The much awaited final report on the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (LMDP) has been published today. As expected, it highlights that game keeping and grouse moor management techniques lead to improved biodiversity, and in many instances can reverse years of wildlife decline.
The LMDP was a joint initiative between Buccleuch Estates, the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural England and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. This unprecedented scientific study explored the possibility of reversing years of wildlife and habitat loss through modern gamekeeping practices. The goal was to establish a red grouse population large enough to allow driven shooting and thus become economically sustainable.
For eight years, from 2008, five gamekeepers were employed on the 11,500 ha site – which had a core grouse area of 4,200 ha.
Over this period, heather coverage increased by 30%, reversing decades of decline, thanks to reducing grazing intensity and renewed muirburn. Gamekeeper management also reduced significant levels of predation which allowed many species to recover or recolonise the area, in particular wading species and meadow pipits. However, the primary goal of being able to drive grouse was not reached. Throughout the project no grouse were shot. Two of the latter years, 2014 and 2015, had optimal breeding conditions for red grouse. Despite this, predation levels remained high and economically sustainable populations could not be reached. The relative success of diversionary feeding of Hen Harriers to prevent impact on grouse nests was outdone by the impact from other protected birds of prey and corvids post fledging.
The report demonstrates the high cost of managing moorland in a way that promotes and increases biodiversity. This level of management is only economically viable when driven grouse shooting is a possibility. From this report we can conclude that we must not let our precious uplands become unmanaged, because once they are depleted it may be impossible to recover their wildlife and their significant contribution to the fragile rural economy.
Download the Final Report of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project Partners 2008-2017.