The River Annan Trust (RAT) has received match funding from LEADER and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the delivery of a Community Engagement Project to support the objectives of the Restoring Annan’s Water (RAW) catchment management initiative.

The total grant award of £91,550 will be used to deliver a variety of educational, citizen science and engagement activities over the next two years. The aim of these projects is to raise awareness of the River Annan environment and the benefits of delivering river restoration. We will work to improve access to the environment across all sectors of the community and where possible assist with upskilling members of the public. Delivery of the Community Engagement Programme that will establish an engaged and environmentally minded community base that can contribute to delivering RAW restoration objectives.

River Annan Trust Secures Community Engagement Project Funding from LEADER and Heritage Lottery Fund

Background

The River Annan runs through the heart of the Annandale region of South West Scotland. As well as being an important area for farming, forestry and industry, the Annan catchment also supports a wide range of species and habitats. However, over time, the river and its surrounding landscape have been heavily modified by human activities, and there is a need for restoration of river and riparian environments to conserve the natural heritage of the Annan catchment.

The RAW partnership is comprised of statutory and voluntary environmental organisations with a shared vision to ensure that environmental best practice is delivered in our area. Partners include Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Dumfries & Galloway Council Biodiversity Partnership, University of Glasgow School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Borders Forest Trust, Woodlands Trust, Wild Trout Trust and Moffat Community Nature Reserve.

Led by the River Annan Trust, the RAW Community Engagement Project will raise awareness of the River Annan environment and the benefits of delivering river restoration. The Community Engagement Project will work to establish an engaged and environmentally minded community base that can contribute to delivering RAW restoration objectives.  The long-term aim of the Restoring Annan’s Water group is to restore the River Annan and its tributaries to a more natural state, bringing benefits to both people and wildlife in the Annandale area.

Engaging with the Local Community

Project delivery will begin in early September 2017 and the RAW Community Engagement officer will begin developing opportunities for members of our local communities to engage in the following activities;

Eels in the Classroom – Primary school education project to raise awareness of the issues facing the critically endangered European eel which has suffered a 95% decline in numbers since the 1970s. Weirs, locks, dams and flood-defences can all act as impassable obstacles to this tiny creature's heroic journey - pollution, over-fishing and parasite infections are other factors in their decline. The eel's epic journey and the obstacles it must overcome, provides a compelling example of an increasing challenge that faces all wildlife today and is the ideal subject.

Youth rangers - Young adults (aged 15-25) with opportunities to contribute to conservation work and develop new transferable and practical skills such habitat management/surveys, tree planting, wildlife monitoring, and invasive species control. It is anticipated that the youth rangers scheme will complement existing initiatives such as Duke of Edinburgh or John Muir awards by providing opportunities for young people to participate in conservation volunteering. Training will not be accredited; however, the River Annan Trust will award certificates to participants to acknowledge their contributions and achievements.

Landowner engagement –The RAW community engagement officer, with support from RAW partners, will engage with landowners and promote landowner participation in the project through attending local agricultural shows, collecting responses to a landowner survey, coordinating site advisory visits, and developing guidance publications on catchment management best practice. The Community Engagement Officer will work to build relationships with landowners within the River Annan catchment and identify opportunities for delivering practical habitat improvements.

Small-scale habitat restoration - Riparian and instream improvement schemes will be implemented with the assistance of volunteers. Restoration methods will include fencing to exclude livestock, riparian tree-planting, and green bank protection. Small-scale habitat restoration will benefit both landowners and the river environment by improving habitat for wildlife and reducing environmental impacts such as diffuse agricultural pollution and bank erosion.

Restoration workshops and seminars - A programme of restoration themed workshops will be delivered across the catchment providing learning opportunities to local interest groups and members of the public. Topics such as redd counting, green bank protection, riverfly monitoring, and natural flood management will be included in the programme.

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