After twenty two years leading the biggest wildlife conservation charity in the country, Stuart Housden is to step down as director of RSPB Scotland at the end of May 2017.
Recruitment to fill the post that is responsible for the largest nature conservation estate in Scotland will begin before Christmas with a view to holding interviews early in the New Year.
Stuart will continue working for the RSPB until he retires in October 2017, focussing on strategic corporate projects to help the organisation's transition through the impacts of Brexit - including the need to maintain the regulatory standards of the European Directives and wider public policy reform.
The RSPB now works across all four countries of the UK and overseas. In response to welcome on-going devolution and the increasing need to be open and accountable in each of these jurisdictions the governance structure of the organisation will also be strengthened in the coming months, enabling RSPB Scotland's "Committee for Scotland" to represent the charity more effectively at a country level. In parallel the RSPB will establish a new committee to oversee and guide its work in England - meaning each of the four countries of the UK will have its own bespoke committee and director.
RSPB Scotland is now a key player in bringing forward ground-breaking conservation solutions to the problems that are causing declines in nature and impacting the wider environment, with its influence extending well beyond its own nature reserves where its ideas are tested and costed; in recent years the organisation has played a pivotal role in the defence of important sites and habitats from damaging developments, the extension of Marine Protected Areas around Scotland's world-renowned coastline, helping to make forestry and farming practices more sustainable and wildlife-friendly, the restoration of vast swathes of the Flow Country, helping to shape and deliver the Wildlife and Natural Environment (WANE) Act, and tackling on-going wildlife crime.
Under Stuart's leadership RSPB Scotland's landholding has grown to encompass 77 nature reserves, from the far north of Shetland down to the Galloway coast, and from the Western Isles to the coast of Aberdeenshire, totalling some 177,985 acres (72,028 hectares). It is the biggest nature conservation estate in Scotland and supports thousands of rare and threatened species, with many designated sites including Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Areas (SPA), RAMSAR Sites, National Nature Reserves (NNR) and more.
In addition the partnerships and direct investment created by the charity support crofting, farmers and rural businesses. RSPB Scotland employs approximately 350 full time staff in some of the remotest areas of the country, represents 80,000 supporters and members in Scotland, and is privileged to have more than 1,800 volunteers contributing over 120,000 hours of time to help realise its conservation goals every year.
Professor Colin Galbraith, the Chairman of RSPB Scotland's advisory committee and one the Board of Trustees that governs the RSPB, said: "Stuart has made a great contribution to nature conservation in Scotland over many years. He has been instrumental in shaping the work of RSPB across the UK, and has been a fantastic advocate for the organisation and for wildlife conservation more generally. He leaves a legacy in the organisation to be proud of; providing a sound basis for the future. Whilst the next few years will undoubtedly be challenging, the new structure and ways of working being put in place now will help continue to demonstrate RSPB's commitment to working locally across all parts of Scotland and the UK".
Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: "I feel so enormously privileged to have had the opportunity to lead such a dedicated and outstanding team of people striving to improve the fortunes of Scotland's magnificent nature and environment for these past 22 years. Scotland has the very best of the UK's nature - from the majestic peaks of our Munros to the teeming mudflats and wetlands of our unrivalled coasts - there is simply no other part of the UK with the rich diversity, scale and importance of the habitats that are here. We must treasure and invest in this resource for all our sakes.
"So much of Scotland's business and commercial interests rest heavily on the outstanding quality of its environment and landscape; ensuring that this quality remains and that it can continue to underpin and contribute to the country's economic success and prosperity whilst delivering much needed wider benefits for the public's enjoyment and recreation is absolutely critical. I am confident that RSPB Scotland will continue to go from strength to strength and build on past success for the future."
Stuart Housden is a Zoology graduate and was President of the Union at Royal Holloway College, London. He joined the RSPB in 1976, and was involved in policy development on protected areas, forestry, farming and wetland conservation.
From 1989 Stuart headed all the RSPB's policy work, including Government affairs, land use, planning and development casework, marine and species matters, with a department of 44 specialists. Stuart trained in strategic business management at Henley and became the Director of RSPB Scotland, based in Edinburgh, in 1994.
Stuart manages around 350 full-time staff in Scotland including conservation science, ecology, land agency, policy, media and education specialists. His team manage a diverse conservation estate of 72,028 hectares (177,985 acres), much of which is farmed in hand, or managed with graziers, crofters and other local partners.
Stuart has participated in many Scottish Government forums and groups including the Government's Rural Development Council which he chaired. He was a member of the Crown Estates' Scottish advisory panel, the National Trust for Scotland and currently sits on Scottish Power's Environmental Forum.
Stuart was awarded an OBE for services to nature conservation and biodiversity in 2005 and in 2009 was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the SAC for services to agriculture and conservation.
He lives in Edinburgh and is a member of the National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, British Trust for Ornithology, Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, Plantlife, Butterfly Conservation and the RSPB. In his spare time Stuart enjoys travel, visiting museums and art galleries, watching rugby and supporting conservation projects overseas. Stuart is steadily introducing his grandchildren to the wonders of the natural world starting with the garden birds and 'beasties' that can be found in and around Edinburgh and Perth.
Stuart will step down from his role at RSPB Scotland at the end of May 2017.