The protection of the mountain environment has always been a chief concern for the UIAA. From its very earliest early years, UIAA members were active in opposing schemes like the construction of cable cars and railroads in the Alps. Later the focus turned to issues like the problem of visitors leaving behind waste in the mountains, pollution from tourist flights and the use of helicopters to access remote areas.
At the forefront of mountain protection
Today, the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission spearheads the federation’s activities in this sensitive, challenging and ever-changing field. The Commission works on dedicated projects like the UIAA Mountain Protection Award and the Respect the Mountains Series, and leads the UIAA’s commitment to:
• Promoting a sustainable mountain regions development, as well as the awareness and education of mountain practitioners about sustainable environmental practices;
• Supporting concrete actions taken by our federations that aim to preserve the mountain environment in its natural state; and
• Encouraging the adoption and respect by all mountain stakeholders of international declarations, including UIAA own guidelines and charters, in order to preserve mountain ecosystems and cultures.
Mountain Protection Commission
Since it was founded in 1969, the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission has worked to protect the mountains – one of the last natural, unspoilt and free spaces on earth. The Commission’s goal is to ensure that the mountains will still be there to enjoy for future generations of mountaineers and mountain people.
The UIAA Mountain Protection Commission believes all those who have a stake in the well being of the mountain environment should collectively work to raise awareness about the fragile nature of the mountain ecosystems and encourage responsible and sustainable behaviour and practices.
Even in the early years of the UIAA, environmental issues were one of the organization’s main priorities. Proposals like ‘measures against the construction of cable cars’ and debates about ‘the role of national parks in adjacent mountain ranges’ were debated at our General Assemblies in the 1930s.
In 1939, W. Goetel from Poland was asked to form a UIAA commission for nature protection. However, since this was just before the outbreak of World War II, the Commission was not officially established.
The environmental work of the UIAA continued without a commission and during the 1950s and 60s the UIAA led the opposition against cable car and railroad projects in high mountains such as the Matterhorn and Jungfrau, sometimes with success. In 1953, the UIAA became a member of the Commission Internationale pour la Protection des Alpes (CIPRA), an organization working for sustainable development in the Alps.
In 1969, the Environment Protection Commission was re-established and soon renamed Mountain Protection Commission (MPC). Then Commission president Radek Roubal encouraged the UIAA to join the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the world’s largest and most important conservation network. Since then, the MPC has helped UIAA member associations fight against destructive projects in their countries.
It has co-operated with other organisations and published papers on environmental issues. The most important of these is the Kathmandu Declaration, which outlines the UIAA’s view on the environmental impact of mountain activities and was approved by the UIAA General Assembly in 1982. Another important document is the UIAA Environmental Objectives and Guidelines, adopted by the General Assembly in 1997. This document provides an environmental framework for all of UIAA’s activities, declarations and policy decisions.
As a response to the growing number of visitors and sport activities in mountains, the Argeos Charter (adopted by the General Assembly in 2006) provides guidance to developing countries about sustainable mountain tourism. Furthermore, the Commission was involved in the adoption of other declarations on specific issues, such as the most recent on climate change, tourism flights and commercial expeditions.
Today the Commission continues to promote international declarations and support initiatives designed to protect the mountain environment. It supports action from UIAA member federations and is open to collaboration with other international organisations on specific projects.