Nature for Now and the Future
22nd January 2021
The New Year has started with a harsh reminder that we are not safely through the pandemic just yet and our thoughts are once more sharply focussed on health, wellbeing and the economy. For me, it reminds me how important my daily dose of nature is and how important the nature and the landscapes of the Cairngorms are to us.
In the Cairngorms, I often think just how grateful I am to be living alongside such amazing nature and landscapes. That relationship, the fact that people and nature can thrive together, shouldn’t necessarily be taken for granted, nor should it be seen as a luxury. It’s a balance that has to be worked at.
Our health and wellbeing are closely linked to nature. Our economy and culture too. Especially so in a National Park where land-based businesses and tourism are absolutely central to many people’s lives and livelihoods. Over the summer it was obvious just how important the countryside and landscapes in Britain’s National Parks are to people, although this did of course bring challenges. Businesses and land managers in the Cairngorms did an amazing job welcoming people back safely. The pull of the mountains and forests will be just as strong this time around – a great opportunity for nature to touch the hearts of a whole new audience and inspire many thousands more people to love, respect and value the Cairngorms.
The benefits that healthy, wildlife-rich landscapes bring continue to help us through the pandemic. They will help us through the climate emergency too. We are going to be dealing with more flood events, more disease risk to timber and food crops. We are going to have to find ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and use our landscapes to better store carbon. More natural river systems will help clean our water and slow the flow. Repairing peatlands and planting more trees will help store carbon. A wide range of plant and animal species will be able to withstand and adapt to changes in the environment.
Our exceptional wildlife is a source of great pride to many of the people who live and work here. Our land managers put a huge amount of effort into looking after it. Our unique and distinctive wildlife gives us a great deal of pleasure and puts millions of pounds into the economy – we don’t tuck ten pound notes under birds’ wings or stuff it into a peat bog! It attracts people from all over the world, for a visit and to set up a business and raise a family. Healthy nature is fundamental to the food we grow, the air we breathe, the water we drink. It will buffer us from floods, provide shelter from storms and be the source of clean energy. The communities that work well in partnership with the nature around them will be the ones that are still here, still thriving in 100, 200 years’ time.
Andy Ford, Head of Conservation for the Cairngorms National Park Authority, leads the Park Authority’s conservation, ecology and landscapes programmes and strategies. Ensuring good information and data guide long term conservation, delivering landscape-scale ecosystem restoration and improving habitats and species through projects and partnerships.