Scottish landholdings determined to lead in European Wildlife Accreditation schemePress Release
Scotland’s farms and estates are intent on tackling the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, a European-wide congress is to be told today (Thursday).
Wildlife Estates, a best practice land management accreditation scheme across 19 European countries, today (Thursday 9 September) held its virtual annual gathering across the continent which was hosted by the Scottish network, Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES), ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November.
Amongst the speakers addressing delegates was Màiri McAllan, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Land Reform. Since its inception, the Scottish Government and NatureScot have both supported WES.
Environment and Land Reform Minister Màiri McAllan said:
“We are committed to ensuring Scotland’s systems of wildlife management are focussed on delivering environmental, economic and social benefits to rural communities including increased biodiversity, healthy food products such as venison and bringing Scotland’s people closer to our beautiful natural environment.
“Although government, of course, has a role in conservation and restoring biodiversity, it would be impossible to do so without the significant contributions, skills and experience that comes from those working in the sector every day. Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) plays a vital role in ensuring habitat and wildlife management continues to align with best practice across Scotland.
“The continued vitality of rural communities will be a key concern for us and the value of jobs such as gamekeepers, gillies and other land managers must not be undervalued. We will continue to support individuals, businesses and organisations to manage land efficiently for all of our interests.”
Recently celebrating its 10th birthday, Scotland currently sits second in the league table of Wildlife Estates accredited land on 1.25 million acres, with only Spain ahead on approximately 1.6 million acres. WES aims to double the accredited land to 2.5 million acres by 2023.
Between them, WES accredited landholdings have stewardship of 97 nationally protected sites (SSSI, NNR) and 79 internationally designated sites (SAC, SPA, Ramsar etc).
Dee Ward, chair of Wildlife Estates Scotland and owner of Rottal Estate, said it was vital that landowners’ role as guardians of the environment was encouraged and promoted. Scotland has a biodiversity intactness index (BII) rating of just 56% - the best rated nation in the UK but still far behind Canada on 89% and Germany on 67%. It is estimated that Scotland is home to 90,000 animal, plant and microbe species.
Dee Ward said: “The twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss are very present in Scotland. Landholdings are already undertaking vital conservation work that goes above and beyond what many would expect but we should always be looking to do more. Environmental work often comes at significant financial cost to businesses but land managers see their role as custodians of their local habitat and want to help a rich array of wildlife to flourish. We have significant ambitions to grow Wildlife Estates Scotland which is an important lever in promoting best practice in helping the nation’s meet its climate change targets, and also recognising the great work that already takes place.”
Sixty four farms and estates in Scotland have reached the scheme’s ‘gold standard’ level 2 independent accreditation, enabling landholdings to measure how they are contributing to government climate change and biodiversity targets. Diverse landholdings from 250ac to tens of thousands of acres have achieved accreditation including Philiphaugh Estate, Abernethy RSPB Reserve, Reay Forest Estate and Threepwood Farm.
At Rottal, conservation projects underway or already complete include a 120,000 tree contour planting scheme and the restoration of 300 hectares of peatland over the next five years. The estate has also undertaken work to re-meander the Rottal Burn. (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFrOax1p3QQ)
Dee added: “At some point in the 19th century the burn had been straightened, possibly to aid drainage for farming reasons. This was leading to spawning salmon’s eggs being washed away when the burn flooded. By digging out the original water course, and adding 400m of twists to re-meander the burn, we now have 1.2km of improved burn with abundant plant life and biodiversity around the water and crucially, a five-fold increase in the number of spawning salmon– a wonderful outcome.”