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Gamekeepers protest national park’s plan against climate change by culling deer

Gamekeepers protest national park’s plan against climate change by culling deer

Cairngorms National ParkAuthority has outlined its vision for five years with a focus in restoration and protection land, habitats, species, and the environment.

Deer populations will be culled in order to increase restoration of peatlands – a critical store of carbon – and allow growth of 35,000 hectares of woodland. The park supports new gaming licenses and wants to end intensive management, such as that of pheasants.

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With around 40 estates falling within the park’s boundaries, the vision has angered gamekeepers, farmers and other rural workers with claims the plan, which has yet to be agreed, will cost jobs, livelihoods and tied housing in rural areas.

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The Grampian Moorland Group, which represents rural sporting estates from The Cairngorms, Royal Deeside and Aberdeenshire, said it had been “overwhelmed” by the response to an online protest today (Wednesday).

Spokeswoman Lianne MacLennan said: “Around 500 people have helped us reach thousands of people and hopefully the message is getting across to the Cairngorms National Park Authority Board . We feel strongly that there is a need for the Park leaders to heal the growing differences with an important sector and not impose unpopular policies without discussion.”

The national park authority does not have the legal power to impose its plan upon private estate owners. It can only advise them about its ambitions.

Gamekeepers claim Cairngorms National Park’s plans to cull deer, plant more trees and address climate crisis will endanger jobs, livelihoods, security of housing, and other essential services. (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Colin McClean is the head of land management at Cairngorms Natural Park Authority. He stated that the park wants to work closer with gamekeepers, rural workers, and insure that they can keep a stalking income.

He said: “I think their concerns are absolutely genuine and understandable. There is a lot of change happening in the countryside, and these changes are always worrying. Land values are rising, which is causing anxiety. Policy is changing around biodiversity, climate and woodland, which is creating a lot more insecurity.

“Rural workers are essential to the park – on the management of deer, in the protection of threatened species, they have the skills and the knowledge and the equipment to tackle widlfires. They have a vital part to play, and the demand for their skills is not going away.

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“There is a lot of sympathy of where they are coming from, but we need to work together.”

The National Park is home to around 30,000 reddeer, with an average density currently at 11.5 per square km. The actual number can vary between four and 20 depending on where you are located.

Mr McClean said three out of five deer management groups already met the 2030 target of 5 to 8 deer per square kilometre, although numbers in the south – roughly around Blair Atholl and Glen Isla – remain far higher.

Scottish Land and Estates, which represents estate owners, estimates the game and country sports industry is worth over £350m a year to the Scottish economy.

The park authority is currently considering 1,400 comments to its draft plan. Possible changes are also being considered. The board will receive a final version in June. The Scottish Ministers will then consider it.

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