Resolving conflicts requires action

Burning helps the habitat at Langholm Moor
Burning helps the habitat at Langholm Moor
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Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) published a report looking into managing conflicts between parties with different interests and views on how to manage animals and birds last week.

Officials found most conflicts are complicated and involve many factors and different viewpoints.

An SNH spokesperson said: “It’s as much about understanding people as it is about understanding the wildlife, and working with all sides is crucial to find common ground.”

The report outlines work to help reduce conflict, such as improving monitoring of certain species and building partnerships between people.

And a second phase in the next few months will see SNH and university researchers carrying out trials in well-known conflict areas, such as sea eagles and sheep farms, using the findings of the report.

Reacting to the SNH report, Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman, Peeblesshire gamekeeper Alex Hogg, said: “The report highlights where there are conflicts. What really matters now is what gets acted upon.

“In order to cut through conflicts identified you will need a Scottish government which has the political will and strength to do what is right for wildlife, and for people, rather than side-stepping issues they deem might be unpopular with voters. The two things are separate.

“If we can move to a modern system of management which looks at the issues and conflicts as they are now and widen our scope to consider solutions which might include zoning and the responsible use of evidence-based licensing where conflicts are irresolvable, we might begin to make progress.”

And Dr Adam Smith, chairman of the Langholm Moor Demonstration PR group, noted the report talks about bringing parties together to seek shared solutions.

“That’s exactly what Langholm is about, setting aside whatever differences to see if we can have a really wonderful moor that hosts both the economic incentive – grouse – and a functioning population of birds of prey.”

He pointed to three salient elements in the 10-year project, now nearing its seventh year, to see if a grouse population sufficient for commercial shooting and the local birds of prey – mostly hen harriers – can co-exist.

Dr Smith said: “Firstly the habitat: it is improving every single year and that’s a combination of sheep management and burning.

“Secondly, we’ve got a grip on the relationship between the harriers and the grouse. We can use diversionary feeding to reduce the number of chicks the harriers feel they have to hunt: that is an effective technique at Langholm.”

But he said: “The challenge remains the fact that until this year the grouse population hasn’t really performed as well as we thought it would do.

“That’s a matter of focus of the monitoring going forward. The question is what’s limiting the grouse population?

“We are looking forward to the next two to three years to get to grips with this question of how can we get the grouse population as productive as possible and surviving as much as possible so there remains an incentive to invest in the moorland.”