National Park Service International Affairs Director Stephen Morris visited Portugal’s sole national park, Peneda-Gerês, May 13 to 16 to learn more about Portugal’s protected areas and the pressures they face. The Institute for Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) northern department director Armando Loureiro and operations director Duarte Figueiredo hosted Morris. In addition to his interactions with ICNF staff and extensive tour of the park, Morris met with three mayors from the park region, Manuel Tibo, Mayor of Terras de Bouro; Orlando Alves, Mayor of Montalegre; and Joao Manuel Esteves, Mayor of Arcos de Valdevez.
Created in 1971, Peneda-Gerês is home to a unique combination of natural and cultural treasures dating as far back as the Neolithic era.
In 2009 UNESCO awarded the Gerês –Xurês area the status of Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in recognition of its flora diversity, including 117 species only found in Iberia, half of which are only found in this area of the Iberian Peninsula. In addition to its natural features, the park area contains megalithic tombs, Roman roads, medieval castles, abandoned monasteries, traditional elevated granite grain stores, and rural homes.
Portugal’s ICNF-Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas has undertaken numerous, highly successful rewilding and restoration ecology projects, including reintroduction of the Iberian ibex, now numbering 700 strong, fighting invasive species like acacia and needle brush, and conserving forest lands.