Almost 200,000 people have signed a petition demanding protection of a
north-east forest which is home to wildcats.
Conservation group Wildcat Haven has launched an online petition over plans
to build 16 new turbines at Clashindarroch, south-west of Huntly, over
fears for the creatures who live in the area.
Swedish energy firm Vattenfall, which tabled the plans, already has a wind
farm at the site but conservationists claim the second would see a quarter
of the forest felled, destroying the animals’ territories and den sites.
The petition to the Scottish Government, which has attracted almost 200,000
signatures so far, claims there are only 35 wildcats left with at least 13
located in the Aberdeenshire forest and “in danger from logging”.
It added: “It is their last and only known major stronghold and breeding site.
“But logging is taking place in the middle of kitten season, disturbing
wildcat mothers, which could make them abandon or even eat their young.
“The logging will tear the wildcat population apart.”
Steve Piper, a wildlife filmmaker and expert wildcat conservationist who
started the petition, said it’s “appalling” that the Forestry Commission
are clear-felling the area.
He said: “The Highlands is full of bare hills so why do we need another
wind farm on the only one with a resident wildcat population?”
A spokesman for Forest Enterprise Scotland, said the claims were
“unsubstantiated and “unqualified”.
He said: “Clashindarroch is a productive forest and is managed sustainably
to internationally recognised standards.
“An important part of our stewardship involves carrying out a huge range of
actions to conserve wildcats and other important species such as red
squirrels, woodland grouse and birds of prey.
“There are wind farm proposals for the area but, should they be progressed
by the developers, any plans will be subject to the full environmental
impact assessment, public consultation and planning processes.”
Alison Daugherty, Vattenfall’s project manager for the development of
Clashindarroch II, said: “Vattenfall and our partners have undertaken
extensive environmental studies over several years and this will continue
as we prepare and invite the scrutiny of a rigorously prepared
environmental impact assessment.
“What the evidence currently shows is the wildcat population in
Clashindarroch Forest is unaffected by our four-year-old operational wind
farm. We will propose a new scheme – Clashindarroch II – that does no harm
to the existing population and, with habitat enhancement elsewhere in the
forest, further protects this sensitive species.”