The path around Goat's Water is one of the contenders for the grant. Photo: Rob Noble CC-BY-SA-2.0

The path around Goat's Water is one of the contenders for the grant. Photo: Rob Noble CC-BY-SA-2.0

Two British projects are in the running to win a major grant in a European competition.

A scheme to repair a badly eroded path up the Old Man of Coniston and a rewilding plan for the Scottish Highlands stand to gain up to €30,000 if they top the public vote.

The European Outdoor Conservation Association public conservation vote has three categories, each carrying a prize equivalent to about £23,000. Anyone with an interest in protecting or restoring wild spaces, species and habitats is being asked to go online and have their say through the vote.

EOCA said, as well as raising awareness of what the European outdoor industry and EOCA’s member companies are doing to conserve and protect wild spaces, the voting process is also an opportunity for many of these conservation organisations to put themselves on an international stage for the first time, gaining new support for their work along the way.

The organisation, which includes members the European outdoor industry, said: “The public vote has attracted huge interest internationally over the years with national radio stations, politicians, presidents and celebrities all getting involved in encouraging people to join in.

“The coverage increases each year with the process reaching a staggering 31.5 million people in 2015. This is therefore a valuable tool in raising awareness of critical conservation issues around the world.

Joint general manager of EOCA Tanya Bascombe said: “This is always an incredibly exciting time of year for us and for the projects as we see many thousands of people getting involved to have their say as to which of these vital projects should be supported for the coming year.

“Each project has already undergone a rigorous assessment, which has then been reviewed by a panel of scientific advisors, before getting on to the shortlist, so we would be extremely happy to fund any one of those taking part.”

Caring for Coniston’s Old Man is one of two British contenders in the alpine category. Put forward by Nurture Lakeland and nominated by Keswick retailer George Fisher, the organisers said: “The route from Goat’s Water to the summit of the Old Man of Coniston snakes around this serene lake and under the spectacular, brooding cliffs of Dow Crag.

“It is one of the most popular routes in the Lake District National Park bringing thousands of walkers every year, many en route to the summit of Coniston Old Man, one of the park’s highest peaks.

“But the impact of millions of footsteps on the fragile terrain is causing massive erosion, scarring to the landscape and impacting on vulnerable vegetation. Sediment from erosion is causing problems in water bodies downstream and rare vegetation and rock features are being damaged when walkers stray from the path.

“The funding will enable repairs to the path using traditional techniques during the summer of 2016 and reseeding and ongoing maintenance work will keep this famous path in good repair for future.”

Trees for Life’s said its Rewilding the Highlands project, sponsored by Trek & Mountain magazine, aims to establish one of the UK’s most inspiring examples of rewilding, featuring habitat creation for endangered or rare wildlife such as golden eagle, Scottish wildcat, red squirrel and pine marten, the planting of 50,000 trees, a boost for wildlife tourism, and 10,000 rare montane tree species being grown each year to re-establish higher-altitude woodlands.

It said: “Centrepiece of the project is Dundreggan Conservation Estate, a ‘lost world’ biodiversity hotspot where more than 3,000 species have been discovered, including 10 found nowhere else in the UK and others that are extremely rare.

“The 4,000ha estate welcomes over 300 volunteers annually, part of an exciting 250-year vision to save Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest.

“Engaging with local communities is an important part of the initiative, including support to enhance biodiversity at nearby community project Glengarry Community Woodland.”

Other alpine projects include Conserving Central Asia’s ancient fruit and nut forests and saving Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.

Nature project contenders are in Portugal, Madagascar, the Galapagos Islands, Italy and humpback wales in the eastern Caribbean.

In the outdoors categories, Nicaragua’s Ometepe Islands, the Atlantic forest of Brazil, the Bruine Bank in the Netherlands and the spectacled bears of the Yanacocha Reserve, Ecuador, are all vying for the cash.

Online voting in the alpine category closes on 22 March and in the other two categories on 15 March.

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