Barcelona, Spain: the land of Antoni Gaudi, La Sagrada Familia, 1.6 million residents, street performers, beachgoers, La Rambla, tapas…..and shrinking natural spaces. The Serra de Collserola mountain range, located on the outskirts of the bustling metropolis, is one of the last remaining wild places in Barcelona. These mountains are the location of a natural park, which boasts over 8,000 hectares of protected forests and rivers. This area is also home to wild boars, frogs, and many species of birds.

The natural park promotes conservation of these important species, since much of their habitat in Barcelona has been taken over by human development and the park provides a natural corridor or “green belt” for wild animals. The Serra de Collserola also promotes the health and well-being of many city dwellers that can visit the park and escape the urban pace. But recently, the park has been threatened by construction, especially of housing developments, as Barcelona’s population increases and the city spreads outward. Barcelona’s City Council has also hired a company to kill wild boars, which are one of the few large animals that remain in this area.

Montse Martínez is determined to do something about it. She lives close to the Serra de Collserola Natural Park, in an area called La Floresta. Ms. Martínez said that they are “struggling to keep the territory from speculation” and that “everything is under threat from construction.” She added that the Serra de Collserola is facing “urban pressure” from a growing population. Ms. Martínez has always cared deeply about environmental issues. She remarked that her generation is worried about a range of environmental issues, and that the loss of native habitat for wildlife is a global problem: “We are in danger, and we need to stop.”

Ms. Martínez leads a community group called La Floresta Indignada Actua, which is based in her neighborhood and takes part in many social justice movements. Her organization is working to defend wildlife in the Serra de Collserola and preserve these natural spaces for future generations of wildlife and people. Other groups in Barcelona that are fighting to save the Serra de Collserola from development are La Floresta Parla and Salvem del Foc Collserola.

The problem is, many people in Barcelona don’t even know what’s going on, or why it’s important. They’re very used to highways and living in a big city, Ms. Martínez commented, and they’re accustomed to getting everywhere in their cars. Most people only interact with wildlife when they drive past them as roadkill. In Barcelona, conserving the Serra de Collserola, as well as making space for new wild places within the city, will not only help wild species survive but will also increase residents’ interaction with and appreciation for nature. Ms. Martínez would like to encourage urban agriculture and facilitate an exchange of produce and locally-grown foods within neighborhoods to fuel appreciation for the benefits of wild spaces within a city.

For Montse Martínez, it’s all about serving her local community and noticing how issues right at home fit into a global pattern. “There are houses here, but it’s a ‘green territory’” Ms. Martinez reflected. “We need to save this last remaining wilderness.”

Writer: Emma Hutchinson is a communications specialist for WILD Cities and a Stanford University student.

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