The future of integrated land and deer management
As we struggle towards what we hope will be the final stages for the UK of this terrible global pandemic, a growing commitment towards climate change reversal and managing natural capital and biodiversity is ramping up in a way which has made the last five years look like a warm up.
Society (in the widest sense) demands change, and business and industry are also grasping the nettle - driven by investor demand and public feeling.
In the last 10 months we have seen values of woodlands and land suitable for woodland expansion - native and commercial - achieve sales prices which have never been seen before. The speed of increase has been quite phenomenal and there is now a huge gap between values being achieved and “the valuation” in the traditional sense. I refer to that uplift as the “natural capital premium”. We see numerous new players coming into the rural land market, but they are driven by natural capital rather than by commercial potential. There is no doubt that the face of land management will alter and be driven by the climate change emergency.
Woodland, water, peat, biodiversity and nature will be key, and we will need to manage herbivores and human interaction in balance with nature - and manage them in a way which delivers for the greater good. I have been a lover of deer and deer stalking all my life and indeed worked for a number of years as a stalker on Atholl Estates in Highland Perthshire. I cherish all that is great about this industry. We have a world-class product in a world-class environment with exceptional people committed to welfare and excellence.
The move towards 'managing land for nature and climate' is accelerating and we need to find a way that protects all that we value highly. Deer and sheep numbers have been reducing for many years now and we will see that continue. What we do as managers of deer and land, and how we do it, will change. We must plan that change and embrace the future knowing that in the grand scheme of things we will have 'done the right thing'.
There will always be a place for deer in our woods and on our hills; they are a key part of the balance and a part of what and who we are. As we move forward out of Covid-19 and beyond we must remember that, as stewards of all those places and habitats we hold dear, we should be in front and leading the way.