Public Consultation for Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Set to Open

25 August 2022

A public consultation on a proposed extension to the protected area within Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands begins on the 25 August, NatureScot announced today. 

The consultation will be open for three months, ending on 29 November.  Currently, the protected area within Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands measures 143,569 hectares (ha) with the proposed extension increasing this by 2446 ha (1.7%).

The peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland have some of the best areas of blanket bog in the world and are home to rare birds and plants. They are so valuable that they are covered by a number of different protected areas to conserve and enhance them.   

Peatlands help to combat climate change by locking up carbon as peat continues to form. This can only happen in well managed peatland, where the ground is wet and Sphagnum mosses can grow.

Some of these important peatlands were drained when conifer plantations were established in the 1970s and 1980s.  Bog restoration work removed conifers from some of the highest priority peatland areas, between 1996 and 2006, largely funded by the EU’s LIFE Programme.  This peatland restoration work has now advanced enough that areas, where restoration was started with EU LIFE funding, will be added to the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands protected area. We are doing this to fulfil a commitment made to the EU when funding was received.

Sphagnum moss is now well established in these areas and rare birds such as greenshank have already returned.  With continued good management, adding this land to the existing protected area will ensure further success for this peatland restoration work.

Most of these areas are within the Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve and are now owned by the RSPB, with smaller areas owned by the National Forest Estate and private individuals. Anyone who owns or manages land that is in the proposed addition to the protected area will receive a letter that explains how they can respond to the consultation.

More information is available on the Protected Area Notices webpage.

Below is the list of protected areas that NatureScot proposes to extend:

  • Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA)
  • Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Ramsar site

As well, 10 Sites of Special Scientific Interest underpin the above sites are also proposed to be extended:

  • Ben Griams Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • East Halladale SSSI
  • Forsinard Bogs SSSI
  • Loch Caluim Flows SSSI
  • Rumsdale Peatlands SSSI
  • Shielton Peatlands SSSI
  • Sletill Peatlands SSSI
  • Strathmore Peatlands SSSI
  • West Halladale SSSI
  • West Strathnaver SSSI

For anyone who wishes to respond to the consultation, the statutory notice in the local paper gives Graham Neville as the person to write to at the Golspie office. Or email [email protected]