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|Founded||1987, Biella, Italy|
|Method||Organization of events, campaigns, lobbying,, consultancy|
Mountain Wilderness is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation of mountain areas, in their natural and cultural aspects. The organization was founded in Europe and has a stronger presence in alpine and pyrenean regions. It has, however, a worldwide reach, with representatives and actions on all continents.
Mountain Wilderness shares some of the values and objectives of alpine clubs and environmentalist organizations, but is clearly distinct from both. Mountain Wilderness was founded by mountaineers and places a stronger emphasis on the human experience of wilderness than on the exclusive defense of wildlife for its own sake. Even in the most remote mountain regions, there remain vanishingly few untouched wilderness zones in a strict sense. Contrary to what a literal interpretation would suggest, Mountain Wilderness does not focus on such "pure", pristine wilderness. Nearly all mountain landscapes, and, to an even higher degree, the perception of mountains by humans, bear a strong cultural imprint. Mountain Wilderness works towards the inclusive preservation of this natural and cultural mountain environment at large, in three complementary ways :
- by furthering activities and practices that foster self-reliance, respect for nature and the shared enjoyment of mountains by all those who love them
- by opposing aggressive activities, such as recreational off-roading, snowmobiling, heli-skiing, and more generally the commercialization, overdevelopment and exclusive appropriation of mountains by those who just want to exploit them.
- by fostering a naturally and culturally respectful development of mountain regions, to ensure a sustainable future for those who choose to live there
Mountain Wilderness was founded in 1987 in Biella, Italy during an international conference convened by Ludovico Sella, scion of a prominent piedmontese family of financiers, statesmen and mountaineers, among which Quintino Sella, the 19th century founder of the Italian Alpine Club. This conference was a follow-up to a similar gathering of mountaineers convened by the Italian Academic Alpine Club on 8 August 1986, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first ascent of the Mont-Blanc. On this occasion, a “manifesto for Mont Blanc” was issued and signed by a number of renowned mountaineers, among which Sir Chris Bonington, Yvon Chouinard, Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott. This manifesto called for a foundational human right to “open spaces for free adventure”. The Biella conference attracted a larger attendance of mountaineers and intellectuals from all over the world, several of whom were to become founding guarantors and founding members of Mountain Wilderness. Among them were Haroun Tazieff, Kurt Diemberger, Jim Bridwell, John Hunt, Wanda Rutkiewicz. The "Biella theses", on which the above mission statement is based, were written during this meeting.
Some of the actions led by Mountain Wilderness at the international level have been:
- Demonstration at Pointe Helbronner on 16 August 1986, against the Vallee Blanche Aerial Tramway, a gondola lift that crosses the “Vallée Blanche” from Aiguille du Midi to the col du Géant above Courmayeur, desecrating the very heart of the Mont Blanc massif, a wilderness area of foremost symbolic and cultural significance for Europe. During this demonstration, Reinhold Messner climbed atop one of the gondola towers to hang a protest banner.
Although Mountain Wilderness had yet to be formally established as an organization when this took place, it was later perceived as an inaugural event. The daring, spectacular character of this action inspired comparisons to similar actions by Greenpeace, but later demonstrations by Mountain Wilderness have generally been more modest. All have been peaceful and none of them against the law.
- “Free K2” expedition organised in 1990 on K2, the second highest mountain in the word, to remove fixed ropes and discarded gear left behind by all expeditions that had attempted the ascent.
- Campaign to protect Mount Olympus in Greece from a huge development project. A manifesto was issued at the end of 1993 and an international petition was signed by intellectuals and writers from all over the world, among which five Nobel laureates. The project was withdrawn in 1995, after this petition was delivered to the Greek government.
- Oxus, mountains for peace, an expedition organised to climb Mount Noshaq, the highest peak in Afghanistan, in the Wakhan Corridor and the Hindu Kush range, in 2003: this event was intended to promote sustainable outdoor tourism in this country and to serve as a symbol of a possible return to peace and normalcy, after the civil war and the fall of the Taliban regime, during which all manner of tourism had completely disappeared.
Guarantors of Mountain Wilderness are a group of intellectuals, writers, mountaineers, world-travelers, who are recognized through their achievements and their long-time commitment to the shared values of Mountain Wilderness. They play the roles of international representatives and advisors for the association.
The guarantors elected at the last General Assembly that took place in Biella, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Mountain Wilderness (2008-04-12) are : Bernard Amy (FR), Núria Balagué (CT), Bernard Batschelet (CH), Edwin Bernbaum (US), Andrea Bianchi (CH), Sir Chris Bonington (UK), Fausto De Stefani (IT), Kurt Diemberger (AT), Patrick Gabarrou (FR) (currently international coordinator), Maurizio Giordani (IT), Richard Goedeke (DE), Alessandro Gogna (IT), Paulo Grobel (FR), Victor Groselj (SL), François Labande (FR), Franco Michieli (IT), Nicole Niquille (CH), Olivier Paulin (FR), Carlo Alberto Pinelli (IT) (former international coordinator), Jordi Quera (CT), Ludovico Sella (IT), Josep Sicart (CT), Patrick Wagnon (FR).
Among noted former guarantors are : Sir Edmund Hillary (NZ) (who was long-time honorary president of Mountain Wilderness, now succeeded by Sir Chris Bonington), John Hunt (UK), Reinhold Messner (IT), Jean-Christophe Lafaille (FR), Haroun Tazieff (FR), Wanda Rutkiewicz (PL), Jim Bridwell (US).
National chapters of Mountain Wilderness
- François Labande, Sauver la Montagne, Olizane, 2004
- www.mountainwilderness.org, official web site of Mountain Wilderness