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Moor value

Published Thursday, 12th March 2020 in Research news

Moorlands form a large and important resource for upland enterprises
Moorlands form a large and important resource for upland enterprises

Researchers from SRUC have contributed to a new publication looking at the future of Scotland’s moorlands.

SRUC is part of Scotland’s Moorland Forum, which brings together a diverse range of organisations to discuss issues that affect the management of Scotland’s upland areas.

Moorlands form a large and important resource for upland enterprises – such as hill farming, crofting, forestry and game management – which play an essential role in supporting the rural economy and local communities.

Many of these upland enterprises already deliver some form of wider public benefit such as carbon sequestration, flood mitigation and biodiversity conservation, and how moorlands are managed in the future will have an impact on whether these continue to be delivered.

The priorities land managers, rural communities and the wider society place on such benefits can differ from one part of Scotland to another, but the scale of the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis means that any one upland enterprise will need to deliver a much greater range of these in the future.

Davy McCracken, Head of SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, contributed to the paper Valuing Scotland’s Moorlands.

He said: “We cannot shy away from helping to identify what outcomes would be most appropriate to deliver in different areas, thereby influencing future upland land management and land use change decisions across Scotland.

“Past experience suggests that gaining such consensus – even at a regional level – will not be easy. Buy-in will be needed from the upland land managers who will primarily deliver the outcomes. But agreement will also be needed from others in local rural communities and the wider society who would not only benefit from those outcomes, but will also need to live – to differing extents – with the consequences of any land use change.”

The Scottish Government’s Land Use Strategy has been designed to provide a framework for ensuring that all stakeholders are fully involved in that consensus-setting process. In particular, the Regional Land Use Partnerships proposed in the strategy potentially provides a mechanism to identify and resolve conflicting land management objectives. It is, however, currently unclear how such partnerships would operate in practice.

Researchers from SRUC’s Rural Policy Centre and Hill & Mountain Research Centre, together with a team from the Centre for Mountain Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands, will investigate this further at two workshops being held in Killin and Moffat later this spring.

“By focussing in on one or two upland regions of Scotland, we will seek not only to identify who should be involved but also test how best to engage stakeholders and communities in discussions related to upland land use,” said Davy. “By doing such ‘sense-checking’ we hope to shed light on the best practices to be followed in future conversations about integrating land management more fully across Scotland’s uplands.”

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