Why does the Flow Country deserve World Heritage status?
The proposed Flow Country World Heritage Site straddles Caithness and Sutherland, lying at the heart of one of the largest areas of blanket bog in the world. This globally rare habitat includes a wide range of peatland vegetation, bog pools and of course many important bird species.
The Flow Country is considered the best habitat of its type, anywhere in the world. It is the quality and extent of the blanket bog habitat that gives this site outstanding universal value and justifies its current position on the UK’s tentative list for World Heritage Site status. The peat throughout this remarkable ecosystem records the history of the plants, animals and people who have made this region their home for thousands of years.
In addition to being a globally-rare type of peatland, blanket bog has been recognised as an important habitat for the environmental services it provides. The blanket bog of The Flow Country stores an incredible amount of carbon (100 million tonnes!) and healthy blanket bog continuously removes carbon from our atmosphere. These peatlands also act as a natural filtration system for the rivers and streams that run off it; thus, providing cleaner waters for our fish and other aquatic wildlife.
How could a World Heritage Site help the communities of Caithness and Sutherland?
There isn’t another World Heritage Site quite like the Flow Country in the UK, so it would be impossible to say exactly what the benefits would be. From looking at other, similar sites, however, we have a good idea about the sorts of opportunities that a World Heritage Site could offer for Caithness and Sutherland.
In many ways, a World Heritage Site is what the local communities make of it. Accommodation providers could benefit from new customers who want to stay in a World Heritage Site; local businesses could mark their produce with a globally-recognised brand; school pupils and university students could learn in an environment recognised as the best of its type in the World and tour operators could offer guided excursions across a World-class habitat.
It will be up to the people of Caithness and Sutherland to determine which opportunities they choose to take and how this new accolade helps to shape the future of the counties.
What happens next?
Over the next year, our team will be putting together a technical evaluation which will argue the case for the Flow Country becoming a World Heritage Site. This technical evaluation will go to the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who will decide if we can progress to the next stage.
If we are successful, we will proceed to make a full application to UNESCO, who will ultimately decide whether or not the Flow Country becomes a World Heritage Site.
It is a long process, but the rewards could be huge!
While all of this is happening, we will be carrying out a community consultation, which will give everyone the chance to have their say on the idea of a World Heritage Site in the Flow Country. There will be drop-in events in Spring 2019 and there will be plenty of updates on this website and across our social media platforms, so watch this space!
We would love to hear your thoughts and questions, so please feel free to contact us using any of the following methods:
Post: Joe Perry, Highland Council Offices, Drummuie, Golspie, KW10 6TA