My Department is progressing a pilot Mountain Access Scheme at two locations, Mount Gable in Connemara and Carrauntuohill in Co. Kerry. There are 94 landholders associated with the pilot scheme at Mount Gable. The scope of the scheme at Carrauntuohill required review as it was not feasible to progress a pilot access scheme there in isolation from the rest of the MacGillcuddy Reeks. Subject to the consent of landowners and with community support, it is intended to expand that scheme to include an area of approximately 100 square km stretching from the Gap of Dunloe in the east to Glencar in the West. This comprises almost the entire MacGillicuddy Reeks. Discussions with landowners and other stakeholders are on-going.
Mountain access areas are by their nature sensitive habitats, and as such, great care must be taken to ensure that proposed developments do not generate negative consequences and lead to environmental degradation and habitat destruction. It is clear that some upland areas and mountains, and their unique ecosystems and habitats, are already suffering damage from recreational activity; a properly constructed and funded Mountain Access Scheme offers an opportunity to address these matters, while also generating significant potential for tourism and recreation related job creation and associated development opportunities, in rural areas.
A requirement of the proposed scheme is that participating landowners are protected against any potential claim arising from an accident or injury to a hill walker and while it has not proved possible to reach consensus on all aspects of the scheme to date, discussions with the farming organisations on the scope and scale of such protection are continuing.
Given the significant benefits that can accrue from an agreed community based Mountain Access Scheme, I am committed to ensuring that outstanding issues relating to its implementation on a national basis will be resolved as soon as possible.