OTHER landowners are rewilding their estates, restoring forests, and talking about lynx reintroduction, but the Queen’s Balmoral shows no sign of changing from its current state as the iconic Scottish grouse moor estate. Isn’t it, some campaigners are saying, time the royals got more eco and dedicated their land to the ultimate public good, combating the climate and biodiversity crises?

What’s the problem with a grouse moor?

Probably most significant is the way it’s managed to boost the grouse population by a process known as muirburn - the controlled burning of heather, gorse bushes and grasslands – which destroys bushes, trees and other shrubs that might provide a habitat for other wildlife.

Who has been drawing attention to it?

Rewilding advocate,Guy Shrubsole, in an article in the excellent conservation newsletter, Inkcap, earlier this month, blamed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their purchase of Balmoral – which triggered the trend amongst the elite for grouse moor sporting estates - for the degraded state of Scottish uplands today. “The Royals started this trend,” he wrote, “and they have it within their power to end it. Given Prince Charles’ well-known environmentalism and Prince William’s nascent interest in it, what better time to do so?”

Shrubshole, author of Who Owns England?, is not alone in having postulated that our royals could be doing more to. Nick Kempe of the blog Parkswatchscotland has been urging Prince Charles to stop the moorland burning on the Balmoral estate and allow it to rewild. “The royal family is at the apex of sporting estate owners,” he said. “If they were to stop muirburn [moorland burning] then other Scottish grouse estates might follow.”

Why pick on Balmoral?

Perhaps it seems unfair to pick on the Queen and her grouse, when there is so much history around Balmoral and it certainly looks very lovely in episodes of The Crown. We could, of course, pick on other targets for rewilding like farms which are growing food and helping keep people alive.

Isn’t HRH a little bit behind-trend on this occasion?

Yes, that does seem to be so. Rewilding is on trend with some of Scotland’s other significant landowners, including Paul Povlsen at Glenfeshie, Paul Lister at Alladale and the recent announcement by Hugh Macleod, clan chief of Clan MacLeod that he intends to rewild his estate around Dunvegan Castle, Skye. Already Balmoral’s neighbouring, National Trust-run estate at Mar Lodge is seeing a young forest take root, following a zero tolerance approach to deer, it looks like the royal family may be last to jump on this latest biodiversity and planet-saving trend. When will they realise that it's now all about keeping up with the Povlsens?

But is rewilding likely to help save the planet?

A scientific study, published in the journal, Nature, in October found that restoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation could be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations.