Map charts future for Scotland’s wild lands

U. LEEDS (UK) — A new map detailing Scotland’s wild areas is expected to help local authorities make decisions about development and land use.

The map, published by the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) using a method developed by the Wildland Research Institute (WRi) at the University of Leeds, should also help the tourism industry promote Scotland’s wild landscapes to visitors and walkers.

Some of the country’s wildest landscapes are already identified and protected if they fall within national parks or national scenic areas. But many other wild areas are not identified in any way.

A recent SNH survey found that the Scottish public view wild land as an important priority: 91 percent of respondents agree that Scotland’s areas of wild land are important and should be protected. Another study found wild land provides even more economic and employment benefit than agriculture and forestry combined.

“These new maps will give valuable, detailed information to local authorities to inform decisions,” says Simon Brooks, policy and advice manager for SNH. “Scotland is famous for its wild landscapes—these maps tell us where the wildest areas are and will help everyone when considering changes in these places.

“The maps don’t mean changes or development can’t take place in these areas, but they do give local authorities more and better information to base planning decisions on.

“Using the maps and information published today, future work will identify areas of particular high wildness value. This work will build on our earlier work to identify wild land, and will support the Scottish Government’s policy of safeguarding areas of wild land character.”

More detailed maps identifying wild land will be developed this spring, Brooks says.

“It’s great to see the methodologies that we developed here at the University of Leeds and with our partners in the Wildland Research Institute being used across the whole of the country,” says Stephen Carver.

“Scotland has taken the lead here, and is the first country in Europe to produce a national wildness map at this level of detail, so it’s very exciting to see these maps.

“Although we’re not surprised by the broad patterns shown, as we already have a good feeling for where the wild areas of Scotland are, the key thing with these maps is the fine detail and how they were created using the latest data and mapping tools. This makes them robust and repeatable. Hopefully, England and Wales will follow suit and produce their own maps in due course.”

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