People of all backgrounds, but especially young people, enjoy and value exploring their relationship with wild places by taking responsibility through social action. They benefit from the challenge and adventure of being in wild places: by increasing their environmental awareness; by increasing their knowledge and skills; by sharing the experience with others; by having opportunities to show compassion and take responsibility for change – and take pride in their achievement.

Our planet improves too – locally, nationally and internationally. Maintaining, improving and restoring wild places is good for the health of our local communities. It helps us enjoy and celebrate the wonder of nature (biodiversity), and is essential to living on the planet as if we mean to stay here (sustainability).

The John Muir Trust aims to inspire people to connect with, enjoy and care for wild nature. We believe everyone should have opportunities to enjoy the social, economic, cultural, health, environmental and aesthetic benefits of wilderness, and to take part directly in nature conservation work.

We do this primarily through the John Muir Award. Launched in 1997, the Award is youth-centred, but available to adults and families promoting educational, social and personal development through wild places. We encourage participants to make a difference and put something back, but they decide for themselves what they do, and where and how they do it. This helps make actions relevant, accessible and achievable.

In 2019 over 43,000 people got involved in practical conservation through the John Muir Award, contributing at least 363,280 hours of practical conservation and environmental social action, valued at £1.5 million (based on National Lottery Heritage Fund figures).

In 2016 we pledged to support 100,000 ten-to-twenty year olds to complete a John Muir Award by the end of 2020 through the #iwill and #iwill4nature campaign; so far, we have supported over 130,000 to complete their Awards – and we have not finished yet!

Measuring Youth Social Action in Scotland

An Award Provider survey revealed that:

  • 94% of those in Scotland told us the John Muir Award helped their participants value wild places
  • 82% of young people surveyed in East Ayrshire said they enjoyed or greatly enjoyed working towards their John Muir Award 

During Year of Young People 2018, we monitored the amount and type of actions that over 19,000 young people took to meet the Conserve Challenge. The young people cleared 13,135 m2 of invasive species; collected 5,151 bags of litter; planted 12,967 trees and 78,539 m2 of wildflowers; made 4,337 feeders; restored/created 158.5 m2 of pond; and maintained/created 8,168m of footpath and 1,449m of fences.

Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact on people, local communities, and landscapes. The inequity of access to green spaces is well documented and the recent health crisis has further intensified this divide. It is estimated that over 2 million households will have experienced lockdown without a garden and with limited access to green space. Following this time of anxiety and uncertainty, the health and wellbeing benefits of nature are needed more than ever. Our mission, through the John Muir Award, is to remove barriers and support as many people as possible to access natural spaces, with its flexible and adaptable framework supporting schools, families, and outreach providers to continue to support young people through the pandemic – read more about how people have continued to get involved in Youth Social Action here.

With almost 90 percent of John Muir Award participants aged 24 and under, we will continue to inspire and connect young people with wild places across the UK. We are committed to developing our engagement work with young people and to promote a youth voice, as well as social action.  We have co-designed youth surveys, commissioned short films to help voice their experiences and have been involved in developing youth boards through our London based partnership project with London Wildlife Trust – “Keeping it Wild”. We have set up a Junior Ranger programme on our properties, to better connect with local communities, creating opportunities for young people to make meaningful contributions to, an influence, some of the wildest places in the UK.  With Welsh Language and Gaelic John Muir Award engagement on the rise and people from all areas and backgrounds getting involved we continue to be staggered by the diversity and positivity that comes from social action.