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Cairngorms National Park

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Park Talk: Nature fosters resilience

25th February 2021

By CNPA Board Member Willie Munro

Many people got involved in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird watch last month, recording and submitting the bird activity in their gardens. Lockdown has made us all more aware of our surroundings and watching birds from the window is an enjoyable and relaxing activity, especially when we are restricted in what we can do.

Watching and being in nature are proven to be good for our health and wellbeing, but the health of our economy in the Cairngorms National Park is also closely linked to nature and the landscape. There are many different land based businesses here – from estates, farming and forestry to wildlife guides, outdoor activity and sport providers. The health and wealth of these businesses is a crucial part of what creates and maintains a healthy economy for the Park, in turn helping to sustain vibrant and resilient communities.

Of course, Covid-19 continues to have a devastating impact on our economy. Businesses are struggling and some, sadly, will not survive. We predict a busy holiday season when lockdown eases and I hope that the return of visitors will help some of those businesses to recover. However, it’s crucial that visitors don’t undermine the very things that attract them in the first place – the landscape, wildlife, culture and just the peace and quiet.

That is why we want to ensure that the Cairngorms National Park is a place where people and nature can thrive together. It’s a fine balancing act that takes partnership working across communities, agencies, landowners and business.

Tourism is our main economic driver but without the rich wildlife and landscapes that make the Park so special, would we still attract around two million visitors per year? And without those visitors, would we still have thriving communities? From a walk in the hills to the food that visitors eat in local restaurants, land based businesses and tourism go hand in hand with land management activities and providing for visitors all creating jobs and income for communities and residents.

It’s how we manage this fine balancing act moving on from Covid-19 with a green recovery plan. Our wildlife rich landscapes have helped us through this pandemic so we need to ensure that we are protecting and enhancing these places in return, so they flourish for future generations.

We all have the responsibility to ensure that we are working towards a sustainable future, that we protect the environment and manage the Park with the aim of reducing carbon and halting biodiversity loss. Our exceptional wildlife and landscapes are of great pride to the people who live and work in the Park and land managers put a huge amount of effort and investment into looking after it. Our landscapes and wildlife attract visitors, putting millions of pounds into the local economy.

So you see, nature is not only essential for our own health and wellbeing, it’s essential for the health and wellbeing of our economy and our communities, from food production to flood protection. Where there is true partnership working across all sectors we can ensure resilient landscapes, wildlife and communities for the future.