Saturday, 31 March 2012

Integrated Land Use

As mentioned in previous blogs I attended a conference on Thursday (29th) and Friday (30th) at the Carrbridge Hotel just north of Aviemore within the Cairngorms National Park. The subject of the conference was Integrated Land Use and was organised by RSPB, University of Highlands & Islands (UHI) and the Cairngorms National Park Authority. It was designed for students undertaking environment related courses within the UHI so that they could come together to discuss and share ideas on land management. There were students from Forestry (of which I was one), Environmental Sciences, Gamekeeping and Heritage Studies courses with a number of UHI and RSPB staff and a variety of managers representing their chosen land use sectors.

We arrived at the hotel at 1pm on the Thursday and checked in before an introduction was given and then we headed to the Kinveachy Estate for a site visit which would form the main focus of the conference workshops. We filled up the minibuses and drove a couple miles to the site. We were split up into mixed teams and talked with managers located around the site to gain a better picture of what was going on and to form ideas. The weather was stunning and the trip well worth it. Discussions ranged from grazing and wader management to tourism, forestry and upland management. We spent 3 hours up there and once we had  finished we headed back to the hotel.

At 19:00 we were welcomed by George Campbell of the RSPB and given a brief introduction to what will be involved in the workshops the next day. Afterwards a very nice three course meal was had before we all sat down to enjoy a presentation from Peter Cairns. Peter is an award winning nature photographer and writer and he talked about the 2020 vision project which I found very enjoyable and inspirational. Some of his photos were simply stunning. Find out more HERE. A quote that Peter used in his presentation struck a chord with everyone present and is one I totally agree with. He said:

"Keep your mind open when others have made their mind up"

A great piece of advice for anyone involved in land management these days and anyone in general.

After a rather late night with quite a few drinks had in the hotel bar, the second day started with breakfast at 8:00 and a brief introduction to the day from Will Boyd the Senior Land Management Officer for the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

The keynote speech was given by Pete Mayhew the Senior Conservation Manager with RSPB in North Scotland and he discussed integrated land use and talked about the RSPB's Futurescapes project which promotes conservation on a landscape scale.

Following on from Pete was a talk given by Will Anderson who is the Forestry Director for Seafield & Strathspey Estates of which Kinveachy is a part of. He talked about the fact that Integrated Land Use in forestry is not a new thing and the importance of continuing it on a larger scale within forest management.

The second talk of the morning was by Peter Duncan from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Peter is currently the reserves manager for South Highland and previously for East Highland. His focus was on the Creag Meagaidh reserve and the complexities of restoring native pinewood without deer fences and how this affected neighbouring estates and the benefits of everyone working together.

A mid morning break was then had with tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits on offer before the second half of the morning resumed.

Following on from the break the third talk of the morning was from Brian Lyall. Brian is currently the Head Stalker at Badanloch Estate and a part-time lecturer at the North Highland College. He talked about the importance of deer management to local economies and families in the North Highlands and changes in priorities of land use in his time at the estate most notably the afforestation in the Flow Country.

The final talk of the morning session was from Jamie Evans who is currently a land agent for Smiths Gore with 15 years experience in rural land management. His focus was on the holdings of the Crown Estate and talked about different land uses on Glen Livet Estate

After the final talk lunch was had and a small amount of time was available before the afternoon workshops commenced and a few of us sat outside in sun which was incredibly warm for the end of March!

In the afternoon session we sat down in our groups to come up with a management plan for Kinveachy Estate using what we saw and heard on the site visit the previous day and the talks given earlier. Each group was to come up with a plan for integrated land use and was given a primary objective to focus on, for example our group's primary objective was agriculture. After much discussion and a land use map drawn up each group gave a short presentation on their plan.

Overall it was a very informative and eye opening couple of days for everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and it was nice to get a chance to mix with students from other environment related courses as most of the time we are at separate campus' widely spread across the Highlands. A big thanks to the UHI, RSPB and Cairngorms National Park Authority for organising the event.

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