A public consultation has been launched to seek local views on a new draft strategy for the Caithness and Sutherland moors.
Caithness and Sutherland contain one of the world’s most extensive areas of raised bog. This moor resource supports a large number of wild animals, provides us with clean water, regulates our climate and is an essential carbon store.
The strategy was designed by NatureScot on behalf of the Peatlands Partnership, which was founded in 2006 shortly after the first management strategy was drawn up (2005). It includes a number of organizations involved in the management of the peatlands and working together in implementing the strategy.
The partnership is led by Professor Stuart Gibb of the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso. He said:
“It has been fifteen years since the original strategy was published by the Peatlands Partnership to identify both the need and the opportunity for people to learn, enjoy, and engage with moors. Since then, our understanding of the role of peatlands in carbon storage, climate change, and ecosystem services in general has grown significantly.
Black Grouse, Copyright Richard Stonier, from the Surfbirds Galleries
“This understanding was developed and promoted through initiatives such as the“ Flows to the Future ”project supervised by the Peatlands Partnership. This £ 11 million worth of five year project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowed the restoration of raised bog habitat to an unprecedented scale and contributed to our social understanding and appreciation for bogs like the Flow Country of Caithness and to change Sutherland.
“Our new draft strategy is intended to build on this success and includes efforts to secure the registration of The Flow Country as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also acknowledges recent changes in public sector policy, including the Scottish Government’s declaration on a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, and opportunities for “green recovery” arising from the global Covid-19 pandemic. As with the original strategy, however, we want to put the human-bog relationship at the heart of our new approach. “
Graham Neville, NatureScots Northern Isles and North Highland Area Manager, said:
“This important area of the expansive ceiling bog requires careful landscape-scale management to ensure it stays healthy. The communities and businesses that depend on the moors are all involved, and the strategy aims to coordinate actions to improve and promote them through sustainable land management and community development.
“Since 2005 we have made great strides in bog restoration and related research. Research into the impact of forest management on adjacent bogs and restoration techniques has resulted in inappropriately planted trees being removed and bog drains and furrows blocked in Caithness and Sutherland to raise water tables and facilitate bog restoration.
“The Peatland ACTION project is helping to restore damaged moors across Scotland. In February, the Scottish Government announced an additional investment in bog restoration of more than £ 250 million over the next ten years. Our strategy will help direct these funds towards Caithness and Sutherland, support the rural economy through the creation and development of jobs and skills on land, and provide a nature-based solution to the climate crisis. “
The draft management strategy for the Peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland can be found on the Highland Council’s consultation portal at https://consult.highland.gov.uk/kse/event/35789