Friday, 27 August 2010

Scotland: Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill - Call for Views

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs and Environment Committee is seeking views on the general principles of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill. The Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 9 June 2010 and it is expected that the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee will be designated lead Committee for scrutiny of the Bill’s general principles. The Scottish Government has produced a Policy Memorandum and Explanatory Notes, including a Financial Memorandum, to accompany the Bill.

The closing date for written submissions is Wednesday, 1 September 2010.  The Committee prefers to receive written submissions electronically in Word format, and prefers that responses do not exceed 4 A4 pages in length, if possible.  These should be sent to:

From the Trust's perspective, I am principally concerned with the Muirburn provisions.  In general, I am happy with these, as they represent a big step in the right direction.  The price is losing the ability to burn above 450m (1,500ft) to 15 May - I think this is reasonable.  

My one area of concern is the neighbour notification provisions.  We have forsaken the opportunity to apply common sense and introduced a bureaucratic system which once again is likely to be largely ignored.  However, this is not a deal breaker and I hope that the land management community will be able to benefit from the increased flexibility that these changes will introduce.

For those wanting more detail, the Muirburn section in the Explanatory Notes starts at paragraph 145, and the financial section on muirburn at paragraph 252.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wales: Glastir Scheme - New application period

The Welsh Assembly Government has announced that the application period to join the All-Wales element of the Glastir scheme will run from October 4th to November 22nd 2010.  This is to accommodate a final change to the scheme's options in direct response to discussions with the farming unions.  

See the Welsh Assembly website for more details. 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands

I contributed to the review of 'Policy Options for Sustainable Management of UK Peatlands' which is one of eight scientific reviews of priority topics carried out as part of the Commission of Inquiry.

All eight Reviews are now available to download and the Commission is inviting interested organisations and individuals to respond to the draft Reviews.  Responses should be sent by e-mail to the Inquiry team at as soon as possible and no later than Monday, 20 September 2010.

The draft reviews will be discussed at the upcoming 'Investing in Peatlands - the Climate Challenge' conference at Durham University on 28-29 September 2010.  For more information, and to register for the conference, visit

The Commission of Inquiry will also examine wider issues of relevance to policy and land management practice and therefore it is keen to receive general views on the priorities for delivering peatland restoration.

An Open Inquiry event is to be held at the University of Edinburgh on 3 November 2010 which will take oral evidence based on these submissions.

Phytophthora Ramorum and Kernoviae

Stem lesions on Bilberry
For those still struggling with pronunciation try:  "fy-toff-thora"

These two, linked diseases reportedly attack heather, although their common name of "Sudden Oak Death" gives an indication of the preferred host.  Apparently this disease is more of a threat in England and Wales than in Scotland, although I do not think that there is any scope for complacency anywhere.  There have been several hundred recorded outbreaks in England & Wales, but only 29 in Scotland.

The main host for spreading the diseases is Rhododendron but of concern is the outbreak that has been reported in Japanese Larch in SW England.  The diseases capacity for affecting heather & bilberry (blaeberry) is not yet clear, although these species are reported as hosts.

For those seeking to know more and to see photographs of the disease, I suggest that Scottish Government's website that has links to the guidance available on the Food & Environment Research Agency's site.

A programme of inspections, control and monitoring is underway throughout the UK and it is clear that vigilance and early treatment of outbreaks will aid the control of this new pest.  I recommend that all owners of woodland, especially those containing exotic plants, should take the time to familiarise themselves with this disease.  Owners of moorland need to be on their guard and I will aim to keep you up to date with further developments.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Annual Report 2010

The Annual Report has been published and circulated to all members of the Trust and a selected wider audience.  It is not available on line, but a list of contents is included on the Trust's website.

As the Report is produced each year, there is always a debate about what topics to include and what to leave out.  I try to achieve a balance between the relatively dull reporting of the Trust's year with guest articles, which generally make more interesting reading.  Rather than this eclectic mix of articles there has been a suggestion that the guest articles should focus on a particular theme each year.  An alternative might be to include a specialist section on a particular topic that could perhaps have articles from different viewpoints.

I would welcome any views about this.  As I get older, the Policemen get younger and the next Annual Report only seems to be days away.

Board members might like to comment on whether we should be placing the guest articles on the web - there has always been the concern that this dilutes the impact of the main publication.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Wales - Glastir - Common Land Element

Details of the Common Land Element have been announced.  This information is extensive but contains a useful summary of the overall scheme.

Glastir will replace the four existing agri-environment schemes from 1 January 2012.  It is a 5 year whole farm sustainable land management scheme available to farmers and land managers across Wales. The scheme pays for the delivery of specified environmental goods and services aimed at combating climate change, improving water management and maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. The scheme is also designed to deliver measurable outcomes at both a farm and landscape scale in a cost effective manner.

Glastir consists of three elements: 
  • All-Wales Element (AWE) - a whole farm land management scheme which is open to application from all farmers and land managers throughout Wales.
  • Targeted Element (TE) – a part farm scheme intended to deliver significant improvements to the environmental status of a range of habitats, species, soils and water that might also require changes to current agricultural practices.
  • Common Land Element - designed to provide support for the delivery of environmental benefits on common Land.
'It would be boring if it was easy'.  As more details of the scheme emerge, the number of hoops that have to be jumped through increases.  The Scottish Rural Development Programme has been described as a scheme for professionals, as it is difficult to understand unless you are dealing with it all the time.  In view of the need to satisfy the EU regulations, it is almost inevitable that Glastir has to go down the same route.  

Wouldn't it be nice if we could cut the bureaucracy; reduce the size of the army needed to set up, and monitor these schemes; and leave land managers to spend the time and effort doing what they do best.