The Great Trossachs Forest has officially become a National Nature Reserve. In fact, at 16,500 hectares (about the size of greater Glasgow) it’s now the largest NNR, not only in Scotland, but in the whole of the UK. It’s a fantastic achievement for a project that only got underway in 2009, and is a credit to the hard work of its partners, volunteers, and the funders who support it.
But what exactly does its new status as an NNR really mean?
There are an array of different designations given to land (and water) that is special in some way for wildlife and geological diversity. All these designations have different definitions, come with different levels of protection, and have different impacts on visitors and land owners, so it can seem a little complicated.
Some of the designations you might see or hear about are SSSIs, SPAs, Ramsar sites, World Heritage Sites, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Marine Protected Areas. What these designations are there to do is help protect areas from things like inappropriate development, so they should stop someone draining wetlands that might be essential for migrating whooper swans, or stop an area of nationally important peatland from being destroyed.
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod, visiting The Great Trossachs Forest.
National Nature Reserves aren’t designations, they’re accolades, and that makes them a bit different. When an NNR is awarded, it means a site is nationally important for its wildlife and habitats, but it also means that it’s a site which makes visitors very much part of the picture. NNRs are less about saying: this place needs a particular level of protection (though parts of the GTF are also designated) and more about celebrating what’s there, and encouraging people to come and experience it for themselves.
So The Great Trossachs Forest is a perfect fit. It’s an area that’s being managed now, and into the future, with nature in mind. It’s a project that aims to create new habitats, and restore damaged ones, and it’s an amazing landscape that’s perfect for visitors to walk through, cycle through, and experience.
There are now two gateway visitor centres in the forest, a long distance path (blogged about in April), lots of other paths and even a newly-released App, with info about routes, history, wildlife and the local area.
So why not visit Scotland’s newest NNR for yourself this autumn, and see what all the fuss is about?
The Great Trossachs Forest is a partnership project between RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and the Woodland Trust Scotland. Full information about the NNR, its paths, conservation projects, volunteering opportunities, and wildlife can be found here. The new GTF app is free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play store.