Thursday, 18 December 2014

Scottish Natural Heritage - Review of Moorland Management

Professor Alan Werritty is the chairman of the SNH-led review of moorland management.  Here, at the end of a long two days, Alan provides an update on progress.

Our two-day hearing has come to a close.

Our final session ranged over policy issues. We had a lively hearing involving Bob McIntosh, Director of the Scottish Government’s Environment and Forestry Directorate, Duncan Orr-Ewing of the RSPB, Maggie Keegan of the SWT, and Andrew Midgley of Scottish Land Estates.

The Land Use Strategy and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy featured prominently. We explored in detail the environmental, social and economic pillars of sustainable moorland landscapes. A lot of our discussion centred on the role of a national vision for moorland and regional strategies supporting this.

Now we begin work on our report, which we shall draft by the end of February. 

Meanwhile, I must thank my colleagues for supporting the review, and the many people who attended the hearing for so enthusiastically participating in our conversations. We have also received some excellent written evidence which helps us greatly.

Professor Alan Werritty FRSE
Chair of the SNH SAC Sustainable Moorland Management Review Group

Scottish Natural Heritage - Review of Moorland Management

Professor Alan Werritty is chairing a SNH-led review of moorland management.  Here, in his second guest blog, Alan provides an update on progress.

We are now well into our hearing on sustainable moorland management.

Yesterday was fascinating. We heard evidence from SNH staff, which highlighted the huge breadth of issues they deal with under the umbrella of ‘moorlands’. We have some strong lines of evidence on wildlife and habitat changes derived from SNHs Site Condition Monitoring, and available on SEWeb.

We then heard from a trio of professors working on water management and geodiversity. We discussed the EMBER project, a number of issues relating to flood management, and heard about growing interest in the ‘roughness’ of upland landscapes in determining water run-off. 

We then moved into economic and amenity issues and heard from representatives of crofting and recreation interests as well as experienced economists and land-use experts. As we ranged over the many values of moorland we were challenged to tease apart views, perceptions and evidence (the term ‘co-production of evidence’ popped into conversation!). So many people, even experts, have hard views about what works well and badly across moorland Scotland, yet the evidence base underpinning this is incredibly patchy and disparate.

We worked late and tried to pull together the threads of much of what we heard, and have read.

This morning, we started with a session on biodiversity, with lively contributions from Professors Steve Redpath and Davy McCracken, both vastly experienced and steeped in the complexities of land use change, conservation and management. A lot of science came to the fore here, and we heard a strong case for more experimental work, and possibly a large experiment on land management practices and impacts. We also heard a lot about the value of a range of evidence types – not just from scientists, but from the wider range of stakeholders connected with the uplands.

We have just finished a session on moorland management practices, with experts from the Heather Trust, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, National Trust for Scotland, Association of Deer Management Groups, and the renewable energy sector. This was a wide ranging session, with a lot of discussion centring on grouse moor management, the land restoration measures and cooperative approaches to management. These are complex issues, and one issue emerging very clearly is the great range of management objectives, some of which operate at the local landholding level, whereas others cover vast landscapes. Indeed, several people have commented we don’t really have a clear or shared vision for moorlands. We recently saw a public consultation on a national plan for Scotland’s peatlands, and we have a good deal to learn from that.

Professor Alan Werritty FRSE
Chair of the SNH SAC Sustainable Moorland Management Review Group

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Scottish Natural Heritage - Review of Moorland Management

Professor Alan Werritty is the chairman of a SNH-led review of moorland management.  Here, Alan provides a guest blog to provide some background to the review.

Today is the first of two days spent gathering evidence on sustainable moorland management. I am chairing the SNH Scientific Advisory Committee  (SAC) review  group reviewing this topic, and we have invited views from more than 20 specialists and advisers drawn from research bodies, government, agencies, land managers and NGOs.  Meeting in Edinburgh, we are looking forward to lively exchanges to tease out what we know, and what we don’t.  Of course we would like to have invited many more, but we have had to be selective.

We are looking to develop our understanding of management, which sustains the fullest range of moorland natural heritage features across Scotland, and which supports ecologically and economically healthy ecosystems.

Periodically, questions are asked about the impacts of sheep and deer grazing, muirburn,  heather cutting, predator control and a range of other management practices on moorlands.  Answers differ depending on whether your interests lie with soils, water, wildlife, economic interests or wider environmental and cultural aspects.  As part of our review, we are trying to identify the management which supports healthy  nature as well as healthy economics.  It is quite a challenge!

In carrying out this review we want to contribute to work underway under the Land Use Strategy (LUS)  and Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS) , as well as work reviewed under the IUCN Peatland Programme .   Other important sources of information are to be found on Scotland’s Moorland Forum website  and  as a result of Natural England’s recently completed first phase of a review of the evidence base on the management of the English uplands.  We have already pulled together a lot of information, and have received very helpful submissions.

Beyond the hearing, we shall draft our report and submit it to the SAC for its meeting on 5th March. The report will then be presented to the SNH Board.

My colleagues on the review group are: Professor Robin Pakeman (James Hutton Institute), Dr Colin Shedden (BASC), Dr Adam Smith (GWCT) and Professor Jeremy Wilson (RSPB). The Secretary is Karen Rentoul, supported by Professor Des Thompson (SNH).

Professor Alan Werritty FRSE
Chair of the SNH SAC Sustainable Moorland Management Review Group

Monday, 15 December 2014

Peatland action - Demonstration Sites

I met Andrew McBride (Peatland Action Project Manager) in Battleby, today to discuss further development of proposals to establish a suite of demonstration sites across Scotland as part of the Peatland Action (PA) project.

These sites will be on land where work funded by the PA project has been carried out, and the aim will be to establish sites that represent different types of peatland in different conditions.

The initial idea we discussed was to use the sites for events to allow people to visit and find out at first hand what peatland management involved. They would also learn about the impact of the work on other enterprises.  However, the sites could be used in many different ways and I will be exploring other possible uses, as well as the demonstration concept, in the further proposals I produce on behalf of the Forum in January.

I would welcome input from any Forum member who has a view about this work.