Saturday, 21 November 2015

Consultation on a draft Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021


The land use strategy consultation runs until 29 January 2016. See the Scottish Government website for full details.

The first Land Use Strategy was published in March 2011. It initiated a step change towards a more integrated and strategic approach to land use.

The draft Land Use Strategy 2016-2021 builds on the first Strategy and retains the strategic Vision, Objectives and Principles for Sustainable Land Use. These are considered fit for purpose in terms of continuing to provide the strategic direction for sustainable land use matters. 

The draft provides a focussed set of priority activities for the next five years and policies and proposals have been developed around the following themes:
  • Policy Context;
  • Informed Decision Making; and
  • Applying the Principles.
The draft sets out a range of policies and proposals including:
  • how we manage our natural resources, including continued use of an ecosystems approach to land use decisions;
  • developing and implementing activities to promote climate friendly farming and crofting;
  • an exploration of the relationship between ownership, use and management of land including consideration of the potential advantages of a single policy statement about land; and
  • encouraging regional land use partnerships to bring a range of interests together to consider land use at a local level.
As with other consultations, it may be difficult for the Forum to respond on behalf of members, as it may not be possible for the Forum to achieve consensus on all the issues.  However, the possibility of providing a generic response from the Forum will be considered, and Forum members will be encouraged to to respond individually.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Understanding Predation Project - Review Seminars




See the report from the final two seminars that is on the Understanding Predation blog.

UK Wildfire Conference: 10-11 November


I represented the Moorland Forum at the UK Wildfire Conference, last week.  This conference was the latest in a series of UK conferences that started in 2003.  Previously, the conferences had been organised by an independent company, but this year the decision was taken that the Scottish Wildfire Forum should team up with the England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Chief Fire Officers' Association Wildfire Group to run the conference.  The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service agreed to host the conference at their state-of-the-art conference centre at Cambuslang, south-east of Glasgow, and it proved to be a fantastic venue.

After a slow start, the number of bookings increased to just short of 180 and it was great that this included people from Sweden, the Netherlands, USA and New Zealand.  The international audience justified the presence of the key-note international speakers from USA, New Zealand and Italy, who shared their considerable wildfire experience with the conference.  The level of preparedness for wildfire in the UK is low compared to other countries, but then so is our threat level.  Arguably, the threat level is too low; if it were higher, we would be forced to get more organised but it is difficult to justify this when we only have a bad wildfire season every few years, which is unlikely to affect every part of the UK.  During discussion at the conference, the comparison was made with snow clearance; if we had regular, predictable heavy falls of snow, we would be prepared to invest more heavily in snow clearing equipment.  However, just because our wildfire threat level is low does not mean there is no risk to people and property and that we should not be planning ahead.  This was the theme for the conference: "Prevention Better Than Cure".

I am the Vice Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire forum, and also on the Executive Committee of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, and in this dual capacity I was asked to provide an introduction to the conference, to help set the scene.

On the second day, I ran a workshop about the proposal to introduce a Fire Danger Rating System (FDRS) for the UK.  The starting point for this is that the two wildfire forums and the Chief Fire Officers' Association Wildfire Group, should come together to draw up a specification for what is required; jointly, these organisations should be the customer.  As part of developing a specification, all existing systems will be reviewed, as well as the option to develop a bespoke system for the UK.  Any costs will need to be justified.  Experience of introducing a better co-ordinated response to wildfire in the Peak District has indicated that there will be cost savings, but it will no doubt be difficult to obtain any funding for this work.  However, the first step is to quantify what the industry wants a FDRS to achieve and then provide different options, with associated costs for how this might be achieved.

Wildfire is often seen as a poor relation when considering the management of our open land, but with forecasters indicating that climate change is likely to result in hotter and drier summers, I believe it is essential that we become better prepared for wildfire incidents so that we can reduce their impact.  The worst case scenario is a summer wildfire burning into peat - not only will this result in severe damage to vegetation, it will cause an enormous loss of stored carbon.

Wildfires are a potential environmental disaster; we must do everything we can to reduce the amount of damage they cause.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Peatland Action - Team Meeting - day 2

After some late night informal discussion, day 2 of the Team Meeting, on Friday 6 November, took place indoors.

I provide some support for the project by coordinating and advising on the demonstration events that the project officers are running; these promote the work of the project, and allow discussion of peatland restoration and management.  

Demonstration Events
While some larger demonstration events will continue to be held, where it is appropriate, some project officers have found it effective to take one or two people with them when inspecting work in progress.  This involves little extra effort and is a good way to engage with people who want to know more about peatland management.  Project Officers have been encouraged to use this approach.

A more strategic event is being planned the end of February, and this will be held near Lanark.  The target audience will be senior staff from Forestry Commission Scotland, and from other organisations within reach of Lanark.  

Some discussion took place about having a team meeting at the end of this phase of the project, in March 2016, and this will probably be held near Edinburgh.  This might provide an opportunity to host an evening reception to present the achievements of Peatland Action to a wider audience.

Peatland: Management vs Restoration
I was encouraged by the increasing reference to peatland management, as I believe this represents the peatland story moving into a more mature phase.  It is easy to get carried away by all the excitement associated with hordes of large machinery moving across moorland, and it can be forgotten that this is a long-term game.  

Restoration work is required in areas where the peat is eroding fast, and the worst cases are where the vegetation has been removed to leave bare peat.  In other areas, where the vegetation cover remains, a more subtle approach is required to manage the vegetation more sympathetically and perhaps shift the balance between dry heath species and mosses to make it more resilient in the future.

We need to integrate peatland management into best practice management of our upland and moorland areas.  To do this the Peatland Action project must be able to engage with farmers as well as estates.  Recognition of the changing importance of peatlands will inevitability take a long time and the 'peatland community' must be patient; we are making progress but there is still a long way to go.

Barriers to Adoption
The project is aware that there are some barriers, perceived and real, that are preventing some people for embracing the message about peatland.  An example is the concern of livestock farmers that re-wetting will increase the incidence of fluke and increase the amount of Bog asphodel, which is associated with photo-sensitisation in sheep.  It may be possible to address some of these concerns by producing some guidance, but other issues may require further research.  I will be establishing from project officers where such barriers are thought to exist, and I would welcome input from others.


Friday, 6 November 2015

Peatland Action - Team Meeting - day 1

Part of Inshriach Restoration Site, near Aviemore
I had an interesting day with the Peatland Action team in Aviemore, yesterday, that included a visit to nearby peatland restoration sites.

Seeing this work first hand confirms my conviction that the restoration of peatland is long overdue.  In the past our treatment of these areas as waste land has been to ignore their value in so many ways.  Their impact on water quality is the most obvious; when you can see how much peat material gets washed away when the protective layer of vegetation is removed you can begin to understand why our rivers turn brown after heavy rain.  We should also not forget the eroding effect of wind on peat that has dried out.

One of the areas we visited yesterday had lost about a metre of depth, since concern was first expressed about the condition of the area in 1986.  While there maybe between three and five metres of peat on this site still, it will not last long at this rate of erosion.

Some of the Peatland Action Project Officers
The first task for restoration work must be to restrict erosion by restoring the vegetation cover.  If the water table is then raised, this surface layer will become self-sustaining.  The ideal is then for  sphagnum mosses to colonise the area which will then start to form more peat.

This is all long-term stuff.  The Peatland Action team have been tasked with spending £3m in the 9 months that ends on 31 March 2016.  When compared with the scale of the problem caused by our lack of sensitive management in the past, this is a drop in the bucket, but it is a good start.  More funding and more awareness of the challenge we face is required.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Moorland Forum meeting - 30 October


We had a good turnout for the meeting yesterday; thank you to all those who attended.  Here is a snap shot of the discussion.

Rural Skills and Careers was the lead topic and, with the very valuable input from the Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Land & Estates, Lantra Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park, we had a very good discussions of the issues.  The key question was, "Can the Forum add value to the initiatives that are already in place?" This is a big topic and not surprisingly we did not reach any conclusions, but we agreed that the Forum would organise a meeting to discuss the options in more depth and we will invite other key players, for example the colleges, to attend.

BTO provided an update on the progress of the Understanding Predation project.  The first of three review seminars was held on Tuesday, 27 October, and this had gone very well (see the report on the UP blog).  A striking issue from the seminar had been the diversity of the people who had attended and their willingness to engage in discussion.  The briefing that has been produced for delegates attending the seminar is recommended reading.

We considered the other ongoing and planned work.  I received the invitation to tender for the review of the Muirburn Code on Thursday morning, 29 October, and I will be asking for support with providing the response to the tender.

We discussed the Sustainable Moorland Management Review that had recommended the involvement of the Forum.  Lord Lindsay will write to the Minister for Environment to express the Forum's willingness to support this work, covering: the production of a Moorland Vision and a strategy to deliver it; and the design and delivery of large-scale and long-term experiments to support the  understanding of moorland ecosystem health.

The Forum supported the suggestion that the summer meeting should take us north and west of the Great Glen.  A proposal to visit the Sleat peninsula on Skye was put forward, but other suggestions will be welcome.

A draft of the Annual Progress Report had been circulated and I am keen to get any comments on the text.  I will be working on the presentation of this to provide a bit more impact and move on from the rather predictable presentation.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Environmental projects - how to run a better project


SNH is running a Sharing Good Practice Event to provide an opportunity for participants to share and learn from others the project management skills required to successfully run ‘on the ground’ environmental projects and projects within environmental organisations.

Environmental projects have their own challenges which Project Managers overcome in their own way.  It is envisaged that past, present and future Project Managers and Project Executives / Senior Responsible Owners will attend, as well as others with an interest in the delivery of environmental projects.

The event aims to draw in speakers from outside the environmental sector to give a broader perspective on how to successfully utilise project management techniques.

There is more information and a booking form on SNH's website.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Land Reform (Scotland) Bill


I suggest that anyone wanting a 'handy' summary of the Land Reform Bill should have a look at the briefing contained in the papers published for the meeting of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee on 2nd September.

The briefing is six pages long and starts on page 4 of the document.

Friday, 9 October 2015

A landmark day for the Forum


It feels like today has been a bit of a landmark day for the Moorland Forum. Some of the buses we have been waiting for have come round the bend on the same day, and we have held two important meetings.

Review of Sustainable Moorland Management
The long-awaited report to the Science Advisory Committee of SNH from the Review of Sustainable Moorland Management was published today, and this is of great interest to the Forum. The Report, and supporting documents, can be downloaded from the SNH website.

There is a lot of detail in the Report that will need to be sifted through, but the ten recommendations are summarised on p5 of the Report and more details of the key issues (and supporting recommendations) are provided on pp30-37. As a taster the recommendations contain:
  • Scotland’s Moorland Forum, working with its members and wider stakeholders, is asked to produce a shared vision for Scotland’s moorlands founded on environmental sustainability and critical ecological thinking and to devise a strategy for delivering this. 
  • SNH is asked to work with Scotland’s Moorland Forum to design and deliver large-scale, long-term experiments to support our understanding of moorland ecosystem health.
However, this is not yet a call for action. Discussions are taking place between SNH and the Scottish Government about how this work is to be resourced, and I will provide an update about any action that we can get on with at the Forum meeting, on 30 October.

Understanding Predation - Steering Group Meeting
The Project's Steering Group met and received a presentation from the Research Group about the working draft report that has been circulated to them. Discussion took place about the management and presentation of the data that have been collected from the review of the science, the questionnaire and the workshops. There was complete agreement about how the Report could be refined. 

We also discussed the Project Review Seminars, which will take place on 27 Oct, 3 Nov and 12 Nov, and how these will be structured. See the Understanding Predation blog for more details.

I will provide more detail about this meeting, next week, on the Understanding Predation blog and there will be a progress update at the Forum meeting on 30 October.

Chairman's Working Group Meeting
This meeting was held after the Steering Group meeting, and we discussed the agenda for the Forum meeting on 30 October. An important part of the meeting will be a discussion on Rural Skilling. I will circulate an Agenda for the meeting, next week, and this will include a briefing about the Rural Skilling part of the meeting.  

I will ask that members come to the meeting with a clear understanding of what their organisations do already towards providing skills for people in rural areas and what training is provided for the next generation. 

Muirburn Code Review
On the way back from the meetings, I was in discussion with the Scottish Government about the Invitation to Tender for the next phase of the review of the Muirburn Code. I expect to receive the Invitation next week, and I will be aiming to provide a response no later than the end of November, with a view to work starting on the agreed process, early in 2016. Again, more about this on 30 October.


I look forward to working with Members to take forward all these initiatives. It has indeed been a bit of a landmark day, and in preparation for tackling all this, I am heading for three days on the west coast for quiet contemplation and an injection of reality!


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Wildfire Conference - 10-11 November, Cambuslang, Near Glasgow

"Prevention Better than Cure"

The ‘Wildfires 2015 - Prevention Better Than Cure’ conference and exhibition will be held at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Training College, Cambuslang, Glasgow on Tuesday, 10th and Wednesday, 11th November.

Held on a bi-annual basis, the wildfire conferences and exhibitions held in the UK have focused on sharing knowledge about this threat to open landscapes in the UK.  Against a background set by climate change forecasts  that indicate the number and scale of wildfire incidents are likely to increase, this year the emphasis of the conference will be on reducing the risk of damage from wildfire, which is of importance to the Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) and stakeholders alike. 

The conference is being staged at the Scottish FRS's state of the art training centre in Cambuslang.  The conference will be an opportunity to bring together not only leading personnel from the UK and abroad, but there will also be a diverse range of specialists representing the UK FRSs, land & estate managers, insurers, environmental & conservation organisations, and the planning and policy sectors.

The programme includes some excellent sessions on a range of important issues related to wildfire prevention. Keynote speakers are now confirmed from California, New Zealand and Italy, providing some important and insightful international contributions. The other presenters come from the far corners of the UK and represent a wide variety of stakeholder organisations. There will also be exhibition stands from equipment suppliers and poster presentations of recent and current cutting-edge wildfire research. This is a 'must see' event for anyone in the UK who is involved or interested in wildfire prevention.

The conference programme can be downloaded and other details about the Conference (costs, booking form, accommodation etc) can be viewed on the SFRS website.

Please pass this information to any friends and colleagues who may be interested in attending this event.

The conference is being fully supported by the Scottish Wildfire Form, The England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Chief Fire Officer's Association Wildfire Group.  The Forums are taking advantage of the opportunity to hold a joint meeting as a way to enhance the links within the 'wildfire community' in the UK.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Peatland Restoration - event near Crianlarich - 28 Sep 15

There are a few places left at this event which is being run by SRUC at their hill farm, near Crianlarich on Monday next week (28 Sep 15).

Details of how to apply for a place are contained in the flyer below.


Friday, 11 September 2015

Minister's Meeting with the Forum - Muirkirk, 4 September


Representatives of the Forum met Dr Aileen MacLeod, MSP, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform in the Coach House Inn, Muirkirk, on 4 September.  After a short introduction, we took the Minister onto the moorland to the south of Muirkirk, which is part of the Bute Estate.  Our host was Nick Wright, the manager of the estate, and at various stops we discussed a range of topics with the Minister:

Understanding Predation Project: Chris Wernham (BTO) provided an update on the progress of this project.  The draft report will be presented to the steering group, at the end of September and it will be discussed in three seminars between 27 October and 12 November.  The final report will be published at the end of January 2016.  The Minister confirmed her support for this project and stated that she is looking forward to launching the Report, in February.

Heather Management: Nick Wright described some of the heather management issues on the estate and the impact that the re-introduction of grazing two years ago, using Herdwick sheep, has had.

Conservation Issues: Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB) commented on the importance of the site for upland breeding birds and this led into an interesting discussion about the impact that changing management regimes can have on the populations of key bird species.

Land Reform: Tim Baynes (SMG) had been asked for his views about how the Forum could best contribute to the debate about Land Reform.  Many members would be submitting a response to the Bill consultation, and in recognition of the diverse range of opinion across Forum members, Tim recommended that the Forum should maintain the position expressed in Lord Lindsay’s letter to the Minister.  The letter had expressed the willingness of the Forum to respond to any requests for support from the Scottish Government to help identify any unintended consequences that might come from the reforms being considered.  The letter had identified the re-introduction of sporting rates as one issue where the reform might have unintended, negative impacts.

Upland Solutions:  I provided some background about the Upland Solutions project and how this had drawn comparisons in the relationship between the community and the moorland in Muirkirk and the Upper Findhorn Glen, above Tomatin.  It was suggested that if anything this work was more relevant now than it had been when the Project Report was published in 2011.  I suggested that this is unfinished business that the Forum should seek an opportunity to revisit.




Airds Moss Visit

The Minister departed at lunchtime and in the afternoon, the RSPB (Gerry McAuley and Duncan Orr-Ewing) hosted a short visit to the Airds Moss reserve, just to the west of Muirkirk, where substantial peatland restoration work has been undertaken. It was a great opportunity for Forum members to get a feel for the scale of such work.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Workshop: What’s up in the Uplands? Delivering Food & Ecosystem Services

Kirkton & Auchtertyre Research Farm, Crianlarich
The Challenge
What can be done to ensure the economic viability of upland farms so that they can continue to produce quality, sustainable food while delivering ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, flood regulation and maintaining biodiversity? Upland farmers today face pressures including changes to markets, support policies and the climate they are operating in. What should they be aware of ecologically and economically? What current practices could be reviewed and altered to address the pressures? How can upland farmers take advantage of the opportunities presented by an increasing focus on payments for ecosystem services?

Organisers
Scotland’s Rural College, Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities lead the UK in developing and demonstrating best practice in upland livestock production systems. These organisations have come together to run a two-day training workshop on What’s up in the Uplands? Delivering Food Ecosystem Services at SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, based at Kirkton & Auchtertyre upland research farms near Crianlarich, on 3rd and 4th September 2015

Focus
The workshop is particularly focused on upland farming systems and is relevant not only to farmers and their agricultural advisors but also to all those involved with regulating the farming industry or developing agri-environment measures. All of these target audiences need to be aware of and understand the challenges and opportunities facing upland farming systems if such systems are to be economically viable and continue to provide ecosystem service benefits to wider society.

Content
The workshop will explore the environmental, social and economic viability of alternative upland farming systems in the UK, and will discuss challenges and opportunities associated with managing soil, moorlands, natural and cultivated grasslands, sheep and cattle in upland situations.

Leading specialists in their field from SRUC and Bangor will work with workshop attendees to enable them to learn, and discuss in detail, about: how uplands play a key role in providing a wide range of valuable ecosystem services; where greenhouse gas emissions come from on upland farms and how they can be reduced; how upland farmers have an important role to play in carbon sequestration and peatland restoration; how recent research advances can help improve the technical efficiency and economic viability of upland farming; the pros and cons associated heather burning; and how challenges and issues facing upland farms in the Scottish Highlands are relevant to upland farming systems across the UK. 

The workshop will also incorporate a visit to SRUC’s Kirkton & Auchtertyre Farms, to see the range of agricultural and environmental issues being addressed on the farms.

ATP & CPD
The workshop has been organised as part of an Advanced Training Partnership (ATP) in Sustainable and Efficient Food Production run by Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, NIAB TAG and BBSRC. The workshop will serve attendees either as a certified stand-alone Continual Professional Development (CPD) event or as an introduction to two ATP postgraduate distance learning modules on Upland Farming Systems and Ecosystem Services. 

Costs
The full fee for attendance at the workshop is £270. However, if an attendee is employed full time within the UK agri-food sector then then may qualify to receive a bursary to reduce the cost of attendance. Examples of sectors which qualify are: supermarket supply chain advisors, farmers and farm managers, agri-supplies, vets, agri-environmental advisors, agricultural consultants. We regret that those employed in publicly funded posts do NOT qualify for bursaries. Bursaries are awarded at the time of invoicing on a first-come-first-served basis.

More detail
Full details of the workshop, how to register and how to apply for bursaries can be found at the workshop's webpage. Email: atp-enquiries@aber.ac.uk and telephone: 01970 823 224

Peatland Action - Project Officers' Meeting





Last week, I attended a meeting of the Peatland Action Project Officers in Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, and this included a visit to peatland sites hosted by Buccleuch Estates. It made a pleasant change to operating close to home, and to be able to show people from other parts of the country how remote parts of the Southern Uplands can be.

The aim of the meeting was to share knowledge and ideas between the Project Officers who based all over Scotland – from the Shetlands to Galloway.

The project has received additional funding of £3m for this financial year, to build on the budget of £5m that closed at the end of March 2015. The new funding will be allocated to additional peatland restoration work and the window for submitting applications closes on 17 August. There is still time to submit an application, if you are quick!

I am helping to set up demonstration events to communicate the benefits of peatland restoration to a wider audience, and one of the most important audiences will be other land managers. These events will cover restoration techniques, but I think one of the most important messages is that by improving the condition of peatland there are benefits for everyone. It is not just about large intervention projects to restore degraded peatland or re-vegetate areas of bare peat; the benefits can come simply from better management of the land. 

Bare peat areas should be given priority for restoration; as these areas are unstable, the impact of wind and/or water causes them to erode quickly. As a result, bare peat loses the most carbon, both to the atmosphere and to watercourses, in the form of peat particles and dissolved carbon. Stabilising the peat and raising water tables encourages the growth of sphagnum mosses that cover the bare peat, thereby reducing the erosion and loss of the carbon from the moorland.

For more detail, the project has its own section on the SNH website.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Meeting with the Director, Environment & Forestry


On 24 July, the Chairman and I met Bridget Campbell, who is Bob McIntosh's successor as Director, Environment & Forestry in the Scottish Government.

The aim of the meeting was to introduce Bridget Campbell to the Forum and to bring her up to date with ongoing work and future plans.  She was keen to be kept informed about the Understanding Predation project, and our plans for the launch of the Report in February 2016. We also covered the Land Reform Bill and Bridget Campbell will make sure that the Bill Team is aware of the Forum's offer to advise about possible unintended consequences.

A list of Agenda items and notes from the meeting are available to download.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Burning in the Uplands - new RSPB-led Study published

A new study led by the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science has revealed the extent of moorland burning across Britain’s upland areas. This is the first time upland burning has been mapped in detail across mainland Britain.

Using aerial photography and satellite images, 45,000 1-km squares were mapped across Scotland, England and Wales, and revealed that burning occurred across 8,551 of these squares, including 5,245 squares in Scotland.  In the ten year period covered by the study from 2001 to 2011, the number of burns recorded increased rapidly by 11 per cent each year.

For more information see the RSPB press release.  The paper has been published in Biological Conservation.  The abstract of the paper can be viewed online and the full paper is available to download for a fee.

This paper, and others like it, will need to be considered as part of the review of the Muirburn Code.  Our understanding of the uplands has improved in many areas since the current Code was published in 2001, but the expansion of our understanding of peatland has been the biggest area of change.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Understanding Predation - Questionnaire closes on 31 July


The Questionnaire

The Understanding Predation project aims to capture the views of as many people as possible. While the project will welcome responses from organisations, it is personal views that count most. The project wants to hear what individuals think, not just what organisations would like their people to think!

Have you completed a questionnaire yet, and have you done enough to draw the attention of colleagues, members and/or supporters to the opportunity that the questionnaire offers people to express their views?  The questionnaire responses will influence the final report from the project.


Understanding Predation – Information at a glance
Project webpage
Project Blog
Questionnaire – Online version
(for submission of response)
Questionnaire – pdf version
(to preview the questions)
End of online questionnaire
Completion of workshops
31st July 2015
Project Review Seminars
27th October – Perth
3rd November – Inverness
12th November - Edinburgh

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Peatland Action - Reborn


The Scottish Government has allocated Peatland ACTION a further £3 m to spend on peatland restoration this year. See Scottish Government news release 9 June 2015 'Climate change action heats up'.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) was allocated £5 million to spend on:
  • restoring and managing peatlands to maintain carbon stores and encourage carbon sequestration restore peatland ecosystem functions; 
  • enhancing ecosystem resilience to climate change; and 
  • building peatland restoration capacity and understanding amongst land managers, contractors, advisors and the public. 
The Peatland ACTION project was established to respond to this challenge in the last financial year, and work was funded across 107 sites throughout Scotland.  Building on this success, the allocation of a further £3m, to spend before the end of March 2016, will allow the Peatland ACTION project to extend the amount of restoration work that can be carried out.

Applications for Funding
Details about how to apply for funding for peatland restoration work are available from the Peatland ACTION part of the SNH website.  The closing date for applications is 17 August - if this is of interest you need to act now.

Demonstration Events
I am working with the Project to the Peatland Project Officers who are in post around the country to set up Demonstration Events.  The programme of events is starting this month and will run into the autumn.  Anyone interested in attending an event can contact me so that I can put them in touch with the appropriate Project Officer.



Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sharing Good Practice event: Making soils count


Making soils count - Wednesday 9th September 2015, Battleby Centre, Perth


This Sharing Good Practice (SGP) event forms part of a programme of activities under the Scotland partnership for promotion of UN International Year of Soils 2015 (IYS2015). IYS2015 provides an opportunity to take stock and reflect on examples of sustainable soil management that exist in Scotland and where gaps in information and resources occurs.

This event is organised by Scottish Natural Heritage in partnership with Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Field Studies Council, British Geological Survey, The James Hutton Institute, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Scottish Rural College and Cifal Scotland.

SGP events are fully participatory events where participants can learn about and share practical issues relevant to their own particular roles and activities and discuss their resource requirements and help to identify resource gaps. This event will specifically cover awareness of soil issues and demonstrate the breadth of information and tools available. The event is aimed at ‘those who have responsibility for soil and its sustainable management in Scotland’. In particular - land managers, advisors, researchers, public agencies and NGO’s. 

Event Objectives: 
  • To promote awareness of soil issues
  • To provide a path to the breadth of information and tools available to understand, monitor and manage soils by range of contributing organisations
  • An opportunity to take stock and reflect on examples of sustainable soil management that exist in Scotland
The event flyer and booking form are available on the SNH website.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Understanding Predation Project - a quick update



The Understanding Predation project is in full swing. Over 300 questionnaires have been received although there is still plenty of time for more questionnaires to be submitted.  The workshops are in full swing and these will continue until the end of July.  The bibliography for the final report has been prepared, and this will be published on the Project’s webpage, next week, along with an explanatory post on the Project's blog.

A full update on the progress of the Project will be submitted to the Steering Group, next week, and the Group will be asked to confirm that this satisfies the requirements of the second milestone.

All members of the Moorland Forum are asked to keep their own members and supporters up to date with progress through their own networks.  An outline briefing will be prepared that Forum members may wish to adapt for their own use.

I will be at the Scottish Game Fair for the next three days, along with several other members of the Forum and this will provide an opportunity to discuss the project.  A postcard promoting the project has been printed so that web & blog details for the project can be given easily to anyone who shows an interest.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Tenant Farming Advisor

Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has appointed Andrew Thin as Scotland’s new independent advisor on tenant farming.

The Scottish Government's news release has more details and quotes.