River Dee Trust Joins Call for Scottish Government to Turn Words Into Action

September 03, 2020

The River Dee Trust has joined the national network of river conservation charities in calling on the Scottish Government to turn words into action to avert an ecological disaster.

Fisheries Management Scotland is urging Ministers to act urgently to combat the effects of rising river temperatures on vulnerable species including our iconic wild salmon and endangered pearl mussels.

The group says planting native trees along riverbanks is vital to suppressing damaging temperature rises. But nationally-important projects like those on the Dee will be jeopardised without reforms to current funding systems. The call for action comes as the Dee team steps up its efforts to safeguard the river.

FMS Chief Executive, Dr Alan Wells, said: “Scottish Government scientists have already highlighted the threat of rising temperatures to our fragile ecosystems. There is universal agreement that we need widespread planting of native riverside trees to provide cooling shade and restore lost habitats.

“But the Government’s grants system is still geared to commercial-scale forestry for harvesting. It also fails to cover work which will be an integral part of Scotland’s green recovery. The worst effects of rising temperatures may still be years away but we must act now to get trees in the ground in time to prevent an ecological disaster.

“We also need support for the country’s River Trusts and Salmon Fishery Boards who’ve shown they can work in partnership to deliver these vital projects to protect our fragile freshwater environment. The fate of our natural treasures can’t be left to chance."

The call for urgent action comes as the Dee’s conservation charity steps up its campaign to plant a million native trees to safeguard its internationally-recognised ecosystem. River Dee Trust Chairman, Sandy Bremner said: “We are now committing to complete the planting of 250,000 native trees by next summer. We will continue to seek sponsorship for this £5.5 million project but it’s an extremely challenging climate for all charities.

“We will fail to deliver this nationally-important work without these reforms. We need action now because time is not on our side if we are to protect our rivers and their vulnerable wildlife.”

Alison Baker, Director of the Forth Rivers Trust said: “Our species depend on our rivers being resilient to changes brought about by climate change and biodiversity loss and that includes ensuring our rivers are kept cool. We know what we need to do, but the funding mechanisms do not support the bringing together expertise from landowners, trusts, communities and others to plant native trees along our river corridors. We must adapt the landscape so we lessen the need to mitigate when incidents and events happen.

“Funding needs to support catchment-wide partnerships to enable them to work at a landscape scale, as well as acknowledging the wider benefits of planting the right tree in the right place and capitalising on opportunities where they exist.”

Maureen Watt, MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine, has won cross-party backing for a motion (below), calling for a national review of Scottish Government support for conservation planting. She said:

“I have been delighted to work with the River Dee Trust over the past few months as it developed its proposals for future riverside tree planting. I have made the Cabinet Secretary aware of the paper and will be pursuing the matter with him once he has had time to consider its contents”

Motion S5M-22151: Maureen Watt, Aberdeen South and North Kincardine, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/06/2020

The River Dee Trust

That the Parliament congratulates the River Dee Trust on its efforts over the last six years, with the support of the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, to reach the milestone of planting 200,000 native trees on the river banks; notes that the purpose of this is to create shade to cool the river against the growing threat to its iconic wild salmon from rising water temperatures linked to climate change; acknowledges the wider ecosystem benefits of such projects in enhancing biodiversity through the creation of wildlife corridors to safeguard a range of threatened species; commends the Trust on its ambitious target to expand this project to plant a million native trees; understands however that this is being hampered by the design of existing funding mechanisms, and asks the Scottish Government to review these to facilitate the successful completion of crucial restoration projects such as this and other such schemes across Scotland.