Make sure that the Land Reform Bill includes powers to manage wild deer sustainably.

The Scottish Government recently published a consultation on the new Land Reform Bill. The Bill as a whole is very welcome and great step forward on an issue that Reforesting Scotland has campaigned on since its beginning. One unexpected bonus is that it contains a proposal to give SNH powers to require landowners to bring deer numbers down to sustainable levels where the current voluntary system is failing to do so. This could make a huge change to Scotland’s landscapes as experience from estates like Glenfeshie where sustainable management in place has shown that forest regeneration follows after.

Such a change is bound to be opposed by those who have fought sustainable deer management every step of the way, so it is important that the Scottish Government hears from people who are in favour. We’d encourage everyone to read and respond to the entire consultation, but as a minimum please take 5 minutes to answer the deer question.

The consultation is to be found at You have to fill in your details and then whichever sections you want to respond to. There are three questions in the deer section, covering whether you support the measure and what you think the advantages and disadvantages would be.

Overgrazing by deer is now perhaps the single largest factor preventing widespread forest regeneration in Scotland. The voluntary system now in place has failed for decades to stop deer numbers increasing. Landowners currently have rights over wild deer but these are not matched by any responsibilities for the damage caused if they build up large deer populations on their land. The voluntary control system has been given two years to show that it can work. Putting powers in place now would allow action to be taken quickly if this deadline is not met.

Deadline: 10th February 2015

Further reading:

Reforesting Scotland Journal article on deer

Andy Wightman article on Land Reform Bill

Native Woodland Survey of Scotland, showing 87% of woods with restricted regeneration due to herbivore impact.

Full consultation document

Less of this...

Overgrazed forest dying on its feet