Adam Smith, Director of Policy, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in Scotland, comments on the Scottish Government’s announcement on its Review of Grouse Moor Management:
“The Scottish Government’s announcement today on its Review of Grouse Moor Management shows that it has chosen to constrain land management rather than support it with practical options. That is despite the advice of that review concluding that the disadvantages of licensing far outweighed the advantages, and it’s easy to see why the independent review group was so cautious about licensing. They recommended that licensing be held in reserve and implemented in five years’ time only if other reasonable conservation management options were not acted on.
“The Grouse Moor Management report estimated that there are just 120 grouse estates left in Scotland. This reinforces what we know about loss of heather, namely that we have seen over 40% loss of heather habitat since the second world war. Considerable work has been done on this, not least through 20 years of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, which the Scottish Government supported. Many grouse moors have been replaced by farming or forestry to the detriment of many ground-nesting species whose losses are alarming, among them golden plover, lapwing and curlew. Once these priority species lose their open habitat they effectively face local extinction.
“Adding yet more red tape for those best placed to try to preserve and maintain this globally important open habitat, also a massive carbon store, will have consequences. As Scotland loses yet more grouse estates, it risks losing more of its increasingly rare moorland habitat, the species that depend on it and the social and economic life that goes with it.
“Those who claim that licensing is an obvious way to end the illegal killing of raptors have led the Scottish Government on a merry dance. The independent review group decided that the arguments for and against licensing were finely balanced and recommended everyone – from Government to gamekeeper – work to improve moorland management with new approaches. What wildlife management needs is solutions, not another layer of bureaucracy.”
FURTHER READING: Grouse moor licensing – Scotland abandons its own findings (Blog) >