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Caithness News Bulletins March 2005

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LIFE Peatlands Project Nature & Environment  

Views Being Sought On Management Of North Peatlands
People who live and work in and around the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland are being asked their views on a draft management strategy for the area, in a public consultation starting this week.

The draft document has been developed by a host of organisations and individuals through the LIFE Peatlands Project, and seeks to take account of the conservation, community and economic needs of the area.

Caithness and Sutherland have the biggest extent of blanket bog in the UK and possibly the world. Large parts of the area are formally recognised under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act and the EC Wild Birds and Habitats Directives, and have also been proposed as a World Heritage Site.

A key aim of the strategy is to provide a clear plan for the future of all the peatlands in Caithness and Sutherland, not just those with special designations, by promoting good land management and co-ordinated action. An underlying theme is to see how the community and economic benefits of the peatlands can be maximised, without damaging the interest of the peatlands themselves. Views from
land managers and communities on how they might want to be involved in implementation of the strategy are therefore particularly welcome.

The strategy will review the balance between peatland and forestry in the area, and look at the scope for increasing the amount of native woodland. There may also be new opportunities in the future for tourism and recreation, as there are currently very few places where people can see and enjoy the peatlands at close quarters. Views are sought on what might be appropriate.

In 1999 the peatlands were added to the list held by the UK government of sites that might be put forward for nomination as a World Heritage Site. As part of the consultation, the public are being asked whether designation of the peatlands as a World Heritage Site should be encouraged.

The strategy is being prepared as part of the LIFE Peatlands Project, which has funding from the European Union's LIFE Nature Programme. It is supported by Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB and Plantlife International. Strategy Officer, Caroline Eccles, said: "There has been a great deal of effort to date on the part of many people in developing the draft strategy, and this is extremely encouraging. It is equally important however, that we gather the views of the wider public, those who live and work in and around the area, in order to make sure the final strategy is as comprehensive and as practical as possible."

Copies of the draft strategy are available at public libraries and post offices in the area, as well as at the SNH and RSPB offices in Golspie, and Forest Enterprise office at Embo. It is also on the LIFE Peatlands Project website at www.lifepeatlandsproject.com  . Comments should be submitted by Friday 29 April to Caroline Eccles, LIFE Peatlands Strategy Officer, Scottish Natural Heritage, 10 Henderson Road, Inverness IV1 1AU. Tel. 01463 706450 ( caroline.eccles@snh.gov.uk ).