A Highlands and Islands MSP has warned that wildfires are a “clear and present danger” to the area, threatening endangered wildlife such as the capercaillie.
Jamie Halcro Johnston, who was reelected to his regional list seat last month, was speaking after fire crews were called out to a large blaze near Loch Morlich on Saturday.
Earlier that week, a 30-acre wildfire was sparked in Lochailort by a wildlife biologist who runs bushcraft courses in the area.
Mr Halcro Johnston said: “News of this fire [at Loch Morlich], close to some of our most important ancient Caledonian pine woodlands, should act as a warning to anyone thinking of visiting the Cairngorms National Park or indeed any of our wild or remote areas across the Highlands and Islands.
“Our region, as well as being a wonderful place to visit, is home to many of Scotland’s most iconic species, including the endangered capercaillie which breeds exclusively in the pine woodland in this part of Scotland.”
The Conservative MP acted as the ‘Species Champion‘ for the capercaillie during the last session of the Scottish Parliament, representing the interests of the rare bird in Holyrood.
Over the last week of May, chiefs in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service warned the risk of wildfires was “very high” across the country.
The most recent forecast by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) shows a number of places in the north-east and on Skye and the Western Isles still under threat from blazes.
Mr Halcro Johnston added: “Wildfires, especially after a sustained period of dry weather like the one we are currently experiencing, represent a clear and present danger to these precious habitats, and to the vulnerable wildlife that is dependent on it.
“They can also threaten homes and businesses, and put an extra strain on our emergency services and local volunteers who have the extremely challenging and often dangerous task of dealing with them.
“We all have a responsibility of care and consideration for the areas that we visit and that includes avoiding any risk of inadvertently causing wildfires.
“This latest incident really should be a reminder to everyone of just how vulnerable some of our most special places are.”