Kirsty Chalmers: It’s time to unearth our conservation heroes

Kirsty Chalmers, Projects and Events Officer, RSPB Scotland.

Kirsty Chalmers, Projects and Events Officer, RSPB Scotland.

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When you venture out into nature you never know what you’re going to come across. Turn over a fallen branch in the woods or dip your hand into a rockpool at the beach and you’ll soon realise there’s a wealth of wildlife waiting to be discovered, if only you look for it.

The same can be said of Scotland’s nature heroes – the people working tirelessly to save threatened species, enhance green spaces in local communities and connect more children to the natural world. You may not get to know who they are or hear about their vital work unless someone shines a spotlight on it. That’s why, each year, RSPB Scotland launches a search for the brightest, most passionate and dedicated unsung heroes of wildlife conservation with the Nature of Scotland Awards – to find and celebrate those people doing great work for our precious natural heritage.

Entries opened on 13 March and there are nine categories to apply for: RSPB Species Champion, Marine Conservation, Political Advocate of the Year, Corporate, Youth and Education, Innovation, Community Initiative, Food and Farming, and Nature Tourism.

Scotland is home to some of the most special species and habitats in the UK, from golden eagles, red squirrels and rare Atlantic oak woodland to great yellow bumblebees, the vast expanses of peatland in the Flow Country and internationally important seabird colonies. However, there are growing challenges such as climate change, which are putting the country’s wildlife and wild places at risk. The dedication and hard work of Scotland’s nature heroes is now more important than ever in the battle to protect and enhance our natural world.

In previous years, our wildlife champions have included the creators of community and biodiversity gardens, bringing inspirational green spaces to previously disused or industrial plots of land; a project to create more habitat for marsh fritillary butterflies on farms and agricultural sites; and a group of fishermen and harbour staff who volunteered their time to tackle the problem of marine litter, which kills thousands of seabirds, fish and mammals each year.

The Nature of Scotland Awards have also recognised schools that are bringing conservation to their classrooms and nature back to their school grounds, businesses that support and champion the protection of wildlife and habitats, politicians who have brought the fight for our environment to the Scottish Parliament and initiatives established to protect white-tailed eagles, red squirrels, capercaillie and black grouse. If you or someone you know is doing something similar, or even something better, then RSPB Scotland wants to hear from you! It could be your efforts we’re celebrating at the Nature of Scotland Awards this year.

For 2017, we are replacing the Politician of the Year Award with a new Political Advocate of the Year Award, which will recognise an individual who has had a significant impact on public policy for the benefit of nature.

Entry to the awards is free and the RSPB is looking for applications from community groups, individuals, schools, businesses, the farming community, teachers, tourist attractions, political campaigners and other organisations working to benefit the environment. An evening Parliamentary Reception will be held in September to unveil the Nature of Scotland Awards shortlist and the winners will be announced in November.

So, get your thinking caps on and nominate someone who’s dedicated to environmental work, or submit your own project and tell us what you’re doing to protect nature!

The closing date for the Nature of Scotland Awards 2017 is Monday 12 June. You can get more information and submit an application at www.rspb.org.uk/natureofscotland

Kirsty Chalmers, Projects and Events Officer, RSPB Scotland.

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