Nature group learned of community buyout plan from press amid dispute

One of Scotland’s largest environmental groups said a farming group was involved in the purchase of its land by a community, learning through the media rather than community members.

The John Muir Trust (JMT) said it believed the move was made by a “hostile” person at the Assynt Crofters’ Trust (ACT) with “several individual positions” and “a broader political agenda”.

The two organizations had an ongoing bitter dispute over deer culling policies in the Highland region.

The new controversy was triggered when NatureScot recently granted JMT an off-season and nighttime license to cull deer at Quinag Estate as a way to protect the woodland.

But the ACT has labeled “unjust killing of deer” as “malicious” and claims it will have a “direct, long-lasting and harmful effect” on society, including local deer hunting employment.

Members also said the policy supports a forest renewal plan for a “small woodland” that “barely exists on the mountain.”

But the conflict escalated Wednesday, when JMT said it learned that the farming community had, without prior consultation, announced plans to participate in the purchase of some of the charity’s land.

JMT said in a statement: “The John Muir Trust has been informed through the media, not directly, that the Assynt Crofters Trust is ‘evaluating the feasibility of participating in the community acquisition of Mount Quinag from the John Muir Trust’.

“We understand that this has not been discussed with members of the Assynt Crofters Trust or the wider Assynt community.

“We suspect that this is the work of a few individual officials working with people from outside the community and following their own agendas… We note the role of an individual from outside the region with a broader political agenda in this dispute, and has long been credited to both the John Muir Trust and the John Muir Trust. hostile to the Scottish Government.

The ACT responded by saying it was considering a possible acquisition of Quinag with other parties “as a potential way to resolve the dispute regarding deer culling and future deer management”.

A statement from the group said the JMT comments contained “several inaccuracies”.

He wrote: “First, they have no idea about the local area’s feelings on the matter, but they state that this has not been discussed with the wider community.

“There has been no official discussion yet, but there is growing anecdotal evidence that the community is dissatisfied with the carnage that has occurred.

“It’s certainly not fair to say that this hasn’t been discussed by the Assynt Crofters’ Trust (ACT).”

The statement continued: “If this dispute is about deer and trees, then there are a few points worth mentioning: The ACT has planted 900 hectares of native woodland within the fence.

“The woodlands that have been monitored for the past 20 years are now mature enough that fences can begin to be lowered to allow deer to re-enter.

“How many has JMT planted? None.”

ACT members later went on to say that JMT and NatureScot, which allow deer culling, “alienate most of the properties in Asynt and many further afield.”

The group’s statement concluded with this: “We can only speculate that NatureScot got its revenge for losing its last deer management issue. We will not be forced into submission.”

JMT’s deer killing policy has previously clashed with locals after 86 rotting deer were discovered on a hillside in Lochaber, Knoydart, in 2016.

Last week, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) announced it is supporting the ACT for the suspension of the off-season license “until this project and its potential impacts have been properly assessed”.

NatureScot has previously said that “sustainable deer management is vital to effectively tackle the crises of nature loss and climate change.”

The agency said it authorized JMT to control deer off-season and at night on Quinag land to “prevent damage to woodlands and other habitats, including protected areas.”

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