There has been an essential step forward in the project to declare the Sierra de las Nieves a National Park, and it is one which has been keenly-awaited for months. This week the Cabinet of Ministers in Madrid gave approval to the proposal at its first reading.
This is, however, not the end of this process, which has taken over five years so far. There needs to be approval at a second reading, which is expected next Tuesday, and if this is given the draft law will then be sent to parliament for ratification. No unpleasant surprises are expected from that vote: the two main parties (PP and PSOE) have already said they are in favour of it.
Once the process is completed the Sierra de las Nieves, which is already a Natural Park and Unesco Biosphere Reserve, will become Spain's 16th National Park and the first in Malaga province.
This is particularly important because it will provide maximum protection for the area, especially the pinsapo fir trees which are its emblem. The pinsapo is an ancient endemic species which is unique in the world and is in danger of extinction. The Sierra de las Nieves is also famous for its peridotite rocks, which are very rare in the world, and its flora and fauna.
The process to declare these 23,000 hectares of stunning countryside in Malaga province a National Park began in 2015. The wheels turned slowly, but in 2018 there was some progress when preliminary agreement was given by the Cabinet in Madrid and the Andalusian government. Then, however, things slowed down again, partly because the bill needed to go through the parliamentary process and also because there have been several elections since the project began.
Fourteen municipalities will reap the benefits of the Sierra de las Nieves being classified as a National Park. Yunquera, Benahavís, El Burgo, Istán, Monda, Parauta, Ronda and Tolox are at the heart of the park, while Alozaina, Casarabonela, Guaro, Igualeja, Ojén and Serrato are on the periphery of the area of protection and economic influence. These 14 towns and villages have a combined population of 63,893.
The classification as a National Park will have an important effect on their economies and will also help their battle against depopulation, because of the predicted increase in visitors and the need for accommodation, leisure activities, places to eat, shops etc.
The president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, welcomed this further step, saying it is essential in order to boost the area economically and to continue progressing towards the "Green Revolution" for the environment.