Stephanie Cope strives towards sustainability and financial viability for Tiree’s machair in her job with Tiree Ranger Service.
I open the van door. Immediately, items that are not stapled to the upholstery swirl up in an irritating vortex of grit and bits of paper.
On windy days, it’s best to wear eye protection when carrying out access works. Digging holes for signage is like sharing a sandpit with a leaf blower.
The overarching purpose of my job is to encourage and expedite the sustainable use of our machair landscape. To satisfy this remit, our work must be financially sustainable too.
Tiree Ranger Service is a one-man band with a bill of outstanding support acts. Achieving financial sustainability, and reducing our reliance on grant funding, is one of our key challenges.
Thanks to the diverse skills of our partners (SNH, RSPB, Tiree Community Development Trust and Discover Tiree) we’re developing some creative and successful solutions; ensuring that our work on Tiree continues to deliver positive results for people and nature.
Maintaining signage, tracks and parking areas can be time consuming and expensive – even with extra help from local volunteers.
However, these sites are instrumental in managing the cumulative erosion damage caused to machair and dune systems by leisure vehicles.
On Tiree, off-road driving and freedom camping is prohibited away from approved areas.
Thanks to CalMac Ferries, we can engage with freedom campers before their arrival; helping them to understand their vital role in safeguarding Tiree’s landscape and supporting our rural economy.
Guests wishing to camp overnight with a vehicle must use either the commercial campsite, or one of thirteen Tiree Ranger Service Croft Camping Sites.
The management of this scheme has provided a steady revenue stream for Tiree Ranger Service since 2010; in addition to diversifying croft incomes and offering improved protection for wildlife-rich Common Grazings. It therefore meets our goals for sustainability in both an environmental and financial sense.
Tiree Ranger Service prides itself on our inclusive approach. We want community members and visitors to invest in our efforts to conserve what people love.
This year, Tiree Ranger Service provided 35 public events to help people to engage with nature. These included: welcome evenings, illustrated talks, archaeology walks, citizen science activities, natural history sessions, guided ranger walks and group sessions.
Some of these activities are chargeable, others operate on a donation basis.
To promote access and participation for all, we offer two adaptable beach wheelchairs for guest use – free of charge.
In partnership with Discover Tiree and the RSPB, Tiree Ranger Service distributes six printed information leaflets. These contain a measured balance of general and environmental information.
Three Look and See books, plus one larger publication Twelve Walks Through an Island Landscape, are available to purchase from local businesses.
We have also created an innovative (and rather slick) Tiree App – ideal for use on the go!
Such productions help us to meet our goals for environmental education, healthy living and responsible outdoor access, in addition to providing extra revenue.
In 2016, the Tiree Community Development Trust launched Friends of Nàdair Thiriodh – a membership organization dedicated to supporting the work of Tiree Ranger Service.
Members are updated on our conservation projects, people engagement activities and general operations with a quarterly newsletter. They are also entitled to join our summer Guided Ranger Walks free of charge, and to receive discounts on a selection of our printed goods.
For 2017, Nàdair Thiriodh designed a striking range of natural history car stickers, postcards, greeting cards and calendars. The featured images were generously donated by Tiree photographers.
So, as I watch our lapwings flying backwards across the cobalt sky, I think it’s fair to say that we’re working hard to futureproof the finances of this Service.
Tiree is a beautiful and richly diverse island. Above everything, we want to ensure that it remains this way.
All images © Stephanie Cope.