A 2020 survey of riders in the Cairngorms National Park, the last remaining stronghold for capercaillie in the UK, revealed that almost all riders feel responsible for the environment they ride in and are willing to change behaviours to help protect the environment.
To help riders deliver their own solutions for capercaillie, the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, which is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, made £100,000 available. But to access this the mountain biking community had to develop workable solutions.
Supporting our mountain bike community to develop varied and sustainable mountain bike trails and promoting our responsibilities as riders is key to our role within DMBinS and our Highland Coordinator, Ruari Watt is an integral part of the project.
Ruari has been working closely with Douglas, the project, the local trail association and the wider riding community as part of the Highland Bike plan and an important part of this, within the Cairngorm National Park, is to help develop a network of amazing mountain bike trails, both for locals and visitors, with the protection of the capercaillie at its heart.
Much work was needed to gather accurate data on these trails, especially those in sensitive capercaillie areas. The data that has been collected by Douglas's work has been used to create maps for the Trail Feathers group; a group of local mountain bikers who’ve been working with the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project for over a year now.
Having access to accurate maps and data will now allow the group to make more informed decisions regarding mountain bike trail use, development, maintenance, and the promotion of trails, especially during sensitive times of year for capercaillie.
Small changes in riders' behaviour can make significant impacts on capercaillie habitats. Often riders are not aware of how easy it is to negatively impact caper, or conversely how simple it can be to minimise or remove impacts, or actually improve the quality of capercaillie habitats.
If you are interested in mountain biking being part of a bigger conservation movement, have a read of Douglas's report.
A really interesting but challenging project, which is seeing local mountain bikers develop their plans into something which can achieve the projects objectives. Awesome to see mountain bikers have a voice in a wider conservation effort.