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4 people walk along a pebbly beach with autumn leaves at their feet and a windswept Loch Lomond in the background

First Native American in the US Cabinet visits Scotland’s first National Park

US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Loch Lomond and met with a local teenager to discuss the role for young people and National Parks in tackling the climate emergency.

Ms Haaland visited Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park on Saturday (6th November) to commend a joint statement by National Parks and Protected Areas across the world on climate change and biodiversity.

The visit was a chance to see and hear first-hand how Scottish National Parks are tackling these twin crises.

She met with 16-year-old Aidan Cronin from the National Park’s Youth Committee, alongside Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, and National Park representatives.

Two people stand next to each other with a windy Loch Lomond in the background

At world-famous Loch Lomond, she heard from Aidan on how the Youth Committee ensures young people have a voice in the decision making of the National Park Authority and of their work to protect the area’s environment and wildlife.

The Interior Secretary’s visit followed the announcement at COP26 on Friday that National Parks and other protected and conserved areas around the world have signed a joint statement highlighting their critical role at the vanguard of the fight against Climate Change and Biodiversity loss.  Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Convener James Stuart led the creation of the statement and the sign-up process.

Gordon Watson, Chief Executive at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said:

“Secretary Haaland’s visit to Balmaha was an opportunity for us to discuss the common ambitions of protected areas such as the National Parks here in the UK and those in the US.

“She also heard from Aidan how important it is that young people have a seat at the table and a meaningful voice when it comes to climate action.

“National Parks and other protected and conserved areas across the world have come together with a strong commitment for COP26.   When it comes to tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, we can be the first 30 per cent.  We can act as a catalyst for change and inspire land and sea use choices across the remainder of the planet.”

During her visit, Secretary Haaland commended the international commitment and discussed the nature and climate work underway within the National Park, including peatland and woodland projects.  She spent time on the banks of Loch Lomond and learned about the National Park’s Youth Committee and how it helps young people drive change on climate issues.

Ms Haaland said: “Protected and conserved areas are special places that connect all of us to nature and help ensure that our lands and waters will be available for generations to come.

“Through this Joint Statement, land managers from the United States and around the world are declaring a united commitment to addressing critical needs facing the planet.

“Together as an international community of protected areas, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, serve as core sites and landscape partners in biodiversity preservation, promote climate-informed solutions, and share knowledge and inspiration with visitors and stakeholders.”

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, said:

“We are proud to support the joint statement from national parks and other protected and conserved areas, calling on world leaders to support their work at the vanguard of the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Scotland’s national parks have a critical role to play in delivering our goals to deliver net zero by 2045 and halt nature loss by 2030. We are committed to expanding the area we protect for nature to 30% of our land and seas by 2030. This will include the establishment of at least one new national park.

“The achievements of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and the Cairngorms National Park provide a strong platform for the transformative changes in land use and management we need to see.”

Aidan Cronin, 16, from Callander, said:

“Having the opportunity to share the role of young people in our National Park and how we can be involved in co-designing solutions to climate change, with Secretary Haaland was an honour.

“I was encouraged by her interest in the work of our Junior Rangers programme and the Youth Committee. The afternoon was also an opportunity to share my passion for the role of young people globally, conserving protected areas for our futures.”

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