Obsolete facilities removal organised by Mountain Wilderness France



Project Status: All of 2016

Obsolete facilities such as barbed wires, live shells, ammunitions, abandoned ski stations or diverse cables, are a real plague for wilderness, environment and outdoor users in mountains. Currently there is no obligation to remove these old structures, even though it represents a great danger and it pollutes a lot. Since 2002, Mountain Wilderness has been working on this problem with many participants, with the help of general public and the media. The organization sets up different projects each year, in order to remove different kinds of obsolete facilities in mountain areas within Europe. 

The Obsolete Facilities’ project of MW France also aims at raising awareness about the adverse impacts of these structures and debris on fauna and flora, soils and rivers, and on global ecosystem. In 2015 three important actions should take place on the Cerces Massif (over 20 000 m² at 2 600m altitude), alongside the former French-Italian border, an area still profoundly marked by the WW2 (barbed wires and war remnants). The project is also a great way to bring people of all ages together to talk about mountains protection. Each operation represents a great occasion for exchange and interaction between mountain sports enthusiasts, volunteers, park employees and MW staff.


The operation “Obsolete Facilities 2016” will take place at the confluence of three protected national parks: The National Park “des Ecrins”, the National Park “de la Vanoise” and the Italian “Parco Naturale del Gran Bosco di Salbertrand”. This operation will enhance the experience of outdoor users by returning these lands to their natural state in accordance with Mountain Wilderness philosophy for a respectful relationship between Man and Nature. The goal is to protect animals (including endangered species) but also to protect and clear their habitat. 

Overhead cables, winch cables, pipes and sheet represent a real trap for all local birds, especially for galliformes (endangered rock ptarmingan and black grouses for example). 

Among mammals of this area (ibexes, mountain hares, groundhogs, chamois and deers), ungulates are often trapped or wounded in these barbed wires, especially during winter when it’s covered with snow. Between 2000 and 2004, the National Agency for Hunting and Wildlife conducted a study to point out the danger of cables for birds. 835 carcasses have been found under 764 portions of cables. The study highlights the fact that this number is underestimated since we can’t find all the carcasses and since raptors are likely to make them disappear. More specifically, the 2016 project aims at protecting around 250 ibexes on the impacted area, and around 300 chamois. Amphibians are also likely to be wounded, they often stay stuck in the pipes left abandoned. Our goal is therefore to protect not only all these types of animals (including endangered species) but also to protect and clear their habitat.  


Mountain Wilderness campaigns for a respectful relationship between Man and Nature. Our main goal is to improve mountaineers experience while protecting mountain environment. In this project, MW collaborates with between three protected national parks: The National Park “des Ecrins”, the National Park “de la Vanoise” and the Italian “Parco Naturale del Gran Bosco di Salbertrand”. MW always seeks for the agreement of local actors and population. In the preparation phase, many structures and residents and MW communicates at local level to allow residents to participate. Shepherds, farmers, local employees and even local councillors often come to help us with a tractor or any other very useful tools.

Local authorities are also engaged to provide employees and transport machinery to evacuate all the debris and volunteers are needed. Furthermore, participants are invited for a visit of the site with a certified guide after the end of the operations, a great way to discover the territory and to raise awareness on the importance of mountains protection.


Between 2002 and 2014, Mercantour area has been entirely cleaned up with the help of 870 volunteers, as well as various other sites such as the National Park of the Ecrins, the Mont Blanc, the Regional Park of Chartreuse or the Ubaye valley. In total, 354 tons of debris were successfully removed. As the only organization to work on the subject of obsolete facilities Obsolete Facilities actions are definitely an example of best practice in the protection of mountain environment. Also, Mountain Wilderness’ operations serve as an example and encourage other organizations or companies to remove obsolete facilities. For instance, the “Compagnie du Mont Blanc” has recently decided to remove an old upper station in the Mont-Blanc, following MW’s lead. For the 2017’s operation, we estimate to clean up around 9600kg of former military facilities. 


Our association has a lot to protect and to defend. Only 4 employees work permanently at the French office. It’s only thanks to all the volunteer who come and help us that we can finally achieve our actions and give the wilderness back to the mountain. Everybody is always welcome to support us on the «wild work site ». The Obsolete Facilities operations are a great way to encourage mountain lovers to volunteer for mountain protection. Mountain Wilderness itself is constituted by its 400 volunteers. MW uses several tools to communicate with people and encourage them to engage: on the worksites, with publications, videos and value recognition to participants.