The Cairngorms National Park Authority’s (CNPA) Peatland ACTION Officers have facilitated over 2,140 hectares of peatland restoration since 2014, but these efforts need to be scaled up to address the nature and climate crisis and contribute to the Scottish Government net zero carbon emissions targets set for 2045.
In April 2021, the CNPA became a direct delivery partner of the Scottish Government / NatureScot Peatland ACTION programme. CNPA are now able to directly award funding for peatland projects within the Cairngorms National Park and are planning a further 2,750 hectares of restoration management over the next three years. To deliver this work we expanded our team to include 4 Project Officers, a GIS/Data Officer and a Programme Manager. This experienced team of Peatland ACTION Officers provide advice, guidance and support in designing and delivering peatland projects.
The new CNPA Peatland ACTION team, from left to right: Matt Watson, Daisy Whytock, Emma Stewart, Stephen Corcoran, Dot Harris and Thomas Plant
A major hurdle in scaling up efforts is contractor availability in the local area. Peatland restoration, especially in challenging upland locations and on sites with complex erosion, requires skilled contractors who can work safely and deliver the best outcomes in restoring degraded peatland habitats. Contracting companies may be put off from branching into restoration work for various reasons, including the expense of purchasing machines or adapting machines for working on deep peat, the harsh conditions (most projects take place in the colder months to avoid impacting breeding birds), uncertainty regarding likelihood of future work, difficulty recruiting the right team, and so on.
CNPA are digging deep into how to make work contracts more attractive. This includes a plan to award multi-year funding packages, providing confidence for contractors and continuity in work so that they can see the impact of their hard work, dedication and commitment to Climate Action. Over the next 3 years alone the CNPA Peatland ACTION programme plans to award £10 million in grant funding for peatland management, supporting a host of rural jobs directly in peatland restoration and more in the wider supply chain.
The CNPA Peatland ACTION programme is running New Entrant programmes to help train up local civil and plant businesses, which are diversifying into peatlands. This is providing further green rural jobs and helping to tackle the current shortage of skilled practitioners equipped to deliver restoration on the ground. This New Entrant programme aims to enable more companies to become skilled in delivering drain blocking work using the techniques of wave damming and zipper re-profiling.
CNPA Peatland ACTION Officer, Matt Watson, explaining ditch blocking techniques to new and future climate champions.
CNPA Peatland ACTION Project Officer, Daisy Whytock, said:
“We have two ‘new entrants’ sites operational at the moment and are working with four companies in total. It’s exciting to see the enthusiasm the machine operators bring to the job, and how quickly they can master the drain blocking techniques. All going well, we hope to see each of the new entrants tendering for bigger projects and eventually tackling eroding sites.”