Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
This is the main government body responsible for the conservation of wildlife and the environment of Scotland. They manage 66 National Nature Reserves (NNR), of which Loch Lomond is an example.
In addition to the NNRs, SNH has a number of designations and statutory mechanisms which are used to protect vulnerable habitats from encroachment by farming and forestry interests and from damage by inconsiderate visitors.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) –These are areas chosen to represent the best of Scotland’s natural heritage. They are ‘special’ because of their plants, animals or habitats, their rocks or landforms, or a combination of such natural features. Scottish Natural Heritage chooses sites carefully after detailed survey and evaluation against published scientific criteria. SSSIs can include freshwater, and sea water down to the mean low water mark of spring tides, as well as land. At 30 September 2005, there were 1,451 SSSI’s, covering a total area of 1,005,300 hectares or 12.5% of Scotland.
Owners and occupiers of SSSI have a responsibility to maintain them and must follow strict guidelines laid down by SNH. They must inform SNH of any proposed actions, which could affect the land in any way.
Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) – These constitute around 20% of Scotland and are areas that are managed on a more voluntary basis. Farmers are encouraged by grants to manage their land with an eye to conservation as well as productivity.
National Scenic Areas (NSA) – This designation covers around 13% of Scotland and recognises outstanding landscapes such as Loch Lomond, The Trossachs, Ben Nevis and the Cairngorms.
National Parks - Since the millennium, Scotland has nominated two areas to be designated as National Parks. The first was the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, opened in 2002, through which much of the West Highland Way passes. The second was the Cairngorms National Park, opened in 2003.
What can I do to help?
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code
The West Highland Way is a valuable asset that will only survive if treated with respect. In particular you should consider the following points:
• Take responsibility for your own actions – Recognise the fact that the outdoors is a working environment where activities may present dangers additional to the natural hazards which exist there. Be aware of this and act safely at all times. Take special care if you are responsible for children as a parent, teacher or guide to ensure that they enjoy the outdoor responsibly and safely.
• Respect peoples privacy – The Way does pass through inhabited areas. Keep to the path and try to avoid any action which might annoy or alarm people living or working close to the Way. At night, avoid making excessive noise and take extra care by keeping away from buildings where people may not expect to see anyone.
• Respect the life and work of the countryside – Many and varied activities may be carrying on around you as you walk the Way. Keep a safe distance from any land management activities and respect any precautions taken or reasonable recommendations made by the land manager, particularly where potentially hazardous activities such as tree felling, crop spraying or game shooting are under way. ). The stag stalking season extends from 1st July to 20th October with most stalking taking place from August onwards. You can check if any such activity is taking place along your route by using the ‘Hillphones’ service (http://www.snh.org.uk/hillphones). Avoid damage to crops by sticking to paths or tracks or by going round the margin of fields. Always leave gates as you find them.
• Care for the environment – Do not intentionally or recklessly disturb or destroy any plants, birds or other animals or geological features. Do not damage, deface or disturb any cultural heritage sites. Take all litter away with you and dispose of it in a safe and responsible manner.
• Keep dogs under proper control – Do not let dogs worry or attack livestock. Never let dogs run loose in fields where livestock are kept. Dogs should be kept under particularly close control during periods such as the lambing season (normally from February to May) and the bird breeding season (April to July). Always pick up and remove any faeces if your dog defecates in a public open space.
• Take extra care if you are organising an event such as a group outing or sponsored walk etc. Ensure that all participants are aware of their responsibilities. Before starting out, make sure that someone knows where you are going and when you expect to return. Be aware that there may be long stretches of the Way where no telephone contact is possible as mobile phone reception is likely to be very patchy.