By John Hutchison
On a hiking trip in Scotland this summer, my group met and heard from West Highland community advocate and conservationist, John Hutchison. John, a past-chairman of the John Muir Trust (JMT)), agreed to write about the activities of the JMT and links he had made with the U.S.– Ed.
Sierra Club founder John Muir is best known as the father of America’s national parks, but the conservationist is also revered in his native Scotland. The UK’s biggest wild land charity with 11,000 members was named the John Muir Trust in his honor.
Although the JMT was founded as recently as 1983, there is an historical link with the Sierra Club since Sierra Club President Larry Downing was involved at its inception.
The JMT has three main spheres of activity: advocating for wild land; owning land for conservation purposes and education.
Advocating for wild land can be a tough job with modern development pressures, particularly power lines and wind farms. Extreme steps such as taking the Scottish Government to Judicial Review in the Court of Session can be expensive.
Unlike the Sierra Club, the JMT owns land in order to demonstrate best practice for conservation purposes. Managing the excess population of red deer is a major concern. Like other conservation-minded landowners, the JMT is keen to minimise the deer numbers to let natural habitats flourish, fostered by allowing tree growth.
Through the John Muir Award the JMT reaches many people, mostly young, encouraging them to find a wild place, research it, carry out some conservation work and then tell others. There are three levels of competence; Discovery, Explorer and Conserver. The Award isn’t only about teaching youngsters; the bigger picture is about identifying and nurturing the next generation of community environmental activists. Currently there are 28,000 Awards in the UK each year — impressive.
The JMT won the Sierra Club’s EarthCare Award in 2013, championed by Doris and Richard Cellarius of Prescott, Arizona.
As part of the commemoration of John Muir’s death in 2014, Scotland named a 134-mile cross-country hiking route as the John Muir Way. Starting at Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar and traversing the more populous part of Scotland, the Way is nevertheless attractive as can be seen here:
John Hutchison is also well known to the Sierra Club as a former Volunteer of the Month. He met with the Sierra Club main board in Sarasota in 2010 and hosted President Allison Chin’s visit to Scotland in 2013. Here he is planting a redwood tree at the Presidio!