ASCENT to Summit European Conference – Scaling new heights
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“More and more people are seeking out wild and beautiful yet fragile landscapes and the challenge of protecting these landscapes from visitor pressures is global” delegates at the ‘ASCENT to Summit’ European Conference in Dungloe were told recently. This conference marks the end of the ASCENT project which was set up to find ways to allow visitors to enjoy those landscapes, while still protecting them.
Donegal County Council along with a number of regions from across Europe first embarked on this journey back in 2016 to look at sustainable management at seven unique upland sites including Errigal Mountain in Donegal.
Liam Ward, Director of Service Donegal County Council and Chairperson of the ASCENT Steering Committee, explained that the conference was a culmination of research and exchange of international best practice across the Northern Periphery Area of Europe. He said “Donegal County Council managed the three year project and worked with multi-region European partners whose collective experience created new ways to conserve, protect and sustain these natural sites without taking from the experience they offer”. He also acknowledged the support of the INTERREG VB Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (2014 – 2020), which allowed for the implementation of innovative measures to better manage and conserve the seven sites of natural beauty for future generations.
25 delegates from across the Northern Periphery and Arctic Area of Europe travelled to Dungloe to attend the project’s closing conference on 26th June. Speaking at the conference An Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Nicholas Crossan explained that “while this marks the end of the ASCENT journey; like all journeys its legacy will continue on the path to sustainable management”.
Speaking about the work in Donegal he added “through the commitment of local, regional and national stakeholders, and the community of Dunlewey, in working with Donegal County Council, only then was it possible to find and formulate a solution for one of Ireland’s most important upland sites.”
A planning application for Habitat Restoration and Sustainable Access was approved by Donegal County Council on April 24th 2019, which allowed for trialling works to commence across two sites in most need of repair on Donegal’s highest peak.
7 people from Dunlewey and the Sliabh Liag area took part in an upskilling programme on Errigal last week learning more about the highly skilled hand built techniques required for path work ensuring that the necessary skills for upland path repair and maintenance are retained within the local community.
Rosita Mahony from Donegal County Council explained that “the ASCENT project demonstrated the value of international partnerships in meeting environmental challenges, finding solutions, encouraging responsible recreation and importantly, empowering local communities to respond to future challenges.”
In recognition of its contribution to managing uplands sustainably, the ASCENT project recently received an award for innovation in the Environment sector from the Association of Geographic Information (AGI) in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The conference concluded with Cathaoirleach Cllr Nicholas Crossan officially launching the ASCENT Conference Report, which provides a key resource to better inform the sustainable management in European Uplands and Natural Environments. The achievements of those who completed the upskilling programme were also formally acknowledged.