A new collaboration to address environmental challenges facing northern European upland areas was launched last Thursday in the shadows of Errigal, one of the pilot sites in the initiative.
"In working with our European partners, we can learn from each other in collectively exchanging knowledge and ideas, and in exploring new concepts for balancing tourism, cultural and economic interests associated with environmental needs," Donegal County Council Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Terence Slowey, said in launching the new programme.
Donegal County Council is the lead partner in Ascent (Apply Skills and Conserve our Environment with New Tools), working with Metsáhallitus Park and Wildlife in Finland; Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the Mourne Trust in Northern Ireland; Hordaland County Council in Norway; and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland.
Associated partners in Ascent include Údarás na Gaeltachta, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, Mossfellsbaer municipality and Skaftárhreppur.
”I am confident that this project will ensure the long-term sustainable management of our mountains and upland areas for future generations,” Cllr. Slowey told the launch audience in the Dún Lúiche community centre, at the base of Errigal.
Seamus Neely, Donegal County Council chief executive, said, “It is all about marrying tourism and economic needs with the needs of our community, and to do this we need to be working with all the relevant stakeholders,” adding that council have been very fortunate with positive engagement with the local community and councillors.
The pilot sites face challenges posed by unregulated access to upland sites and natural erosion, and the aim of the three-year Ascent project is to develop management plans and implement measures to address economic and environmental sustainability.
Speakers from Donegal, Northern Ireland, Finland, Iceland and Norway addressed the particular challenges their areas face, and their hopes for the programme.
Ascent is a €1.6 million initiative, with Donegal County Council receiving €568,580. Funding comes from from Interreg VB Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme (2014-2020) with support from the European Regional Development Fund.
”And so it begins,” Charles Sweeney of Donegal County Council, project manager of Ascent, said at the close of the launch.
In three years’ time Ascent will conclude with a seminar in Donegal, he said.