Following a public vote, the the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) has announced five conservation projects selected to receive funding this autumn. Three of them are in the UK, including a path restoration project on Beinn a' Ghlo, and an effort to reintroduce red squirrels in the north highlands.
In 2018, over €330,000 of funding from the EOCA and its members has gone to a total of 14 projects, in 12 different countries.
From 85 applications for funding from non-profit organisations around the world a shortlist was drawn up of the projects that best met certain criteria, including the need to address a threat to a habitat, landscape or species, to have a link to outdoor enthusiasts, to work with and benefit local communities, to involve an educational element and to leave a legacy.
During the public vote, 26,000 votes were cast. A number of celebrities and naturalists got involved in the vote this autumn, including Sir David Attenborough, Chris Packham, Sir Chris Bonnington, Julia Bradbury and George Monbiot.
The projects selected this autumn are:
Mending Paths and Protecting Arctic-Alpine Habitat on Carn Liath, Scotland
Nominated by: Montane
Beinn a'Ghlo in the Cairngorms has an arctic-alpine mountain environment with tundra like characteristics and long-lasting snow patches. These characteristics combined with the steep hillsides, friable soil and fragile vegetation cover make this upland area particularly susceptible to erosion from even a relatively small number of users. Beinn a'Ghlo has been designated a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, recognising the importance of the area for conservation and wildlife. As well as the species-rich habitats, it is also home to several
species of upland ground nesting birds, five of which are endangered, including the curlew, whose breeding population in the UK has declined by 62% in recent years. The increase in the popularity of hillwalking has led to informal paths developing, causing the destruction of wildlife habitats, particularly in upland areas. Carn Liath on Beinn a'Ghlo is considered a priority due to the extent of existing and potential damage, and requires a major path repair with light-touch techniques in some of the lower sections and a fully built path higher up the hillside, combating erosion and encouraging re-vegetation.
- See our Route Card to Beinn a' Ghlo here
Obsolete Facilities, Alps
Nominated by: Marmot
Disused equipment abandoned in natural mountain areas is basically litter, on a large scale. Until recently there was no obligation to remove these old structures, even though they represented a great danger to humans and wildlife. Paragliders have recently been killed after hitting cables, while birds, including vultures, eagles and owls are regularly killed or injured by cables and other facilities – 835 carcasses were found between 2000 and 2004 in one study. This project will work to raise awareness of the issue with local authorities, outdoor enthusiasts and online, and carry out four dismantling operations in Mercantour National Park, Vanoise National Park, Mont Cenis Massif and Cerces Massif, where barbed wire and other scrap remains from WW2. In total, it is anticipated that over 100 people will be involved in clearing over 260 ha of 9 tonnes of metal.
The Reds Return: Securing the Future of the Red Squirrel, Scotland
Nominated by: Mountain Equipment
The endangered red squirrel is an iconic species of Caledonian pinewoods. Highland Scotland is the last major UK stronghold for reds, and this project aims to strengthen their conservation status by establishing new, self-sustaining populations in areas of the Highlands free from the threats of grey squirrels and disease. Trees for Life has been involved in pioneering this translocation technique and early efforts have successfully established new flourishing red squirrel populations in a small number of locations. The project has identified several forest areas in the Northern Highlands which are perfect habitats for reds but which they can't reach on their own due to the large areas of open ground in between the forests and their current range. With the support of landowners, relevant authorities and local communities, they will re-introduce four new populations of red squirrels to these areas and inspire people to care for them through community events, annual surveys and citizen science observations.
Repairing Paths and Protecting Peat Bog on Cut Gate, UK
Nominated by: Pro Agencies
The Cut Gate bridleway runs through an area of internationally important and bleakly beautiful blanket bog habitat in the Peak District National Park. The bridleway is popular with walkers, mountain-bikers and horse riders, and as a result of the traffic the fragile peat layer has suffered from erosion and the route has spread, which is putting pressure on the surrounding habitat.
The project will repair three sections of the upland bridleway which have become highly eroded and prone to flooding. These will be sensitively repaired using local stone, encouraging users to follow the path to prevent further damage to the surrounding habitat, while still preserving the character of the surrounding landscape and the enjoyment of the route.
Restoring Wetlands of the Cambodian Lower Mekong Delta
Nominated by: Bergans
Cambodia's wetlands are some of the world's most valuable ecosystems, supporting a wealth of endangered bird, fish and plant species and providing a vital source of food and income for vulnerable rural communities. But in just 15 years, half of Cambodia's wetlands have disappeared. This project will restore two globally important protected areas in the Lower Mekong Delta, which support half the regional population of the Sarus Crane – the world's tallest flying bird and a flagship species of open wetlands. Agricultural encroachment, invasive species and the overharvesting of wetland resources have led to a dramatic decline in the Sarus Crane population, and without urgent action to restore its habitat, the regional population will be lost forever. The project will restore 200 hectares of degraded habitat by working with local communities to clear invasive species, and will educate local people on the importance of wetlands and the sustainable use of natural resources. The project will also provide training and support to a community ecotourism initiative, enabling it to provide inspiring outdoor experiences for a growing number of visitors and generate funds for community development and wetland conservation.