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Peatlands Partnership Wants Your Help

22nd March 2013

Photograph of Peatlands Partnership Wants Your Help

The Peatlands Partnership is seeking input from local residents on multi-million pound Flows project.

The Peatlands Partnership is looking for your views on how the peatlands of the Flow Country should be promoted to local people and visitors to the area. The Peatlands Partnership recently won support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop its Flow to the Future project, which aims to improve opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy the peatlands and to restore several square miles of peatland.

Please answer 15 questions by following the survey monkey link.

Your help will:
- ensure that community views and knowledge are taken into account in the development of the Flow to the Future project;
- determine the level of need for and support for activities which are currently proposed or are identified through this consultation for inclusion in the project - this will also help us secure funding;
- establish community views in relation to the possibility of World Heritage Site status, which Scottish Natural Heritage is reviewing on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Caroline Eccles, manager for the Flow to the Future project, commented, We want to ensure that the proposals put to the Heritage Lottery Fund reflect local aspirations. We are particularly keen to hear about where people feel there should be information on the peatlands or whether there are key viewpoints where access should be improved. To help the Peatlands Partnership in carrying outthecommunity consultation, CVS North have joined the project.They will interview key stakeholders such as community organisations and are organisingfour drop-in sessions.

The drop-in sessions will be held at North Coast Connections Tongue on Monday 25th, Helmsdale Community centre on Tuesday 26th, Halladale Hall on Wednesday 27th and Halkirk Hall on Thursday 28th, all between 4 and 8 pm, except for the Tongue session which starts at 4.30pm.

Frances Gunn, CVS North Development Officer, said, "We are happy to behelping the Peatlands Partnership gather local community views onthe proposals. Iffolk are unable to get along to one of the drop-in sessions, the full questionnaire can be found in libraries, service points and post offices from next week and online at . Alternatively they can email their views to flowtothefuture[AT] or telephone Caroline Eccles on 01463 715000.

The following is currently proposed as part of the HLF bid:

Trails, viewpoints and information around the Flows in Caithness and Sutherland to enable people to experience and understand the importance of the peatlands and their natural and social heritage.

Activities to raise awareness of wider audiences, encouraging some to visit and allowing those who will never visit to learn about the Flow Countrys international importance for carbon storage (see below) and biodiversity. This could include a media campaign, website, multimedia presentation, touring exhibition.

An all ages learning programme at both local and wider UK levels.

Peatland restoration work to restore 7 square miles of forested and previously forested deep peat blanket bog. Most of the timber will be harvested and fed into the North Sutherland Community Forest Trust sawmill at Forsinain, by Forsinard and other local processing/CHP plants to support and create local employment. Impacts on public road systems through timber transport will be minimised in consultation with the Highland Council. Drained deep peat soils under these forest areas can release huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, as the peat soils become oxidised and tree roots further dry carbon-rich peat. Scientists agree that peat bog restoration is critical in mitigating the impacts of our rapidly changing climate. Healthy bogs remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the Flow Countrys deep and ancient peat soils store far more carbon than all the UK forests combined as well as supporting internationally rare habitat, birds and other wildlife.

A new field centre with education room/ laboratory space, offices and accommodation for volunteers, students and researchers.

Volunteering opportunities both at Forsinard and elsewhere in Caithness and Sutherland including habitat conservation, field teaching, delivering talks/ workshops.

A viewing tower/observatory on the existing Dubh Lochans trail at Forsinard, so that visitors can enjoy a comfortable raised view out over the peatland pool systems.
Improvements to the displays in the visitor centre at Forsinard.

An Advisory Officer to provide peatland management related advice and to help local grazings committees, farmers and land managers to access grants towards peatland restoration on their land.

If funded the project will last for 5 years from Autumn 2014 and directly employ 5 people, with the majority of spend going to contractors for the restoration and building work. The budget will inject around 9 million directly into the local economy over the project lifespan as well as other benefits through increased tourism.