Already trialled in Argyll, Forestry Commission Scotland has today, Tuesday 4th September, published advice on how to plan and assess proposals for new woodlands in those parts of Scotland that are legally protected for golden eagles.
Factors taken into account include the proposed location of woodland in relation to eagles’ nest sites and use of their territory (see note 3), and the scale, structure and composition of the proposed woodland.
The guidance – Expanding Woodlands in Special Protection Areas for Golden Eagles – has been put together by two golden eagle experts (Paul Haworth and Alan Fielding) working with the Commission, SNH and RSPB, and has been trialled with forestry agents in several woodland creation proposals in Argyll.
Environment and Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, welcomed the guidance, saying: ‘Traditionally a species of open mountain areas, golden eagles hunt over fairly open ground but woodlands that are carefully sited away from prime hunting areas can be helpful in improving the availability of prey animals.
‘This guidance is a fine example of integrated land use and I welcome the fact that conservationists and foresters have worked together to identify how we can create more woodlands at the same time as enhancing our protected eagle sites.’
The guidance reviews the evidence for how golden eagles respond to woodland in their territories and aims to help foresters identify whether their proposed new woods would affect golden eagle breeding success or survival. It also helps foresters to adjust schemes to achieve a conservation benefit for eagles.
Stephen Austin from SNH says: ‘Broadleaved woodland and sensitively designed conifer woodlands can enhance the biodiversity of some golden eagle ranges, increasing prey availability and the sustainability of territories. We very much welcome this advice from Forestry Commission Scotland. It supports golden eagles and helps achieve national forestry targets.’
Richard Evans of RSPB Scotland says: ‘The new guidance shows how appropriately planned landuse change can easily be incorporated into large nature conservation sites. Its publication should make it easier to ensure that the right trees are planted in the right place not only to meet woodland targets, but also to provide a home for a wide range of species, including golden eagles.’
The working group behind the development of the guidance is now developing further research and advice to identify how golden eagles can use forests and woodlands throughout their range.