Tuesday 11th December 2018, 3:09pm
By Davie Black, Access & Conservation Officer
Scotland’s mountains are rightly well-loved, and on International Mountain Day we celebrate all that they bring to our lives.
Mountains are a natural resource, a physical feature providing benefits to our society. From our mountaineering perspective the physical challenge of walking and climbing is one such benefit, along with the joy of the long, clear view – when the weather permits!
Mountains also offer the prospect of seeing a range of plants and animals not found in the lower reaches; the Scotch Burnet moth, Ptarmigan, and Starry Saxifrage for example. The high tops may seem like a harsh environment, but wildlife is resilient and can be found in unexpected places. Water is also a feature of mountain country, with burns rushing downward on their journey to the sea: clean water, fast flowing and offering spawning beds for Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout.
But mountains aren’t just for the pleasure of viewing such grand and special places. They are important for people living in and around them. The natural resources can have an economic benefit: grazing land, energy derived from wind and rain, hunting, and timber growing. In the more level parts water collects in small lochans or forms peat-beds. Expanses where the Sphagnum mosses build up over time, soaking up and cleaning water, reducing the impact downstream of powerful spate flows, while storing away from the atmosphere large amounts of carbon, a driver of climate change.
Mountaineering Scotland has a vision for the mountains: “That Scotland protects and respects its mountains and wild places whilst encouraging people to enjoy the mountains in a responsible manner.” The implications of this is developed further in “Respecting Scotland’s Mountains”, our vision for the future.
We see mountains as a resource for all to enjoy, and to maintain for future generations. There are challenges in this though, both for the communities that harvest and harness the natural resources, and for the communities that travel to enjoy and study the features, and not least for the wildlife at the mercy of a quickly changing climate.
On International Mountain Day we call for Scotland’s mountains to:
Be treated as an irreplaceable natural, cultural and economic asset;
Continue to provide opportunities to develop and improve informal recreation, tourism, health and well-being through Scotland’s world-class access legislation;
Be a foundation for sustainable futures for fragile rural economies;
Be protected so that land use change is planned and regulated to enhance, not diminish, the appeal and usefulness of wild lands; and
Be places that are appreciated and enjoyed, where we exercise personal responsibility in how we treat them.
Mountaineering Scotland is reviewing this vision to see if it still stands; developing a strategy for conservation, how engineering projects may be developed sensitively, and seeing land use in the uplands that is integrated, not segregated.
The coming years will continue to bring pressures on the mountain landscapes. Realisation of our vision would see a mountain environment that is enjoyed by people in a responsible way, maintained as wild land by the highest standards of management, and preserved from damaging developments.
Let us celebrate and respect our mountains.