Unlocking peatland restoration on crofting and common grazing land, part 1

Posted on Monday, April, 1st, 2024

Two ‘pathfinder’ projects, funded by NatureScot (FIRNS)

In October 2023, Forest Carbon secured grant funding from NatureScot through the Facility for Investment Ready Nature in Scotland (FIRNS) programme

Forest Carbon is working with Finance Earth and Angus Davidson Ltd to develop models for two pilot projects, both of which are focussed on peatland restoration on land that’s subject to Common Grazing rights. One of the pilot projects is on the Shetland Islands and the other is on the Isle of Lewis.

Common Grazings are an area of land (subject to crofting tenure) that is common to several crofters in a particular crofting township. Each crofter who has the benefit of a share or a right in the Common Grazings has a right to use (generally for grazing livestock, and subject to certain rules and restrictions) each part of the Common Grazings unless part of the Common Grazings is apportioned by an individual crofter for their exclusive use.

The long-term objective of these pilots is to unlock the restoration of more of Scotland’s degraded peatland. Degraded peatlands account for 15% of Scotland’s net emissions, according to the Scottish Government, making them a key piece of the net zero puzzle. However, the take-up of restoration on Crofting and Common Grazing-occupied land has thus far been low. We believe this is because there is no clear model for input and output-sharing between landlords and the crofters and because – as it stands at the time of writing – the legal landscape makes delivery and utilisation of private funding challenging. 

Through these pilot projects, we’re looking to develop a model for peatland restoration that balances the interests of landowners, common graziers and other community members and is financially viable once all costs associated with delivering and managing the project over the long term have been accounted for.

We hope that these pilots act as ‘pathfinders’ for land managers and landowners seeking to develop projects on their own. 

The project’s development stage is coming to an end at the end of March 2024. This article is Part One of a two-part series; it introduces what we’ve been up to and why we’ve been up to it. Part Two will summarise our key findings as well as share access to the full report. 

Read on to find out: 

Who else is involved in this project?

Three project partners are working on these pilots: Forest Carbon, as experts in nature-based markets; Finance Earth, as experts in designing and structuring bespoke finance models, and Angus Davidson Ltd as experts in the delivery of peatland restoration projects and crofting. 

We have worked with key project stakeholders across the two pilot projects (the landlords and crofters). They include the Shetland Islands Council, the Ollaberry Collafirth and Crooksetter Common Grazings, the Barvas Estate Trust and the Arnol Common Grazings. We have also consulted further organisations during the project.  

What difference do we hope that this project will make?

The pilot projects that we hope to unlock in due course will provide a wide range of benefits beyond carbon reduction, including biodiversity enhancement, landscape enhancement, rural employment opportunities and water quality enhancement. 

More broadly, we are optimistic that showcasing successful peatland restoration on land subject to Common Grazing rights will act as a catalyst for other projects to come forward for restoration. This would be a win both in terms of reducing land-based GHG emissions and for rural communities, who we hope will gain access to new income streams. 

If you have any questions regarding this FIRNS project please get in touch with us via our contact form.

This project is supported by NatureScot through The Facility for Investment Ready Nature in Scotland (FIRNS)


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