Moorland management plays a vital role says Katrina Candy
IN 2013 the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), together with the Heather Trust, presented the inaugural Golden Plover Award at the Scottish Game Fair.
The recipient was Edinglassie estate in Aberdeenshire which was chosen for its consistent performance in maximising the condition of an area of moorland for agricultural and sporting purposes as well as conservation and other measures such as improvement of ecosystem services and continuing awareness of best practice and innovation.
Edinglassie has long been regarded as a consistent and high achiever in moorland management. The concept of the award was to bring to the fore all the work being done to manage our heather moorland so it is a healthy and sustainable environment.
Moorland management is an industry, just as you would describe farming or fishing. Almost every industry has an award scheme so it was a natural (and overdue) evolutionary step to introduce the Golden Plover. The trusts hoped the award would instil a healthy competition amongst Scotland’s moor owners and thus encourage and promote good practice.
Moorland management is under incredible scrutiny, not just from the public but environmentalists and politicians too. Increasing pressure from lobbyist conservation bodies, the land reform agenda and a tunnel of agri-environment and legislative hoops does not make the management of our uplands an easy task, so those properties that go above and beyond to enhance and promote our glorious uplands must be recognised properly.
Our moorlands support specialist flora and fauna as well as delivering a range of public goods and services such as drinking water, carbon storage, recreation and job creation. They are no longer “wilderness”, having been subject to centuries of human influence either direct or indirect. Management of these upland areas as grouse moors can contribute to a net benefit to biodiversity.
GWCT believes that one of the best ways to ensure people continue to live and work on moorlands and encourage and protect wildlife, habitats and healthy peatlands is to produce enough grouse for driven shooting. Grouse moors currently provide sustainable and cost-effective conservation, retention and restoration of heather habitat, support of our declining wader populations and other ground nesting species.
Without grouse shooting, much of Britain’s internationally important heather would have been lost and for upland managers it is the main financial incentive for conserving heather.
Now that the Golden Plover Award for moorland management is entering its third year – last year’s winner was the Finzean estate, a family-run 4,000-hectare estate near Banchory on Deeside – the judges are looking for a new list of nominees and the trusts welcome applications from estates, farms, individuals or syndicates who have gone “beyond the call of duty” in their management of heather moorland.
Applications for the 2015 award are welcomed from any owner or manager of land in any part of Scotland who can demonstrate a real commitment to sustainable moorland or upland management. Applications from the remoter parts of Scotland are encouraged, as are applications from individuals; this is not just an award for estates.
The theme for the award is peatland management and restoration; applicants will be expected to demonstrate how they are managing their peatland to improve its condition.
Application forms are available to download from the GWCT and Heather Trust websites. Applications close on 27 February and the award will be presented at the Scottish Game Fair on 3 July.
• Katrina Candy is head of PR and education at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (Scotland) www.gwct.org.uk