A new funding package has been secured for a project to help rebuild the black grouse population in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
On behalf of six private farms and estates, the National Park Authority has successfully secured over £720K for the Callander Black Grouse Project which covers an 8000 hectare area between Callander and Lochearnhead.
The funding over five years comes from the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP). It will target conservation measures to help stabilise and increase the number of black grouse. The population has declined from approximately 50 lekking (displaying) males in 1999 to around 15 in 2010. The work includes: 3385 hectares of moorland management; 186 hectares of targeted heath restoration; 50 hectares of heather burning and cutting; 272 hectares of bracken management; 37 hectares of new native woodland creation; 67 hectares of existing woodland and scrub management; 133 hectares management of mixed grassland, wetland, woodland and scrub; and targeted predator control across 4193 hectares.
Speaking about the funding announcement, Grant Moir, the National Park's Director of Conservation and Visitor Experience said:
'The financial package from SRDP is hugely welcomed as significant effort and investment is required to halt and reverse the dramatic decline of this iconic bird in the National Park. The Callander Black Grouse Project has already made progress on the work we have committed to in our National Park Biodiversity Action Plan. The funding now enables the land managers we have worked with to implement positive measures that will help black grouse to breed more successfully.'
'Some of the measures that will be undertaken this year include grazing management, bracken spraying, scrub thinning, heather burning, tree planting and fence marking. Working on large scale conservation initiatives such as the black grouse project is only achievable when everyone comes together to find workable solutions.'
'We have received fantastic support from the local farms and estates who are very much behind these efforts to help the black grouse.'
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:
'I warmly welcome the efforts of the land managers in the National Park who are collaborating on this project to secure the future of this population of Black Grouse around Callander and Lochearnhead. It shows that with funding from the Scotland Rural Development Programme, we can make significant efforts bringing together public and private sectors to enhance the habitats of our iconic Scottish species.'
And Neil Cameron from Drumardoch Estate added:
'The National Park has shown great foresight in bringing this project together for the benefit of the Black Grouse. Through the use of SRDP funding and involving six separate neighbouring farms, the project will have an impact across a significant area for this population of birds. The funding will allow us to improve the habitat on our farm for the Black Grouse through a combination of creating new woodland edges and management of the moorland grazing. The funding will also contribute to the creation of a new full time job on the farm to help with this process. The Black Grouse is an iconic bird and we are pleased to be able to play a part in giving it a more secure future.'
Over 1300 hectares of the project area are owned and managed by Forestry Commission Scotland who are also working in partnership with the National Park Authority to actively manage this and other parts of their estate for black grouse. At nearby Loch Katrine black grouse have increased from 35 displaying males in 2009 to 90 in 2011.