Farms and estates gain official wildlife accreditation
With over 1.25 million acres accredited through the Wildlife Estate Scotland (WES) scheme – the national version of the EU Wildlife Estates (WE) initiative with the objective of protecting, preserving and improving the environment for present and future generations – only Spain has more with approximately 1.6m acres.
Since the initiative was first set up in Scotland ten years ago, 64 landholdings, covering over 1.25m acres have been accredited. During that period qualifying units have planted over 144km of native hedgerows, restored hundreds of acres of peatland and looked after 54,000ac of native species woodland while encouraging rare wildlife and at the same time providing 750 full time jobs and 622 part-time positions.
And while WES accredited landholdings have stewardship of 97 nationally protected sites (SSSI, NNR) and 79 internationally designated sites (SAC, SPA, Ramsar etc) only ten years on from first being set up, the organisation hopes to double the accredited land in Scotland to 2.5m acres by 2023.
The 15 farms and estates, totalling over 211,000 acres granted WES accreditation at the weekend’s event, had their accolades presented by HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne and Dr Mike Cantlay OBE, chair of NatureScot.
Three new estates gained first time accreditation – Bavelaw Estate, Midlothian, Ardtalla Estate, Islay and Attadale Estate, Wester Ross – while 12 further properties received their five-yearly reaccreditation.
“These farms and estates are undertaking exceptionally important work that benefits biodiversity and the environment and it is only right that their efforts are publicly recognised,” said WES chair, Dee Ward. “WES accreditation is a rigorous process that asks land managers to meet the highest standards across wildlife and conservation management and it is pleasing that these 15 estates and farms have met this benchmark.”
Ward said that the newly-accredited properties had all collected a broad range of information, including species data and conservation projects, which helped to provide significant insight on what was working well and where conservation efforts needed to be targeted.
Dr Mike Cantlay OBE, said that by attaining WES accreditation, the estates had reached a gold standard in their long-term commitment to helping Scotland’s nature thrive: “Initiatives like WES, which gather the knowledge and expertise of people who work Scotland’s countryside, are a crucially important way to increase the resilience of Scotland’s land, as we work together to tackle the twin biodiversity and climate change crises.”
During her visit to the event HRH The Princess Royal was also given a tour of the central Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust exhibit which illustrated initiatives such as farm environmental audits and greenhouse gas emission monitoring .
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