Shetland folk and visitors have until September give their views on the Keen of Hamar and Hermaness national nature reserves in Unst and have a say in their future management.
Over the next 12 weeks Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is conducting a public consultation on proposals for the two reserves during the period 2009 to 2015.
The most northerly of the Scottish reserves, Hermaness is home to internationally important seabird populations, including the world’s third largest colony of great skua or bonxie, while the Keen of Hamar is a unique botanical site with rare Arctic alpine plants including Norwegian sandwort and the endemic Edmondston’s chickweed.
Created in 1955, the Hermaness reserve attracts around 5,000 visitors a year to experience the spectacle of thousands of seabirds nesting on the soaring sea cliffs. Visitors can also learn about the area’s abundant birdlife at the visitor centre sited in the old lighthouse shore station at Burrafirth. The nature reserve was put in place to make sure the area was managed to maintain the best condition so that threatened bird species such as the great skua/bonxie could prosper.
The Keen of Hamar reserve was established more recently in 1975 to protect Europe’s largest area of serpentine debris habitat and the rare plants which it supports. Both it and Hermaness are now recognised as among the most important sites in Europe and are part of the Europe wide network of important nature conservation areas.
SNH, which manages the reserves, is asking for people’s thoughts and views on plans for both Hermaness and Keen of Hamar for the next six years. The consultation began on Saturday and ends on 18th September, with the reserve plans on display at the Hermaness visitor centre, Unst Heritage Centre, Baltasound Leisure Centre and the Wind Dog Cafe in Gutcher, Yell.
SNH North Isles area officer Jonathan Swale said: “We would like to hear suggestions and comments from anyone who is interested in the reserves – this really is their chance to have a say.
“We’re hoping for a good range of comments from local people especially those who would like to play an active role in its future management.
“I am also particularly keen to get feedback from visitors and birdwatchers who travel to Hermaness from around the country and who know the reserve.”
Copies of the reserve proposals are also available at www.nnr-scotland.org.uk and responses can be emailed to email@example.com or keen_of_hamar_nnr@snh