A NEW strategic conservation plan to stop the decline of black grouse in southern Scotland has been launched.

The new plan has been funded by project partners the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Lammermuirs Moorland Group, Scottish Borders Council and RSPB Scotland

The long term decline of black grouse in the region has accelerated in recent decades, with numbers falling by 49% and 69% in south west and south east Scotland respectively between 1995/6 and 2005, to an estimated 807 and 257 males.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: "Black grouse are among Scotland’s most iconic and impressive species but I am aware numbers in southern Scotland have fallen in recent decades. To halt this decline, it is therefore vital that we work together to take the right conservation action in the right places.

"That is what this plan aims to do. By collaborating across many sectors – on work such as enhancing habitats, restructuring forests and maintaining our heathland network – we can contribute to efforts to conserve this magnificent woodland bird. I am very pleased to launch this plan and that the Scottish Government is able to support it through the Scottish Rural Development Programme."

The full plan is available to download from www.gwct.org.uk/blackgrouseplan