Minister backs scheme to help butterflies

Scottish Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, has announced a new grant that will help put Scotland's livestock to work enhancing the environmental value of our semi-natural native woodlands across the country.

The Controlled Livestock Grazing of Woodland grant - available through the Scottish Rural Development Plan 'Rural Priorities' funding stream - aims to support landowners who want to maintain or re-introduce traditional land management methods, by using cattle (but also possibly sheep and pigs), to graze woodlands in a sensitive way that enhances their biodiversity.

"This new grant is supported by Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, and it should help sustain and create more butterfly habitat in Scotland.

Ms Cunningham said: "It's a system that encourages tree regeneration and which is also good for grassland, wetland and heath land habitats within woodlands, bringing direct benefits to some species of high conservation importance, such as Pearl-bordered and Marsh Fritillary butterflies."

One of the UK's fastest-declining butterflies, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary has its stronghold in the open, sunny grazed woodlands of western and northern Scotland.

The Chequered Skipper is extinct in England, and is only found in Lochaber and north Argull, where many of its best sites are lightly grazed by cattle or deer. Both butterflies are included on the list of six top priority species in the Scottish Forestry Strategy (the others being red squirrel, black grouse, capercaille, and juniper).

Tom Prescott, Species Conservation Officer for Butterfly Conservation said: "These two threatened butterflies depend on open, sunny woodlands, and light grazing is the best method for managing their habitat.

"We will be helping farmers and foresters apply for this exciting new grant to ensure it is a success. Many other species will benefit as well, including moths, dragonflies, black grouse and even lichens".

The grant is the culmination of much work by the West Highland Grazing project, with assistance from landowners and Butterfly Conservation.