Moorlands could lose species like Curlew

Perthshire gamekeeper Ronnie Kippen (left), report author Dr James Fenton (centre) and SGA Chairman Alex Hogg at the launch of the SGA's vision for moorland in Edinburgh.
Perthshire gamekeeper Ronnie Kippen (left), report author Dr James Fenton (centre) and SGA Chairman Alex Hogg at the launch of the SGA's vision for moorland in Edinburgh.

Scotland’s gamekeepers have launched a new report aimed at halting the ‘unthinking’ loss of Scotland’s globally rare moorland landscapes.

Seventy five per cent of the world’s remaining heather is found in the UK, with most found in Scotland. Yet despite the defining role open moorland landscapes of all types have played in the nation’s history and psyche, Scotland has never had a unified national policy to retain its signature treasure.

An estimated 20 per cent of heather moorland disappeared between 1940 and 1970, a decline which continues today with new emphasis on energy and woodland expansion.

Indeed, if the Scottish forestry strategy target of 25 per cent of land under trees by 2050 is realised, potentially a further 5000 sq km of moorland will be lost, as trees will have to be planted on open moors.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association say the devaluation of one of Scotland’s greatest national assets cannot be allowed to continue blindly, through the lack of a unifying objective.

The 34 page report, authored by independent ecologist, Dr James Fenton – who previously worked for NTS and SNH- maps the extent of the moorland left in Scotland, highlighting the obligations Scotland has to its conservation.

It also recommends that woodland creation should be targeted on areas already fragmented in places where moorland remains common, to avoid complete disappearance in some regions.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg believes the importance of moor habitats should be reflected in the forthcoming Land Use Strategy 2016-2021. He fears that, without a proper pause for thought, Scotland could lose species like the Curlew forever.