Wildlife management: Estate of nature | The Economist

Article from Economist on the widening divide between differing highland  estate management practices.

Sep 14th 2013 |From the print edition

PAUL LISTER is an unusual Scottish laird. His wardrobe contains no tartan and he doesn’t drink whisky. Nor does he hunt, shoot or fish. Instead he spends his time thinking about conservation. Mr Lister is not alone. A new breed of laird is buying up chunks of Scotland. Their views on deer are causing trouble with the traditional sporting estates.

Their estates are vast, even by Scottish standards. Mr Lister, heir to a furniture entrepreneur, is in charge of the 9,300-hectare Alladale estate. Anders Hoch Povlsen, a Danish fashion tycoon, has become the second-largest private landowner in Britain, with 60,000 hectares in the eastern highlands.


Both men yearn for Scotland’s environmental past. In the 17th century, the highlands held forests of pine, beech and rowan. But then the trees were felled to make way for sheep and grouse moors. Grazing deer have kept the ground bare. Nowadays saplings are gobbled up before they can grow into trees.

Scotland’s deer population is a perennial problem with two prongs. First, there are lots of them: over 300,000 in the highlands alone. Second, property rights are vague at best: no one owns the deer and they can roam where they wish. So numbers are controlled by Deer Management Groups, with the agreement of land owners, farmers and commercial forests.

That is a tricky task. Deer are a nuisance for Messrs Lister and Povlsen. But for others they are an important source of income. Scottish estates are expensive to run. Revenues can be boosted by selling expensive stalking weekends to wealthy tourists from south of the border. Last year the National Trust for Scotland, a charity, abandoned a cull of thousands of deer at their Mar Lodge estate, after protests from neighbours—including the queen’s estate—and businesses. If the deer dwindle, so may the sporting tourists.

That leaves a problem: sporting estates want to see around 12 deer per square kilometre, conservationists around four. But their free movement means individual estates cannot control numbers accurately. When deer are removed from an area, new ones flow like water into the space left behind. The result is too many for conservation, too few for sport.

Fencing offers a solution but it can confuse the deer and separate them from lower-lying ground, making life harder for them in winter. A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association says this is an excuse used by those that favour culling. Others say fencing can be a good short-term compromise: once forests are established deer can be let back in.

Mr Lister say all these options are imperfect. In the early 18th century natural predators roamed the highlands. Wolves and lynx kept deer on the move, preventing them from grazing for too long in one place. He plans a fenced reserve where wolves could hunt freely. This will make his land teem with life again, he reckons: the trees will provide food for rodents and small birds, wolves will leave carrion for eagles and ravens. Getting his neighbours to agree will be hard, but Mr Lister predicts a wilder Scotland could attract as many new tourists as it loses to the cull.

via Wildlife management: Estate of nature | The Economist.


corporate assault on wild land map

Scottish Govt must not bow down to big business pressure over wild land map

As the Scottish Government announced a public consultation over the map of Scotland’s core wild land wild land published earlier this year by Scottish Natural Heritage, the John Muir Trust warned the Scottish Government to resist external pressure to downsize the map.

Stuart Brooks, John Muir Trust chief executive said: “Responses to the Scottish Planning Policy consultation document reveal a concerted assault on the core wild land map by energy corporations and property developers.

“They clearly see Scotland’s wild land as a potential goldmine worth billions to their global shareholders.

“We expect that the Scottish Government will now come under ferocious pressure to either scrap the map, or to remove large tracts of wild land from the protection zone.

“These businesses have no expertise or interest in Scotland’s landscape or ecology. Their only expertise and interest is in making profit.

“Scottish Natural Heritage has spent many years identifying Scotland’s wild land, and establishing and refining clear geographical boundaries. This work must not be allowed to be undermined by the power of money.

“The message we will be sending to the Scottish Government is that our wild land is not a commodity to be bartered over, but a precious asset to be cherished, protected and restored for the benefit of our people, our wildlife and the wider world.”

The John Muir Trust has public support on its side. A YouGov poll of over 1,000 people across Scotland this summer found that over 75 per cent support strengthened protection for wild land with only six per cent opposed, while the recently published Scottish Planning Policy consultation responses showed a two to one majority in favour of strengthened protection for wild land..

Of the fewer than 50 submissions opposing wild land, almost all were from businesses with a financial interest in exploiting Scotland’s wild land –  two thirds of them from outside Scotland, and one third multinational corporations from outside the UK.

Of the more than 110 or so submissions supporting the wild land map, the vast majority came from Scotland, and included environmentalists, charities, businesses, local authorities, community groups, professional bodies and individuals.

via News from the John Muir Trust.

Public ‘backs wild land turbine ban’

The majority of Scots want the country’s wild land to be protected from windfarms, according to a survey by the John Muir Trust.

The poll of about 1,100 people said 75% were in favour of protecting 20% of Scotland’s landscape – with 6% opposed.

The trust said this gave ministers a clear mandate to introduce protection.

The study followed a decision by Holyrood’s Public Petition’s Committee not to pursue the trust’s petition for statutory designation for wild land.

Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the conservation group, said the survey came amid a Scottish government consultation on planning policy, and with an official wild land map on the table.

He said: “We have argued all along that the government’s targets for reducing greenhouse gases can be achieved without sacrificing our unique wild landscapes.

“This poll sends a resounding message to the Scottish government that the people of Scotland want them to stand firm and deliver their promise to safeguard our wild and rugged land from industrial-style development.”

In the survey, 40% said they would “strongly support”, while a further 35% “tend to support” the proposal that:”the 20 per cent of Scotland’s landscape identified as ‘core wild land’ – rugged, remote and free from modern visible human structures – should be given be special protection from inappropriate development including wind farms.”

Only 2% said they would “strongly oppose” protection, while 4% said they “tend to oppose” it. Of the remainder, 14% said they “neither support nor oppose” the proposals, with 5% undecided.

The study suggested that support for the proposal was almost evenly spread across Scotland’s political parties and social classes.

There was also decisive backing for wild land protection across all age groups, the report claimed.

John Hutchison, chair of the John Muir Trust, said: “Regardless of gender, class, age or party political allegiance, Scotland is united in wanting to keep our wild landscapes free from large scale wind farms, giant pylons, super quarries and other inappropriate commercial developments.

“Scotland’s rugged mountain landscapes are part of our national heritage and identity – and the message from our people is that our wild land is not for sale.

“We are sure that MSPs from across the spectrum will take note of the fact that the breadth and the depth of support for wild land far outstrips support for any political party.”
download wild land map

via BBC News – Public ‘backs wild land turbine ban’.

Hill Tracks – Scottish Wild Land Group – volunteers working to protect and enhance Scotland’s wild places

The Scottish Wild Land Group is joining nine of Scotland’s leading environmental organisations to appeal for help in preventing the spread of hill tracks.

The uncontrolled construction of hill tracks is contributing to the rapid loss of wild land in Scotland, and damaging landscapes and wildlife across the country. Despite the Scottish Government accepting that there is ‘compelling evidence’ of unacceptable damage, it recently decided not to amend legislation that exempts hill tracks from the planning system. As a result, landowners can continue to bulldoze tracks through some of our most precious and sensitive environments, including parts of our National Parks, without any public oversight. We have a short window of opportunity to persuade the government to change its mind, and need your help to do so.


Please take photographs of hill tracks you find when out walking or cycling, and send them to us with as many details as possible here. Your help is essential if we are to make a strong case – thank you!

The SWLG’s position on hill tracks is set out in a response to the Government’s 2012 consultation, and in an article from Wild Land News in 2010.

In addition to donations from the organisations participating in this project, funding has been generously provided by the Scottish Environment LINK Discretionary Project Fund and by a grant from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust.

via Hill Tracks – Scottish Wild Land Group – volunteers working to protect and enhance Scotland’s wild places.

MSPs urged to designate Scots pine as national tree. BBC news

I’m really interested in this debate as I do think this type of initiative may help connect people to wild land and more, much more. see posting from May 12th 2010


Pine trees

MSPs are being urged to designate the Scots pine as Scotland’s national tree.The Woodland Trust said the move would provide a lasting legacy of the Year of Natural Scotland. A survey by the Trust found that two thirds of the public believe the Scots pine should given the status. The issue is due to be debated at Holyrood.

The Scottish government said there “is no mechanism to formalise the adoption of the Scots pine” as the national tree of Scotland.

The issue of designating a national tree was raised at the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee earlier this year by campaigner Alex Hamilton.

He made the case that the Scots pine was an appropriate symbol for the country as its numbers are rising again, after being greatly reduced, making it a “symbol of a resurgent Scotland”.

National emblem

MSPs on the committee agreed to consider the issue and write to the Scottish government, asking about the potential process for declaring a national tree.

The Woodland Trust, along with a number of other environmental organisations, backed Mr Hamilton’s case.

It has now revealed the results of a survey which suggest two thirds of people support Scots pine as the national tree.

The trust said Scots pine was an “iconic species”, which also supports a great range of wildlife, including red squirrels, capercaillie and the Scottish crossbill.

Rory Syme, from the Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “Currently Scotland is one of only a handful of countries that lacks its own national tree. Effectively all that needs to happen to change this is for the parliament to vote in favour of a motion supporting the designation.

“Given the strong appeal of Scots pine, both at home and abroad, making it our national tree would be a fantastic way to celebrate the country’s native woodland, and leave a significant legacy for the Year of Natural Scotland.”

The issue is due to be discussed again by the petitions committee, ahead of a member’s debate at Holyrood next Wednesday.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “The Scots pine is held in affection by many people and it is often the case that national emblems arise from cultural tradition.

“However, cultural tradition does not confer any official status and there is no mechanism to formalise the adoption of the Scots pine as Scotland’s national tree. “We await the outcome of the forthcoming debate.”

Scottish wild land map

More important progress on wild land mapping

BBC News – Scottish wild land map a UK first, says heritage agency.

What has been described as the UK’s first map of wild land has been published by Scottish Natural Heritage.

It involves almost four million acres of land in Scotland deemed to be natural, remote, with challenging terrain and few modern structures.

SNH said the map was part of government efforts to protect the areas and guide development in the landscapes.

The 43 areas marked on the map include Black Laws, Cape Wrath, Jura, Lochnagar, Merrick and Schiehallion.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) said the map could lead to mountain areas becoming “islands” surrounded by wind farms on nearby land not designated as wild.

The map forms part of the Scottish government’s new National Planning Framework (NPF3) and draft Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).


PDF downloadWild Land Map[225KB]

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader

The two documents strengthen environmental protection for Scotland’s wildest and most scenic landscapes, the government said.

They also prohibit the construction of wind farms in 19% of Scotland which is covered by national parks and national scenic areas.

‘Impressive wildlife’

SNH said the map was the first of its kind in the UK.

Other areas included are Skye’s Cuillin mountains, the South Uist hills and Quinag in Sutherland.

Knoydart, often described as Britain’s last wilderness, also features.

The largest area on the map are the Cairngorms which are listed on the map’s table as covering more than 390,416 acres (157,996 ha).

Andrew Bachell, SNH director of operations, said wild land was a valuable asset.

CairngormsThe Cairngorms is the largest area on the map

He said: “It makes an important contribution to our tourism industry and images of wild places also help support Scotland’s worldwide reputation as a beautiful and impressive country.

“It makes a crucial contribution to our quality of life and we know that most Scots consider wild places to be important to them. Wild land also supports biodiversity and is often associated with our most impressive wildlife.”

Mr Bachell added: “Our new map will enable planners and developers to take account of wild land, particularly in planning future wind farm and any other large scale developments.”

MCofS chief officer David Gibson said the council was still assessing the map and its supporting information

He said: “We are disappointed at the apparent lack of provision of buffer zones around national scenic areas and national parks.

“From the map it appears that mountain areas in Scotland could appear like islands surrounded by a sea of turbines.”

Mr Gibson added: “Hardly a positive move in this Year of Natural Scotland.”

Bugs new to UK found on Dundreggan Highland estate

Aphids Aphids cinara smolandiae were among species new to the UK found at Dundreggan

Species of bugs not previously recorded in the UK have been found on Dundreggan Estate near Loch Ness.

A sawfly, aphids and a mite were among the eight species new to the UK that have been identified on the 10,000-acre (4.046.8-hectare) estate.

A biting midge feeding on a larger cranefly was also observed during the survey that was made in 2012.

This behaviour had not previously been recorded in Europe, according to the estate’s owner, Trees for Life.

The new species recorded were the sawfly nematus pravus and cinara smolandiae, an aphid.

Midge feeding on a cranefly A midge was observed feeding on a cranefly

Also recorded were two species of aphid parasitoids – ephedrus helleni and praon cavariellae – and three species of fungus gnats called brevicornu parafennicum, mycomya disa and sceptonia longisetosa.

Ceratozetella thienemanni, a mite, was also recorded.

Trees for Life’s executive director, Alan Watson Featherstone, observed the midge feeding on the cranefly.

He said: “The surprisingly rich variety of life at Dundreggan highlights the vital importance of conservation work and of protecting and enhancing habitats across the Highlands.

“The discoveries are not only demonstrating that the estate is a special site for biological diversity – they are also revealing that there is still much to learn about Scotland’s biodiversity.”

Trees for LIfe doing some great work on Dundreggan estate