Hilltracks campaign calls for pictures of landscape damage

Environmental coalition needs your photos of ugly vehicle hilltacks.

A coalition of nine environmental organisations -  including the John Muir Trust - has urged walkers, cyclists, climbers and others who visit rural Scotland to help it build a powerful visual portfolio of landscape damage caused by vehicle hill tracks. 

The coalition, which works together under the umbrella of Scottish Environment LINK, is midway through a campaign to stop  the unregulated construction of hill tracks.  It has already amassed shocking evidence of large scale scarring of Scotland's uplands as a  result of landowners building vehicle tracks - often to improve access for shooting parties.

With a deadline of 1st September, the coalition has stepped up its call for the public to send in more photos so that the full scale of the damage being inflicted onm the Scottish countryside can be exposed.

Helen Todd of Ramblers Scotland and the co-convenor of the campaign group said: “We have long been convinced that unregulated hill tracks needed to be brought into the planning system. Currently tracks can simply be bulldozed across the countryside almost anywhere in Scotland, and have caused huge visual and environmental damage in some of Scotland’s finest landscapes.

"Since we asked the public for help in identifying the worst examples of hill track construction, we have received many responses that show that the problem is more widespread and serious than we had feared.

We are asking people to send us any examples and information they have by 1st September, so we can build a thorough portfolio of evidence to persuade the Government to change planning laws. Photos can be sent to us at http://www.scotlink.org/hilltracks/.”

The Scottish Government recently dropped its proposal to bring hill tracks with purported “agricultural or forestry purposes” into the planning system, but said that it would keep the situation under review. Evidence gathered via the public appeal will be used to demonstrate the scale of the problem.

The coalition  has also invited the Minister for Local Government and Planning, Derek Mackay MSP, to join writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish to inspect the damage caused to one particular area.

Beryl Leatherland of the Scottish Wild Land Group and co-convener of the campaign group warned that the proliferation of hill tracks can cause damage to habitats and increase Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions.

"Tracks have been dug deep into peat, releasing large quantities of CO2 and destroying sensitive habitats, carved straight up steep hillsides and even over the summits of several hills, leaving erosion scars that spread for years and are visible for many miles.

Some of the examples we have seen amount to little more than vandalism. While hill tracks can have legitimate purposes, we think that a minimum amount of regulation is essential and should be welcomed by all concerned.”

The organisations involved in the campaign are:

  • Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland
  • The Cairngorms Campaign
  • The John Muir Trust
  • The National Trust for Scotland
  • The North East Mountain Trust
  • Ramblers Scotland,
  • The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • The Scottish Campaign for National Parks
  • The Scottish Wild Land Group.

In addition, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, which is not a member of Scottish Environment LINK, supports the campaign.

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