaration of Granada” focused on recognizing the work of the representatives of the federations in the boards and management bodies of Natural Protected Areas.
On December 11, 2014, the II Mountaineering and Nature FEDME Award was announced and went this time to the mountain huts that have implemented the environmental management system “ISO 14001”. The ceremony was also used to make a recognition of the work of Puri Dávila, on the 15th anniversary of the organization of the I Seminar of National Parks and Mountain Sports that opened the way to achieve consensus now all seem natural and logical but at that time were impossible to achieve.
On March 26 to 28, the International Mountaineering Congress CIMA2015 held under the theme of Challenges of Mountaineering in the XXI Century, was a real turning point in the Spanish Mountaineering.
Organized by FEDME, the Aragonese Mountaineering Federation, FAM, with the collaboration of the Government of Aragon, the University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza City Council and the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, UIAA, brought more than 300 attendees around 6 plenary Lectures, 18 thematic round tables where reviewed the situation of mountaineering at international level and bases the challenges for mountain and climbing in the XXI century was made.
National and International speakers join the Congress thanks to the direct involvement of the UIAA that took the chance of the Congress to hold its spring meetings. The Congress was articulated around scientific paper presentations and several thematic areas from which the round tables were organized: Mountaineering as Sport, Mountain and Society, Mountain and Environment, Mountaineering and Economic Development and Mountaineering Health and Safety.
The book of Congress, with all documentation, conclusions, challenges, scientific presentations and other material can be viewed and downloaded from the following links.
On November 7th, the CACM celebrated the V Scientific Meeting where several of its members shared the development of their researches related to Mountain. This type of conferences, very important for Spanish mountaineering, for FEDME itself and open ways of collaboration between specialist to search for common synergies.
As tradition, on December 11th the annual Mountain and Nature FEDME Award was announced and went this 2015 to Antonio Alba, a significant Asturian mountaineer, Chair of Nature Area of FEMPA that from his position on environmental administration of the government of Asturias, as Director of several Natural Protected Areas, looks to reconcile the needs of conservation with mountain and climbing sports in his Community.
As develop of CIMA2015 Mountaineering Challenges, it was raised from FEDME and Europarc to look for a Good Practice Guide to serve as framework for the organization and authoritation of Skyruning competitions held primarily on Natural Protected Areas. 9 months of work between representatives of environmental authorities, specialists of Skyruning from FEDME and several specialist, under the coordination of Europarc agreed on July 6th the Guide to Good Practice for development of Skyruning Competitions in Natural Protected Areas. This guide presents a set of environmental guidelines which much to be adapted to the characteristics of each natural area by environmental managers, organizers and local federations.
On July 12th 2016, FEDME, as member of the National Rural Network, is called to the meeting of the Executive Committee which be part for the following year. FEDME actively collaborates from all decision and opinion forums to share the Spanish mountaineers and climbers point of view as privileged users of nature that must link the need for conservation with development.