Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) signed the document at last week?s Scottish Game Fair.

It promises that both organisations will promote integrated and balanced land management through farming, sporting, fisheries and forestry to benefit Scotland?s economy, wildlife and habitats.

Speaking at the Fair, Mr Stevenson said: ?The relationship between conservationists, landowners and gamekeepers is continuing to improve through collaborative efforts.

?A key aim is to address nature conservation issues in the wider countryside, as well as protected areas, by promoting suitable management activities. The SNH and GWCT have resolved to continue to urge good practice in animal welfare and compliance with wildlife legislation.?

?Both parties are working together to promote this, alongside developing approaches to resolving conflicts in the countryside.?

The accord recognises both groups? shared interests in a good evidence base to support integrated land management, and cites the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project and national surveys of capercaillie and blackgrouse as excellent examples of existing partnerships.

Mr Stevenson said: ?Conservationists see the benefits that experienced and knowledgeable land managers can bring to biodiversity and wildlife habitats, while land managers appreciate how conservation and a healthy ecosystem equate to healthy game as well. This agreement is an important step in progressing this understanding.?

Ian Jardine, SNH chief executive, said: ?Some may find it surprising, but conservation, hunting and fishing interests have many of the same goals.

When wildlife flourishes in Scotland, it helps nurture our country?s environment and supports rural communities and the economy.

?This agreement is a landmark, which shows how far we have come, but also how much hard work we still have to do. Working together we can ? and must ? make sure Scotland?s natural environment thrives.?