The owner of four of Loch Lomond’s islands is urging authorities to look again at extending wild camping restrictions following the news that the loch’s capercaillie population is no longer viable.
Despite intensive efforts by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority, the RSPB and landowners, the capercaillie population of Loch Lomond has dwindled to a point where there are only a few birds left.
Last week, SNH announced that they will now focus their efforts on protecting more stable capercaillie populations elsewhere in the country.
So that’s effectively the end of this culturally iconic bird in this part of the world.
Now, Luss Estates Company, which owns Inchconnachan, Inchtavannach, Inchmoan and Inchlonaig, is calling for urgent action to be taken to protect other endangered species on the islands, including osprey and otters, as well as their ancient oak woodlands.
Simon Miller, Chief Executive of Luss Estates, says: ‘Luss Estates is dismayed to learn that Loch Lomond’s capercaillie population has reached such critically low levels.
‘As owner of the principal islands on which the capercaillie reside, Luss Estates has for many years worked closely with Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB and Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to protect and preserve these precious habitats, eliminate predation and, as far as legally possible, minimise human disturbance.
‘This latter factor, particularly in relation to the increasing popularity of unrestricted wild camping on the islands, has, we believe, had a devastating impact.
‘Last year, an opportunity to address this issue was missed, with the postponement of the National Park’s Bye Law review.
‘Whilst Luss Estates fully appreciates SNH’s need for pragmatism, we are nevertheless disappointed that Loch Lomond’s capercaillie are effectively being resigned to history before realistic efforts to minimise the human disturbance caused by wild camping is fully addressed.
‘Given that there are reportedly fewer capercaillie in Scotland than there are Bengal tigers or snow leopards left in the world, surely every effort must be made to protect even the smallest of populations.
‘Tightening access to the islands undoubtedly has its challenges, but as a major tourism business ourselves, as well as landowner and employer, Luss Estates has indicated to the NPA our willingness to find a workable solution balancing the needs of the visitor with those of the endangered species which reside there. However, twelve months on we seem to be no further forward in addressing this issue.
‘These islands are home to many endangered species, and are internationally recognised with numerous designations. Whilst a number of factors have led to the demise of Loch Lomond’s capercaillie population, it is imperative that we continue to protect these precious, unique habitats and do not allow a similar fate to befall further species such as the osprey and otter, and preserve the ancient woodland of the islands.
‘Luss Estates therefore urges Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to reconsider its Bye Law Review as a matter of urgency.’
Wild camping by urbanites with no real experience of camping has led to all sorts of devastation in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Trees have been hacked down for firewood, with littering and human waste common legacies.
If fishing licences can be imposed and policed on our rivers, there has to be an enforceable permit system for wild camping that would allow for basic regulations around environmental and wildlife protection to be made known and observed on peril of substantial penalty.