Holyrood to debate deer management

Trust joins environmental coalition calling for a new approach to deer management

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In advance of a Holyrood debate on deer management, a coalition of environmental charities is urging the Scottish Government to move forward towards a modernised system that will help deliver national targets on biodiversity, climate change and woodland expansion.

The Scottish Parliament debate – on Tuesday 2 May at 2pm – follows over four years of intense scrutiny of the current arrangements by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the cross-party Holyrood committees responsible for the environment – the Environment Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR) – and its predecessor committee.

The most recent report, published on April 7 2017 by the ECCLR (Report on Deer Management in Scotland), criticises the failure of the current system to protect important habitats and says “deer densities in many places are too high to deliver the public interest” and “deer impacts continue be a significant factor in preventing the achievement of positive outcomes for the planting and restoration of native woodlands”.

The ECCLR report and its recommendations have been welcomed in a statement published by Scottish Environment Link and supported by RSPB Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Trees for Life, Woodland Trust Scotland and John Muir Trust.

Maggie Keegan, Head of Policy for the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Overgrazing and trampling by deer has had a profound effect on the health, natural functioning and connectivity of Scotland’s ecosystems, especially in the uplands. We would urge the Scottish Government to take on the ECCLR committee’s recommendations on deer management as there is no time to lose to halt the loss of biodiversity and meet our 2020 targets.”

Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager at Trees for Life, said: “The ECCLR Committee’s recommendations give real hope of a fresh start for deer management in Scotland. We need to move on from old conflicts by collaborating to ensure that we can all benefit from the ecological and economic advantages of a balanced natural environment.  A more robust deer management system would be a tangible step towards healthier deer, richer natural landscapes for wildlife and stronger rural economies.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland and Chair of LINK Deer Task Force said: “We are urging full implementation of the ECCLR Committee recommendations to underpin the full range of Scottish Government objectives including meeting our 2020 biodiversity targets, native woodland expansion and protection of peatlands to mitigate climate change. We now expect SNH to use their full range of powers to encourage sustainable deer management in line with public expectations.”

Mike Daniels, Head of Land Management for the John Muir Trust said: “For more than a century, high deer densities have impoverished the ecology of the Scottish Highlands. These modest reforms proposed by the environment committee offer us a way out of the endless cycle of debate towards a brighter future for our land that would benefit nature, local communities and the entire nation. ”

Update 8 May: Read the official report from the debate