Community groups, crofters, estate owners, foresters, conservationists, developers, tourism businesses, scientific experts and government agencies have teamed up to ensure that an international team of inspectors understands why the Flow Country deserves global recognition as Scotland’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Delegates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), tasked by Paris-based education, science, culture, communication and information body UNESCO to examine submissions for World Heritage nominations for natural sites, travelled the length and breadth of the Flow Country during five days of formal meetings and inspections from 28 August.
The evaluation visit provided a key opportunity for the inspectors to demonstrate and verify the contents of the detailed nomination dossier submitted to UNESCO in January this year.
Des Thompson (NatureScot) discussing the formation of microtopography with the assessors and project team (Sam Rose)
As well as receiving briefings from UK government, Scottish government and Highland Council officials, the IUCN team engaged directly with the dozens of local people and organisations backing the World Heritage site bid, as they visited every corner of the 200,000 ha. site, taking in the regions around Scraben, Munsary, Crask, Tongue and Forsinard.
The findings from the visit will now be reported back to UNESCO and a recommendation made to the World Heritage committee on whether the Flow Country will join natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon in being recognised by the global cultural institution for its outstanding natural attributes.
Project team members discussing the importance of the Flow Country blanket bog with the IUCN assessors
Dr Steven Andrews the Flow Country World Heritage Project Coordinator said:
“The inspection process has aimed to demonstrate that the Flow Country is the best example of a blanket bog landscape found anywhere in the world. It is globally recognised for sequestering more CO2 than all of the UK’s existing tree cover, while also providing unique natural habitats for rare plants and animals. We are immensely grateful for the input and enthusiasm of community members, scientific experts, businesses, landowners and public bodies from across the Flow Country for engaging with the inspection team and showcasing why the area so richly deserves worldwide recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.”
Cllr Raymond Bremner, Leader of The Highland Council said:
“It was a great pleasure, on behalf of rural communities across Caithness and Sutherland, to welcome UNESCO-nominated representatives to the Highlands and see what we have long recognised as an immensely special environment move one step closer to being recognised on a global stage. The next priority for us is now to be prepared to maximise the benefits that may spring from inscription if the nomination is successful.”
Frances Gunn, Chair of the Flow Country World Heritage Project Steering Group said:
“After so much hard work, and support of so many people accross the region, it is thrilling to see such a tangible marker of the progress in the nomination process. I would like to thank everyone who took part in promoting this massive opportunity for the environment, economy and culture of in the North of Scotland.”
The IUCN officials are now expected to report the findings of their inspection to UNESCO and provide a recommendation to the World Heritage committee who ultimately make a decision as to whether the nomination is successful or not.
A final decision is expected in mid 2024.