By Doug McAdam, CNPA Board Member
The Cairngorms National Park Authority does not own any land or assets in the Park – it relies on effective partnership working, a lot of goodwill and private alongside public investment to deliver the wide range of objectives outlined in the likes of the Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan, the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan or the Cairngorms National Park Forest Strategy.
All of the work on the ground, required to make these aims and objectives become a reality, takes a dedicated land based workforce – those men and women who grow, rear, plant, build, guide, cull, research, restore and much more – 365 days of the year in all kinds of weather.
From the farmers, crofters and gamekeepers who provide us with terrific local produce while ensuring that the natural environment is protected and enhanced, to the digger operator working for estates restoring degraded peatlands in remote locations in a bid to tackle the climate emergency. There are rangers working with visitors, ensuring the area is respected and cared for and there are ecologists counting, researching and documenting wildlife and habitats in the Park to help guide and focus our combined efforts going forward.
Those working in the forestry sector are taking care of and where appropriate expanding woodland cover, felling for the construction industry and replanting for the future whether it’s to create more habitat for rare and endangered species like capercaillie, to cool river temperatures for salmon or fresh water pearl mussels and also to continue to provide a sustainable timber resource for construction.
Then there is the team of path builders who create, restore and repair miles of paths in the Park, giving us a much more enjoyable experience from lowland walks to Munro bagging adventures. Their physical graft in some very harsh conditions has certainly not gone unnoticed by me as I walk and bike the hills.
There are also many emerging new land based vocations – drone piloting for one – and what is clear to me is the range and depth of career opportunities that exist for our young people to build careers. This also requires investment and I am hopeful that the recently announced £12 million funding from the National Lottery, via the Heritage Horizons Awards, will help leverage significant other private and public investment mean further exciting career options in the coming years, as the Cairngorms 2030 project progresses.
Creating meaningful work and career opportunities for young people is vital for community sustainability. Working with schools, colleges, Skills Development Scotland and others, we need to continue to develop these pathways to careers. Helping young people embark on a land based career, will help retain them in the Park. Building on previous career focused work, the CNPA are now working with Countryside Learning Scotland on a new initiative called Pathways To Rural Work, this is a programme already running elsewhere in Scotland focused squarely on building careers and life opportunities for our young people.
So to all our rural land based workers in the Park who feed us, look after the natural environment, help us to enjoy access to the great outdoors while at the same time underpinning and helping drive the local economy – the CNPA thanks you very much. You are a key element in making the Cairngorms National Park a truly special place and we cannot do it without you, or the next generation.