Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has today [12th August 12] published a report which has implications for interests in Argyll - looking into managing conflicts between those who have differing views on how to manage animals and birds.
Examples include sporting estates which may have different management objectives from their neighbours – perhaps wanting to keep deer populations at a high level for hunting, alongside an estate wishing to cull deer to regenerate forests or protect natural sites. Other examples include the reintroduction of sea eagles in areas with crofting interests in sheep rearing, and projects to conserve protected species of geese, with numbers growing and eating farmers’ crops.
The report finds that most conflicts are complicated and involve many factors and different viewpoints. The authors assert that it’s as much about understanding people as it is about understanding the wildlife, and working with all sides is crucial to find common ground. The report outlines work to help reduce conflict, such as improving the baseline monitoring of certain species and building partnerships between people.
A second phase to this project is being carried out in the coming months. This will see SNH and the University of Aberdeen conducting a number of real-life trials with stakeholders, based on five key conflict areas: sea eagles; fish-eating birds; pine martens and capercaillie; gulls in the urban environment; and mountain hares. These trials will use the findings of the report to look at how to best manage conflicts about how wildlife is managed.
Alastair MacGugan of SNH says: ‘We all share a common goal in Scotland: for nature to be strong and healthy. Many individuals and groups have been working together for many years, but we want to look at ways to allow people to come together more effectively, pool their knowledge and make the best decisions for Scotland’s wildlife, Scotland’s economy, and Scotland’s well-being.
‘There may always be conflicts between interest groups; we live in a small country with an increasing number of people, and there are huge social and economic demands as well as wildlife duties and obligations, all of which make any conflict a tricky and delicate process. But this doesn’t mean we should shy away from the challenge: in fact, we are already making progress and these trials should give us more tools to work together.’
Steve Redpath of the University of Aberdeen says: ‘Much of the scientific research has concentrated on better understanding the ecology behind these wildlife conflicts. There are still ecological questions to be answered but unless we understand how people interact with each other, the biological answers may never be implemented. Bringing a social science approach to wildlife conflict management is relatively new and this next phase of work with SNH will help ground some of the principles in practice.’
The full report, Building an evidence base for managing species conflicts in Scotland, is online here. Its findings are based on discussions with stakeholders and on considering existing research.