Wilderness in our Mountains

What a flat, dull place the world would be without mountains!

John Muir, 1901
Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, and early advocate for the preservation of Wilderness in the United States of America

Today is the time to celebrate our Mountains! In 2003 the General Assembly of the UN designated the 11th of December as the International Mountain Day! The UN encourages events to be organized at all levels of this day. This observance, which is celebrated annually, aims to draw attention to the important roles that mountainous regions play in biodiversity conservation, water and food supply, stimulate spiritual power.

The European Wilderness Society also acknowledges this ‘Day’ because of a very simple reason. An inventory of Wilderness in Europe revealed that the majority of Wilderness is located in the mountainous regions of European! Mountains simply host the most wild fragments of Europe.

It is not surprising anyhow! To settle mountains in the past used to be a difficult exercise. Much more difficult than to settle lowland or foothills. Remoteness, steep slopes or avalanches in winter are even today factors making any human activity in the mountains a big challenge.

Settlements activity in the mountains concentrated very often on summer season (e.g. grazing) or autumn (e.g. hunting). Only slowly seasonal shelters turned to more solid construction allowing to survive in the mountains also during long winter. The great impact on mountains however brought a new era of the 20th century when strong machine built a network of roads and make all things linked to the permanent settlement a little bit easier.

Nevertheless, even today Wilderness is still present throughout the European mountains much more than anywhere else! Difficult terrain, challenging weather and inaccessibility are the main factors helping survival of Wilderness even in remote mountainous corners of Alps – one of the most developed mountain system of the world. Recently for example, Kalkalpen National Park, Austria, rewilded many roads in the Kalkalpen Wilderness.

On the other site the Carpathian Mountains, considered by many nature conservationists as an eldorado of the last European Wilderness paradise, would be disappointed to be a fully aware about pressure of domestic animal grazing, forestry or hunting. Even inside of existing protected areas usually only small fragment of the total territory can be classify as fragments of Wilderness keeping in mind a very simple Wilderness principle, such as non intervention management.

Nevertheless, despite of that the reality is that Wilderness in Europe still exist and we can thanks to this particularly to the great mountainous labyrinths.

Did you know? More than half of the world’s fresh water originates in mountains, and all the world’s major rivers are fed from mountain sources.

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