A leading member of the Scottish Government has praised efforts to integrate conservation and grouse moor management taking place at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project in Dumfries and Galloway.

During a visit to the site, environment minister Stewart Stevenson said he was particularly impressed by the good cooperation shown between game management and conservation workers.

He spoke of his interest in diversionary feeding, a method used to demonstrate whether the needs of an economically viable grouse moor can be met alongside the conservation needs of protected raptors.

He said: ?The project is of crucial importance in finding a way for driven grouse shooting to co-exist with hen harrier populations. Diversionary feeding of hen harriers at the moor is a key part of protecting grouse numbers.?

After four breeding seasons, no grouse chicks have been detected being taken into breeding hen harrier nests ? leading several experts at the site, including the headkeeper Simon Lester, to believe that this can be an effective management technique.

The minister was shown a range of other techniques used on the moor, including predator control, heather recovery from beetle attacks, and burning.

Mr Stevenson said: ?Muirburn is an important tool in managing heather moorland and I was pleased to see that the project is able to make use of new licensing arrangements brought in earlier this year.?

Estate manager and project chairman Mark Oddy said: ?Today has been helpful in ensuring that if any new regulation is being considered for introduction, the project can help ensure it is both effective and practical.?

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