Projects, People and Presidents - EOCA Spring Vote 2014 Roundup

Release date: 12 May 2014

Following an exciting couple of weeks during the annual European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) public conservation vote, 53,000 votes were cast, over 10 million consumers were reached and support from unlikely places was registered – including from the President of Costa Rica!
Bla Bheinn.  Image Ken Paterson
Bla Bheinn. Image Ken Paterson

Every year, EOCA invites members of the public to help choose 3 conservation projects from its shortlist for funding. Working in conjunction with several magazines across Europe, the projects are divided up into 3 separate categories (Nature, Outdoor and Alpine) and the public are invited to get involved by voting once in each category for their favourite project. The project receiving the most votes in each category will receive funding from EOCA of up to €30,000.

Working with National Geographic (Germany), The Great Outdoors (UK), NORR Magazine (Germany), Hike & Trekking, Bike & Trekking, SPORT PARTNER (The Netherlands) and Alpin (Germany), a huge flurry of on- and offline activity was created. This culminated in ‘Thunderclaps’ reaching 225,000 people, a letter of support from the Costa Rican President, interviews held on prime time Chilean national radio and support in the main national newspaper given by the Chilean Minister for the Environment, and tweets from the Chairman of one of the 3 main political parties in the UK. In total, the process reached over 10 million consumers. Not only this but several organisations recorded their most successful online campaigns ever with even those projects that did not gain funding from the public vote saying the process had been enormously helpful in raising their profile both locally and internationally.

Armeian Leopard camera trap.  Image FPWC
Armeian Leopard camera trap. Image FPWC

Jesús Ortiz from CEN (Associació per a la Conservació dels Ecosistemes Naturals), one of the unsuccessful projects said, “It was a privilege to be able to compete against all those interesting projects.
This [was a] great opportunity [that] allowed us to find many new friends and awaken an increasing interest for the conservation of the Glorieta stream. Furthermore, this huge dissemination campaign became a powerful tool to promote our organisation and has given us an international scope. Definitely, we feel like winners as well!”

A private member vote has also been held and further EOCA members are now choosing individual projects they would like to fund entirely themselves in 2014. All the projects will be officially unveiled at the OutDoor Show in Friedrichshafen in July.

The three project chosen by the public vote are:
Trossachs Gateway Project (Nominated by Messe Friedrichshafen), Scotland
The conservation of the Great Trossachs Forest, home to iconic Scottish wildlife including golden eagles, black grouse and red squirrels is a one of the most significant conservation projects to take place in the UK for a generation. It is a 200 year commitment to restore degraded habitats by planting thousands of trees, allowing native woodland to regenerate, and completing The Great Trossachs Path; a long distance trail connecting three of Scotland’s Great Trails.

Bla Bheinn Path Repair (Nominated by Berghais), Scotland
Breathtaking views and relatively easy access to one of Britain’s most stunning mountains, combined with high visitor numbers and high rainfall have caused serious erosion on Bla Bheinn. This has damaged fragile soil and plants, caused sedimentation of streams, and left a prominent scar visible for miles. The John Muir Trust plans to repair the 3.8km Bla Bheinn path, using methods to preserve the wild character of the area and protect the fragile mountain habitats.

Saving Armenia’s Leopards (Nominated by Nikwax), Armenia
The project aims to protect a vital leopard corridor by conserving threatened habitat and wildlife, benefitting other threatened species such as the Syrian Brown Bear, Grey Wolf and Caspian Red Deer. 4,000 trees will be planted, camera traps installed and field surveys carried out. Controlled access will be opened up for exploration on foot, bike and horseback.

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The funding that EOCA and Original Buff, S.A. have given Ennerdale's Squirrel Woodlands has enabled us to make a massive step change in our conservation of red squirrels, allowing us to purchase equipment, employ local people and support the local community in extending native woodlands and helping keep red squirrels in the valley. The simple funding process has meant we can focus on doing real tangible stuff on the ground"
Gareth Browning, Wild Ennerdale