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Concerns have been rasied at NatureScot’s decision to end financial support for goose management schemes on islands.
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has said the decision by the agency of the Scottish Government to act only in an advisory capacity risks worsening problems where large populations of Greylag geese are already causing significant damage to islands ecosystems and agriculture.
Conservative Mr Halcro Johnston commented: ‘I know first hand from our own farm the impact that unsustainable populations of geese can have on the islands.
‘The damage caused can be devastating to farmers and to other land.
‘Adaptive management of geese has had some positive impact, but it is clear that when this work is interrupted, particularly recently, that goose populations can quickly expand and cause real damage.
‘These schemes have shown that management can be successful when properly resourced.
‘NatureScot should reflect on that and either reverse its decision to withdraw funding or bring forward a comprehensive package of future support.
‘This is not a problem which has gone away and neither should the Scottish Government’s focus on it.’
NFU Scotland last week called for support to continue, with President Martin Kennedy saying the grazing pressure exerted by the growing resident populations of Greylag geese on many Scottish islands continued to have a devastating impact on farming and crofting businesses.
‘Now is not the time for NatureScot to withdraw support,’ he said. ‘We are fully aware that the adaptive management schemes were always intended to be short-term pilots to manage population density and mitigate against the agricultural damage caused by Greylags.
‘However, the pilots have demonstrated that with early intervention, funding and coordinated effort, farmers and crofters could control Greylag goose populations without harming conservation interests.
‘Uist, Tiree and Coll, Lewis and Harris have been able to make some progress towards their reduction targets, but the Orkney pilot only managed to contain the expansion of resident Greylag birds.
‘When the pilots were reviewed in 2017, NatureScot recognised their fragile success and the need for further support to help LGMGs [Local Goose Management Groups] secure long-term benefit from them.
“When we look at the objectives that were set in 2017, several have yet to be achieved including the development of longer-term funding arrangements for management and development of infrastructure and marketing to allow the sale of goose meat.
‘It is our view that until these objectives are met, and the populations of resident Greylags on these islands are reduced to a level where self-help is realistically achievable, it is not appropriate for NatureScot to withdraw financial and practical support and expect the pilots to continue as self-financing.
‘Failure to do so will see those farmers and crofters involved in the pilots unable to control geese numbers and the populations rapidly increase – negating all the value of the public funding committed to date and the hugely significant commitment from farmers and crofters.’
A spokesperson for NatureScot told the Lochaber Times: ‘As planned, local groups will now use their expertise on the ground to manage greylag geese sustainably.
‘We helped Local Goose Management Groups trial methods to control greylag goose populations with this in mind, and NatureScot will be available for advice, licensing and to help with monitoring whenever necessary.’