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The graffiti incident at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare earlier this year is one example of the environmental vandalism that the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark is seeking to minimise in the future through its involvement in a responsible tourism initiative.

The Geopark has teamed up with Leave No Trace Ireland, an Irish-based charitable network of organisations and individuals promoting responsible outdoor recreation.

During the coming weeks and throughout 2014, more than 50 tourism operators and influencers in the Burren will undergo awareness training aimed at encouraging visitors to the Burren to enjoy the world-famous karst region responsibly.

The pilot project between the Geopark and Leave No Trace Ireland is being run under the auspices of the GeoparkLIFE programme.

Tina O'Dwyer, Sustainable Tourism Co-ordinator, Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark explained that the adoption of the Leave No Trace policy complements previous efforts to encourage responsible tourism in the Burren.

She explained: “The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark, in tandem with the Burren Ecotourism Network, has for a number of years initiated education projects, website campaigns, publications and information points to help raise awareness amongst the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the region each year of the need to treat the landscape with respect and to abide by the Burren Code, which basically promotes the Leave No Trace ethos.”

“We should all enjoy and celebrate our scenic countryside but we should also try to minimise any negative environmental impacts we may be creating by planning our trips better and adhering to a few simple outdoor messages,” explained Maura Lyons, Programme Manager with Leave No Trace Ireland.

She added: "Leave No Trace Ireland is delighted to welcome the Geopark to its ever-expanding group of supporters. Their interest in promoting responsible and respectful outdoor recreation in Ireland makes the region a great addition to our cause.”
 
Dr. Eamon Doyle, Geologist with the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark added that the public reaction to the painting of a mural on a rock at the Cliffs of Moher this year highlighted the “high regard for and value placed on the landscape by tourists”.

Dr. Doyle continued: “There will always be some people whose actions will negatively impact on the environment they are visiting but this may not always be intentional. Our involvement in this pilot programme is to increase awareness not only amongst members of the public but also those who operate in the tourism sector in the Burren so as to ensure such environmental damage is at least minimised in the future. This is an important process in our ongoing efforts to promote sustainable tourism in the Geopark region.”

Mr. Doyle noted that there are many ways in which visitors to the Burren can help protect the local environment of the Burren: “We would urge people to leave the limestone pavement as they find it; preserve natural habitats and leave wildflowers undisturbed; take care not to damage monuments, walls and buildings; respect landowners, their property and their livestock; park and camp in designated areas; and leave no trace of your visit, taking nothing but memories.”
 
For more visit www.burren.ie or www.leavenotraceireland.org.