This was a trip with many highlights and at first I found it difficult to choose just one but in spite of the incredible landscapes and nature we experienced first-hand, it was in fact the group itself that was the stand out highlight for me. To have a group of people from a range of backgrounds and roles that were all completely on the same page was both exciting and in many ways a relief. Large scale restoration of our landscapes here in Scotland is often a difficult message to promote and it’s easy to feel like a lone voice but it provided great comfort (and indeed many excellent conversations) to know there are others out there with similar passions to help restore what once was.
… that Norway, with its greater biodiversity intactness, has been far more effective than Scotland in managing and protecting its natural capital resources. This raises the question of whether Scotland can reverse biodiversity decline and build climate resilience by emulating the wildlife management practices employed in Norway?
“Combined works of nature and humankind, they express a long and intimate relationship between peoples and their natural environment.”
This opening statement from UNESCO’s description of Cultural Landscapes included on the World Heritage List perhaps provides an indication of one reason why Scotland’s uplands, peatlands, woodlands and forests seem very much the poorer neighbour to Norway. Throughout the course the visit of ‘it’s just what we do here in Norway’ was repeated.
It was quite surprising for me to discover that all predators can be hunted, some without the need for a license (fox, badger, mink, pine marten), and some hunted under a quota system (lynx, wolverine, bear and wolves). Decision making is decentralised through the empowerment of local stakeholders with hunters playing a key role by submitting bag data and helping with the collection of scats for DNA analysis and trail cams to monitor populations of predators.
The aim of this course is to provide people working in Scottish upland land management the opportunity to see and hear how native woodland has been responding to changes in grazing pressure in the part of Scandinavia most environmentally similar to Scotland. Participants will visit a variety of biodiverse, reforested landscapes from exposed coast to mountain top, where climate and geology are very similar to our own, and where multiple land uses such as forestry, hunting and farming, are often practised together.
Hunting, land rights and conservation; predator management and conflicts; cross-border management and monitoring
It was amazing to explore the regenerating forests in SW Norway and to understand better how native forests can develop with a lower browsing pressure.
Deer management practices differ between Norway and Scotland, with carcass weights used to determine deer quotas in Norway, indicating the overall health of the population and helping to balance its impacts on woodland regeneration.
Cultural and social factors have influenced the woodland regeneration we saw, from the abandonment of farms over the 20th Century to the different attitudes to hunting, foraging and land-use in Norway.
The diversity of species and structure in the Norwegian forest sets an example for us to aspire to in Scotland, and we need to consider how to integrate a rebounding forest within Scotland’s cultural and social setting.
Geographical Connectivity is the Natural Key
Norway has had a natural recolonization of all carnivores, due to be part of the continent Europe and neighbour countries fluxes. First wolves recolonized in 1980 to the south, through dispersion of the first wolves by likely Finish-Russian populations. The geographical position of the UK being an island doesn’t allow natural recolonization, and therefore it leaves the question to wether we could or we should intervene
Hunting in Norway is deeply engrained in the country’s history and its culture. This makes replicating its use as a conservation tool difficult for countries, such as Scotland, where hunting is regarded as merely a rich man’s sport. Nevertheless, there is much that Scotland can learn from Norway’s attitude to hunting.
By participating in the survey and reporting bag numbers the hunters themselves are key figures in game management. Due to the vastly different cultural heritage of hunting in Norway, where hunting is much more a way of life than an elite hobby, divides between shooting and conservation communities simply do not exist as they do in the UK. However it is inspiring to see what can be achieved when all parties recognise the requirement for robust and contemporary population data and work together to ensure gamebird hunting is carried out at a sustainable level each year.