Wildfires are one of the most prominent risks for Mediterranean forests, reducing the flow of ecosystem services and representing a hazard for infrastructure and human lives. Several wildfire prevention programs in southern Europe are currently incorporating extensive livestock grazers in fire prevention activities to reduce the high costs of mechanical clearance. Among these the Andalusian network of grazed fuel breaks, the so-called RAPCA program, stands out for its dimension and stability over time. RAPCA currently works with 220 local shepherds who, with their guided flocks maintain low biomass levels in almost 6000 ha of fuel breaks in public forests to meet fire prevention standards. This work analyses the institutional design and performance of the RAPCA payment scheme under a payment for environmental services (PES) framework. Results show effectiveness of the payment scheme while efficiency is achieved through savings relative to the mainstream mechanized biomass removal, as well as through reduced information asymmetry. High-level and stable political commitment has been crucial for the emergence and consolidation of RAPCA. Moreover, key intermediaries and sound monitoring practices increased levels of trust amongst involved actors. Beneficial side-effects include social recognition of shepherds’ activities and reduction of their friction with forest managers.
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