Conversation turns to uplands

Published Wednesday, 13th March 2019 in Research news

The country’s uplands are important for hill farming, game management, forestry and nature conservation
The country’s uplands are important for hill farming, game management, forestry and nature conservation

The Head of Integrated Land Management at SRUC will be among the speakers at a special event focussing on Britain’s uplands.

Professor Davy McCracken will share his conservation expertise at the first of a series of Heather Trust “conversations” taking place across the country. 

Uplands and heather moorlands are important for hill farming, game management, forestry and nature conservation. 

In addition to producing food from uplands, there are increasing calls to deliver renewable energy, more trees, a wilder environment, better water management, improved biodiversity, to lock up more carbon and manage wildfire risk more effectively.

The sold-out event takes place on Lurgan Farm near Aberfeldy, Perthshire, on 21 March. It kicks off a series of seven debates across Scotland, England and Wales and will look at an example of extensive upland farming in Scotland. 

Attendees will explore what it currently delivers for the economy, environment and society, debate what future policy and society might ask of it and explore with those who manage it how this fits with their aspirations. 

The Aberfeldy event will also feature presentations from Martin Kennedy (Lurgan Farm) and Dougie Peedle (Scottish Wildlife Trust), and a debate, chaired by Anne Gray from The Heather Trust.

The conversation will move on to an event in the Lammermuirs on 24 April, where the focus will move from upland farming to consider the range of outputs that moorland in East Lothian generates. 

The Scottish events will culminate with an event as part of Cairngorms Nature: Big Weekend on 10 May. Events will then take place in England and Wales throughout the summer (dates to follow), with a final debate and round-up planned for College Valley Estate in Northumberland on 23 October. 

Prof McCracken, who also heads up SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre at Kirkton and Auchtertyre, said: “Our uplands vary markedly in character across Scotland. This first workshop in Aberfeldy is therefore only a first step in seeking to understand what range of public goods could be delivered in different upland areas of Scotland post-Brexit. But it will help to inform thinking on what type of policies or approaches might be required in future to help prioritise land management or land use change at a regional level.”

Anne Gray, Director of The Heather Trust, said: “At The Heather Trust we believe that bringing people together to share ideas, knowledge and beliefs builds trust and enables those with differing opinions to find common ground where it exists and to better understand others’ perspectives where it does not. These events offer not only a chance to debate some important issues on the future of our uplands and moorlands, but a building block towards more consensus and less polarisation.”

Dougie Peedle, Head of Policy at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “To ensure the future health and resilience of our uplands we need to transform the way in which they are managed. Taking a Land Stewardship approach will not only benefit the communities that live in the uplands and the businesses that operate there, but also Scotland’s natural environment. 

“By taking a new approach we have the potential to reverse the decline in wildlife and habitats, and ensure the uplands can deliver a wider range of benefits. These include sustainably produced food, natural services such as improved flood risk management, and new economic opportunities for tourism and recreation.”

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