Lawyers are examining making Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain – a “legal person” in law to protect its interests.
Wild Lawyers, an international group of legal experts specialising in ecological issues, say that over the years the law has extended the concept of a legal personality to entities which do not have a personality such as the plc (a public limited company.)
Colin Robertson, a Scottish lawyer, said the process would involve creating a legal document recognising the mountain’s right to a personality with the right to defend its ecological health.
Guardians would be appointed to represent its interest in the same way young children and those with mental health issues can have people acting for them.
“The basic idea is to get the mountain’s viewpoint upfront in the decision-making,” said Robertson, an expert with the UN Harmony with Nature programme.
“Someone would come to meetings and say ‘I am the mountain’, representing Ben Nevis. This person would have spoken to all the people who work in that immediate environment, wildlife rangers and so on, who see first-hand what the concerns are.”
Ben Nevis was sold in April 2000 for under £500,000 by Duncan Fairfax-Lucy, a chartered accountant to the John Muir Trust, one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities. Recent precedents in making nature a stakeholder include actions by lawyers in New Zealand where an agreement has been entered into to recognise the Whanganui River as a person in law. Other rivers given legal rights include the Ganges and its tributary, the Yamuna.
Andrew Bachell, John Muir Trust’s chief executive, said: “Giving some of our most precious and popular landmarks legal status would certainly force us to think more deeply about damage we inflict on the land.”