Case Studies - Commons - Spain

Comunidad de Bardenas Reales de Navarra   


Type of institution for collective action

Common (Community Association)

Name/description institution  

Comunidad de Bardenas Reales de Navarra 





Name of city or specified area 

Bardenas Reales de Navarra

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)

Territory not belonging to any municipality.

Surface area and boundaries

Surface: 41,372 hectares.


Boundaries: to the north the towns of Carcastillo, Mélida, Murillo-el-Cuende, and Caparroso; to the south, municipal terms of Cabanillas, Fustiñana, Buñuel, and Cortes; to the east: the municipalities of Sádaba, Ejea-de-los-Caballeros, and Tauste (province of Zaragoza); to the west the towns of Villafranca, Cadreita, Valtierra, Arguedas, and Tudela.

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

April 14, 1705.

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

Confirmed date.

Foundation act present?

Yes. Transcription provided by Sánchez Asso and Martínez Francés (1872).

Description of Act of foundation

Royal Decree issued by King Philip V to the 22 entities Bardenas, granting use rights in exchange for the delivery of 12,000 pesos in cash. 

Year of termination of institution

Not terminated: continues to operate today.

Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?

See above.

Act regarding termination present?

See above.

Description Act of termination

See above.

Reason for termination?

See above.

Recognized by local government?


Concise history of institution


The property of the Bardenas territory, for which user rights were granted to different (groups of) users at various moments in time,  belonged to the Crown. The Roncal Valley (comprising the villages of Burgui, Garde, Isaba, Roncal, Uztarroz, Urzainqui, and Vidángoz) in the Pyrenees, had their grazing rights recognized by the Crown in the ninth century. As the Christian kings pushed the frontier to the south and founded new towns, the Crown provided them with letters (fueros) containing immunity privileges and user rights in order to attract settlers. Arguedas received his letter of immunity (fuero) in 1092 and Tudela in 1127. Other towns had their rights to grazing, firewood and hunting confirmed later on, or acquired these rights later, often after paying a special service to the King: Caparroso in 1472, Carcastillo, Villafranca, and the Monastery of La Oliva in 1443, Mélida and Cadreita in 1498, the Valle de Salazar (a community association composed of fifteen villages: Ochagavía, Izalzu, Jaurrieta, Ezcároz, Oronz, Esparza, Ibilcieta, Sarriés, Güesa, Igal, Iciz, Uscarrés, Gallués, Izal, and Ripalda) in 1504, Valtierra in 1563, Corella 1630, Milagro in 1650, Fustiñana, Santacara, and Cortes in 1664, Marcilla in 1665, Peralta, Funes, and Falces in 1693.


The enjoyment of the Bardenas was not free. The fiscal court of the Kingdom of Navarra (Cámara de Comptos) collected the fees imposed on breeders (yerbazgo) to enter the pasture, and also paid loggers to get firewood. Neither was peaceful. Conflicts among users resulted in violence and lawsuits like the one that the Roncal Valley and the city of Tudela faced , decided by the sentence of November 17, 1498. The towns also had no control over the resource limits. The number of villages with the right to use continued to rise due to the financing needs of the monarchy that, especially in the second half of the seventeenth century, abused the sale or confirmation of rights to gain extra revenues.



In 1702, during the War of the Spanish Succession, the commoner villages offered the King to pay 9,000 pesos in exchange for terminating the sale of usage rights. They demanded that their rights of use over the Bardenas were to be recognized for perpetuity and not no rights to use would be granted anymore to any other locality. The King accepted these conditions, setting the amount for this deal at 12,000 pesos. Bardenas-Reales Community was born, composed of 22 institutions (2 valleys, 2 towns, 17 villages and 1 monastery). The property continued to belong to King and resource management was shared by the representative of the King (the Patrimonial) and the four mayors (Alcaldes) appointed by the Roncal valley, the city of Tudela, and the towns of Caparroso and Arguedas. Each year, the royal representative, accompanied by the four mayors, held a hearing or meeting on November 12th. At this meetings, conflicts between users were resolved, and guardians (guardias) and rangers (monteros) were appointed.


On September 15, 1820, shortly after the liberal revolution restored the Spanish Constitution of 1812, representatives of commoners gathered on their own initiative and agreed to a new community organization in accordance with the current social circumstances. Having been abolished as "feudal" institutions of the Ancient Regime, neither the tax court (Cámara de Comptos), nor the representative of the King (Patrimonial) were present. The ordinances adopted by the representatives of the commoners confirmed the customary land use, declaring the right of use to be exclusive for village residents, and created a permanent joint body, the Junta de Bardenas. This new institutional structure and the conditions of use ofagricultural land use, livestock and forestry were confirmed, clarified and expanded by the new ordinances that were adopted in 1836, 1849, 1882, 1915, 1935, and 1961 (renovated in 1985).

Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

The Royal sentence of November 17, 1498 put an end to the bloody dispute between Tudela and Roncal herders, confirming the use rights of villages and setting standards for use of resources. The ruling implied all areas to be closed for agricultural use from September 15th on until 31 May, except for the area on which Roncal breeders previously had privileges. It formalized  the scheme of surveillance officers, respecting the 30 guards who had been appointed by the Roncal Valley since 1412 and the 12 appointed by the city of Tudela, giving the Patrimonial the power to appoint 16 guards (8 guards in each) in the towns of Arguedas and Caparroso.


The byelaws of December 10, 1575 as agreed by the Roncal Valley, Tudela, Caparroso, and Arguedas created their own organization and set the terms of use of pastures. The byelaws founded two annual meetings (mestas) of the breeders, which took place in April and November. A mayor of herders was installed in each village; also a senior judge was appointed via a system of rotation, the judge reporting at each mesta on his performance during the previous year. These judges were responsible for enforcing the rules set in the ordinances regarding the usage of pastures and corrals, lost cattle, sick animals, and the work of the shepherds, sanctioning offences by the penalties provided in these ordinances.


The Royal Decree of April 14, 1705 recognized the existence of the Community and confirmed the rights and conditions of use according to custom.


The ordinances of 1756, undertaken at the initiative of the representative of the King, merged earlier legislation and confirmed the terms of use of pastures. Fairs regulated the sale of livestock that followed the conclusion of the two mestas and meetings of farmers each 13th of November and 26th of April. Finally, conditions and restrictions on grain planting and harvesting of wood were set.


Ordinances adopted on September 15, 1820 created a new permanent organization, the Bardenas Board, composed of three representatives of municipalities and one alternate, renewable every three years at a meeting held by the community (Community General Board).


In 1872 the lawyers F.Sánchez-Asso and M. Martínez-Francés published a compilation of the legal documents regarding the Community in book form . The purpose of this book was to ensure that Bardenas should not be included in the Inventory of State Property and thus to prevent from a possible sale based on the Confiscation Act of 1855.


The Ordinances of February 8, 1882, more systematic than before, defined the competence of three organs: the General Meeting (Junta General) or meeting of representatives of the people held every 3 years, the Standing Committee (Comisión permanente) with 5 members, and its President.


The economic use of Bardenas changed between 1880 and 1930 because the diffusion of new plows and chemical fertilizers led to the expansion of agriculture at the expense of livestock. The cultivated area increased from 3,807 hectares in 1894 to 19,111 hectares in 1948. The participation of individuals and villages in that land appropriation was highly unequal. The nearest villages (Arguedas, Cabanillas, Caparroso, Carcastillo, Fustiñana, Mélida and Valtierra) had their lands broken up far more than the seven villages and the two valleys of Roncal and Salaza, of which lands were sometimes not broken up at all. For some individuals this meant extensions of 180 up to 260 hectares. This led to clashes and culminated in the lawsuit filed in 1926 before the Court, requesting the territory of the Community to be divided into lots and property awarded to each of the 21 municipalities. The Tudela court's ruling, July 20, 1928 (being in favour of the requested division), was appealed to the High Court of Pamplona, which finally reversed its sentence of 24 January 1930. The Supreme Court upheld in a ruling dated November 29, 1930 that the State had never lost their right to property and therefore could not access their division.


On June 9, 1951, Community Bardenas signed with the Air Force a deed of assignment of rights over an area of 1,710 hectares destined for use as military polygon shooting and bombing in exchange for an annual rent of 20,000 pesetas for 25 years.


The State, through Royal Decree 3142/1979, finally handed over the ownership of the Bardenas territory to the Bardenas-Reales Community


On 6 April 1999 most of the territory of Bardenas (39.273 hectares) was declared a Natural Park by the Government of Navarre, and became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve according to a statement of November 7, 2000.


Numbers of members (specified)

Recognized members of the Community of Bardenas were and are local communities, not individuals. There are 22 entities: the municipalities of Tudela, Corella, Arguedas, Buñuel, Cabanillas, Cadreita, Caparroso, Carcastillo, Cortes, Falces, Funes, Fustiñana, Marcilla, Mélida, Milagro, Peralta, Santacara, Valtierra and Villafranca, the Cistercian monastery of La Oliva, the Roncal Valley community (composed of seven municipalities: Burgui, Garde, Isaba, Roncal, Uztarroz, Urzainqui, and Vidángoz) and the Salazar Valley Community (consisting of 15 villages that make up the municipalities of Izalzu, Ochagavía, Ezcároz, Oronz, Jaurrieta, Esparza, Sarriés, Güesa and Gallués).

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

All the neighbors of the villages cited were entitled to use Bardenas resources within the limits established by the ordinances.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

The ordinance of 1575 ordered chapter 37) the payment of a fee from stockbreeders who wanted to join the mesta.


Since 1705 only the residents of the 19 villages of the plain and the 21 villages in the mountains of Roncal and Salazar, along with the Monastery of La Oliva, had access to resources. Today, residency has been defined as "appear[ing] as a neighbour in the Municipal Census with a minimum of ten years, and ... resid[ing] nine months a year at least in any of the entitled villages".

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?

By moving his residence to a location that is not part of the Community of Bardenas, a resident loses its right to use the resources of the Bardenas.

Advantages of membership?

Participation in decision-making.

Obligations of members? 

The 22 entities have to bear the costs of the Community.

Literature on case study

  • Arraiza Rodríguez-Monte, Juan Pedro, and Pérez-Nievas Abascal, José Ángel (1986), 'Bárdenas reales de Navarra',  in Azpilcueta: cuadernos de derecho, III, pp. 395-410.
  • Azpilicueta, Luis, and Domench, José María (1999),El Parque Natural de las Bárdenas Reales, Pamplona, Caja de Ahorros de Navarra.
  • Elósegui, Jesús (1990), Las Bardenas Reales, Pamplona, Departamento de Ordenación de Territorio, Vivienda y Medio Ambiente, D.L.
  • Floristán Samanes, Alfredo (1949), 'Una descripción de las Bardenas Reales en el siglo XVIII', Príncipe de Viana 10 (37), pp. 475-81.
  • Floristán Samanes, Alfredo (1951a), La Ribera tudelana de Navarra. Zaragoza: Institución Juan Sebastián Elcano/C.S.I.C..
  • Floristán Samanes, Alfredo (1952), 'Juntas y mestas ganaderas en las Bardenas de Navarra', in Actas del Primer Congreso Internacional de Estudios Pirenáicos. San Sebastián, 1950, V (Sección IV: Geografía), pp. 111-30.
  • Lana-Berasain, José-Miguel (1992), 'Los aprovechamientos agrícolas comunales en el sur de Navarra entre los siglos XIX y XX', Agricultura y Sociedad, 65, pp.361-87 (pdf available).
  • Martín Martínez, Jaime, and Floristán Samanes, Alfredo (1997), Bardenas Reales de Navarra. Pamplona, Caja de Ahorros de Navarra.
  • Montoro Sagasti, José Joaquín (1926a), Demanda solicitando la partición de las Bardenas Reales de Navarra. Tudela: Imprenta de Castilla.
  • Montoro Sagasti, José Joaquín (1926b), Recopilación de las Ordenanzas de las Bardenas de Navarra, desde las primeras de 1756 a 1915. Tudela: Imprenta de Castilla.
  • Montoro Sagasti, José Joaquín (1926c), Compilación de los amojonamientos, apeos y deslindes de las Bardenas de Navarra, con los términos de los pueblos limítrofes a las mismas. Tudela, Oroz y Martínez impresores (3 vols).
  • Razquin Lizarraga, Martín María (1990), El régimen jurídico-administrativo de las Bárdenas Reales. Pamplona, Gobierno de Navarra.
  • Sanchez Asso, F. and M. Martínez Francés (1977; first ed. 1872), Reseña histórica de los títulos que tienen los pueblos congozantes de las Bardenas Reales de Navarra para su perpetuo aprovechamiento y disfrute. Tudela: Gráficas Larrad.
  • Sangrador Vitores, M. (1854), Memoria geográfico-histórica sobre las Bardenas Reales. Tudela.
  • Urmeneta, Alejandro, and Ferrer, V. (2009), 'La ganadería extensiva en ecosistemas semiáridos: Las Bardenas Reales, mil años de pastoreo y multifuncionalidad en la encrucijada', in Ramón J. Reiné Viñales, Olivia Barrantes Díaz, A. Broca, Carlos Ferrer Benimeli (coord.), La Multifuncionalidad de los pastos: producción ganadera sostenible y gestión de los ecosistemas, pp. 415-38.
  • Yanguas y Miranda, José (1828):, Diccionario histórico-político de Tudela. Zaragoza: Imprenta de Andrés Sebastián.

Sources on case study

  • Some of the key documents related to this community were published in full in 1872 (Sánchez-Asso & Martínez-Francés, 1872) and 1926 (Montoro-Sagasti, 1926a, 1926b, 1926c). 
  • Municipal Archives of Tudela, Historical Books Section, Books 9 and 10, book 67.
  • Municipal Archives of Tudela, Administrative Record Section, Bardenas

Links to further information on case study:

Case study composed by

José Miguel Lana Berasain, Public University of Navarra (Pamplona)




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