Chris Townsend’s post on Friday on the destruction of trees at Loch an Eilein is well worth a read (see here). Chris highlights the hyprocrisy of some of the people responsible for managing our natural environments, who on the one hand lecture visitors about the damage they do (which is tiny in the scheme of things), but then blithely ignore the extensive damage caused by land owners and managers. The Rothiemurchus estate sign featured in his post is a classic: after the swathe of destruction created by “foresters” chopping down trees, and destroying the ground cove,r the visitor is asked to stay on maintained paths to care for the area (contrary to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code) while the sign also claims, “If this area is not disturbed or trampled, heather and blaeberry will grow back and wildlife will move into this area”. The clear message is visitors are a problem for wildlife but forest operations aren’t.
Rothiemurchus Estate, whose staff tried to stir up hatred against campers because of a fire which burned one granny pine (see here), is now lopping down pine trees that have regenerated naturally. One could also add that its the same Rothiemurchus Estate which is behind the An Camus Mor development (photo above) and is trying to circumvent the planning permission which recently lapsed (post coming soon). The same double-think of course pervades the approach of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park which judges any impact associated with camping as unacceptable (and the reason why it needs to be banned) but ignores the far greater problems that pervade the National Park. The Cairngorms National Park Authority by contrast appears to have had no say in what is happening at Loch an Eilein and indeed the estate refused to participate in the Glenmore Plan, leaving a gaping hole in that strategy.
So, why is the tree felling being allowed to happen at Loch an Eileen?
In April 2014 the Forestry Commission bought a great swathe of the Rothiemurchus Estate from John Grant joining up the publically owned land at Invereshie and Inshriach with the Glenmore Forest Park.
This was done without consultation and cost £7.4m, the largest single investment that Government has ever been made in our National Parks, although the main benefit appears to have been to the private landowner rather than to conservation or public enjoyment of the Park. The shores around Loch an Eileen and where the tree felling has been taking place were however excluded from the sale.
Rothiemurchus receives ongoing public subsidy for managing the Rothiemurchus Estate so, after the sale of upper Rothiemurchus to FCS, a new Forest Plan was required to cover the remaining parts of the estate. It was produced in 2016 (see here) and provides the framework under which woodland is managed on the estate. It is this plan which has been used as the justification for the tree felling around Loch an Eilein
The recreational perspective
Its time that the people responsible for managing “conservation” in our National Parks started to take far more account of the recreational perspective. I believe Chris Townsend’s gut reaction, informed by knowledge of what is natural, was right – the destruction of natural woodland at Loch an Eilein within a protected area should not be allowed. Instead of trying to improve what is there, why not celebrate it as an area where natural processes have predominated for almost a 100 years even if this has resulted in the “wrong-shaped” trees?