Donald Trump’s Scottish golf resort may have so damaged sections of the country’s famous dunes in Aberdeenshire that they may no longer merit special scientific status and conservation protections, according to a BBC documentary.
An official of Scottish Natural Heritage, the government conservation agency, told the BBC that the Trump International Golf Links have damaged a section of the 4,000-year-old Foveran dune system and destroyed wildlife habitat. If destruction is too severe, all or parts of the area may no longer merit official classification as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are some 1,400 such sites in Scotland. Most of them are privately owned, but certain activities are restricted, and officials work with owners to help protect the environment.
Experts from the agency will examine the dune system and issue a report sometime next month. The dunes are a dynamic system that reacts to climate, winds and changes in the earth, and they move north as much as 36 feet a year. The land now, however, has been changed by groomed greens and fairways on Trump’s 18-hole course.
“As expected, there are areas where there has been some permanent habitat loss — for example, where tracks, tees, fairways and greens have been constructed,” a spokesman for the heritage agency told the BBC. “There have been other habitat changes where, for example, mobile sand dunes have been stabilized through the planting of marram grass.”
Scotland gave permission to Trump to build the controversial golf course in 2008, and it opened in 2012. The potential risk to the dunes was supposed to be offset by a golf course design that was sensitive to the environment. The resort was also expected to be a major boost to the local economy. But the dunes have been harmed, and the resort hasn’t been a financial success. The Aberdeenshire links and another Trump operation in Turnberry lost $23 million in 2016, double the losses of the previous year, The Associated Press has reported. Former First Minister Alex Salmond this week blasted Trump for failing to deliver on what he promised to invest in the area.
Trump’s company has applied for permission for a second golf course on its Aberdeenshire estate — even though Trump promised he would make no new foreign deals “whatsoever” while he’s president. The proposed course has been met with environmental objections.
Sarah Malone, a spokeswoman for the Trump operation, said the company doesn’t care about a change in status for the dunes. But she said the site was chosen in part because of the dunes, so “why would we do anything to damage them?”
In one of his first meetings as president-elect with a foreign leader, Trump infamously tried to talk Nigel Farage, then head of the UK Independence Party, into campaigning against wind turbines off the Scottish coast because they interfered with the view from his golf resort.
Trump’s company lost a court case to block development of the wind farm.