The first Scottish National Nature Reserve (NNR) to be declared was Beinn Eighe in 1951. Since then this elite club has grown considerably in both size and status, surviving various changes in nature conservation legislation and also differing incarnations of SNH who have responsibility for managing the standards and declaration process for NNRs.
In 2013 the count stands at 47 NNRs (down from over 70 reserves in 2004) covering some 95,835 hectares (370 square miles). In early 2012 the SNH Board reviewed the NNR suite and in August commissioned an NNR Partnership Group. The North Harris Trust is a member of the Partnership Group, representing the views and interests of Community Landowners. Other members of the Partnership Group represent the interests of Private Landowners, Local Authorities, Public Bodies, Voluntary Organisations, and Non-Governmental Organisations.
The original purpose of National Nature Reserves was to protect areas of valuable habitat. There are now several laws that provide specific and better protection for habitats and wildlife (which include Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, and Natura 2000 Sites). This provides the potential to define and create a new role for National Nature Reserves. The SNH Board have given the NNR Partnership Group a vision to steer the development of the future for National Nature Reserves. This vision can be summarised as,
National Nature Reserve status will be a national accolade awarded to sites on land or water with nature of national importance being managed to the highest standards for nature in the long term and for people to enjoy. The National Nature reserve accolade will be managed by a Partnership Group representing those who manage NNRs, and comprising Community, Private, Public, and Voluntary organisations.
Taken together NNRs will be the best of Scotland’s nature reserves.
The NNR Partnership Group has created two sub-groups to determine the selection criteria and the management standards for NNRs and to agree the promotional and communication strategy for NNRs. In addition to its membership of the NNR Partnership Group the North Harris Trust is also working on both of the sub-groups.
At this stage it is too early to predict if it will be appropriate for the Trust to apply for National Nature Reserve status on any part of the NHT estate.