Trump's golf course sand dunes could lose protected status
Scottish Natural Heritage said special features at US President's resort had been eroded.
Sand dunes at Donald Trump's Aberdeenshire golf resort may lose their status as a protected wildlife site.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said there is no longer a reason to protect the dunes at Menie as they do not include enough of the special features for which they were designated a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
Trump International described the move as a "stitch-up" and said SNH had hit an "all-time low".
The designation is given to areas with rare species of fauna or flora, or with important geological or physiological features.
Friday marks the beginning of a three-month consultation on the future status of Foveran Links SSSI, of which the dunes at Menie form part.
Mr Trump was granted permission to build a golf course at the site despite concerns about damage to the dunes and Trump International Golf Links opened in 2012.
SNH said evidence showed permanent habitat loss following the construction of fairways and greens, and that the stabilisation of mobile sand "has destroyed the dynamic nature of the site".
Sally Thomas, director of people and nature at SNH, said: "The denotification of SSSIs is unusual, however in this case we have found there is no longer a reason to protect the dunes at Menie as they do not include enough of the special, natural features for which they were designated.
"We work with developers across Scotland to ensure habitats and wildlife are protected when development work is undertaken.
"Most of the time, development can take place without damaging important natural features, but this was not the case in this instance."
SNH said evidence showed around a third of the special habitats at the Menie section of the Foveran SSSI had been damaged.
"The remainder of the habitats in the Menie area have been significantly fragmented, and ecological processes disrupted," it said.
Following the consultation the remaining SSSI at Foveran Links are expected to be merged with the adjacent Sands of Forvie and Ythan Estuary SSSI.
'The remainder of the habitats in the Menie area have been significantly fragmented, and ecological processes disrupted'Scottish Natural Heritage
Sarah Malone, executive vice-president at Trump International, said: "This is an utter disgrace and shows SNH has hit an all-time low.
"To make an announcement to the media before informing us, the actual landowner, shows how politically-motivated this decision is. What other SSSI landowner is singled out in this way.
"It's a stitch-up. Before Donald Trump invested in the site, SNH had little interest in the SSSI at Foveran Links and did even less about it, and has barely been on property since."