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Mull and Iona’s rangers are looking for funding to help save their service.
Major cuts and changes in grant-giving priorities has put the outdoor service’s future at risk.
To save it, the islands’ ranger service is calling for financial support by launching a fundraising campaign which NatureScot has agreed to match pound-for-pound up to a value of £6,000.
For more than 20 years, the ranger service has run as part of Mull and Iona Community Trust.
It was the first community-run countryside ranger service in Scotland connecting communities and visitors with the islands’ landscapes, history and wildlife.
Advising visitors on how to camp responsibly or on the best spots for wildlife watching, rangers host woodland play sessions for parents and toddlers, draw inspiration through outdoor adventures for climate change action with teenagers, work with schools and survey species-rich machair and seabird colonies.
Ranger Emily Wilkins, who works alongside a second ranger, added: ‘It’s all in a day’s work for us rangers and has become a valued part of the community helping everyone enjoy the countryside responsibly.’
As well as having the backing of teachers among others from the islands, the new funding appeal also has the support of wildlife and conservationist campaigner Daniel Brooks from Ulva Ferry
He said: ‘Nowhere is it more important to have a ranger service than here on the Isle of Mull, the most popular wildlife tourism destination in the UK.’
Mull RSPB officer Dave Sexton said: ‘The Mull and Iona Ranger Service does so much for our islands and needs our support.
‘Its work helps visitors, residents, young – and not so young – to appreciate and get the most out of the amazing environments we have here.
‘We are so lucky to have this service and it deserves all the help we can offer to ensure it continues long into the future.’
Moray Finch, general manager of MICT, said: ‘Saving our ranger service is so important for us all at MICT and for the wider community; the benefit to landowners, schools and visitors of the knowledge and skills of our rangers is irreplaceable so we’re determined to keep the service running – but we need help.’
The rangers also support landowners and farmers to manage visitor access, and help to resolve countryside conflicts and issues, and they improve and manage footpaths and parking.
Emily added: ‘Mull and Iona are a unique archipelago of wildlife rich islands and skerries; an extraordinary natural and cultural heritage and therefore an extraordinary responsibility.
‘Without the ranger service people will have fewer opportunities to connect with nature, less sharing of knowledge about our islands’ landscape and wildlife, less concern, and less sense of responsibility.
‘In these times of lockdowns and Covid recovery, our work has helped to encourage people to improve their mental and physical wellbeing outdoors. Now we need your help to continue their work.
‘NatureScot has promised to match any donations received up to a total value of £6,000. No contribution is too small.’
You can watch a short film about the work of the Mull and Iona Ranger Service here:
To make a donation towards saving the service go to https://bit.ly/2YfvdXI
Caption: Youngsters litter picking on the Java path with Mull and Iona Ranger Service.