As pressure on our landscapes and seascapes from recreational use continues to increase, it is necessary that a national system is put in place which will ensure that visitors to the Irish countryside, whether locals or tourists, visit with care.
To date, no national Country Code has existed in the south of Ireland, although a plethora of codes from various organisations have been developed. In the UK, currently, three different versions of the Country Code exist. In 1999, the Countryside Access and Activities Network (Northern Ireland) revisited the Country Code and modified it to make it more relevant to recreational users. More recently, England and Wales published a new Country Code following the introduction of the CROW Act and Scotland published another version, the 'Access Code', following the introduction of its freedom to roam legislation.
In early 2004, an ad hoc committee was established in Ireland to progress the idea of establishing one system for all of Ireland. The committee consisted of the Countryside Access and Activities Network (NI), Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme (NI), Coillte, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Forest Service (RoI), Heritage Council, Irish Uplands Forum, Mountaineering Council of Ireland, Mountain Meitheal, Scouting Ireland and The Presidents Award.
In 2005, it was agreed that the Leave No Trace message was the most relevant to the Irish context. Leave No Trace differs from all existing country codes in that it is an 'education programme' that constantly puts the message and skills before outdoor users. Leave No Trace concepts can be applied in Ireland's uplands and lowlands, in urban parks, on lakes and rivers or in local neighbourhoods. In September 2006, 'Leave No Trace Ireland' was officially launched in Ireland.
Leave No Trace Ireland promotes and inspires responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. The programme strives to build awareness, appreciation and respect for Ireland's natural and cultural heritage and is dedicated to creating a nationally recognised and accepted outdoor ethic that promotes personal responsibility. It encourages all outdoor enthusiasts (e.g. walkers, mountain bikers, canoeists, orienteerers, horse riders) to do their part to maintain those lands used by the public for the benefit of the environment and for future generations.
Leave No Trace Ireland is endorsed by Comhairle na Tuaithe and The National Countryside and Recreation strategy and the Northern Ireland Outdoor Recreation Plan as the only recognised outdoor ethics education programme in Ireland that promotes caring recreational use of the countryside.