Still busy with the natural heritage after 40 years with SNH and the Nature Conservancy Council, Ewen Cameron recalls a few of the many successes.
I was a Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) Reserve Warden for 16 years, transferring to SNH’s East Grampian Area on day one. Often criticised for having a narrow environmental view with little interest in the people living and working in the countryside, in truth the NCC’s role was narrow and came with limited resources. Merging NCC and Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS) brought a wider, more workable remit and a bigger budget. Big, exciting changes and here’s a wee taster of the successes from each SNH work portfolio.
Caring for the natural world
This takes lots of time, but with so much to do – SNH needs help. With grants, staff help and advice, SNH supported many organisations that mobilise volunteers, generating a huge return for Nature and great satisfaction for participants. Aberdeen is famous for dolphins thanks to RSPB’s Dolphinwatch and people in Aberdeen see red squirrels again thanks to Scottish Wildlife Trust and their supporters. Dolphins are also “big” with Whale and Dolphin Conservation at Speymouth and NESBReC’s (North East Scotland Biological Records Centre) Mammal Atlas was produced with contributions from 1,472 citizen scientists. I volunteer for the NE Scotland Biodiversity Partnership and their excellent schools camera trapping project has now been rolled out across Scotland with SNH help and I sometimes help on SNH’s Nature Reserves. Check Facebook pages, blogs and websites of these organisations; you’ll be amazed at all they do – and be inspired to join in?
Enriching people’s lives
For years I assessed grant applications for Countryside Ranger Services, becoming an SNH contact. Their varied work always focussed on ensuring people enjoyed the countryside and understood how it fitted together. Young, old, family, student, scientist or dog walker, Rangers did, and still do, welcome everyone – introducing them to creepy crawly pond-life, the reasons for keeping dogs under control and explaining all the changes since the last Ice Age that created the countryside we see today. And that’s not even 10% of what they do. If you’ve never been to a Ranger event, it’s time you were – Rangers are a treasure in every sense.
Promoting sustainable economic growth
The National Peatland Plan has restored lots of bogs to do what they do best – extracting excess carbon from the atmosphere and helping reduce flood risk. Another North East Scotland Biodiversity Partnership project with SNH, SEPA and Aberdeen City Council is developing a low-cost green wall to improve urban air quality and improve biodiversity.
Delivering a high quality public service
This sounds a bit dull; spreadsheets, budgets, cost control and Freedom of Information responses. Yes it includes those, but nothing happens anywhere without people. SNH has been lucky to find so many fantastic employees. You don’t work at SNH to make lots of money, you do it because it is important to you, to our country and everyone who lives and works here; now and into the future.
There have been failures – protected wildlife killed, greenspace still nibbled away and the insects pollinating our food crops are still declining. But keep focusing on making things better and do more yourself – you know it makes sense.
You can find out more about all of the projects Ewan mentions on the SNH website.