Mountain Wilderness France,
to preserve the mountains

The association Mountain Wilderness France defends a global approach to the mountains where conservation of the natural environment and improving the economy are inextricably linked. The Petzl Foundation accompanies Mountain Wilderness in its actions related to the protection of mountainous areas, in particular their “Changing Approach” campaign, the dismantling of obsolete installations, creation of havens of tranquility in mountains close to urban areas, and raising awareness of the vulnerability of the mountain environment.

SEPTEMBER 2014 • Updated in March 2018

Havens of tranquility © Florian Racaché-Mountain Wilderness

  • Project partner: Mountain Wilderness
  • Country: France
  • Project type: Conservation of the environment
  • Budget: €15,000 in 2017, €43,600 since 2011
    €15,000 donation planned per year until 2020


Silence !

Europe’s mountains are easily accessible and have a highly developed infrastructure compared to mountain ranges elsewhere in the world. In these densely populated and highly frequented areas, motorised leisure activities are a nuisance to visitors and local inhabitants alike. Launched by the Mountain Wilderness association in 2002, the Silence! campaign set itself the objective of reinforcing the framework governing motorised pursuits in mountainous areas and ensuring that the 1901 Act is enforced. The latter prohibits the use of off-road motor vehicles on anything other than roads and tracks that are open to motorized travel. The association’s work revolves around monitoring and vigilance, as well as offering legal advice to local councils and bringing legal action where necessary. Most notably, in 2017 Mountain Wilderness successfully campaigned for the introduction of a decree that strictly governs the transport of customers to mountain restaurants using snowmobiles. The association continues to work towards reducing the impact of motorised aerial pursuits in the Mont Blanc massif and the Cirque de Cilaos on Réunion Island.

Obsolete facilities: cleaning the mountains

Many leisure, industrial, agricultural and military facilities have been left abandoned in the French mountains. Piles of scrap or concrete, pylons and ski lift cables, derelict refuge outbuildings and sheds, not only spoil the view, they are also a potential danger for hikers or wild animals, who are frequently injured by barbed wire hidden in the undergrowth.

Obsolete facilities: cleaning the mountains 1/4

Since 2001, the Mountain Wilderness association has organized one to several cleaning operations per year, in order to remove these obsolete facilities. In 2016, three dismantling projects were carried out in the Savoie, the Hautes-Alpes and the Ardèche. 90 volunteers aged from 7 to 77 removed 28 tons of scrap from the mountains, including 2 ski lifts. Through their actions, Mountain Wilderness has shown the public and stakeholders that by working together, we can get rid of the ruins cluttering our mountain landscapes.

Obsolete facilities: cleaning the mountains 2/4

Obsolete facilities: cleaning the mountains 3/4

Obsolete facilities: cleaning the mountains 4/4

Find out more, watch the video:
Installations obsolètes - Agissez avec MW

"Changing Approach", the road to car free mountains

Since 2007, our project partner Mountain Wilderness France has been exploring other ways of getting into the mountains by changing behaviors, so that we can meet the ongoing challenges of climate change. The program Changing Approach encourages mountain-lovers to use public transport to reach their chosen destination.

la montagne sans voiture, ©Concours Changer Approche, Mountain Wilderness

Set up by Mountain Wilderness and the Camptocamp website, the web portal Changing Approach offers the largest European database for responsible mobility and eco-tourism in the mountains. More than 15,000 mountain itineraries accessible by public transport are on offer, for hiking, snowshoeing and skiing, as well as for climbing, mountaineering, paragliding and ice-climbing.

Meetings in the canyons

In October 2014, the Mountain Wilderness France association brought together people involved in canyoning and protection of aquatic environments for discussion and sport activities during a weekend. The goals of this weekend meeting were to get to know each other better and to work together to protect these sensitive areas.

Des rencontres pour préserver les canyons ©Hélène Luczyszyn

Organized in partnership with the Rhône-Alpes Federation of Nature Protection (FRAPNA) and the Rhône-Alpes River Association, this meeting brought together about 70 people. More than 30 organizations were represented, including sports federations, trade unions, nature conservation associations, conservatories of natural areas, natural parks, representatives of the Ministries of Environment and Sports, etc. Over the weekend, the attendees took part in brainstorming workshops and canyoning expeditions.
The constructive discussions opened the debate on key issues, such as the high number of canyoneers on key sites, and how their impact on the environment can be assessed and reduced. To educate canyoneers, there are already guide books and topos, which provide information and suggest best practices to adopt.
In addition, the training of canyoning supervisors has been improved with a state canyoning diploma, which now includes a module on the environment. However, in the opinion of the attendees, new tools such as a "code of conduct" for all canyoning enthusiasts, and animal habitat fact sheets for equipment outfitters and canyoning supervisors should be created.

Des rencontres pour préserver les canyons, journée d'échange ©Éric Charron

After the debates and brainstorming workshops, canyon descents were organized for mixed groups, which consisted of representatives of all the institutions. This weekend meeting helped to review the impacts of canyoning on the natural environment, particularly through the critical analysis of existing studies. The attendees also shared their knowledge of best practices and existing tools in the field. This meeting, which brought together a large sector of the canyoning community, should enable more effective and environmentally-responsible canyoning site management systems to be set up in the future.

Find out more (in French)

Havens of tranquility in the mountains

Frequently visited open spaces in the mountains close to urban areas are not generally protected by law. Yet, it is these areas that are most often threatened by urban development programs, access roads and mountain tourist facilities. The Mountain Wilderness association works on this issue, with the support of the Petzl Foundation.

The 1991 Alpine Convention provides for the preservation of open spaces, with clearly defined "havens of tranquility", but the recommendations put forward by the Convention have not always been applied.

Since 2008, the Mountain Wilderness Association has been working on this issue. These open spaces in the mountains do not have any unique features in terms of biodiversity, which are required for an area to be protected under environmental legislation. They are simply natural beauty spots, which strongly attract potential investment from developers.

Haven of tranquility © Billy Fernandez - Mountain Wilderness
The "Quiet Zones" project, led by the Mountain Wilderness association, was financed as part of the call for environmental projects. It aims to preserve areas of tranquility for urban populations.

The "Quiet Zones" project aims to set up a new concept of protection, which would be designed to preserve open spaces in the mountains for humans, as opposed to spaces, which are currently preserved for plant and animal species only.

Havens of tranquility in Beaufortain © Vincent Neirinck Since 2012, a working group including local government officials and conservation associations has developed a clear definition of a "haven of tranquility" and developed administrative tools, which would facilitate the practical application of the Convention in the field.

There are already several mountain ranges near large urban areas where an initial implementation of these tools can begin.

Thanks to this groundwork initiated by the Mountain Wilderness Association, potential "havens of tranquility" have been earmarked for future protection. The area around the monastery of the Grande Chartreuse in the Chartreuse Regional Nature Park may be the first to be protected.

Pauline Lévèque, Project manager at Mountain Wilderness France, says:

Pauline Lévèque "In 2008, at the start of the project, local authorities expressed their enthusiasm. Today, with the support of the Petzl Foundation, we have gone further in supporting the idea that man must work together with nature for their mutual benefit.
This new concept, which is a perfect opportunity for local government officials, is based on the recognition of the quality of their existing territory."

Photos : Mountain Wilderness collection

Updated in March 2018



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