“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it is attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir
Those words from, the forefather of the National Park movement in the United States, were in my mind when urging councillors to protect our wild land in the Highlands. They were even more appropriate, as this year we remember the centenary of the Scots-born environmentalist’s death.
Councillors were debating whether to support a map, prepared by Scottish Natural Heritage, proposing areas of wild land that would receive stronger protection under planning law. Highland Council officials, don’t like the proposed areas, arguing they are too extensive. In doing so, they claim they support the protection of wild land, but undermine it by trying to limit its recognition. During a rancorous debate, I was dismayed to hear it argued that we shouldn’t protect the 42% of the Highlands that is considered wild and remote from unnecessary development because of mistakes made by our ancestors, which degraded the land through poor land use. It made me angry to hear councillors suggest that development of windfarms were better placed in these areas, because they wouldn’t have a detrimental impact on residential properties. It’s a shameful attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”.
In the Highlands, we are the custodians of large areas of precious wild land. We had the opportunity to welcome plans to provide strong protection, instead we undermined these areas by attempting to limit their extent. The report considered by councillors, spoke many times about finding a balance. This stance tips the balance in favour of economic development and the modern day prospectors who are desperate to build more renewable energy schemes. The big energy companies must be rubbing their hands with glee at the sign put up in the Highlands that says, “Come on in, there’s plenty of wild and remote land you can build on!” It makes it so much easier for them to carry on their raping and pillaging of this vital natural asset.
For once, let’s hope the Scottish Government ignores the views of Highland Council and creates the maximum amount of protection for these areas. Otherwise, the words of Theodore Roosevelt may come true:
“…short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful things.”