John Muir Trust's 2-day Wild Land Conference held in the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in late October proved to be nothing short of superb. A concert, a ceilidh and a guided walk up either Schiehallion or Glen Tilt supported the Conference.
Day one was opened by the event's guiding star, JMT Chairman Dick Balharry, a televised message from the JMT's Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales and an address from Linda McMillan, Chairman of Yosemite Committee. Linda told us that this conference was going to be significant not only nationally and internationally but also globally - and somehow I think she was right. Before the main body of the conference got underway we were treated to a brilliant one-man sketch entitled "John Muir's Legacy", performed by actor Andrew Harrison and written by a Caithness based playwright Murray Watts.
The morning's programme of hand-picked speakers very cleverly gave us an "International Perspective on Wildland". One of these speakers was none less than the 39th president of the Sierra Club that John Muir himself founded in 1892 and his name is Larry Downing. With every new face at the podium we were treated to another blast of well illustrated information ranging from top quality visuals to insider views of the world of politics and all linking back to the central theme of wildland. In the afternoon some well-kent speakers gave us an insight into "Wildland in Britain".
The morning of Day Two's theme on "Wildland for All" was chaired by Lesley Riddoch. She continued the debate on into her lunchtime programme on Radio Scotland which was broadcast from the BBC vehicles parked up in the car park. The afternoon had a thought provoking series of speakers giving us an insight into JMT's work and speakers included Nigel Hawkins, Director of JMT and MP Chris Smith who was a former Trustee of JMT.
An unscheduled treat was also in store as our own Dr Adam Watson, accompanied by his wife Jenny, received his John Muir Trust Lifetime Achievement Award to a standing ovation. We were treated to a short, recorded presentation on Adam's work over the years and it was very nicely done. Tom Weir, who was not able to be at the Conference, but who was well represented by his wife Rhona, is the only other person to have ever received this award. In receiving her flowers Rhona told us that Tom was born just 4 days after the Dunbar born John Muir died on Christmas eve in 1914.
The Conference was wound up in style with the delivery of a declaration that presented the collective will of the Conference. This is displayed below. It is to be delivered to govermnent ministers on behalf of the Conference by the John Muir Trust.
Declaration for the Wild
From the Sustaining Wildland Conference - 21st and 22nd October 2004
The UK and devolved Governments must actively demonstrate that they recognise the importance of wild land and wild places as part of our natural heritage by
ONE: Supporting and encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to experience wild places to improve their health and spiritual well being.
TWO: Supporting local communities, by developing a new, broader range of grants and incentive schemes to help restore and enhance wild land.
THREE: Reviewing planning policy and legislation to ensure that the protection and enhancement of wild land is strengthened.
FOUR: Establishing a forum to agree a national strategy for appropriate siting of renewable energy developments.
FIVE: Ratifying the Council of Europe's Landscape Convention and embracing its responsibility to protect our wild land heritage.
* We must all involve future generations in the care of wild land and wild places.
* We must all take personal responsibility for reducing energy consumption and our impact on the planet.
* To take things forward, we must all work together.
JMT'S web site is www.jmt.org
Jennifer A Cook, Autumn 2004
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