Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere hosted a recent fact-finding visit to the south-west.
Representatives from the Scottish Government learned more about the current and future land use pressures in the area and the role the Biosphere Partnership has taken.
The visit started with a discussion on how the Biosphere, with its cross-sector membership including farmers, foresters, conservationists, business and community representatives across three local authority areas, is uniquely placed to promote and encourage a better understanding between the key players and a more balanced approach to land use policy.
The group discussed a program of engagement that has involved the identification of species and habitats in the region that have been agreed by both conservationists and land managers as priorities for better management.
The discussion moved on to the very successful event held by the Biosphere team at St John’s Town of Dalry last winter which brought together more than 70 representatives from all the key land use sectors for a stimulating and revealing debate on how the countryside is being reshaped due to changes in government priorities and funding schemes.
The group then followed this in the summer with a visit to Carsphairn and the National Moorland Forum which represents a wide range of rural land managers. On both occasions the potential of the Biosphere to give everyone a voice and break down barriers was recognised.
The visiting group were then taken on a circular tour from the Biosphere’s headquarters at Kirroughtree near Newton Stewart via Gatehouse Station and back along the A75 where they were presented with a range of different land uses.
Joan Mitchell, chair of GSAB, said: “The Scottish Government is revisiting the big strategic issue of a rural land-use strategy for the country. Here in the south-west we face challenges in preserving and indeed enhancing, a balance in land use and biodiversity in the light of climate change and Brexit-induced economic pressures on upland and hill livestock farming. These issues are also of vital concern to the tourist industry.”