A partnership to place communities at the centre of efforts to manage deer on publicly owned land in Scotland was unveiled at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair last weekend y a partnership of eleven leading deer management stakeholders.
Eleven leading deer management stakeholders want to see ‘community integrated deer management’ by establishing more opportunities for trained recreational deer stalkers to manage deer on publicly owned land in their local area.
Despite an estimated deer population of around one million, many trained recreational stalkers in Scotland struggle to access deer management opportunities locally, especially for those living near publicly owned land.
The organisations argue that current public expenditure on deer management contractors is ‘needlessly expensive’ and that using trained recreational stalkers would slash costs if they were afforded a more enhanced role in their local area.
The partnership is urging the Scottish Government to establish a pilot community deer stalking scheme on Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) land, in which a syndicate would pay a small fee to take on the deer management obligations. It is envisaged that the harvested venison would be sold and consumed locally, helping reduce the overall carbon footprint.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) – the co-ordinating partner behind the vision – has pledged to support the syndicate, act as the liaison with FLS and develop replicable operating mechanisms so other schemes can be established in the future.
In addition, BASC and the British Deer Society (BDS) – who both deliver deer management qualifications – will provide discounted training courses to recreational deer stalkers with ambitions of managing deer in their local area, in a bid to upskill communities and make stalking more accessible.
The partnership is also recommending that the Scottish Government establish a £250,000 deer management training fund to deliver the SCS One to more than 1,000 students free of charge over an eight-year period.
Speaking at the launch at the Scottish Game Fair, BASC’s public affairs manager in Scotland and spokesperson for the partnership, Ross Ewing, said: “Deer management is a fundamental and legal obligation, and where possible we must find more economic, sustainable and localised means of controlling Scotland’s deer – particularly on publicly owned land, where opportunities are often out of reach for recreational deer stalkers.
“Community integrated deer management will effectively capitalise on our rich, growing and free resource of trained recreational deer stalkers. Failure to provide these part-time deer managers with the opportunity to manage deer locally would be nonsensical, especially in the context of Scotland’s ambitious forestry targets that are inextricably linked with tackling the climate emergency.
“The benefits of community integration are numerous, and the foundations of this vision are highly sustainable. It will build resilience into the management framework; it will enable a sustainable food source to be harvested, processed and consumed locally; it will effectively and flexibly protect the environment; it will improve economic productivity; and it will enhance community knowledge of deer impacts and benefits.
“This partnership’s commitment to integrating and upskilling communities is resolute. We would like to see the Scottish Government match this commitment by establishing a pilot community deer stalking scheme on public land without delay and also create a deer management training fund to help us train the next generation of deer managers.”
Pic caption: Eoghan Cameron, BASC chair, launching the initiative at Scone.