People, peatlands and protected areas : case-studies of conservation in northern Scotland
Following a series of conflicts between conservationists and local stakeholders around protected areas during the 1980s, conservation policies have widened to incorporate a greater reliance on communication and education, partnership approaches and the use of sustainability terminology. The debates surrounding conservation have begun to extend beyond a previously narrow, scientific focus to encompass issues such as competing environmental values, land tenure, public access and local participation. In order to examine how changes in conservation ideology have affected operational practice, this study involves an exploration of current procedures and sources of conflict, with a focus on the use of protected areas to conserve peatlands. This is undertaken through a qualitative analysis of attitudes towards conservation procedures, environmental values, restoration and sustainability projects around case-study sites in northern and north-eastern Scotland, based on interviews with local stakeholders and conservation representatives. The findings suggest that changes in procedure have contributed to a more positive relationship between conservation agencies and local stakeholders. However, significant sources of conflict still remain between stakeholders and conservationists, including differences in the values placed on peatland environments, different interpretations of stewardship and management, and stakeholder resentment over the use of institutional power to control land management. In addition, despite a growth in sustainable development initiatives, conservation is often still seen as a land-use which prevents economic development. Similarly conservationists, despite being seen as sympathetic on an individual level, are believed to attribute a low priority to economic concerns. Overall, while changes in conservation procedure are acknowledged by stakeholders, the process is a gradual one, and many issues relating to past conflict remain. The role of environmental restoration and sustainability, two 'ways forward' for conservation, are evaluated in this context.