Keepers hit out at trust’s plans for upland changes
THE Scottish Wildlife Trust’s call for a new approach to managing deer and grouse moors would be ‘counter-productive’, gamekeepers argue.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) report, Living Landscapes of the Scottish Uplands, published on July 6, recommends 10 key changes to reverse the decline of Scotland’s upland habitats – 44 per cent of the country’s land area – notably peatland, heather moorland and native woodland.
These include financial incentives to encourage good environmental stewardship, the reintroduction of lost species such as Eurasian beaver and Eurasian lynx, and regulations for more sustainable management of deer and upland grouse moors.
Susan Davies, SWT’s director of conservation, said: ‘ Our uplands are currently under threat on a landscape scale from a wide range of pressures including intensive land management, invasive species and poorly-targeted public subsidies. This is bad for wildlife, bad for communities and bad for Scotland.
‘Changing our relationship with the natural environment in the uplands could reverse the decline in wildlife and habitats, and ensure the uplands can deliver a wider range of benefits, including natural flood risk management, enhanced opportunities for tourism and recreation, and high- quality sustainably produced food.’
The conservation charity plans to address these issues on its three upland reserves at Largiebaan in Kintyre, the Rahoy Hills near Lochaline, and Ben Mor Coigach near Ullapool.
However, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association called for SWT to offer transparency on how it manages deer on its own reserves.
A spokesperson said: ‘An FOI in April showed SNH has not held deer cull information for their property at Largiebaan for the last four years. Loch Ardinning, another SWT reserve, has shown no cull returns from 2012-2013 onwards. It would be fair for the public to ask how SWT are managing deer on their own holdings, or if they are?
‘ The number and diversity of declining species producing young successfully on grouse moors managed by gamekeepers, each year, stands test with any land holding or nature re- serve in Scotland whilst, at the same time, sustains thousands of full-time wages, which keep adults and their children in remote communities.
‘ These communities are founded and rooted by viable employment, not remote visions.
‘ With many moors already working on projects to restore peat, plant trees and improve habitat over vast areas of upland Scotland, further regulation will only be counter-productive and hinder rather than help these beneficial partnerships and combined initiatives SWT appear to be promoting.
‘It would be better for volunteer charities, and government, to work together with the economic employer industries in the uplands to achieve shared goals.’
Scottish Wildlife Trust’s head of wildlife reserves Alan Anderson responded, saying: ‘ The trust has made some excellent progress with bringing high deer numbers down on its wildlife reserves in recent years.
‘At Largiebaan in Kintyre, deer are actually controlled by a local stalker and I’m puzzled why the FOI showed no cull returns so we will be looking into this.
‘ We are aware that on some of our 120 reserves we could be doing more and deer management will be one of the many issues we will be looking at as part of our strategic review of reserves taking place this year.’
The trust’s CEO, Jonathan Hughes, added: ‘ The world is changing, organisations and communities are working together more than ever and we hope that SGA will embrace this trend.’