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Moorland management best practice detailed in new guidance

Mountain hare management, worm control and heather cutting guidance published

New guidance on moorland management best practice, on topics including mountain hares and heather cutting, has been welcomed by landowners’ organisation Scottish Land & Estates.

The documents, published by Scotland’s Moorland Forum, are now available to provide guidance for gamekeepers and land managers across Scotland and reflects broad agreement between a diverse range of stakeholders on how on the ground management operations should be conducted.

Scottish Land & Estates is urging its members to embrace the new guidance which cover three topics: the management of mountain hares, worm control in red grouse and heather cutting. Mountain hare management and worm control are currently being considered by the Grouse Moor Management Review, established by the Scottish Government last year. The third guidance, covering the cutting of heather, complements the revised Muirburn Code which was launched by Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham in September 2017.

The new codes can be downloaded from the Scottish Moorland Forum website and have been drawn up with a clear indication of what is the law, what should be done and what is recommended. The mountain hare guidance includes a sample management plan which will help managers ensure that what they do can be shown to be sustainable.

Scotland’s Moorland Forum, established in 2002, acts as a collaborative body for around 30 member organisations - often with differing views – to work together. Members include the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, conservation charities, land management and sporting organisations. Project work has included the Understanding Predation report, the ongoing Working for Waders initiative as well as the production of guidance on a range of management operations from electric fences, to bird surveying protocols. 

Scottish Land & Estates’ Moorland Group has been closely involved on the different working groups and endorsed the collaborative approach taken on producing the new documentation.

Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said:“Moorland management can be controversial with different interest groups having strong ideas about how Scotland’s moorland should look and be used. These guidance documents all include some real challenges for managers to incorporate new thinking and science into their everyday work.  They are not a rubber stamping of traditional management and their publication is very good news for the future of Scottish moorlands – we would advise our members to quickly get up to speed with the new guidance and put it into practice.”

The Moorland Forum is now planning the next tranche of codes to inform best practice. These are likely to include wader management, a hot topic as numbers of Curlew, Lapwing and other species decline across Scotland.  Control of rapidly increasing tick populations and the diseases they carry is another priority for the Forum.

Simon Thorp, Director of Scotland’s Moorland Forum said:“This published guidance has had a long-gestation period but I believe that the effort has been worthwhile.  I understand that some members of the Forum will be happier with the guidance than others, but we should remember that this guidance is intended to be a summation of current thinking with a view to advising practitioners about how to manage in accordance with best practice. This will never be a static position and the intention is to keep all the guidance under review so that it continues to reflect latest information, regulation and experience.”

 

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