Wildlife assembly examines how to unlock landcape-scale innovation through private partnership

Miles Montgomerie (WES Chair)

THE OPPORTUNITY for partnerships and clusters to drive forward landscape-scale, land manager-led nature restoration has been discussed at the Wildlife Estates Scotland Assembly 2024.

Held at Kilgraston, Perthshire, this year’s assembly delved deep into the theme of natural capital, offering insights into WES’s efforts to quantify and monitor natural capital streams like biodiversity, greenhouse gases, hydrology, and bionutrition – and offer clarity on what is becoming an increasingly complex policy area.

The Assembly was sponsored by Virgin Money which has long history of partnership with farming businesses and wider rural sectors across Scotland. During a presentation they which highlighted the work of their dedicated agricultural team which is helping farmers transition towards net zero targets during the current challenging farming climate.

Building on the success of last year’s event, and with more than 100 land managers in attendance, the 2024 Assembly featured presentations from esteemed speakers:

  • Miles Montgomerie, WES Chair, provided an update on WES progress in 2023;
  • WES Pentlands Cluster highlighted the benefits of their collaborative approach across six separately owned landholdings to heighten what can be delivered for nature;
  • Buccleuch shared their experiences and learnings from their Queensberry and Borders Estates;
  • Grosvenor Estates showcased their work on unlocking natural capital revenue streams.

There was also the opportunity for a panel discussion entitled Natural Capital – More than One Approach as well as networking opportunities for land managers and stakeholders.

WES is a national version of the Wildlife Estates (WE) initiative and is endorsed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General Environment, whose objective is to protect, preserve and improve the environment for present and future generations. All types of landholdings, farms and estates can apply for accreditation and Scotland currently sits second in the league table of Wildlife Estates accredited land on 1.25 million acres, with only Spain ahead on approximately 1.6 million acres. Between them, WES-accredited landholdings have stewardship of over 100 nationally protected sites (SSSI, NNR) and 85 internationally designated sites (SAC, SPA, Ramsar etc).

Brian Richardson, Head of Agriculture UK at Virgin Money, said: “The work being done in championing best practice and identifying standards for conservation and wildlife habitat management on farms and estates is vital at an important time for all land managers.

“We’re very pleased that Virgin Money has been able to support the Assembly 2024, and we look forward to working further with WES in future to help expedite a move towards a nature-positive, productive landscape.”

Miles Montgomerie, WES Chair, said: “There is a huge opportunity for landowners to drive forward nature and habitat restoration and find innovative ways to work with others to achieve that on a landscape-scale.

“There is a wealth of knowledge available within Wildlife Estates Scotland and it is important that it can be tapped into by fellow WES members and other stakeholders at our Assembly as we seek to halt and reverse the loss of wildlife.

“It is reassuring to be partnering with an institution that shares WES’ understanding and recognition of the environmental challenges land managers currently face and is similarly willing to seek opportunities to really drive momentum towards productive, nature-positive land management. WES is looking forward to an ongoing collaboration with Virgin Money UK to develop environmentally and economically viable solutions that deliver for nature and people.”

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