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Call from mountain campaigners: It’s Up To Us

Written by Fiona

January 29 2024

Walkers, runners, climbers and mountain bikers are being asked to “give something back” to Scotland’s mountains as part of a campaign by two leading outdoor organisations. It’s Up to Us, which has been launched by Mountaineering Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS), calls for the people who enjoy the nation’s hills to donate cash for path maintenance projects.

The first highlighted initiative is to repair a popular but very worn route on the iconic Wester Ross mountain of An Teallach. 

An Teallach. Credit: Keith Bryers

Some £300,000 is required for restoration to address decades of erosion caused by an increase in people accessing the mountains and extreme Scottish weather. The campaign has already been the beneficiary of a 60th Anniversary Diamond Grant Award of £100,000 from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust. 

(L-R) Stuart Younie, Dougie Baird, Brian Shackleton, John Fowler and Duncan Bryden. Credit: Helen Gestwicki

It’s Up to Us campaign

For Stuart Younie, Mountaineering Scotland CEO, and Dougie Baird, the CEO of OATS, the It’s Up to Us campaign is seen as an essential but also commonsense step forward. 

The men, who both enjoy a range of outdoor pursuits themselves, jointly recognised the need for a more sustainable and long-term funding plan for path maintenance on private land outside of Scotland’s two national parks and NGO estates.

Stuart, who lives with his family in Kinross, Perth & Kinross, says: “From a personal point of view as a Munro bagger and a skier, I’ve seen many changes in Scotland’s mountains, including an increase in the number of people, which is a positive for improved physical and mental health. However, I’ve also witnessed the obvious and subsequent wear and tear on our hill and mountain path network.

“It was when I started my job with Mountaineering Scotland that I gained a greater insight into the added impact of climate change, of warmer and wetter weather. I learned how the mountains are being hammered by the elements all year round and not just seasonally. 

“It was an education to also discover the responsibility and cost of maintaining our mountain paths for the good of the future generations. It takes a lot of money and investment to care, repair and restore the paths.”

As well as appealing to the mountain users to support the It is Up to Us initiative, the campaign will have a second key focus to engage and lobby government and stakeholders in a bid to address a huge funding gap.

Stuart Younie and Dougie Baird. Credit: Helen Gestwicki

Dougie has spent decades working for organisations and charities on a range of Scottish conservation initiatives. This has included a £5.6 million The Mountains and the People Project to build and rebuild 120km of paths in Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs national parks, as well as £2 million of path restoration work in the North Cairngorms.

He says: “Most of Scotland’s hills and mountains are on privately owned land, and while landowners are usually happy to give public access to their land, there is little incentive – and often no budgets – for them to maintain hill and mountain paths.

“Brexit has exacerbated the situation for these landowners with the once significant funding from Europe no longer available and not replaced by our governments. There is currently no public investment from the UK and Scottish governments to support essential mountain path and habitat restoration work outside of Scotland’s national parks and NGO estates.

“A major part of It’s Up to Us is to engage with governments and stakeholders to highlight the desperate need for investment in mountain paths and associated conservation work.” 

Dougie, who lives in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, is personally an professionally delighted that the fund-raiser for path upgrades on An Teallach is the campaign’s first goal.

He says: “I’ve always been a keen walker and I used to be  climber. My work has long been in the world of conservation, too.

“I first noticed erosion to the path on An Teallach some 30 years ago.  It’s a classic mountain – iconic for so many Munro baggers – and yet there has been no money spent on restoration in all this time.

“I think it’s the perfect project to start with and to appeal to people who enjoy spending time in Scotland’s outdoors environment. We want to get across the message that, literally, It’s Up to Us to fix the paths and trails.

“The countryside is free to access but it’s not free to maintain and many people get a lot of benefits from accessing the hills and mountains. If we want to continue to enjoy this, we need to pay for maintenance and, so, it’s up to us to help with this.

“Even just a small donation from everyone who walks, runs, climbs or rides outdoors will hopefully amount to a considerable sum. If we can add further potential investment from government, larger organisations and businesses, we can look to a future of better planning and maintaining much-used mountain paths for many new generations of outdoor enthusiasts.”

* See www.savemountainpaths.scot to find out more and follow the latest campaign news using the hashtags: #ItsUptoUs and #SaveMountainPaths

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