Otter outrage over the bridge to Skye

By OLIVER TICKELL The head of one of the world’s leading conservation organisations has rebuked the Scottish Office over its treatment of otters that live in the path of the controversial bridge being built between the Scottish mainland and the Isle of Skye. In a letter to Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, Martin Holdgate, director-general of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) says ‘insufficient thought has been given to other options for the bridge route’. He expresses surprise that construction has not stopped even though conservationists are challenging the siting of the bridge in the courts. Roads linking the bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland and on Skye will cut through prime otter habitat, while the bridge itself will bisect Eilean Bhan, the ‘otter island’ where Gavin Maxwell, author of Ring of Bright Water, lived until his death in 1969. The West Coast of Scotland is home to around 700 otters; about 5 per cent live close to the planned bridge. Holdgate stresses Britain’s obligation to protect endangered species under the terms of the Bern Convention, which was incorporated into British law in the 1989 Wildlife and Countryside Act. Under the law, projects that would damage the habitat of an endangered species are allowed only if there is no satisfactory alternative. Simon Stuart, head of IUCN’s species survival programme, says it is vital to set the right precedent for development on the West Coast of Scotland. ‘It is a question of principle, and of the obligations of the British government under the Bern Convention,’ he says. ‘It is not clear to us that the correct procedures have been followed.’ He stresses that the IUCN does not claim that this project spells doom for all Scottish otters, but that it would be the ‘thin end of the wedge’. Encouraged by the IUCN’s intervention, opponents of the project are now pinning their hopes on a legal action by Save the Otters of Scotland Group. The group will argue in Edinburgh’s Court of Session that the siting of the bridge breaches the Wildlife and Countryside Act. In his letter to Lang, Holdgate describes it as ‘out of character’ for Britain to allow construction to continue until the case is settled. Holdgate’s intervention follows another letter widely circulated to conservation groups by Claus Reuther, chairman of IUCN’s otter specialist group, which has split opinion among conservationists. ‘Conservation organisations ought not to allow otters or their habitat to be destroyed,’ writes Reuther. This is a clear reference to the Vincent Wildlife Trust, which assessed the impact the project would have on otters, along with Scottish Natural Heritage and the World Wide Fund for Nature, which played important parts in the process. None of the three groups pressed for an alternative route, instead they backed plans to build artificial holts and water holes, erect otter-proof fencing and dig otter tunnels under the roads to prevent them from being killed by traffic. ‘We should not ask how to make the road otter-friendly,’ says Reuther, ‘but whether we need the road here at all.’ George Medley, director of WWF-UK, responded angrily to the IUCN’s intervention. Reuther’s views were ‘based on no scientific evidence whatsoever’,
  • 首页
  • 游艇租赁
  • 电话
  • 关于我们