Saturday, 27 February 2010

English & Welsh Wildfire Forum

I attended what was almost an inaugural meeting of this Forum on 23 - 24 February in Northumberland.

The Forum had been established by Essex Fire & Rescue Service (FRS), almost as an offshoot to the Scottish Wildfire Forum(SWF) (of which I am also a member) but progress had faltered.  Northumberland FRS have now taken over and this was the first meeting under their management.   One of the outcomes was that the Forum should encompass Welsh interests and would be referred to as the English & Welsh Wildfire Forum - it remains to be seen whether this will introduce any tensions into the management of the Forum.

I think it important that the Trust has an input to this Forum.  Land management interests are represented by the Moorland Association and the Country Land & Business Association but I think our overview, our links to the SWF and links to other parts of England & Wales means that we can add Heineken value - 'reach the parts that others cannot reach'.

Other important role for the Trust is to provide a link to (prescribed) heather burning.  My involvement with the Moorland Burning Working Group in England is important here and the FRS view that all fire is bad needs to be diluted with experience of using fire as a management tool.

I hope that this reinvention of the Wildfire Forum will be successful.  I believe it has an important role to play.

Moorland Association - Upland Policy Guide

I was pleased to be invited to attend the launch of the Upland Policy Guide in London on 22 February.  I had some input into the draft document along with 5 other organisations.  The Guide provides 21 recommendations about how the next Government should improve policy to safeguard and extend integrated grouse moor management.  Amongst other issues, the recommendations cover:

  • regeneration of heather moorland (703 sq mls has been lost);
  • land owners and managers should work closely together to achieve an agreed plan with minimal burden and cost on government agencies;
  • predator control should be carried out to boost declining bird populations; and
  • heather must be managed.
What do you think about this document?  Has it missed anything?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Scotland: Land Use Strategy

The ground breaking Land Use Strategy, which is a requirement under the Climate Change legislation, is reaching the Discussion Workshop phase.  Details of the workshops that will be held around the country are now available on the website.  This is an important process and all those with an interest in the use of land in Scotland should consider contributing to it.  

Not surprisingly, I am concerned that the moorlands &  uplands get a fair representation.  I maintain that there is a policy gap that is in danger of leaving the upland areas without sufficient protection from competing land uses.  Within Scotland's Moorland Forum, we are considering the development of a document to plug this policy gap and this will feed into the Land use strategy process.

Is there enough protection for our moorland and upland areas or are we in danger of losing these areas to other land uses?  The expansion of the upland forestry to meet the governments aspiration to increase the amount of cover from 17% to 25% is a threat.  FCS are currently projecting the use of up to 10% of the existing heather ground for this purpose.  Does this make sense?

Scotland's Moorland Forum - Upland Solutions project

With the support of members of the Forum, we have been developing the Upland Solutions project which seeks to work with people on the ground in two study areas (Muirkirk & Upper Findhorn).  The Forum seeks to establish people's views about the opportunities for their areas in two workshops.  The Forum will contribute to the discussions and apply the experience that the 30 member organisations can provide.  We also hope to identify any blockages to progress and we will report the findings to contributors, other people in the areas, agencies and government.

The workshops will be held in the Muirkirk area on 25 February and in the Upper Findhorn area on 4 March.  More details are available to download from the Moorland Forum website.

Scotland's Wild Places

A two-day conference and discussion forum on Scotland's Wild Places will take place on 13th and 14th May 2010 at the SNH Battleby Conference Centre.   The event is organised by the Centre for Mountain Studies in collaboration with Leeds University (Wild Land Research Institute),  Lochaber College,  Scottish Wild Land Group,  SNH,  the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the John Muir Trust.  More information from Scotland's National Rural Network site.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Scotland - Sheep Tagging

New details of how the scheme will be introduced and the funding that is on offer can be obtained from the SG website.

Whatever your views on Sheep tagging (EID) at least the measures are not being introduced without support.