Friday, 30 May 2014

The Devastation of the Eastern Highlands


The summit of Tampie at 723 metres. All photos taken May 2014.




Roads, fences, gates, burnt heather. A savaged, stripped, blasted land. That’s the Eastern Highlands, beyond Mount Keen. Walking through these hills on the TGO Challenge recently was a depressing experience. Nowhere else in the Highlands have I seen such devastation and destruction. And all in the name of grouse shooting and deer stalking, all so that a few wealthy people can spend a few weeks a year killing birds and animals for fun without having to make any effort or suffer any discomfort. 

These hills have been damaged by the shooting industry for many decades now with regular heather burning and bulldozed roads but recent developments have taken this destruction to a new level. There are many new roads, not just bulldozed but built up, raised above the peat bogs on hard foundations, roads I could drive my car along. And with the roads there are miles of fences. These are often double, one of the pair being electrified. Many are tall deer fences. Beside them run the rusting posts of the first fences, erected in Victorian times when these hills first became so-called ‘sporting’ estates. There are gates too – massive metal ones big enough to allow trucks through with side gates for walkers. These roads and fences run over summits and along ridge crests, often at over 700 metres. Surrounding them are the neat rectangles of burnt heather, creating a dowdy, unnatural, patchwork quilt effect. There are buildings for shelter too. In one place metal steps led from the road to a wooden-floored grouse butt so the shooter wouldn’t even have to touch the ground with their shoes. Can’t get those green wellies muddy.

Old fence posts, new fences

Walking through this ravaged landscape I saw little wildlife. There weren’t even many grouse. I did see a few mountain hares – one of them lying dead beside the road – and some golden plover, whose lonely sad piping seemed very appropriate, plus a few crows. There were traps though – cage traps and spring traps – and notices from estates explaining these were legal and were to keep fox and crow numbers down to protect ground-nesting  birds (for which read grouse) – though some I saw were too small for foxes and looked more designed to catch stoats. One notice said the estate was installing CCTV because people were damaging their traps. Other notices explained that deer stalking was necessary to protect the forest. I didn’t see a sign of a tree above the fenced forests in the glens, nor even a bush. This landscape is like this to make grouse and deer shooting easy and for no other reason.


Grouse shooting has become an issue due to the strange coincidence that the areas where raptors are rare or non-existent happen to be the same as grouse moors – though of course the estates protest that this is nothing to do with them and they love raptors. In England there is now a petition calling for driven grouse shooting to be banned in order to protect hen harriers. The petition says ‘intensive management of upland areas for the ‘sport’ of grouse shooting has led to the near-extinction of the protected Hen Harrier in England, as well as increased risk of flooding, discolouration of drinking water, degradation of peatbogs and impacts on other wildlife.’

George Monbiot, author of the excellent book on rewilding Feral (see my take on it here), has also written about the state of parts of the Highlands recently in his usual provocative style. In an essay entitled Highland Spring he writes ‘it is astonishing, in the 21st Century, that people are still allowed to burn mountainsides – destroying their vegetation, roasting their wildlife, vapourising their carbon, creating a telluric eczema of sepia and grey blotches – for any purpose, let alone blasting highland chickens out of the air.’ 

That people are allowed to do this, and allowed to build roads and put up fences and gates, is astonishing. No planning permission is required as it comes under the heading of ‘agricultural purposes’, which is a joke of course. As a report issued last autumn said these tracks should come under planning control (see this post from last December). Until then keeping up the pressure for change – letters, emails to politicians and the media, posts in blogs and on social media – is needed. The situation is deteriorating in too many areas. Something must be done. Wild land coming under new planning regulations should be the answer but this hasn’t happened yet.

If protection can be gained for these destroyed areas the next task will be restoration. They are beyond the stage where they can be left to recover. Roads and fences need removing before this can happen.


76 comments:

  1. Couldn’t agree more Chris. I was astonished how much destruction of the eastern highlands has occurred. Why do high fences need electrifying as well as the double built fence. These areas are not wild anymore and as you say you can drive your family car up now never mind a land rover. We came upon many stoat traps. Every 100 metres in some areas.

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    1. Did you spring the traps? Walking down a valley further west last year I came across the same thing. They'd even gone to the trouble of laying logs across the river at convenient crossing points for the animals, with a gin trap in a cage in the middle of each log. I sprung every trap I found.

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    2. don't spring them... just disable using the set hook. Lazy gamies often won't get out of their 4x4 or off their quadbike as they drive along the hill tracks checking their traps. A sprung trap is easy to see and easily reset, a trap with the set hook in place is less so and easily missed and so can remain impotent for weeks.

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  2. A very good, albeit depressing, post Chris, thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos. I moved up to Aberdeen in 2007 and even during that relatively short period have seen the increased desolation of these eastern hills that don't have the same cache with the bagging crowd. I remember walking the Fungle Road sometime in 2008 with relatively little sign of visual intrusion. Passing that way on the TGO Challenge last year (I took an almost identical route to you to get across to Mount Battock) I was surprised and saddened to find so many new roads and fences. The story is exactly the same on the Hills of Wirren south across Glen Esk. Bringing these things under planning laws is too late to save this corner of the Highlands but I hope it demonstrates in a stark visual manner to the politicians et al what could become of other relatively accessible (and therefore vulnerable) areas if we don't get some form of control in the very near future. The sight of these hills is a sad, embarrassing advertisement for 21st century leisure time.

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  3. The shooting estates in the Eastern Highlands of Scotland are now building concentration camps. No other life form is tolerated. Just grouse & deer.
    The uplands are being destroyed.

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  4. Thanks for the comments. It was a depressing post to write - and an even more depressing walk. Please send your comments to the politicians as well. They need to know how people feel. Only by pressure from people like us will anything change.

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  5. Good post. Until there is land reform this will continue as currently anyone can buy anything and then destroy it with no consideration to local people, jobs, wildlife etc.

    Land reform is the only route to sorting this and the outdoors community should join the push for reform on the back of the recent report.

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  6. Chris, can you tell us the exact location of the route along which these images were taken? I am interested in who is responsible.

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  7. Andy, my route from Mount Keen followed the high ground over Braid Cairn, Hill of Gairney, Cock Cairn, Hill of Cat, Tampie, Mudlee Bracks, Hill of Cammie, Mount Battack, Hill of Badymicks, Hill of Edendocher and Clachnaben.

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  8. How very depressing. I often walk in the Peak District and find the situation less than ideal there, but this is destruction on an utterly different scale. I suspect the current administration have no interest in this issue as it may well be their voters who are most involved in this "unwilding" of the landscape.

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  9. It is particularly bad between Mount Battock and Clachnaben. The Glen Dye estate are responsible for this. I have witnessed crows been carted-off in cages on the back of Landrovers by estate workers.

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  10. This is hugely depressing. I am not so familiar with this part but there are tracks everywhere - you can see them from the A9 north from Carrbridge and again not far south of Inverness. In addition there are, of course, wind-turbine installation tracks, including the ruination of the lovely Corrairack Pass area...

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  11. Depressing how these estates keep getting away with this. 'Sporting' Estates should be consigned to the past they bring nothing to Scotland but destruction and part time seasonal poorly paid work.

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  12. Very, very sad..I to was surprised to encounter electrified fences as I walked over to Ben Tirran on the TGOC. The planning laws certainly need overhauling.
    On a different point those trps on logs seem to be on a hair trigger..just kicking a stone at them seems to set them off :-)

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  13. Looks like an American ranch with all the gates and fences That road seems completely inappropriate for the landscape. I have seen similar in the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. One estate had a tarmac road running through it!

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  14. Other than inherited obligation, what is the point in owning vast tracks of land if this is the only way you can make money from it. I may be capitalist, but this is pointless and probably self-defeating.

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  15. If you seriously want to change this then a yes vote in the Indy Ref followed by a vote for the Green party is the way to go. A Land Value tax is the way froward for Scotland.

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    1. A Land Value Tax would be part of the way forward certainly. Also legislation protecting wild land and bringing hilltracks into planning regulations.

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    2. What a strange logic. A yes vote would probably make the situation worse. Salmond is going to continue sucking up to his billionaire friends like Murdoch and nothing will improve. Independent Scotland? Don't be ridiculous. It was sold off long ago.

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    3. Considering Scotland has a "Right to Roam" this is astonishing that land can be fenced off and electrified .. due to the complete lie of "it's to protect the forests" .. WHAT FORESTS??!! .. All of the "wild" Highlands must be brought under government control and only a certain distance from a property can be fenced off .. no one needs a thousand acre back garden .. completely ludicrous ! VOTE YES to get control of our own lands and manage them according to the natural world and to the benefit of all and not just for the FEW hooray bloodthirsty Henry's.

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    4. @ Anonymous, 2nd June. With respect you are expressing a typical "don't have ideas above your station" attitude so often articulated by many opponents of Scottish self-determination. Independence is about securing the best chance for a fully democratic, fairer Scotland. It is certainly not about one man approaching the end of his political career.

      If you are going to dismiss people with solutions as "ridiculous", at least offer your own alternative solution rather than implying we meekly accept our lot. If Scotland was "sold off" then how do we fairly take it back? I would suggest certainly not by rubber stamping the staid and archaic status quo of Westminster rule.

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  16. This is a subject about which I am seriously incensed. I've written this piece for my 'Musings' page on my revamped website, which has been online since 2000, and have followed Raptor Persecution Scotland for a number of years and signed many petitions on this issue. Your piece says it all, Chris, and it's so disheartening to imagine, from a George Monbiot standpoint (isn't 'Feral' wonderful !), just what this landscape COULD be, and to look at what it is. I've spent much time in the Highlands in pursuit of subjects for my photography and often been in areas like it. Website: www.jonathan-tyler.co.uk.
    'Musings' piece: "With regard to the operation and management of a significant percentage of Britain's barren uplands, the grouse moors, there is now no doubt that it is an activity carried on for the sole benefit of a privileged clique of extremely wealthy individuals such as bankers, stockbrokers, royalty, peers, heads of industry, government ministers and landowners. Their 'management' of our extensive uplands does enormous damage to the peat, a highly efficient carbon sink, through drainage – costly to water-users – and the systematic burning of heather moorland, releasing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon (equivalent to the emissions from 88,000 average-sized cars). This burning is done to encourage fresh young growth for the poults of their precious moorland chickens. Natural England, the body that advises the government on the natural environment, having capitulated to retail tycoon Richard Bannister over the Walshaw Moor debacle, has now become little more than a toothless minion for the landed classes, who, subsidised to a significant degree by you and me, are allowed to continue the destructive, barbaric practice of systematically and ruthlessly trapping any species (including the now virtually extinct English hen harrier) that could remotely threaten the profitability of their shoots, all the while trumpeting that they are 'nurturing a precious landscape, for which their reward is a little sport.' They often use cruel methods such as trapping, snaring and poisoning (sometimes with banned pesticides such as carbofuran) with impunity. So as we stand now, the government's appointed agency charged with protecting the natural landscape, and all the species in it, now seems to be firmly on the side of the landed rich intent on destroying it. These developments represent a kind of 'resurgent aristocracy.' Grouse moors should be licenced, and if the law is transgressed regarding raptor persecution, the estate's shooting licence should be withdrawn."
    I would go further now since Mark Avery's petition has started up, and call for the complete dismantlement of the driven grouse shooting industry, and will probably change the text above to reflect that - enforcing some 'raptor persecution law' could be fraught with problems. Change can only come through a massive public movement against these rich playgrounds.

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    1. Good piece. Mark Avery's petition is a good starting point I think. Achieving anything in the face of the vested interests involved will be a success.

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  17. I have walked across this route recently and things are bad. I managed to get myself zapped by a bolt of electricity at one point on Hill of Cammie. Glendye estate are responsible for the ugly scar of a path that penetrates beautiful Water of Aven. This is dealt with by Adam Watson in his book Vehicle Hill Tracks in Northern Scotland. Millden estate are perpetrators of much of the outrage around the Battock area. Travel further east to Kerloch and you will experience the complete industrialization of what was once a fine hill. Nevertheless the eastern hills are not completely ravaged. On the hills north of Battock, above Forest of Birse, Scots Pine through natural regeneration has spread magnificently. In the hills of Glen Tanar the pines are marching up the hills at a fair old lick. These areas are a delight.

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    1. Thanks Brian. It does need pointing out that not all is lost.

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    2. Too much forelock-tugging in the local authority, supposedly a main protector of access rights.

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  18. All this ontop of the devastation caused by the forstery commision and the death of many river due to the 'green' hydro ....followed by thousands of windmills , so I don't understand what is there left to save ?

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    1. There's much left to save - most of the Highlands in fact. Brian Lawrie points out in his comment that even in the Easten Highlands there is some natural regeneration of the forest. In his article George Monbiot praises the work being done by Trees for Life and others. Also, even the most ravaged areas could still recover if allowed to.

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  19. A fantastic piece, thank you for sharing that with us. Personally I find the whole idea of controlling the environment for the sake of killing for pleasure quite abhorrent. However, I'm sure that only a minority of the population is aware of the destruction of the countryside to satisfy the needs of the few. Moreover, it does beg the rather thorny question of the balance between sustaining these estates and the income they generate for the country and the needs of various wildlife.
    If we had the power to suddenly make the construction of roads and tracks, the building of fences over a certain height and depth, the laying of traps and the burning of hillsides etc. subject to stringent controls and subject to frequent inspection, what effect would that have on the economy of the these areas? Who would manage these areas? We hear that the large number of deer is currently unsustainable, or is this justification for the existence of these estates.

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    1. The economic value of these estates locally is far less than that of outdoor recreation - walking, climbing, wildlife watching - let alone general tourism. Other parts of the Highlands thrive without need of such destruction.

      Deer numbers are far too high for forest regeneration in many areas but this is due to the estates who keep the numbers high so there are plenty to shoot. In areas where deer numbers have been reduced the trees are returning.

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    2. I dont know a single estate that "keep deer numbers high so there are plenty to shoot", but know plenty that are trying to shoot more to allow reforestation and struggle to keep numbers low. You contradict yourself. Who else is reducing these numbers if not stalkers? There are plenty to shoot because they have no natural predators and much milder winters than ever before, so there is nothing else to keep the numbers down.
      Also, we as hill walkers/bikers/outdoor enthusiasts also have to take account for the damage we make on the hills, scars and damages to hill paths. Presumably you were walking on one of these horrid hill roads put in by the estates, as many other walkers do?
      And thirdly, i walk and bike a lot around Aberdeenshire and see loads of wildlife on grouse moors, lapwings, curlews, snipe, etc and see a variety of bird numbers increasing (including harriers &buzzards), did you have your eyes shut?
      The economic value of these estates is a massive part of scotland, not least valued employment in rural areas, love it or hate it, livelihoods depend on it, and everyone would get along a lot better if there was less of these nonsensical articles fuelling bad blood between everyone who appreciates, cares for and enjoys our beautiful countryside, whatever the view.

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    3. Do you have a name anonymous? Deer numbers are at an all time high. Far higher than allow for ant regeneration on many estates. A few like Glen Feshie have lowered numbers and trees are returning. Most don't. I agree there are no natural predators - I'm in favour of reintroducing wolves. Are you?

      I did walk these roads. I won't again because I won't visit this trashed area again. If you've seen raptors increasing on grouse moors you'd better tell the RSPB because they can't find them.

      As to the economic value it's minimal. And this countryside isn't beautiful. It's ugly and vandalised. Nothing justifies this.

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    4. Good report on deer http://www.scotlink.org/public-documents/deer-management-to-improve-scotlands-natural-heritage-time-for-change/

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  20. What a depressing state of affairs. It's abundantly clear that the people currently controlling this land cannot be trusted with its stewardship and conservation. Short-term selfish greed is winning out.

    Please make a statement to the Government and sign this e-petition proposed by Mark Aviary.

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65627

    Thanks for being good men (and women) and not standing by and doing nothing!

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    1. That's a pretty pointless exercise. The environment is a matter for the Scottish parliament, not Westminster. Which is what the response to any petition will be. It will be binned.

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    2. The petition is about grouse moors in England. Nothing to do with the Scottish Parliament.

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  21. Thanks everyone for all your comments. I'm pleased to see this piece has aroused such feelings. To counter the impression it gives I will soon post some positive pictures from this year's TGO Challenge.

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  22. I've signed the ban grouse shooting petition. Of course money talks and its unlikely to be banned, however, if it ever was banned in the future how would heather moorland be managed, more to the point financed?

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  23. Fantastic article, the situation is exactly the same down here in the Forest of Bowland the whole area has become like a grassy desert.

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  24. Excellent article - so what are the solutions? Abolishing tax breaks and subsidies to landowners. But also shifting taxes off earned incomes and onto land value - so such marginal land comes out of economic production and returns to wilderness, without cost to the taxpayer

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  25. Sad but informative article, thank you.
    OUR land has too long been bought and sold and used for and by the 'privileged' (corrupt) rich. It was never anyone's to sell... why does this ugly situation persist?

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  26. As you guys seem to have all the answers why don't you put your money where your mouth is and club together to buy a piece of the Highlands. Then it would be OUR land. You could manage it anyway you see fit and if you were very successful I'm sure lots of others would copy . Go for it.

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    1. The way to do this is to join and support those organisations that are already doing this - John Muir Trust, RSPB, National Trust for Scotland. But it won't solve the overall problem - land reform and wild land protection is needed for that.

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  27. This piece by George Gunn is worth reading on land ownership: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/06/01/from-the-province-of-the-cat-radically-identical/

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  28. Thanks Chris. Good post on such a depressing picture. I felt the same last Autumn whilst walking from Faindouran to Invercauld. The section from beside Loch Builg to beside the River Gairn as been bulldozed and the massive gate at the deer fence was padlocked. We had to climb over it to continue. Very sad and probably many more areas the same.

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  29. It's not hunting as such but the way that it is pursued that causes the problems in Scotland. Here in Norway grouse (Lagopus lagopus, same species as Scotland) are the most important game bird species, but they live in their natural habitat, open montane scrub of birch and willow with largely heather understory (hence 'willow grouse' is the international name for the species), and are hunted by walk-up shooting with pointer dogs. This does not damage, and as both brings in money and is an important element in the local inhabitant's sense of identity, does help preserve, the landscape.

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  30. I was in Glen Gairn a year ago and was shocked to see so many young silver birch trees lying flat on the hillsides, thought it may have been storm damage, now having second thoughts! This is a tragedy. It needs to be highlighted - can you take it someone with clout?

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  31. It has always puzzled me how this sort of infrastructure can go ahead with no requirement for planning permission. I would have thought that bulldozed tracks in particular could be argued as a material change in land use and as such should be controlled through the planing system. If this was the case then proposals for the alignment and construction methods for hill access tracks would need to be opened up for public scrutiny - this would ensure that the potential for adverse impacts on the common property of open hillsides would be assessed and justified (if possible). In the present situation we have a classic situation where a significant community of people concerned for landscape quality and recreational access in hill areas must bear the external costs of actions taken by estate owners to satisfy a short term, private benefit. For anyone familiar with principles of environmental economics, this is a great example of the Tragedy of the Commons. It also represents land management decision-making in areas of valued countryside that is completely out of step with contemporary attitudes towards sustainable countryside management - as such, it is a great frustration that local planning authorities and statutory agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage either lack a mechanism for regulating short-term, unaccountable and significantly impacting schemes, or lack the will to implement their responsibilities towards sustainable environmental management in upland landscapes.

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    1. It is a great e.g. insofar as it has nothing to do with the Commons, much like the cliched 'tragedy'. The entire point is that these lands are Privates *not* Commons, even although they are the only possible source of the public goods they provide. The simple answer is to restore the relationship between public good and collective responsibility: private monopolies are pretty much never a good idea, as we accept in almost all other areas of life. There is no mystery either: there are very simple reasons for the 'lack' of mechanism and will. Indulgences of private whim appropriate for gardens as private-property are extended to ownership of landscape-scale (and above) land in our legal system. The public (including those concerned for landscape quality and recreational access) have been convinced that something like a grouse moor/deer 'forest' is the 'natural' state of Scottish uplands - which could not be further from the truth. The definition of GAEC on which subsidies depend is defined by UK lowland criteria (not least to justify the pitiful per hectare rate of half the UK average - the lowest *anywhere* in the EU - which in turn is used to justify the existence of massive estates, as smaller land parcels are de facto excluded from support) which actually requires the destruction of the grouse's natural habitat (see comment above re Norway) perpetuating the artificial management practices. The pitifully inadequate 'wild land' process itself was counterproductive - getting a track in early meant exclusion from the restrictions if you wanted it, which was often done speculatively to protect lease potential for private-benefit windfarms - and has penalised actually sustainable land-management, while protecting the development rights of private landowners who are already profiting from industrial plantations and or artificial 'sporting' management. As in so many environmental crises, the productive path is clear: do *not* attempt to regulate the excessive harm produced by industrial-scale approaches (whether to farming, land-ownership, reforesting, or species protection); instead, insist on - and incentivise - the widest possible variety of management at the smallest possible scale, which inherently fosters personal responsibility, public education and biodiversity. But, of course, this is *not possible* given the existing land ownership pattern.

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  32. This is all so depressing and a tragedy for everyone. I lived in Aberdeen in the 1970's and 1980's and the North East Mountain Trust & local branch of SWT used to keep an eye on tracks that had been bulldozed with no planning permission and at least some effort was made to hold people to account... although the rich and powerful always knew they'd get retrospective permission.e.g. the landscape in Glen Eye was never re-instated. We thought it was bad then, but it's much worse now. I visited Jenny's bothy in Donside a couple of years ago and we were shocked at how ravaged the landscape was with muirburn, ugly tracks and fences. I haven't been back. However, something just as insidious but less obvious is happening in the west eg in Strathconan land owners are using massive amounts of agricultural fertilisers on very extensive areas of the uplands to improve grazing for deer in the winter. This must be changing the fragile ecology - but yet again there is nothing that SNH or others seems to be able to do as it's not illegal.

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  33. Google's satellite view is revealing: http://goo.gl/maps/ynbVe

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  34. Well done Chris for finally describing this ruined landscape as it really is - I am so weary of nonsenical descriptions of The Highlands as a "wilderness" et al. There are some lovely and lonely places - Kildonan, Achnasheen etc - but it must always be uppermost in people's minds and memories that these places once provided a home to many Gaelic-speaking folk.

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    1. Achnasheen?? You have got to be kidding. There are tracks all over the Ledgowan Estate and a new hydro scheme on the way up to Fionn Bheinn which is a travesty on the landscape.

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    2. Honestly, wtf? The selective blindness of people is *astounding*. I have travelled through Achnasheen pretty much monthly for 25 years. There is no travesty (though I won't argue that the Ledgowan track is anything other than ugly, much like it's owners' attitudes). Ah Loch Luichart, such a blight on the landscape! Eww, the Highland Line, blatant industrialisation! People *drive* past fenceposts and powerlines, with no sense of irony it seems. The real travesty is clearly visible, if you bother to look: the massive sawn tree stumps of an obliterated forest everywhere in the 'pristine moorland'. (And the closed school and boarded up houses that contribute to that 'run down Hebridean feel'.)

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  35. The lack of land reform is probably my biggest disappointment with devolution. As Andy Wightman pointed out in his report, the majority of the powers required to implement the land reform group's recommendations already exist at Holyrood level.

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  36. Don't judge what you don't understand.

    http://www.gwct.org.uk/research/species/birds/red-grouse/grouse-moor-survey/

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    1. Oh I understand all right. And I've seen the destruction, as shown in the photos. Tell me how many hen harriers there are on grouse moors? Hardly any. I wonder why. Driven grouse shooting should be banned.

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  37. I was quite dismayed by all the new tracks whilst walking across this area too, and the numerous traps everywhere(for small mammals and corvids). Quite unpleasant and unnecessary. Though, we did see 2 hen harriers flying high near Charr Bothy.

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  38. Thanks for this hugely important, though very depressing article, Chris. I recently walked on Grassington Moor in the Yorkshire Dales, which is also 'managed' intensively (i.e. burnt, drained, and littered with numerous traps for small mammals - I must have seen around 50) for the benefit of 'ground nesting birds' (i.e. red grouse). Ironically, I only saw around three of these, and no other species whatsoever, despite the repeated claims of the shooting lobby that its work benefits all ground-nesting birds and biodiversity generally. This was in marked contrast to the limestone grassland I had previously crossed, which was alive with the sound of curlews, lapwings and skylarks. What was even more depressing was that Natural England had erected several posters to advise that 'conservation work,' including snaring, was in progress. It just goes to show how the shooting industry has been able to dominate the debate with its propaganda - I wonder if this is something to do with the number of Government ministers who participate in this 'sport'?!

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  39. Mark Avery, who is campaigning for a ban on driven grouse shooting in England, has some great stuff on his blog. Well worth reading. http://markavery.info/2014/06/06/arguments-pause-signing-epetition/

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  40. Why allow anonymous posts on your blog if you ask for names? My name is Laura Beth, would you like my address too?
    I woudnt hold up Glenfeshie as a shining example, i would rather see 500 deer shot by deerstalkers and money put into the local economy than see them massacred from a helicopter. Though i wish them well with their regeneration aims. Lots of other other shooting estates have fenced off large areas for natural regeneration (not plantations), and agree with regeneration and controlling deer numbers. But someone has to control the deer numbers in order for this to happen, why not let it be deerstalkers? Some estates have no deer whatsover, and still have no trees?
    Im sure the RSPB are not as stupid as you suggest and can see as many of the peregrines, buzzards, goshawks, kestrels and the other birds, as i do on my commute every day.

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    1. I ask for names if someone is critical and anonymous. It is my blog and I can allow comments as I choose. I prefer people to give names.
      Yes, many shooting estates have fenced off area for regeneration. I would rather see them reduce deer numbers so the fencing isn't necessary. Some estates, like Glen Feshie and some owned by SNH (Creag Meagaidh), RSPB and JMT, have shown that this can be done. Which estates have no trees and no deer? I don't know of any.
      The RSPB has been campaigning against the loss of raptors on grouse shooting estates for many years. Here is a report. http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/birdofprey_redgrouse_tcm9-188710.pdf. This report says 'At present, the illegal killing of birds of prey on grouse moors, especially of hen harriers, is widespread.'

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  41. Chris, sorry if I've missed something here (or if it's been dealt with in one of the comments - I've only scanned!) but are these areas which fall just outside the national park boundary?

    I'm with you on the subject of species reintroduction: personally I'd like to see the lynx reintroduced, although I understand that the amount of available forest wouldn't support a huge population. What I'd really like to see though is extension of the national parks in Scotland, bringing the boundaries flush against each other in some areas.

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    1. Oss, yes, these areas are just outside the Cairngorms national park. I agree with you on the extension of national parks.

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    2. I just read your article with interest & some of the replies! You should visit Glenbuchat if you want to get an idea of how bad things are getting & the way it's ALREADY GONE!!
      You'll not see any "natural" wild life here!! Every bird of prey "disappears" as soon as it enters the Glen , there are so called "legal" traps everywhere!! I regularly walk the hills round here & there is no wild life other than a few game birds & deer. It's VERY depressing. Most of the local residents here are totally disgusted with the way the local estates are destroying the natural order of things. Particularly the" very private" North Glenbuchat Estate, Owned by the marquise of Millford Haven!!
      They are destroying the Scottish tourist Trade, who wants to come to a beautiful Glen with no wildlife to look at & be "intimidated" by local game keepers?

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  42. Oh and by the way, I found this page via the Scottish Land and Estate's newsletter which has asked its members to comment! I wonder how many will dare?

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  43. Well, it's not the Eastern Highlands, but yesterday I walked the South Glen Shiel ridge from its South side. They're building a new hydro plant around the Alltbeith cottage there. There's a horrendous new track scarring Gleouraich's West side (striking particularly jarring note given that possibly the best deerstalking path of all hugs the hillside just above the new track!), there's colossal mess all around the cottage and the river, and all against the backdrop of those magnificent hills. The new track is absolutely massive, wind farm-like' they've put so many boulders under the dirt track that it will never regenerate. Glen Quoich used to have a tremendous feeling of isolation (there's a rather splendid picture of the glen from above in the winter in Cameron McNeish Munros book), and now it's gone forever. I despair, I do despair. So much good work was being done around the country before this madness spread. The Highlands are under a two-pronged attack from deeply misguided "green" industrialisation and industrial-scale shooting. While walking the fantastic deerstalking paths in the area I was reminded of what a great culture deer shooting once was. Not any more.

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  44. Recently returned from driving through the east highlands on the way to Orkney and was absolutely dismayed by what we saw. Some small consolation to read this and realise that others deplore the vandalisation. We won't be going back to this part of Scotland and will be telling 'Visit Scotland' why not.

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  45. The tracks being made across estates are like motorways across the Highlands. I live here but it was refreshing to visit Shetland recently and view moors and hills without these tracks. As for the 'wildlife'... aye, more more like zoos

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  46. I do wonder how many of those who write and comment on the eastern highlands actually live, or have lived here. Not in the towns of Brechin, Forfar Kirrriemuir etc. nor the many hamlets outside. But live, and try to earn a living where the nearest shop of any sort is over 10 miles; there has been no terrestrial TV signal for 30 years (none at all for years before satellite; no mobile phone signal; andbroadband an expensive joke. I do, I even own a small grouse moor.
    Having run holiday cottages for many years (I would prefer permanent neighbours, but it is considered too remote by most folk, and any houses sold here end up as second homes). Ten years ago I bought the closed primary school and converted it to a hostel, I dispute the assertion that tourism is necessarily more profitable than sport; actually I don't see too much of a clash. 30 years ago when I opened our first holiday cottage, the received wisdom was that it would ruin the sport. I believed this was as inaccurate as the theme in this blog to the opposite effect.
    I myself do not shoot for sport, but I recognise it is a necessary part of the economic tapestry of the Eastern Highlands.

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    1. Evidently you are not the same Hector Maclean as the Dr Hector MacLean of Eigg, whose spirited grand-daughter I met the other day when visiting the island; one of the many young people who land reform has enabled to return and settle.

      Dr MacLean would stand on the pier in his kilt and wave the lairds off with his claymore. Asked about landlordism, his reply was, "It's like living under enemy occupation, except you're not allowed to shoot the buggers."

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  47. Has it occurred to any of you yet that Fracking machinery and extraction operations need exactly the infrastructure you describe seeing there?

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  48. Does no one care about these animals ? i find it disgusting that most people are more concerned about fences thatn the torture these poor animals suffer as the result of traps , the terror of getting stalked grouse shot from the sky ! for what to feed some dysfunctional, mentally deficent morons who get some kind of thrill from hunting animals? What kind of parasitic human beings have we become !

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  49. I doubt that the landed gentry voted for the SNP

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  50. The gentry maybe didn't vote SNP, but the SNP are certainly helping them out with lax planning laws and the profusion of wind farms!

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  51. Bị dị ứng hải sản phải làm sao?Mùa hè là mùa để mọi người mọi nhà đi du lịch, về với biển xanh. Hải sản là thực phẩm chính trong các bữa ăn khi chơi ở biển, đồng thời cũng là sở thích của nhiều người.
    Triệu chứng của bệnh viêm xoang là gì?Viêm xoang là một căn bệnh khá phổ biến với những triệu chứng rất dễ nhận biết, bệnh tuy không nguy hiểm nhưng lại gây ra những ảnh hưởng không hề nhỏ đến chất lượng cuộc sống của bệnh nhân.
    Viêm xoang mũi có lây không?Bệnh viêm xoang không gây nguy hiểm đến tính mạng người bệnh, không đe dọa trực tiếp đến sức khỏe người mắc phải, tuy nhiên nếu bị mắc phải căn bệnh này,
    Gà ác tiềm thuốc bắc có tác dụng gì?Gà ác thuộc họ trĩ, có tên khoa học là Gallus gallus domesticus brisson, còn được gọi là ô cốt kê, ô kê... là loại gà cỡ nhỏ, được thuần hóa và nuôi dưỡng
    Cách nấu gà ác hầm hạt sen Gà ác hầm thuốc bắc bổ dưỡng thì ai cũng biết rồi. Hôm nay, chúng tôi chia sẻ tiếp đến các bạn một món ăn vô cùng bổ dưỡng đó là món gà ác hầm hạt sen.
    Những hình ảnh trái tim tan vỡTrong tình yêu đôi khi chúng ta thật hạnh phúc nhưng đôi khi lại qua đau khổ, tưởng chừng rất hạnh phúc nhưng lại quá khó hiểu,
    Ăn cà rốt có tác dụng gì?Cà rốt có chứa một lượng lớn beta carotene và các hợp chất có lợi cho sức khỏe như vitamin A, khoáng chất và chất chống oxy hóa.
    Cách ăn kiêng để giảm cân nhanhCuộc sống hiện đại, chế độ ăn uống và sinh hoạt không đúng cách gây ra tình trạng thừa cân, béo phì ở rất nhiều phụ nữ.
    Mẹ bầu cần kiêng ăn gì sau sinh?Trong suốt thời gian mang thai bà bầu phải kiêng cử chế độ ăn uống để nuôi dưỡng thai nhi phát triển, không chỉ thời gian mang thai, mà kể cả sau khi sinh bà bầu cũng nên kiêng cử để đảm bảo trẻ được phát triển tốt hơn.
    Người bị tiểu đường nên kiêng ăn gì?thế nhưng, có thể sống chung với bệnh tiểu đường thậm chỉ cả chục năm hoặc hơn nếu như người bệnh có chế độ ăn uống và sinh hoạt hợp lý, khoa học kết hợp với liệu trình điều trị.
    Cách trị tàn nhang hiệu quả bằng mật ongMật ong được biết đến là nguyên liệu làm đẹp, cải thiện làn da vô cùng tuyệt vời, mật ong có khả năng làm trắng sáng da, làm mờ vết sạm nám trên da, tàn nhang

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