The rapid contraction of the coal mining industry in East Ayrshire has resulted in large areas of vacant, derelict and contaminated land. The decline of heavy industry has also contributed towards the structural economic decline of the area, with local communities blighted by high unemployment, poor educational attainment and poor health and wellbeing.
The East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative was launched in October 2002. It works to enhance and conserve the environment of East Ayrshire through focussed regeneration projects. It also aims to improve community pride through the creation a high quality environment where people can live, work and visit.
Despite the impacts of industry, the former coal mining town of New Cumnock has a high concentration of important wildlife habitats. The CEI sought to link these fragmented areas to create an integrated habitat network. In 2009 it led a collaborative project to restore an opencast coal mining site near New Cumnock to wet grassland, creating a habitat for breeding wading birds such as lapwing, snipe, curlew, redshank and oystercatcher.
To the north west of the New Cumnock Habitat Network, the Black Loch flows into the Lugar Water and River Nith Catchments. Having already established links with a range of supportive landowners in this area, the CEI sought to extend the habitat network further into the Nith and Lugar water catchments.
From the project's inception a collaborative approach was adopted. CEI worked with the Nith Catchment Fishery Trust and Nith District Salmon Fishery Board to implement a mink control programme. This programme was implemented to reduce predation on native species such as water voles and farmland waders. Similarly, CEI coordinated its activities with SEPA to tackle diffuse pollution in the area.
The project supported local land managers. It provided expert advice on techniques to improve local biodiversity and encouraged positive management for threatened species. As part of the project farms received barn owl, bird, bat or kestrel boxes and a number of areas were surveyed to detect the presence of water voles.
CEI engaged with local communities, encouraging residents to find out more about their local environment. Local communities were also presented with the opportunity to help develop and conserve the habitat network through volunteer work and many residents have been trained to monitor biodiversity and engage with conservation activities.
The CEI promoted the creation of habitat networks within an environmentally degraded landscape. It provided advice to local land managers and worked to protect important habitats through the implementation of a mink control programme. The biodiversity of the New Cumnock area was also improved through the provision of nest sites for important birds and the establishment of the Ayrshire Wader Initiative.
The project engaged local residents and land managers, encouraging them to fully appreciate the rich variety of wildlife on their doorsteps and engendering pride in the local environment. Local people were also invited to actively participate in conservation work through volunteering. This strengthened the local skills base and helped to create a sense of local ownership over the project.
"I have found the volunteer sessions both enjoyable and informative and it gives a positive view of the community and the environment."
Alistair Winter Volunteer, New Cumnock
"We are delighted with this project, the volunteers have produced bird boxes and searched for water voles – between them they have donated over 70 hours of their time, which is fantastic."
Councillor Kathy Morrice, East Ayrshire Council
This project provides an example of how a habitat network can be successfully created managed with multiple benefits to landowners, communities, agencies and wildlife.
Through working collaboratively, with diverse partners, linked areas of wetland and riparian habitat have been improved. This has created a better and more resilient habitat network within the CSGN area.
CEI aims to extend the habitat network to include upland areas, restored surface mines, blanket bogs and designated sites such as Airds Moss Special Area of Conservation.
|2011||CSGN Development Fund||12,562|
|2009||Scottish Rural Development Programme||176,000|