Scotland's mountains dominate the landscape and are an important
part of the natural environment with mountainous terrain covering
more than 70% of the entire country.
The United Nations has declared 2002 International Year of the
Mountains and although Scotland's mountains pale in comparison to
the great ranges elsewhere in the world they are of vital importance
to the country.
Some people may wonder about the significance of declaring an International
Year of the Mountains and whether it will have any practical benefits
but Scotland coordinator for IYM Andy Macpherson hopes it can mark
a new beginning in both practical and management terms.
A range of events have been organised to mark IYM in Scotland and
will give people an opportunity to discover more about mountains
as well as taking part in practical conservation work on the hills
from footpath repairs to tree planting.
"There will be events that people can go along to like a mountain
festival in Ballater in May organised by a small voluntary organisation
the North East Mountain Trust and the Dundee Mountain Film Festival
in November that has taken IYM as its theme," said Andy.
"We have got a few organisations that are offering ranger led walks,
the kind of thing that would be taking place anyway but they will
be focusing in on the theme of IYM. For example on Ben Lawers the
National Trust for Scotland will be giving talks on various aspects
of the mountains from mountain plants to people talking about their
own love of the mountains.
"The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers Scotland are looking
to organise a mass footpath repair event and that is definitely
something for people to get involved in on the practical side.
"There are also things like the Torridon Mountain Heritage Weekend
in October which is organised by the local community and already
has many themes similar to IYM as it's all about sustainable living.
There are lots of interesting things that weekend from walking to
"stalking" with a camera."
IYM will also see Scotland host two major conferences on mountain
issues with the third European Mountain Convention organised by
Euromontana being held in Inverness in May and an international
conference on "Nature and people: conservation and management in
the mountains of northern Europe" organised by Scottish Natural
Heritage and the Centre for Mountain Studies taking place in Pitlochry
As well as practical activities it is also hoped the IYM can be
used as the starting point for different mountain interests to work
together towards the future in successfully managing mountain areas,
which has not always happened in the past.
"On the whole rather than talk about problems if we don't do things
properly we try to look at the solutions," explained Andy. "There
is an awful lot going on in protecting Scotland's mountains and
has been for years.
"For example there are classic things like conflict between sporting
interests and outdoor recreation and what we are really keen to
do is get these people talking the same language.
"It is a bit like the work of the Access Forum where we have people
who at one time would not even have been under the same roof now
getting together and that is the model we would like for this year.
"When we have our launch (on 4 February) there will be representatives
from mountaineering, conservation, landowners, crofters, the Deer
"Because when it really comes down to it you can have townies like
me that like mountaineering and have made a living out of conservation
for years but when it comes to people who are genuinely trying to
work and live in mountain areas so much of the time that is people
who are engaged in farming, stalking and so on.
"With this whole idea of mountain people we are not just talking
about Sherpas - mountain people in Scotland are a broad range of
people with a broad range of interests, all of which deserve respect
and all of whom have their own particular priority. We are hoping
to bring them all into International Year of the Mountains.
"Sometimes I get asked what's the point of International Year of
the Mountains? It is something that is supposed to bring enduring
benefit. Its not just this year and that's the end of it and in
order to do that we have to get people engaged in dialogue with
each other and if you point to the solutions that gives people something
to look forward to," he concluded.
More information about Scotland's International Year of the
Mountains can be found on the website www.iym.org.uk
Andy is based at the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College,
an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands
For information about global events to mark IYM visit www.mountains2002.org