Nature regulator poisons 300 beech trees in protected area

The wildlife regulator Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has ‘apologised unreservedly’ for poisoning 300 mature beech trees at a Loch Lomond beauty spot without the landowner's consent.

SNH issued a public apology last week to Luss Estates Company and its owner, Sir Malcolm Colquhoun, for chemically injecting the European Beech trees with glyphosate on Inchtavannach island, a European protected area and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

Luss Estates agreed a five-year management plan with SNH in 2013, allowing the removal of Rhododendron ponticum, an invasive species in the UK, which can spread rapidly and kill the natural understory below.

But SNH subsequently amended the agreement, allowing it to kill all the beech trees on the island without telling the landowners.

SNH’s rationale for eradicating the tree species stems from a long-running debate in Scotland over the beech’s native status in the country, despite a recent report from the University of Stirling and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) concluding that it is native.

In a press statement, David Maclennan, SNH area manager for Argyll and the Outer Hebrides, accepted that it was wrong not to have consulted with Luss Estates beforehand. He said that the “speed, scale, and visual impact” of the operation was “much greater than anticipated” and that SNH recognised that this had caused “considerable detriment and upset to Luss Estates Company... and for this we unreservedly apologise”.

SNH has now agreed to remove as much of the fallen timber as possible this year at its own expense.

Manager Simon Miller of Luss Estates said he was pleased that SNH has apologised for the killing of the beech trees and accepted its gesture to clear the wood. 

He said: “Luss Estates are proud to be the custodians of these islands and look forward to working with SNH to protect them. Inchtavannach and other nearby islands deserve to be treated as some of the most protected countryside in Scotland, as national treasures and designated nature reserves. 

“We hope to work with SNH in future towards this end.”

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