Thursday, 19 December 2013

IUCN Newsletter Nov/Dec 2013

The IUCN UK Peatland programme has published their latest Newsletter.  I am supporting the IUCN UK PP work which is leading the development of the Peatland Code.  The aim of this work is to set out how peatland can be maintained and restored and it might unlock funding for this through carbon trading.

The work has close connections to the Green Stimulus Peatland Restoration Project, which I am a member of the Steering Group for.

Scotland’s Soils website launched

See the article on the SG website, and the Soils Website

I have been hoping to organise a soils briefing for Forum member's for some time.  I believe that we do not take enough account of what is under our feet and the effect it has on drainage, surface vegetation and productive capacity.  If you are like me, a knowledge of soils will not have been included in your education and I would like to address this.

With the increasing interest in peatland, we are getting better at thinking about some of the issues, but we need to transfer this interest to all the other soil types.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Species Interactions - Planning Meeting

The planning meeting agreed at the Forum meeting on 8th November has now been fixed to take place on 17th January at a location to be decided in or near Perth.

I have kept 'close' to the original intention to achieve a small but representative sample of Forum members at this meeting.  Many thanks to those who volunteered their services and have not been invited to attend.  I hope everyone can appreciate the benefits of working with a small group.

In agreeing the contributors to the planning meeting, I considered volunteers and then I rather arbitrarily split the Forum members into categories to make sure that there was a reasonable representation across the Forum.  You can see how I approached this below.  The obvious gap is the SEARS / Agency category.  I have taken the view that several of the SEARS organisations have had an input into the preparation of the SNH proposals  and therefore representation at the meeting was not required.

I am ready and willing to receive any howls of protest.  No views will be excluded and there will be plenty of opportunity, and even an expectation, for comment as the process is developed.  After the meeting in January, further ideas will be exchanged with SNH with a view to having revised proposals for Forum members to consider and discuss at the Chairman's Working Group and Forum meetings on 7th & 28th February respectively.

Moorland Forum - Membership Breakdown


John Muir Trust

National Trust for Scotland

RSPB Scotland

Scottish Raptor Study Groups

Scottish Wildife Trust



Association for Deer Management Groups

BASC Scotland

British Deer Society


Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Game Conservancy Scottish Research Trustees


RICS / Islesman Ltd

Scottish Association for Country Sports

Scottish Countryside Alliance

Scottish Land & Estates

Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group



BTO Scotland

James Hutton Institute

Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)


Cairngorms National Park Authority

Crofting Commission

Forestry Commission Scotland

Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Authority

Rural Directorate

Scottish Renewables

Scottish Water



Steve Redpath

Simon Thorp

Total attending

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Update for Members

Langholm - November 2013
SNH Sharing Good Practice events

Following a meeting at Battleby, last Friday, the aim is now to work up more detailed proposals for  events to cover hill tracks and peatland restoration.

The hill tracks events will be developed in conjunction with SL&E and SNH.

The peatland events will link to the Green Stimulus Peatland Restoration Project and will help to deliver this project, as well as raising awareness about peatland restoration issues.

Moorland Management Best Practice Guidance

As an extension of the Sharing Good Practice work, discussions are taking place about developing best practice guidance for moorland management.  Long servers on the Forum will recognise that this would be a development of the 'Principles of Moorland Management' that the Forum published in 2003.

A possible process is that the Forum might prepare draft guidance and then road test this through events with stakeholders, and these events might cover one or several topics.

The plan at present is to develop an outline proposal for discussion at the Forum meeting that will be held in February 2014.  If agreed, the proposal would be worked up into something more detailed for discussion at the Summer meeting.

"Species Interactions"

My efforts to organise the planning meeting quickly have been frustrated by lack of availability and Friday, 17th January is now looking favourite.  It should still be possible to produce some sensible proposals in time for the next Chairman's Working Group and Forum meetings on 7th & 28th February, respectively.

Note that I have adopted Species Interactions as the working title for this work, in preference to Species Solutions, as I believe it to better represent what we are trying to achieve in this phase of the work. This can be subject to further change during the development phase.

Meetings with Scottish Government

Meeting with the Minister - January 2014.  Lord Lindsay hopes to meet the Minister for Environment, Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, to present the Annual Report to him and provide an update about the work of the Forum.

A meeting with Bob McIntosh, Director Environment & Forestry is being proposed for January or February.

Discussion are taking place about a meeting for the Forum with the Minister for Environment, Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, somewhere in the Borders, in June,

Moorland Forum Meeting - 8th November

I thought this was a very successful meeting.  I was grateful for the good turnout and the enthusiasm that was demonstrated during the discussion.  We covered a lot of ground during the meeting and this prompted me to publish a newsletter that contained the Highlights from the meeting.

The draft Minutes have now been published and are available to members of the Forum from the website.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Land Management Adviser Vacancy - LL&TNPA

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority is seeking a Land Management Adviser.

For details see the LL&TNPA website.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Scottish Wildfire Forum - there is life

Photo: Andy Law
I took part in the pre-meeting discussion with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS), this morning.  The Scottish Wildfire Forum was resting during the lead up to the formation of the SFRS on 1 April.  Two days later, the SFRS was embroiled in a series of  major wildfire incidents, principally in north west Scotland.  These incidents served as a wake up call, if one were needed, about the importance of planning for wildfire, and this has given impetus to discussions about the size and shape required for a revitalised Wildfire Forum.

Something good will come from this, and I believe that the revised SWF will be better able to support the need to prepare for wildfire.  I hold the view that planning for wildfire will reduce the risks to life and the risk of disruption to communities, businesses and the environment close to wildfires.

A Wildfire Manual has been prepared and will be published soon.  Although this is an operational guidance for the SFRS, it will provide soon-off documents that will provide wider benefits.  It is possible that the Wildfire Manual will be formally launched at the Wildfire 2013 conference that is being held in South Wales 22-23 October 2013.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Update from the National Access Forum

The National Access Forum publishes reports and updates on its activity on the Forum's website.  The latest update is dated 22 May 2013 and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in access issues, and perhaps we should all have such an interest.

We share several members with the National Access Forum, but even so I believe that all the multiple Forums in Scotland tend to operate in silos.  When there is an opportunity, I intend to address this for the Moorland Forum by following up on Bob McIntosh's invitation to develop a 'compendium' of all the groups that feed into his Environment & Forestry directorate.  Perhaps we would all benefit from better communication between groups - at present, I wonder who, if anyone, has an overview of all activity.

Capercaillie vs Pine Marten

An article in The Scotsman highlights concerns about the future of Capercaillie that are resulting in contrasting views on what action to take.   GWCT monitoring indicates that the 'species is in rapid and ongoing decline' while the pine marten population has increased.  Opinion about what to do varies between: catch up pine martens during the capercaillie breeding season and release them later in the year, catch up and translocate them, provide diversionary food dumps, or flood Scotland with imported birds from Scandinavia to saturate the pine marten need.

Is this a case where a decision needs to be made to do something on the basis that some action must be better than none?  I fear there is a danger that contrasting views will produce inaction, which will mean that all the effort will end up just overseeing the demise of Capercaillie.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Land Use Strategy Progress Statement 2013

From the SG website:

"The second Land Use Strategy Progress Statement 2013 sets out how the Proposals in the Land Use Strategy Action Plan are being taken forward and how the ten Principles for Sustainable Land Use are being embedded in land use decision making.

"It covers the period June 2012 to June 2013. Progress has been made in the delivery of all elements of the Land Use Strategy including establishing two regional land use pilots, evaluating progress with mainstreaming the Principles and developing a set of ten indicators to measure progress with the delilvery of the Strategy's three Objectives."

The full report can be downloaded.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

CBE for Bob McIntosh

Congratulations to Bob McIntosh, Director of Environment & Forestry, on his CBE in the Birthday Honours list.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Forest Enterprise Scotland: Open Land Workshop

Blocked drain on Eldrick Hill, Galloway Forest Park
Representatives of the Moorland Forum attended a workshop with members of staff from Forest Enterprise Scotland in the Galloway Forest Park on 11 June. This workshop was organised by FES and forms part of the commissioned work that the Forum is developing.

The Galloway Forest Park has an area of 25,000 ha of open land within its boundaries. The aim of the workshop was to consider the management of two areas of open land, and for the Forum representatives to provide their views on the current management and how it might be improved. The main topics for discussion were the restoration of the peatland and the use of grazing as a management tool.

The timing of the workshop was unfortunate, as we were met by wet conditions that followed a period of warm, dry weather.  However, this did not affect the enthusiasm for the workshop and it certainly did not detract from the amount of discussion.

The output from the workshop will be a short report from the Forum providing some advice about future management of the areas and the monitoring of change.  The initial report will be developed, with input from FES staff and other members of the Forum, into a form that will be presented to the FES Board.

The range of issues that were raised by the Forum representatives proved the value of this approach.  I hope that it will be the start of a longer term relationship with FES and that we will be able to consider other sites in the future.  In the meantime, it is back to writing the report drawing conclusions from the very animated discussions that took place, yesterday, and I believe that this will be of great value to FES as they review their management of the two areas we inspected.

My thanks to FES for commissioning this work from the Forum and for the enthusiasm of the representatives who attended and contributed to the meeting, yesterday.

The following people attended the workshop:

Moorland Forum;
Clifton Bain
Chris Rollie
Lenka Sukenikova
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere
Mary-Ann Smyth
Crichton Carbon Centre
Dick Birnie
Landform Research
Graham Sullivan
Tony Waterhouse
Simon Thorp
Moorland Forum

Forestry Commission
Rob Soutar
Forest District Manager, Galloway Forest District
Jeff Waddell
Open Habitat Ecologist
Colin Hossack
Planning, Galloway Forest District
Russell Anderson
Forest Research
Andrew Jarrott
Environment, Galloway Forest District