News Snippets

Consultation on EU Habitats Directive

Earlier this year, the EU launched a formal consultation on the Habitats Directive. It was prompted by the inevitable moans from industry/developers that the current Directive was suppressing economic growth. A sentiment frequently espoused by our current government, who seem hell-bent on covering the whole of the country with wind farms. In the first phase, the Commission and the Project representatives met with the representatives of the relevant stakeholders in the UK. In the second phase, the Commission ran an online Public Consultation Questionnaire

NEMT replied, more to counterbalance the vested interests who wish to cover everything with concrete, then to achieve a positive change. There is only a limited space on the online form and our shortened paragraph is shown here:

More protection is needed. I quote two examples from the UK. Firstly, intensive management of grouse moors for shooting is leading to local extermination of species such as raptors and mountain hares. Data on hare counts by Adam Watson and supplied to the SNH SAC sub-committee clearly shows a dramatic decline in numbers due to excessive culling by gamekeepers. The scandal of gamekeepers continuing to persecute raptors is well known. The existing "favourable conservation status" of mountain hares is actually based on a lack of evidence to the contrary rather than positive confirmation; a ridiculous position. More guidance is needed on the definition of "local disappearance of, or serious disturbance to a population" needs to be given. Additional powers are needed to enable state agencies to both collect accurate game bag data on species killed and to introduce appropriate measures when excessive killing is identified. Secondly, poor management of the few remaining fragments of our ancient forests is causing long term damage. The use of inappropriate heavy machinery and poor operating practices causes major disruption to both the ground and soils. The natural podzol soils are easily damaged by heavy machinery, causing irreversible changes in the soil profile, allowing bracken and other alien species to colonise and inhibit natural regeneration. Additional powers are needed to oblige state agencies to enforce appropriate means of any selective felling in protected forests. Inappropriate intervention planting is destroying the "genetic purity" of these fragments. Deer fencing as a grazing control measure as opposed to properly controlling deer numbers across the wider area causes high bird mortality and leads to unnatural dense thicket within the fenced areas and outside, excessive grazing. Deer management groups are widely seen to have failed to adequately control deer numbers and state agencies need more teeth to apply appropriate sanctions.

Active Cairngorms

Following NEMT's response to the National Park's consultation on a strategy to support health through exercise for residents and visitors (see Mountain Views 71), David Clyne, the Park's Recreation and Access Manager, arranged to meet representatives of NEMT and the Cairngorms Campaign. NEMT is supportive of the central thrust of the strategy but had raised questions. David Clyne gave assurances that the strategy did take full account of all the Park's policies and, in particular, the 'Supplementary Planning Guidance on Wildness 2012'. NEMT's concerns about how the core mountain areas/wild areas were defined has led to some rewording of the document. While strongly supporting the light touch maintenance of existing paths in remoter areas, NEMT is opposed to the construction of new paths away from the population corridors and David Clyne said that the Park took this position too. This useful meeting also led to a discussion about the management of potential conflicts between various recreational users. The final document is due for publication shortly.

Rewilding- lynx on the way?

So called 'rewilding' has been taking place in Scotland for many decades on a piece meal basis (e.g. osprey, capercaillie, sea eagles and beavers along with woodland regeneration). A new voluntary organisation, Rewilding Britain, has been formed dedicated to pursuing this agenda. Its ambition is to expand natural habitats beyond small pockets of defined reserves with the group emphasising the human benefits this could bring. What has grabbed the headlines, of course, is Rewilding Britain's interest in the reintroduction of larger mammals such as lynx and wolves. Predictably, negative responses from the NFU and the Scottish Crofting Federation were quickly forthcoming. Then there is the separate issue of efforts to protect endangered species. Of course this is can go hand in hand with reintroductions but, at a time of squeezed resources, some may think that the protection of what is here already should be the immediate priority.

An Camus Mor: where to now?

Following a number of complex legal processes, the appeal by the Cairngorms Campaign, the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks foundered when the Supreme Court rejected an application for an order which would have protected the NGOs from prohibitive costs.

In the meantime, the situation on the ground remains unclear. In 2014, planning consent was granted in principle for the development of a new community adjacent to Aviemore (up to 1500 residential properties along with community and business facilities). Shortly after this, the developer involved pulled out. It is not known whether this was occasioned by the conditions imposed which included those needed for compliance with the Habitat Directives. The masterplan for the project was later withdrawn. Over the past year, there has been a silence. However, there are rumours that there are plans afoot to bring forward a package involving public and private finance to kick start the development.

NEMT has always believed that a new town in the National Park is wholly inappropriate and not the way to ensure a measure of affordable housing. Unfortunately the issue is unlikely to go away.

An Obnoxious Farmer

This is a copy of a disturbing letter that we received in June:

Earlier this week myself and two friends who have been climbing on the NE sea cliffs for almost 50 years, encountered what can only be described as the most obnoxious individual firmly rooted in the Stone Age.

We had parked our car near the Horseshoe Brig, just beyond the railway line, with the intention of climbing in the Clashrodney/Bareside Point area. (This is the recognised approach and has been since climbing started in the area).

When we left the car we spotted the local farmer working in a field to the north. We went south, and as there were sheep grazing in the fields, we decided to walk outside the fence on the seaward side ie just above the cliffs. Within a few minutes this individual came driving through the field and stopped adjacent to where we were walking. He immediately started shouting and demanding to know what we were doing and where we were going, he insisted it was his land and we had no right to be there!!

Despite our carefully chosen responses to this individual he was not for turning and in fact threatened to get his tractor and push the car over the cliff!! I must say I have never encountered such an idiot in all my years of climbing.

We carried on to our destination and had an enjoyable day on the rock.

We felt the general climbing public should know about this situation, and be aware of potential difficulties when approaching the area. There are no signs preventing vehicular access down the track past Leith's Black Hills Quarry to the parking area beyond the railway bridge, but this farmer's main problem was we were "trespassing".

The vehicle he was driving was a silver Nissan pickup truck SW04 FYR, so if anyone spots this truck they can expect a torrid time!!

I myself have parked here many times with no problem but it looks as though things might be about to change for the worse.

Death of Dick Balharry

While Dick was not involved with our organisation, we would like to mark his passing by recognising his huge contribution to addressing many of the issues which are central concerns of NEMT. In particular, he was an outspoken advocate for the control of deer and the regeneration of native woodland. Dick helped to establish the reserves at Beinn Eighe and Creag Meagaidh. In addition to his work with statutory bodies, he was involved with the National Trust for Scotland and the John Muir Trust. His final presentation on land use is well worth reading (

Another hello

NEMT welcomes the Alford Women's Outdoor Club as a member. We are delighted that the number of club member clubs has increased by a third over the past year.

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