THE 250 Scottish rural estates which have signed up to become members of a pioneering conservation initiative today (Tuesday 19 February) reached a key milestone on the way to becoming Scotland’s officially recognised ‘wildlife estates’, with the launch of Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) accreditation.
The WES initiative was developed from a European Union scheme to drive forward higher standards of conservation and wildlife and environmental management.
It has been supported by the Scottish Government and today Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse paid tribute to the 250 estates which have pledged to become fully accredited members of the initiative.
Speaking at the launch of the accreditation phase of WES in Gifford, East Lothian, the Minister said:
“Accreditation through Wildlife Estates Scotland is testament that those involved in Scotland’s rural land and estates are serious about proving their land management practices are in the best interests of biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
“I am delighted that today over 250 Scottish estates have now publicly pledged to adhere to the principles laid down by WES which has the potential to show estates in a much more positive light. In what is the Year of Natural Scotland, the commitment made by progressive estates could not be more appropriate, and I would strongly encourage those not already signed up to now register and engage with those leading the WES scheme who have ensured a strong support and guidance network is in place.
“It is in our collective interest to protect and improve Scotland’s rural environment and wildlife for present and future generations. In doing so, estates can help to secure Scotland’s international reputation for its outstanding natural heritage.
“Those affiliated with WES are on the way to creating a transparent system which demonstrates how land and estate owners can deliver multiple benefits to rural Scotland. In this sense WES fits well with the developing Scottish Government Land Use Strategy. I wish the accredited estates on the WES programme every success.”
All estates involved will be independently assessed under the scheme developed by Scottish Land & Estates with support from Scottish Natural Heritage, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
WES Chairman Robbie Douglas-Miller commented:
“Accreditation for an estate will demonstrate that conservation, biodiversity, good game management practices and a strong management plan are all at the heart of what that property does. If accreditation is not achieved then support and guidance will be offered by an expert panel from WES to create the environment to allow success.
“By building on the success of this model over the next few years it is hoped by all the partners involved in setting up WES that the concept will become fully enmeshed in the way Scotland’s countryside is managed going forward.”
Simon Pepper, a Board member of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), confirmed:
“This accreditation scheme recognises the hard work that our estates, land managers and farmers have done and highlights the benefits provided by good wildlife management.
“It is encouraging to see a scheme that for the first time formally recognises the contribution of those estates whose management meets recognised standards of good practice and that we can all be proud of.
“We hope many more in this vital sector for our rural economy and countryside will be encouraged to take part in the scheme. The more estates and landowners involved, the greater the opportunities for everyone to work together and create a lasting wildlife legacy for Scotland.
“We are delighted to have been involved from an early stage in this work and to be providing essential further funding to help this project reach fruition through partnership with Scottish Land & Estates.”
Listen to the BBC Radio Scotland interview on the John Beattie Show about the WES launch (starts at 43 mins 53 secs) available until Tuesday 26 February
To read the Minister's full speech please click on the attachment below.
The initiative is one of the most important instruments in nature conservation currently influencing estate management in rural Scotland and accredited estates must demonstrate industry-leading best practice.