Field Notes: Conservation for the future

Skye Conservation Ranger Cathryn Baille plants trees (and an interest in conservation in the younger generation)

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On Skye we are transforming conifer plantations into native broadleaved woodland and will soon be making a start on restoring some of our precious peatlands.

I feel incredibly fortunate in my role as conservation officer: I have the freedom to work on issues that are important to me and find inspiration in the people, places and environment around me. I think active conservation is hugely important but, to really make a long-term impact, we need to influence the next generation.

Inspiring children to love and care for the natural world is vital. In this age of technology when fewer and fewer of us are growing up surrounded by nature, it is more important than ever that we educate young people on the importance of conservation. To encourage them to love and explore wild places and show them how damaging our wasteful, consumer habits can be.

Working with young people in the outdoors just happens to be one of my favourite things. It is rewarding on so many levels, but my main hope is that some of them will grow up with a passion for the natural world and a desire to protect it.

I have been working with a group of P7 pupils who are participating in our John Muir Awards programme. As part of their ‘Discovery’ award they have been out and about in Strathaird, exploring the wild places on their doorstep.

On a walk we took together to Dun Ringill Iron Age hill fort, I was delighted to learn how much they have enjoyed taking part in their John Muir Award. They impressed me with their knowledge and their capacity for learning, easily recognising many of the birds we came across and quickly getting to grips with identifying trees in winter.

They joined me again before Christmas for a half day of conservation near Glen Sligachan. We were incredibly lucky and the sun shone for us all day, but I don’t think rain would have dampened their spirits. We planted 100 trees in no time – far exceeding my expectations.

Hopefully the trees we planted (mainly birch and a few hawthorn and ash) will establish in their new home and flourish eventually offering shelter and habitat for a variety of wildlife. A place where people can come and explore and be inspired to love and learn about nature.

A huge thank you to Jessica, Charlie and Finlay (pictured below) for all their hard work and cheerful enthusiasm. I hope they are all very proud of what they've achieved so far and I’m looking forward to planting some more trees with them soon!

Cathryn Baille - JMA kids on Skye

Find out more about our work on Skye.

Photos by Cathryn Baille