Tuesday, 14 March 2017

STALKERS HOPE MONARCH OF THE GLEN STAYS IN SCOTLAND


Lea MacNally works at Glenquoich
where Landseer  painted (see image below story)
Scotland’s gamekeepers and stalkers have urged the public to ensure the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ stays in Scotland, with the iconic red deer still highly relevant to many highland communities.
National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) has until Friday to meet the £4m price tag, enabling Sir Edward Landseer’s celebrated 1851 depiction of a Stag to remain in public view.
When NGS launched its ‘Help Save The Stag’ campaign last month, £750 000 was still required to honour the agreement made between the gallery and drinks giant Diageo, its present owner.
That deal would see Landseer’s most famous painting acquired for less than half its £10m market value and avoid it being sold on the open market and potentially leaving Scotland.
With days to go the deadline, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association hopes public generosity will tip the funding bid over the finishing line, keeping the work in Edinburgh.
Despite it being painted in the 19th Century, stalkers within the organisation believe the red deer is still highly relevant today, as a symbol of wild Scotland and an economic lifeline for some remote communities.
“I genuinely hope people can help meet the target and the Monarch stays,” said Lea MacNally, a stalker in Glenquoich near Lochaber, where Landseer sketched another of his famous works of a tracker dog called ‘Rifler’ laying atop a fallen deer (image below).
“The ‘Monarch’ provokes differing views but what is undeniable is that the sight of a Stag in its wild home still stirs something within people today. I regularly see wildlife photographers, with expensive gear, clambering to capture what Landseer was capturing back then, with oil paints.
“In remote communities like this one, deer bring sportsmen and women, and wildlife tourists, to the glen, which keeps the businesses afloat at difficult times of the year, and people in employment. There are always busloads of tourists stopping at a place known locally as ‘Landseer’s Rocks’. Venison is also a premium organic food product, internationally.
“It would be a real shame to lose the painting. It is a tribute to an iconic animal which continues to give a lot to the country and especially to the highlands.”
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s views have struck a chord with northern businesses benefiting from the allure of an animal regularly voted the Scottish public’s favourite.
Camey Simpson runs Simpson Game from the Badenoch village of Newtonmore and his highly trained team process red deer venison sourced from estates across the north.
“It would be fitting if the painting stayed in Scotland. Some people might associate the subject matter with gentry but, for us, it is about employment and investment in a lot of trained local people who would otherwise leave the village to find work elsewhere and probably not return.
“The red Stag, as painted by Landseer, is part of our heritage. It is recognised as belonging to Scotland, not Wales, Ireland or anywhere else. We need to value it, just as we need to value the industry it supports, rather than it becoming another Scottish hard luck story.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund has supported the campaign to purchase the painting with a £2.75m donation, topped up by Art Fund cash of £350 000 plus donations.
It has been in private and corporate collections since Landseer completed it in 1851.
“There are two types of native deer in Scotland – red deer and roe deer. The majestic red deer is our largest terrestrial mammal, and undoubtedly one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles of Scotland; their sights and sounds are enjoyed by locals, tourists, and Autumn-watch viewers alike.”
Source: Scottish Natural Heritage (see About Red Deer, above).
National Galleries Scotland Donations page: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/supportus/donate-now

Another of Landseer's celebrated paintings was sketched at Glenquoich.







SGA COMMENT ON SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT SNARING REVIEW

Attendees at one of the recent SGA Snare training courses in Perth.

Earlier today (March 14th 2017), Scottish Government published the findings of its review of snaring, carried out by an independent review group, led by Scottish Natural Heritage.

You can view the report press release and the content of its findings, here:  http://news.gov.scot/news/snaring-review


Responding to the report, Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "We are pleased to hear the independent Review Group's findings that the number of snaring incidents in Scotland have fallen to statistically very low levels. As an approved body, the SGA has trained a significant proportion of those legally permitted to operate snares in Scotland, in accordance with best practice and the tougher regulations brought in under the WANE Bill. We will now work with Scottish Government and SNH to develop an updated Code of Practice."
Ends.

Using Snares in Scotland: 


Snares are a legal management tool deployed for the control of abundant foxes which predate ground nesting birds, some of which have suffered declines of almost 50 per cent in recent years and are now regarded a national conservation priority. https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/releases/410756-curlew-should-be-uks-top-conservation-concern-says-rspb-scotland

Snares, when set in accordance with the law, can be deployed in areas and at other times of the year where alternative methods are not effective. High vegetation in summer months and areas of extremely rough terrain are examples of situations where snares are the most effective method for fox control. Similarly, when set legally, the snare acts as a restraining device until the target animal can be despatched or any non target species can be released unharmed. Scientists also deploy snares to safely capture animals they intend to fit with radio tags.

The Snares (Training) (Scotland) Order 2015 looked at the welfare issues surrounding the setting of snares. This resulted in all those wishing to operate snares legally in Scotland being trained to do so, with the welfare of the animal being paramount.

One of the organisations approved by Scottish Government to deliver training was The Scottish Gamekeepers Association. To date, the SGA reports that it has trained 600 of its own members and 200 non-members out of the 1500+ individuals in total who have been accredited to operate snares legally in Scotland. 

Proportionate to the numbers of individuals trained to use snares, there have been very few recorded prosecutions connected to the misuse of snares by individuals who have been trained and whose fox or rabbit snares carry the necessary personal identification tag which must be obtained from Police Scotland.


Practitioners Guides set out the legal and welfare requirements for setting snares and can be found here: http://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/docs/Snaring%20in%20Scotland%204th%20Edition%202012.pdf

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

20TH ANNIVERSARY AGM: FULL SCHEDULE

For the first time, the SGA AGM will move to McDiarmid Park in Perth, home of St Johnstone FC.

The SGA is delighted to announce the full itinerary for the 20th anniversary AGM with Marsdens Game Feeds on Friday March 3rd at McDiarmid Park, Perth.
Once again, there is a packed programme in store and some places are still left so please book your seat now by calling the office on 01738 587 515.
Principal Speaker on this special occasion will be Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, who will also answer questions from the floor.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg will then address the attendees and outline the SGA’s vision for 2017.
Grouse management is the focus after this, with Angus-based Principal Botanist Dr Andy McMullen speaking on the subject of challenges and opportunities facing modern day grouse moor managers.
Andy will be followed by Bob Kindness, a salmon and trout rearing expert who will explain the everyday miracles undertaken to restore stocks in the River Carron, Wester Ross.
Bob will then hand over to George Richie, who is highly trained in tracking wounded wild boar in Europe.
Scottish Natural Heritage, at the request of SGA, will deliver a talk to attendees on its species licensing remit. There will also be a presentation on avian flu; the latest information, biosecurity and potential ramifications for the game sector.
Registrations will begin at 9am with lunch due to be served after 1pm. The SGA will also welcome its new partnership with Polaris and launch the 2017 SGA Raffle.

*Members seeking to attend MUST contact the SGA office to book, on 01738 587 515.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

GAMEKEEPERS AND MOUNTAINEERS VOICE LANDSCAPE FEARS

Perthshire gamekeeper Josh Burton and Mike Watson and Dave Gordon from Mountaineering Scotland believe  the country's treasured views and vistas could suffer through lack of a central policy vision.
Two unlikely allies have joined together to press Scottish Government to develop a land use policy which protects Scotland’s world-renowned landscapes, and ensures access for recreation.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Mountaineering Scotland have written a joint letter to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP, concerned at the potential impacts fragmented policy may have on Scotland’s rare open landscapes.
Both organisations fear a lack of joined up thinking could see the loss of internationally rare landscapes as Scottish Government pursues a policy of large scale afforestation without a blueprint to preserve its celebrated vistas.
In the letter to Ms Cunningham the two organisations, who accept they do not agree on all matters but whose memberships share a passionate interest in the nation’s landscapes, say: “While Scotland’s open landscapes and upland moors are classed as rare in global terms, there is currently no policy position safeguarding them. Some areas are designated as of special ecological or scenic interest but most are unprotected and disregarded.”
Highlighting the example of forestry, the SGA and Mountaineering Scotland point out that successive Scottish administrations have published detailed forestry strategies and targets, with 10 000 hectares of new planting earmarked to take place each year until 2022. 
But while neither the SGA or Mountaineering Scotland oppose well sited, planned tree planting, both question whether enough weight is being given to the significant changes this will have on the landscape and access.
In particular, they are worried that the dramatic open views and vistas, regarded as iconic of Scotland, may disappear.
Both bodies welcome Scottish Natural Heritage’s preparatory work on scoping a strategic vision for the uplands, arguing that, without such a vision, key areas may be given up to agriculture, energy and afforestation, with insufficient attention paid to what is being lost.
However, they are seeking a meeting with the Environment Minister to discuss what they see as a  “failure to join up what is required from the land to meet forestry targets and what we might want to keep in terms of internationally rare and valuable landscapes and ecosystems.”
Specifically, the two organisations would like Scottish Government to share its own thinking on the relative values of woodland and moorland and have offered joint support in developing a strategic vision and plan for Scotland’s uplands.
Mike Watson, President of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “The SGA and ourselves have different views on a number of issues, but we have a common interest in the development of a Land Use policy that will protect the landscapes that we both value.  Mountaineering Scotland will continue working to ensure access to mountain areas for our members, and it is imperative that the landscape of these areas is protected from inappropriate development.  We hope that a joint approach to the Scottish Government from our two organisations will demonstrate the wide ranging concern over this issue, and the need for development of a coherent policy that takes into account the views of all interested parties.

Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: “Recent dialogue between both organisations established a great deal of common ground when it came to the pride our respective memberships have in the land, but also their worries about upland landscapes and how different they may look, in the not too distant future, if we don’t have a landscape policy which gives them the emphasis required. We have lost so much open moorland since the 1940s and a narrow view, now, may fail what we have left.”

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

SGA CELEBRATES 20 YEARS WITH POLARIS DEAL FOR MEMBERS


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has secured an exclusive partnership with all terrain vehicle specialists, Polaris, as the organisation celebrates 20 years of representing gamekeepers.
The arrangement will see SGA members and supporters given the chance to win a Sportsman 570 in the organisation’s annual raffle; the Polaris Sportsman being the best selling ATV in the world.
Officials are delighted to announce the new partnership * which will see ticket funds going directly back to the SGA to help its members at a key time for workers in the game sector.
Tickets for the Sportsman 570 will be on sale for the first time at the SGA’s 20th anniversary AGM at McDiarmid Park, Perth, on Friday 3rd March.
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, will address members at the Fair City event, which is set to attract a large audience.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “This new arrangement with Polaris is hugely welcomed by everyone at the SGA. Our annual ATV raffle provides a considerable chunk of the fundraising income we need to bring in each year to give the members the type of representation they deserve as professionals working in an industry worth over £300m a year to the economy. The Sportsman 570 is an excellent product which many members, and others, will be very keen to win the keys to. We hope, together with Polaris, we can enjoy a long and fruitful partnership which benefits everyone.”
The Sportsman 570 is the latest addition to the Polaris Sportsman range and can cover the harshest terrain due to its powerful 44hp engine, smooth suspension and All-Wheel Drive on demand.
It has a durable steel frame, lots of storage space and 557kg of payload capacity.
Sarah Johnson, Polaris Marketing Specialist, said: “Polaris is delighted and proud to support The Scottish Gamekeepers Association. We have a specialist dealer network in place to meet the strong demand for the Polaris range of ATVs and UTVs, from gamekeepers and estates across Scotland, and we’re very pleased to be able to provide the Polaris Sportsman 570 as a great ATV prize for this year’s raffle.”
The SGA was formed in 1997 and provides a strong voice for 5300 gamekeepers, stalkers, river and land ghillies, wildlife managers, rangers and country sports enthusiasts.

Year of the Rural Worker video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BYBQB-P-1Y

*The raffle for the Polaris Sportsman 570 replaces the SGA's previous arrangement with Honda.







Wednesday, 8 February 2017

FINALISED RESULTS FOR LATEST SGA RIFLE SHOOT

All members and followers who participate or take a keen interest in the annual SGA rifle shoot will be interested to see the final results from the 2016 event at Glen Tilt, compiled for us by Raymond Holt. Well done to all. See table below:


SGA FISHING GROUP RESPONSE TO WILD FISHERIES REFORM LATEST.


On Friday, Scottish Government issued the following press release regarding Wild Fisheries reform. Link, here: http://news.gov.scot/news/wild-fisheries
Please find below the response to the announcement by the SGA Fishing Group.
A Spokesman for The SGA Fishing Group, Duncan Ferguson, said: "We have been involved in the reform process from the outset. The introduction of the salmon conservation measures, likely to be the lasting legacy, was something we supported and has been an improvement. That said, the reform process which started in 2014 has taken up a considerable amount of time for working people, caused a lot of unrest and concern in the sector and has curtailed investment. We will continue to work with Scottish Government on taking forward ideas which will benefit this vital rural industry and the communities which rely on it. Increasing participation, especially amongst the young will be necessary if we are to have a thriving angling sector and jobs in the future. However, we now need a clear steer from Government on where this process is heading."

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

SGA COMMENT ON FOX HUNTING LAWS IN SCOTLAND

Fox predation of Pheasants, Scottish Borders.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has given the following statement regarding The Scottish Government’s announcement on Fox Hunting Laws in Scotland.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The SGA was happy to give evidence to Lord Bonomy. The principal area of our members’ expertise is how foot packs carry out legal fox control in Scotland, and terrier work. We have confidence in the accountability of these operations and will be willing to play an active role in taking forward any measures to consolidate this further, if or where necessary. A new Code of Practice which sets out clearly what is expected of everyone can only be a positive step.
“As has always been the case, as wildlife managers, the SGA’s chief concern is that our members retain the tools which are vital to the control of abundant foxes, scientifically proven to have a detrimental impact on the survival of ground nesting birds.”



Members can see the full announcement from Scottish Government: here: http://news.gov.scot/news/fox-hunting-laws-2

*The SGA provided written evidence to the consultation and provided oral evidence to Lord Bonomy, in person, on two occasions during the evidence gathering process. See the written evidence, here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00508027.pdf

The SGA wil be submitting a full response to the new consultation, when the timeline is announced.

Further Links:

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association: http://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk
The Scottish Government: http://www.gov.scot








Thursday, 19 January 2017

TRAP IMAGES- GRAMPIAN


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has been made aware of images of traps in the Grampian area.
Without knowing specifics regarding the traps or images, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association would like to restate its position that, as an organisation which has best practice and training as one of its principal aims, all traps operated must be set in accordance with the strict guidelines governing their use. Predator control devices such as approved traps and snares are important tools to protect vulnerable ground nesting birds and must be deployed in a responsible manner at all times by users.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

PERSPECTIVE ARTICLE: A RESPONSE TO 'BARE HILL OF THE HIND'

*The Scottish Gamekeepers Association website is happy to print this response to an article by David Lintern, 'Bare Hill of the Hind' written for Walk Highlands website https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk The subject matter is topical, given the third session this week on Deer Management in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament's Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/environment-committee.aspx

You can watch the ECCLR Committee debate, in full, here: http://www.scottishparliament.tv/Archive?Area=&categoryId=3b2d9fbb-c95d-4779-aed7-b91d8298d721&parentCategoryClicked=False&pageNumber=1&orderByField=ScheduledStart&queryOrder=DESC

Regeneration within the red deer range

The perspective piece, a response, is written by Victor Clements,  a native woodland advisor working in Highland Perthshire. He is an Executive Committee member of the Association of Deer Management Groups, the secretary of Breadalbane Deer Management Group and a past member of the Scottish Environment LINK Deer Task Force.


Dodgy statistics and the post truth deer debate 

I wanted to make some comments on the article published by David Lintern on 14th January on the current deer debate, Bare Hill of the Hind on the Walk Highlands website, https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/bare-hill-of-the-hind/0015819/.
   As a native woodland advisor and someone who has practical experience of delivering native woodland regeneration through deer control in Scotland, I wanted to put some of the claims made in a better overall perspective, especially that information relating to native woodlands.
We can all have our different opinions on these things of course, and that is fine up to a point, but much of the information and the way that it is presented is highly misleading and cannot go unchallenged. It is neither balanced nor accurate. The SNH deer review report that is quoted is itself riddled with mistakes, figures given without context and it is characterized by a series of sweeping statements that are not backed up by any research conducted. It is a very poor reflection on those responsible for it, and time will quickly show that to be the case.

Native woodlands
On native woodlands, almost one third of the area is impacted by herbivores across the country. The proportion is the same outwith the main deer areas as within those areas, but because the majority of native woodlands are actually in the lowlands and outwith the main red deer zone, the majority of native woodlands impacted by herbivores are also outwith the main red deer zone. (NB “Herbivores “ are mostly deer and sheep, with the latter totalling 1,461,000 in the Highlands alone, 2015 RESAS). Those areas are also more likely to be impacted by invasive species and non native tree species. If we want to get 60% of our native woodlands in to satisfactory condition by 2020, then 75% of the area which needs restored is outwith the recognized red deer zone.
This is the sort of counter intuitive data that you see when you actually study the information available and set aside the spin. I was the author of the recent report quoted in the Press which David Lintern dismisses in his article as a “red herring”.  The article was published in the winter edition of Scottish Forestry, and can be accessed here http://www.deer-management.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/P24-29-Native-Woodlands-Deer-Scottish-Forestry-Winter-2016.pdf for general interest. All the information presented comes from the Native Woods of Scotland Survey (NWSS), has all been verified independently, and most importantly, it is true. It is not complicated or difficult to understand, but it has been misinterpreted, almost certainly with a particular agenda in mind.
My motivation for writing the article, bearing it mind it was researched and written in spring 2016, was to put the threats to our native woodland in a better overall context and perspective. No-one has questioned the overall conclusions arrived at.
The article does not suggest that “deer are not the problem”. Indeed, it confirms they impact 112,000 ha of native woodland. What it does suggest, confirmed by the data, is that non native tree species are the biggest threat at 117,000 ha. The order of magnitude is the same, but the latter are more extensive. We are not hearing about that, nor about invasive species which impact c 12,000 ha. Note, non native tree species are not invasive species as David Lintern suggests. Of this latter threat, the clue is in the name. Invasive species spread quickly, and although they may only cover 12,000 ha today, this will increase quickly. At costs of up to £10,000 per ha for clearing rhododendrons on the more difficult sites for example, you can understand why government doesn’t really want to be talking about this. Non native tree species can also be particularly insidious and expensive to manage.
The SNH report does not confirm that non native species (or “invasive species”) are the biggest threat to native woodland as David suggests. The report is clear that deer are the biggest threat. This is not true.
David says like many others that he “cried foul” on the non native tree/ deer story. I would be interested to know on what basis he did this, whether he knew the wider piece of research existed, and whether he had read it?

Other woodland claims
More widely, the “medium” classification for herbivore impacts will indeed not allow the regeneration of some of the more vulnerable species under some conditions, but this is also affected by ground conditions and stand structure which have an equally important bearing on whether a successful outcome is achieved or not. It does not mean such woodlands are “eaten to the ground”, and the deduction that it is therefore 87% of native woodlands that are affected by deer is pushing the argument too far. “Satisfactory condition” is defined by having herbivore impacts at low or medium levels, and for now, we must accept that and not re- write the rules after the event.
I note that David also suggests that birch and pine trees in Scotland “cannot survive in to maturity”. While a very small proportion of native species can be bark stripped by deer, most usually willow and rowan, the vast majority are safe when they grow out of browsing height. The vulnerable time for individual trees is when they are young and not yet secured, and the vulnerable time for a woodland is when trees are over mature and must replace themselves. One weak part of the NWSS report methodology was that while mature woodland areas were identified, over- mature areas were not, and therefore it is not possible to pick out the real priority areas. If we could do that, the report would be more useful.
Finally, while figures like 1 or 5 deer per sq km are quoted as suitable deer densities for native tree regeneration, in reality, you have to look at what regeneration is taking place (or not) and make a judgement from there. The right levels will be site specific. Many areas of regenerating woodland can carry surprisingly high numbers of deer, especially when they occupy large areas. Experience teaches you not to quote preferred densities quite so readily. We actually do have a lot of good examples of native woodland expansion by deer control in Scotland, and it is not just the high profile sites like Glen Feshie or Creag Meagaith. We have a wide range of sites under public, NGO and private management in Scotland. The best ones often go under the radar and avoid controversy. We should probably make better use of these sites by promoting them as examples of good practice, especially if that helps to avoid some of the less informed debate on these matters.

Fencing

The £4.8 million cost of deer fencing in Scotland annually is given a high weighting within the SNH report, but this is for the whole country, and the costs of other types of fencing are actually up to twice as much in some years. You can see the necessary information at this link: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5W-05143&ResultsPerPage=10

The annual costs of stock and rabbit fencing decrease towards the end of the period because they were actually bankrupting the agri- environment budget at the time and certain projects had to be curtailed. By contrast, woodland creation schemes have never had to be rationed in recent years, and, by the way, 67% of all native woodland planting 2008- 13 took place in the main deer management group area, along with 75% of all native woodland regeneration. The rest of the country is well behind.
This is all essential context to the £4.8 million figure which David is so “shocked” by. If some-one said that we could save the above cost by not keeping livestock and eradicating all rabbits and hares, then that would be considered by most people to be an irrational and impractical suggestion. For some people at least, this is not the case with deer. It is also worth noting that deer fences are almost always erected to keep out livestock as well, and the cost of a livestock fence can be up to two thirds of the cost of a deer fence. It is not therefore the case that we can save 100% of deer fencing costs if there are no or fewer deer.

Miscellaneous information problems
I would like to draw attention to two other figures which have been quoted in Bare Hill of the Hind.
Firstly, red deer mortality for stags and hinds in Scotland is estimated by SNH to be 2% after culls have been made, and 6% for calves. This is lower than almost all other species of wildlife in the country, and is indeed arguably less than for humans. This is not “high levels of starvation”. We can have problem years, especially in wet springs, but many other species of wildlife, and indeed livestock, will struggle in such conditions as well.
Finally, the huge herd of deer at Caenlochan is spectacular, and no surprise that it is being used as part of this debate. Others have given the reasons why such events can sometimes arise, but the deer density over this wider area is not the 40 per sq km quoted, but 20 per sq km, as evidenced by recent helicopter count data. This figure is just above the target density of 19 per sq km quoted by SNH. This is a high figure, much higher than for most of Scotland, but those are hills which are very fertile. They are underlain by limestone and other base rich rocks, and they can sustain high grazing pressures, especially as there are few sheep there now. Much of the area is designated for species rich grasslands which require high grazing pressure to maintain biodiversity. Montane willow habitats and blanket bogs cannot cope with the high deer densities produced, but this highlights the problem on many of these sites. The grazing pressures needed for some features are completely at odds with the requirements for others, and nobody will choose what the priority is. Until we do that, we will always have this problem.

Concluding comments
The proposals that deer culls are set annually and agreed by SNH are presented as a modest change, but this is actually statutory deer management, and brings with it all the associated problems of oversight, proper evidence and disputed culls. It is a massive undertaking, and it is less than truthful for people to be suggesting otherwise. We already have a process by which deer groups are assessed against a benchmark which records if they are doing this properly. SNH do not have the capacity to do this on a more formal basis, not even for the 1500- 2000 properties that are currently members of deer management groups. There are up to 55,000 properties in the other 60% of the country. New legislation would have to apply to them as well, and most of them potentially will have deer.  It is a fantasy to suggest that SNH might start to advise on deer culls for all these properties. They struggle with their existing workload, and it does not allow for the fact that the vast majority of deer and environmental/ woodland expertise is now found in the private sector in Scotland, not in the agencies themselves, Forest Enterprise Scotland excepted.
If David Lintern wants to help estates, their environment and the deer as he says, then we do need to start to see the world as it really is, and we can make a start on that by not spreading statistics and arguments that we know to be misleading. Lets start looking at examples of good practice and build on those. No criticism without recommendation. That will be much more instructive and useful in the long run. We may well live in a post truth world, but we can choose whether we wish to embrace it or not.
Much of this current debate and the dodgy deer dossier on which it is based is part of that parallel world which we must all be prepared to call out and face down if necessary. If we don’t, then the social, environmental and economic outcomes in rural Scotland will be poor, and none of us want that.








Sunday, 8 January 2017

GENERAL LICENCES FOR 2017

All members should make themselves aware of the 2017 General Licences which have now been published on SNH's website. There have been several changes made this year and it is important members are aware of these, as they will affect their daily working operations. These will also be published shortly on our new website under 'Legal Updates'.

See the link, here: http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/species-licensing/bird-licensing/general/

Friday, 6 January 2017

NON NATIVE TREES THREATEN MORE WOODS THAN DEER

PAWS wood in Scotland: earmarked for restoration but ommitted from the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland.
Scotland’s native woods will miss Biodiversity targets for 2020 unless urgent action is taken to address non-native tree species in the country’s native forests.
That is the lesson of new analysis claiming a multi million pound study into Scotland’s native woods downplayed the threat of non-native trees, focusing chiefly on deer damage.
The Native Woodland Survey of Scotland, undertaken by Forestry Commission Scotland and heavily analysed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), was hailed Scotland’s most authoritative stock-take of native forests.
It concluded 54 per cent were in unsatisfactory condition, the principal cause being ‘excessive browsing and grazing', mainly by deer, which impacted 33 per cent of the total.
The announcement led to environmental groups angrily rounding on sporting estates for keeping deer numbers high for deerstalking, damaging the environment as a result.
Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham will now decide in 2017 whether tougher laws are required to force deer managers to meet strict cull plans, with 2020 Biodiversity targets pivotal.
However, new analysis, published in the Scottish Forestry journal, claims thousands of hectares of ancient woodlands, classed unsatisfactory due to exotic tree planting, were omitted from the survey, despite being assessed.
Had 39 000 hectares of Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) been included in the final draft, the percentage of woods impacted by non-native trees would have outnumbered those damaged by deer and livestock.
That has led to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association to call for an end to ‘tunnel vision’, claiming all factors affecting woodland condition should be considered – not just deer.
The author of the new analysis, Victor Clements, also an Executive Member of the Association of Deer Management Groups, noticed discrepancies whilst preparing deer plans and had his figures independently verified.
Writing in the latest edition of Scottish Forestry magazine, he says: “An initial draft revealed an important sub-set of our native woodlands were not actually included in the main report though available for mapping purposes.
“When the PAWS area is added, it becomes apparent the greatest threat (to native woodlands) in terms of area, is actually non-native tree species, not herbivore impacts, although the order of magnitude is broadly the same.
“This means the narrative surrounding the launch of the report is not actually correct.
“Herbivore impacts are not the most significant issue affecting native woodlands at all, although their effects are not denied in many cases. A more appropriate narrative would be that we have a number of issues impacting on native woodlands in Scotland, with non-native species and herbivore impacts being the most important, in almost equal measure.”
Adding the excluded woodlands to the survey would have meant the area impacted by exotic trees would have been 117 342 hectares compared to 112 383 grazed by sheep and deer.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Even without the omitted 39 000 hectares, non-native trees impact 77 000 hectares of native woodland in Scotland. This won’t go away because it is one of the key criteria determining whether woodlands are satisfactory or not. 
“If native woodlands are to meet 2020 Biodiversity targets, focusing on one issue, deer, won’t work in isolation. Something has to be done about the amount of exotic species such as Sitka Spruce and other conifers on these sites, although this seems to be of little concern. 
“At some point, a wider view has to be taken addressing all issues in the round.”
Further Notes: Restoring PAWS sites is a priority for public bodies and NGOS, yet were committed from the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland, despite being mapped at considerable public expense.
See Guidance, here, from Forestry Commission: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/infd-5z5gj8
From The Woodland Trust: http://www.woodlandtrust.org/mediafile/100160196/FRI-research.pdf
The Dalriada Project (completed in 2010) with lead partners SNH, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Woodlands, Scottish Native Woods. http://www.thedalriadaproject.org/links.asp