LETTER: RSPB works with wildfowlers

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We refer to your article concerning wildfowling and the RSPB nature reserve at the Crook of Baldoon (“Shooters’ feathers ruffled”, The Galloway Gazette, February 24). We consider that some clarification of this complicated issue is required.

We have worked amicably alongside local wildfowlers for many years and we completely reject the premise that we have come into the area “with jackboots on”.

We worked with the local wildfowling clubs and the local council to set up the Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve (LNR). We have a place on the LNR steering group and we have had significant engagement with local and visiting wildfowlers and other local interests, especially since our purchase of land at the Crook of Baldoon.

Given the large size of Wigtown Bay, our intention from the outset has been to set up an area of saltmarsh and wetland which would be managed as a relatively undisturbed nature reserve where wildfowl would thrive and visitors would come and enjoy the wildlife spectacle and tranquillity of this beautiful place. This would complement activities elsewhere in the bay, bringing an overall net benefit to wildfowl numbers and visitors to the area.

We have already opened up public access to the site, which was previously more restricted, and employed a warden and seasonal interpretation officer. Over time, we expect Crook of Baldoon to contribute greatly as a year-round attraction to the local Wigtown economy, in conjunction with other established nature based tourism locations in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Crook of Baldoon foreshore is a relatively small area, and we are anxious that we are able to manage visitors safely, and achieve some separation with wildfowling, as is common practice elsewhere. Our plans will bring more wildfowl to Wigtown Bay, as we create ideal habitats, which will also benefit wildfowlers in the future.

The issue was put before the Wigtown Area Committee of Dumfries and Galloway Council, as you report, and, following extensive discussions, the area committee has recommended a compromise whereby wildfowling will continue at the southern end of the Crook of Baldoon foreshore, separated from the general public visiting our site, and also reducing wildfowl disturbance there. Among other suggestions discussed were the extension of weekly shooting permits from five days to six days (to the benefit of visiting wildfowlers) and the possible reinstatement of shooting on an area of merse in another part of the LNR. RSPB Scotland was supportive of these suggestions. This was a public meeting where everyone holding a view on this issue was invited and able to put their points across.

We have accepted the area committee’s recommendation and will work with local wildfowlers to deliver our joint objectives on this basis. We would urge your readers to encourage all parties to work with the council to this end.

Andrew Bielinski,

RSPB Scotland,

Area Reserves Manager, Dumfries & Galloway,

26 South Main Street, Wigtown.