Future of DMGs
Deer Management Groups are not unique to Scotland although they have proved highly suitable to the Scottish pattern of land ownership, particularly where the holdings are generally large, as in the Highlands. Increasingly groups liaise and co-operate with other interest groups and with local communities.
They have evolved rapidly in recent years and are becoming increasingly refined through development of Deer Management Plans, Best Practice and increasing uptake in training through the Deer Stalking Certificate and other qualifications in bringing increasing professionalism and discipline to the management of wild deer.
The Group approach to species which are a shared natural or economic resource or which justify a framework for population control is also employed in Scotland, for example, for fish populations through District Salmon Fishery Boards and for rabbits through Rabbit Clearance Societies. They may in future provide a valuable model for the collaborative management of other wildlife species.
The DMG Assessment Report 2014
The Deer Management Group (DMG) Assessment process was developed jointly between the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the operational criteria being derived from the ADMG DMG Benchmark and the Public Interest criteria developed by SNH from the Code of Practice on Deer Management.
The process provides an interesting new analytical approach to the functioning and performance of DMGs and will undoubtedly be refined and improved on in future. It has been timely and helpful for individual DMGs to assess themselves at the start of the deer management planning process to identify areas for attention.
DMG assessments have been a useful management tool to establish both where the Group is now and how much fine-tuning is required to make it better functioning moving forward.
The Assessments generated considerable interest and were approached constructively by DMGs. Many DMGs already had Deer Management Plans focusing on the localised operational aspects of the Group; however the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee Review made it clear that deer management planning must be outward as well as inward looking and contribute public benefits as well as meeting private management objectives. This is a very significant change to what has been expected of DMGs in the past and DMGs are rising to the challenge despite the considerable extra work involved including the creation of new Deer Management Plans in almost all cases.
It should be emphasised that this Assessment Report (available here as pdf) represents a baseline against which to judge future progress. A second round of Assessments will take place through spring and summer 2016 and these will record significant change and improvement across the board. There is no single end point to this process. Deer management is a dynamic activity and must be adaptive to changes in land management objectives, deer population and distribution changes, environmental and climatic variation and changes in public policy and expectations.
The Assessment work has now been completed and the final report from SNH is anticipated in early Autumn 2016.