Re-wilding can transform nature-depleted Scotland

Crop red squirrel (medium)

‚ÄčLandmark charity book outlines a bold vision for Scotland's natural environment

Graham Martin's photo

25th October 2018 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

A sticking plaster approach to conservation is failing Scotland’s wildlife – and a mass campaign of rewilding is needed to save the country’s iconic species.

Completely new approaches are needed to conservation to save the likes of the red squirrel, wild cat, capercaillie – and a whole host of other animals and ecosystems.

Those are the findings of a landmark new book, published by the Trees For Life charity.

The authors of Scotland: A Rewilding Journey say that the country has the space and opportunity to take a fresh approach, with people working with nature, not against it, and allowing ecosystems to restore themselves on a large-scale.

Illustrated by world-class images captured by top nature photographers over three years, and with essays from leading commentators, the book lays out an inspiring vision of how rewilding forests, peatlands, rivers, moorlands and the ocean could transform Scotland for the better.

Deforestation, deer and sheep grazing, burning moors for grouse hunting, exotic conifers and denuded seas have left Scotland as one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, its landscapes supporting fewer people than previously as a result. Climate change now poses a major threat.

Returns or rebounds of species like beavers, sea eagles and pine martens happen slowly. Birds of prey like hen harriers are persecuted. Wolf, crane, wild boar, elk and lynx were all made extinct long ago. 

Despite superb nature reserves, amazing patches of Caledonian pinewood and new Marine Protected Areas, nature is now hugely fragmented and diminished across Scotland. Its awe-inspiring landscapes are often ecological deserts, stripped of woodlands.

Only 1.5% of its land is national nature reserves, while a quarter is ecologically impoverished grouse moors or deer forests.

Meanwhile, only four per cent of Scotland is native woodland.

Scotland’s seas are in trouble too – with wild salmon stocks declining, heavy dredging raking the sea floor, and gannets feeding their chicks plastic waste.

The book’s publication aims to be a watershed moment in the rapidly growing movement for rewilding, and a catalyst for change by shifting attitudes and perceptions, and sparking debate and discussion.

Momentum for rewilding has been highlighted by widespread calls for the return of the lynx, reintroduction of beavers, and initiatives such as Cairngorms Connect – a land manager partnership that is enhancing habitats across a vast stretch of Cairngorms National Park.

The book was funded by a successful crowdfunding appeal run by Trees for Life, and is supported by an alliance of organisations including Reforesting Scotland, Rewilding Britain, Rewilding Europe, The Borders Forest Trust, The European Nature Trust, and Woodland Trust Scotland.

Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, said: “Right now, nature is in steep decline – but Scotland is perfectly placed to become a rewilding world-leader. Our wild places can flourish if we allow nature to work in its own way on a big scale, with a helping hand in places. There would be huge benefits for people – from our health and wellbeing to creating sustainable jobs in rural areas.”

Scotland: A Rewilding Journey is published by Scotland: The Big Picture, a non-profit social enterprise that includes leading nature photographers and filmmakers, and promotes the benefits of a wilder Scotland through visual media.

27th October 2018 by lok yue

So we get rid of the sheep, presumably cull the deer until wolf numbers expand sufficiently to control them. Ban salmon farming and allow wild salmon back in the rivers.OK, is the intention compulsory purchase of privately owned land, if so how much an acre but much more importantly, when this highland clearance is carried out, who pays? Who employs those put out of work and how do we replace the lost income?