Friday, 23 August 2013

SGA RESPONSE TO CALL FOR STATUTORY DEER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

In the Herald newspaper of 23rd August, 2012, Rob Gibson SNP MSP and Convener of Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee called for a system of statutory deer management in Scotland which brings the current voluntary system under parliamentary control. In response, Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The views expressed on this by Mr Gibson have clearly come from one viewpoint and the one example in Assynt where the John Muir Trust were seeking to impose a higher cull target to carry out tree regeneration. “Whilst this may have been a laudable imperative on John Muir Trust ground, their refusal to entertain fencing, to properly consult with their neighbours and to discuss alternatives, meant their laudable imperative then became a major problem for everyone else and was clearly going to have a negative socio-economic affect, putting jobs at risk.“In unusual cases such as this, there exists a mechanism within the WANE Act where SNH can intervene where there are clear and sound socio-economic reasons to do so.“This one area, however, is not wholly representative of the situation across Scotland where the voluntary deer management system is operating well and, in recent years, has been working better thanks to greater co-operative working with SNH.“Country sport activities, including deer stalking, bring major economic value to Scotland, as well as preserving employment and opportunities in areas where there would otherwise be greater migration without a healthy industry. This is not something we should be ashamed of or decry and we certainly wouldn’t with any other high value Scottish industry.“One of the problems in introducing a statutory system, for example, is that when responsibility reverts to public bodies, it is very difficult for the public purse to be able to match private investment and introducing such a system would place a heavy resource burden on SNH and the tax payer at a time when there are many other priorities.“Policing it would be extremely difficult because deer roam across boundaries. They are not contained within certain rivers or watercourses like fish are, for example.“While these aspects alone would make such a system highly problematic to work, there is also the major problem of perception.“Strangling the countryside with further red tape is the last thing that the people who work there every day would want or need and many would deem it another centralized attack on their way of life.“Taking decisions away from the people who have the requisite knowledge to make them and placing them in the hands of those they deem to have less, is hard to justify. “What you could end up with is the worst of both worlds. An unpopular, inflexible system operating at high cost to the public purse which doesn’t solve the problem it was set up to address.”

Thursday, 22 August 2013

ON SALE NOW: WITH SPECIAL OFFER

The SGA diary for 2014 is now available at the office along with a brand new addition to the merchandise range- the first ever SGA log book. The Log Book has been released following inquiries from our members for a suitable book in which to write snaring records and any other relevant records of estate operations, whilst out and about. The book, which has a robust cover, is slightly larger than the SGA diary but would still fit readily in an inside pocket. It contains Fox Snaring legislation and a snaring log sheet where members can write details of inspections, any catch and even if snares or traps have been tampered with. There are also handy calendars for 2013, 2014 and 2015 at the back. The 2014 diaries and Log Book are in an eye-catching tan colour this year. You can buy a diary for £5 and a Log Book for £6 ***As a special deal, we are also offering diary and log book together for a combined price of £10

Saturday, 10 August 2013

GAMEKEEPERS CALL FOR ACTION AS WADING BIRDS DECLINE DRAMATICALLY

Gamekeepers have warned grouse moors could soon become the last safe haven for Scotland’s threatened wading birds, with latest figures indicating widespread declines. With only days until the start of the grouse season, keepers on Scotland’s moors fear the evocative call of the Curlew could become increasingly rare. Lapwings- on the conservation red list- amber-listed Curlews and Golden Plover are regular breeding visitors to Scotland’s upland grouse moors. A 9 year study by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust showed ground-nesting waders breeding three times more successfully there because of legal predator control by gamekeepers, which reduces the numbers of crows and foxes that predate nests. This was further borne out at Langholm in the Borders where falls of 75 per cent in wader numbers were observed when gamekeepers were taken off the moor following the cessation of grouse shooting in 1995. Now a new BTO Breeding Bird Survey, published at the end of July, is reporting dramatic falls in Scotland’s rare wader populations. Lapwing numbers have fallen 56 per cent in only 17 years, causing major conservation concern. The number of Curlews have also plummeted 56 per cent in the same period, with Golden Plover numbers dipping by 18 per cent. Gamekeepers on many grouse moors still house productive populations of wading birds while their decline accelerates elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association believes the government needs to take decisive action now before it is too late. “Proper grouse moor management, with rotational heather burning and the legal control of foxes, carrion crows, stoats and weasels has helped rare wading birds. The distinctive call of the Curlew is a common sound and keepers love seeing them as they go about their work,” said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg. “These latest figures are a real warning, though. If more grouse moors ceased for example, or more keepers were taken off the hill, who would protect these birds? “On areas where wildlife is not being managed, the declines are rapid and scientists predict we will start to lose them from some key areas altogether. “A lot of public money has been handed out in the past for habitat management schemes but that money has been wasted because we have far less waders now. It should be a condition that those receiving public money should carry out proper predator control or the money should be returned. “It is a duty of the government to find a solution to help vulnerable wildlife. We petitioned government on this years ago but nothing was acted upon. The fall in wader numbers has to be seriously looked at, and with some urgency.” Declines in waders on non-keepered areas have been put down to predation, aforestation, agricultural intensification, loss of habitat and climate change. Gamekeepers point to predation pressure as being the limiting factor with the biggest balance of scientific proof. Despite predator control on areas managed for shooting, the number of carrion crows overall have been increasing since 1961 while fox numbers continue to rise. Protected Badgers, that predate nests, are increasing markedly and the newly published BTO Breeding Bird figures show a sharp increase in specialist predators. Common buzzards have risen by 31 per cent in Scotland since 1995 and ravens have leapt up by 35 per cent. “We can bury our heads in the sand and blame climate change for everything or we can look at the problems immediately affecting our birds and deal with them,” added SGA Chairman Alex Hogg. “The government needs to look at what is causing these declines in our wading birds and act decisively. If they need to monitor these birds to see what is happening, they need to do so as soon as possible before there’s no way back.”

Sunday, 4 August 2013

CLARIFICATION: SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY ARTICLE

In today's Scotland On Sunday newspaper, a story regarding GWCT research at Langholm Moor on the ability or otherwise of grouse to co-exist with Hen Harriers on grouse moors stated that The Scottish Gamekeepers Association would support wide use of diversionary feeding to see how effective it is on other grouse moors. The SGA would like to clarify that, at no point, was this asked of the SGA. The SGA believes that whether or not a grouse moor chooses to trial diversionary feeding is entirely up to the individual moor or estate. The SGA expressed no view either way in the article on whether diversionary feeding should be used widely. The comments attributed to the SGA also omitted the key final sentence, which stated the following: "The effectiveness or otherwise of diversionary feeding will only truly be tested at Langholm, however, when there are enough grouse to shoot. Currently, that is not happening.” Read the full SGA statement, which was given to Scotland On Sunday, here. Again, the first element of the statement supplied refers to the wider findings of the Langholm research and not specifically to diversionary feeding (hence the references to wading birds, which was removed by the newspaper). “The scientific research work at Langholm is vital and has proved what many land managers working every day in the countryside have know for some time. This can be seen most readily when you look at the data when the gamekeepers were removed from Langholm Moor. The numbers of wading birds crashed, as did the productivity of Hen Harriers. “Game management, with grouse shooting providing the economic driver to carry on all the associated habitat and predator control work, provides a suite of conservation benefits for grouse, waders and Harriers.“With the research having established that part, the next part is to put the techniques in place to reduce the impact of Harriers on grouse, thereby reducing the conflicts.“There is still some distance to travel here.“Diversionary feeding, for example, has been shown to work when Harrier numbers are at fairly low densities. The effectiveness or otherwise of diversionary feeding will only truly be tested at Langholm, however, when there are enough grouse to shoot. Currently, that is not happening.” Please Note: The SGA is fully supportive of all research which promotes the legal resolution of conflicts and refers in its statement to the positive work being done at Langholm Moor.