Countryside Rangers occupy a very special place in the public enjoyment of Scotland's landscape and the conservation of key areas of countryside.
Each Ranger Service is connected to a special area of Scotland, and is usually provided by the owner of that area, or the local authority: where to find Rangers.
Here are some of the main things Rangers carry out:
- Providing information to anyone who needs it about the countryside, wildlife and activities that take place there
- Carrying out interpretation of their area to explain the special qualities and set them in context
- Developing and leading opportunities for environmental education for all ages
- Planning for and protecting the natural and cultural resource they manage, including monitoring and advising on conservation issues
- Managing access provisions of the Land Reform Act on behalf of the local access authority, managing other recreation and monitoring visitors
- Emergency and safety planning
- Meeting with other local interests, such as other land owners, user groups and the local community to represent the interest of managing the area.
Clearly this list will vary from place to place.
Rangers may be involved in controlling wild animals on a mountain range or discouraging antisocial motor bike scrambling in an urban fringe – though by using different techniques!
Rangers could be working with volunteers planting trees on reclaimed waste land or cutting down rhododendron to encourage the undergrowth in a pine forest.
On successive days they could be hosting a visit from the local under-fives, leading a walk for tourists and giving an in-depth talk to a visiting university group.
With all these possibilities, how do Rangers choose what to do?
The main influences are:
- The needs of the area in their care as assessed by the Ranger Service
- The requirements of their employer
- Guidance from central government through Scottish Natural Heritage
- Demands of users or potential users of their area
- Possibilities for establishing the importance of conservation in the minds of neighbours, the local communities, local organisations and individuals are always given high priority
- Every Ranger brings special personal skills and interests to their job. This will influence how the job develops
- Rangers plan their activities and usually set targets, in agreement with their employer and Scottish Natural Heritage, or their National Park. Progress towards these targets will often influence Rangers work, so they need to be carefully chosen at the outset.
Rangers have special skills and qualities
- Knowledge and understanding of their area and its needs and the interests and needs of users and neighbours
- Abilities to carry out the required tasks, usually with limited resources
- Communication skills are central to the Ranger’s toolkit, illuminated by clear thinking and tempered by essential diplomatic skills
- The Ranger is required to understand and care for the inherent qualities of their area, this will lead to a nurturing and protective response. The Ranger needs a thorough knowledge of environmental issues, ecology and biology of the species and habitats in their care and the possibilities for improvements and hazards of decline or invasion by other species they face.
- Determination and purposefulness will be required of Rangers to persevere through the setbacks and difficulties that any creative project will throw up.
- Much of Rangers work revolves around changing other peoples attitudes. Rangers need to be persuasive! To achieve this they must be – and must be seen to be – genuinely convinced of their purpose and in full possession of the facts and authority to act. Rangers rarely have legal powers of enforcement and usually rely on convincing people of the right thing to do.
- As public servants – in fact or by perception – Rangers need to be outgoing and inclusive in their approach to others, particularly to members of the public
- Rangers are often the main, or only, source of information and regularly keep methodical records for sharing with the public later. The ability to make records and keep them in a useful way, whether it is photographs, wildlife sound recordings, measurements or anecdotes, is a skill many Rangers use daily.
These special skills require advancing and practising
This is why Rangers have formed the Scottish Countryside Rangers Association, for mutual support, networking, training and representation.