The Mont Blanc massif is one of the most popular regions for hiking holidays in France, and so it is hard to believe that it is not actually a highly protected landscape. It doesn’t have national park status, for example. In France, it was designated a ‘site classé’ in 1951, which prevents development, camping and supervises amenities, but it does not have a conservation strategy that is co-managed by the three countries, something that would exist with a higher form of protected landscape designation. What it does have, however, is a strong group of mountaineering, environmental and conservation experts from three countries, who came together in 1991 to form Espace Mont Blanc
. Two of its priorities of late are to seek international protective status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and to perfect a management plan for the massif which will be controlled by European judicial statute. Indeed the former won’t be achieved until the latter is put into practice.
It is not just the slopes, forests and precious alpine tundra that needs protecting around Mont Blanc, it is also the air. And the ambience. Mountain Wilderness
, a mountain conservation organisation created in Biella, Italy, in 1987, leads important campaigns to protect wild mountain places. They define these as “any untouched mountain environment where anyone who so wishes may come into direct contact with the wide-open spaces, experience solitude, silence, rhythms, natural dimensions, laws and dangers.”
The most recent campaign is ‘Silence
’, launched in October 2014, lobbying to stop the growing number of privately chartered tourists planes and helicopters which are currently destroying this rare natural gift of silence on Europe’s highest mountain. There is now rarely a moment of total silence, without hearing tourist propellers, echoes and engines overhead.
At present, the conglomerate Espace Mont Blanc
is working on the first ever ‘Strategy for the Future’ management plan for this multinational mountain, and this campaign seeks to ensure that an air space without aviation is prioritised by this organisation as it looks forward to a cleaner future. To date, these flights are not limited unlike, for example, the silent paragliders, which are not allowed over the Mont Blanc range in July and August. It is also thought that the increasing number of ‘flyovers’ is becoming a safety risk. In French national parks flights for leisure purposes are only allowed at a minimum of 1,000m above the ground, but there are no such restrictions over Mont Blanc, as it does not have protected status. Watch the video below which captures the heart of this campaign, as well as the hearts of the campaigners, which beat strongly to protect this unique mountain territory.