ADMG representatives report good progress on deer management front to Minister for Environment at briefing meeting

Representatives of the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) met in April 2013 with Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, who also has responsibility for deer issues.

The meeting was held to discuss the work of ADMG and progress made since the passing of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, and also the progress of the Lowland Deer Network Scotland (LDNS).

The meeting was attended by Richard Cooke, Chairman of ADMG and LDNS, and Finlay Clark, ADMG Secretary. The agenda covered ADMG’s role and relationship with the Scottish Government and its agencies, deer numbers and impacts, designated sites, Deer Management Groups and deer management planning, as well as issues such as competence and the emerging concept of ‘wild land’.

Richard Cooke said: “I think that there is good momentum with regard to the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act. Everybody in the sector has recognised the responsibilities embodied in the Code of Deer Management and are finding it helpful, particularly when drawing up or updating deer management plans.

“The legislation appears to have been taken seriously by those in the sector and, when it is reviewed, I am confident that we can show good progress.

“I think there is still work to do in raising awareness of the Code among those who cull deer on an occasional basis to protect their economic interests such as crops and tree, particularly in relation to competence.

“In an ideal world we would like anyone who takes a rifle to shoot a deer to be doing so under the same standards, but I think the introduction of the General Licence and the emphasis on training to demonstrate competence has been a helpful move in that direction.”

Regarding the Lowland Deer Network, Richard Cooke said: “The point of LDNS is to introduce a collaborative culture to the management of lowland deer. It’s about bringing a wide range of individuals and organisations that are involved with lowland deer together and adding value. The response has been very positive and I am immensely impressed by the commitment and professionalism of the many vocational deer managers who have become involved with the Network so far.

“In our second year what we are doing, having built the core, is to roll out local initiatives encouraging those on the low ground to recognise deer management as one of their responsibilities, to take advantage of training opportunities, and to work with each other.”

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change said: “The messages we have received back regarding the Act, the Code and deer management generally suggest that good progress is being made particularly in certain areas where previously concerns had been expressed.

“The low ground initiative fills a gap and, for the record, we very much welcome the work that is being done to establish the Lowland Deer Network and the contribution that it is making.”

Openness in publication of Mar Lodge review applauded

Both the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) and the East Grampian Deer Management Group have said that the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) must be applauded for its openness and willingness to make available the independent report on Mar Lodge Estate.

Richard Cooke, Chairman, ADMG, says:

“This has not been a comfortable examination for the Trust, since the report is highly critical of management at Mar Lodge Estate and of the way the Trust has communicated its land management plans and actions, particularly with its neighbours and with the local community. The Trust has wisely taken the best route in publishing the report both swiftly and fully, and senior management must be applauded for that.”

Mark Nicolson, Chairman, East Grampian Deer Management Group, of which Mar Lodge Estate is a member, says:

“The NTS deserves high praise for publishing such a candid document. The Review Panel also deserves great credit for their understanding of the complex issues of management, delivering the conservation and sporting principles jointly agreed by the NTS and the donor of the bequest which enabled the original purchase.”

The 42-page report is highly critical of past management at Mar Lodge which it describes as a ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Highland sporting estates.  It says that decision making at Mar Lodge was ‘slow, bureaucratic and hierarchical’ when it should have been ‘more focussed, direct, accountable and more rapid.’  The report also says that the National Trust for Scotland has neither the necessary depth nor spread of expertise of land management to deliver fully integrated sporting and conservation objectives, and that there should be change to the ‘structure and competency’ of management within Mar Lodge Estate.

The report states that NTS should consider seeking ‘specific commercial sporting advice’ as required, and that it should co-opt to its Board ‘an individual with experience of running a large Highland estate.’

Mark Nicolson says:

“The Panel has made specific recommendations as to future management. I hope that the NTS embraces these, and develops the necessary skills to deliver the harmony originally envisaged, so that Mar Lodge can become a shining example to the private and public sectors alike that sporting and conservation aims can co-exist, and deliver multiple objectives.”

Richard Cooke says:

“Other deer management groups and upland land managers can gain a great deal from this report – not least the importance of communicating openly in resolving conflicting management objectives at a local level, and the deployment of fencing as a legitimate management tool where major habitat change is being addressed in the presence of deer.”

The report contains a number of other recommendations for addressing the conservation and sporting objectives at Mar Lodge including embracing a fully integrated system of management to achieve a range of objectives, the strategic use of fencing to funnel deer to lower ground outside the regeneration zone, and other fencing elsewhere, plus the provision of alternative winter cover and foraging including the opening of forestry blocks.  The report states also that the use of out of season culling and night shooting may be necessary to continue to protect the regeneration zone although ADMG would like a moratorium to be placed on all such activity until the National Trust for Scotland has confirmed which elements of the report it will adopt into its deer management planning going forward.

Further information from:
Richard Cooke
Chairman, ADMG
Tel: 01356 624566

Mark Nicolson
Chairman, East Grampian Deer Management Group
Tel: 01346 513149

ADMG welcomes Mar Lodge report findings

The Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG), the organisation that represents deer managers in Scotland, has welcomed the report by the Mar Lodge Independent Review Panel published this week.

Richard Cooke, ADMG Chairman, says:

We welcome this thorough and balanced review which gives some very clear pointers, after years of difference and conjecture, over the future way forward at Mar Lodge that will enable the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to pursue its objectives while at the same time not disadvantaging those other landholdings within the Deer Management Group.

While the report identifies some management failings it also indicates with some confidence that the potential conflicts between the principle Mar Lodge Estate objectives are reconcilable.

Limited term fencing is identified as having a role to play in the solution – a view that ADMG and other organisations have long advocated.

There are important lessons from this for all land managers, and deer managers in particular, and we would hope that this report heralds a greater recognition of the need for all to take account of the impacts of their policies on others, and of the need to compromise to avoid causing negative economic or environmental impacts on neighbouring land.

Deer Management Groups are the ideal forum in which these issues can be aired and negotiated, and we look forward to working more closely with NTS at DMG level in future.

We trust that some of the findings of the review will in due course be reflected in NTS deer policy across Scotland as a whole.”

Read full report >>