Tuesday, 24 May 2011

2020 Vision

For those not aware of this project I recommend a wander around the website. There is a lot going on.

From the website you will gather that: 
  • 2020 Vision is a multimedia project that communicates the link between people's well being and the restoration of natural systems.  
  • Putting it another way, we're the PR agents for Bogs, Bees and Barn owls!
  • 2020 Vision is not a conservation project; it's about communication...and collaboration.
You will also see some stunning photography.

Country Market & Sporting Sale

The Sale season is drawing to a close.  Thanks again to all our supporters: the donors of Lots and cash, the Bidders, the advertisers and the catalogue promoters.  A large team of people combine to make the Sale a success.

We have now removed details of the unsold Lots from the website, but some items may still be available in the Stop & Shop section of the website.

As the dust settles, Clara will be shifting her focus to the 2012 Sale.  We will be contacting many of you individually to give you a bit more detail about this year's Sale, and would welcome offers of assistance, in any form, with next year's Sale.

We will be reviewing how the Sale worked this year and looking for ways that we can improve the organisation.  Several times in the past, we have considered shifting to an on-line system but have resisted this largely due to the cost and the difficulty of combining an on-line auction with the circulation of information about the Trust in the catalogue.  We will be looking at this again in the next few weeks, and would welcome any comments.

Scotland: Code of practice on deer management - Consultation

Deer+Code.jpgA consultation on the draft Code has been launched and responses have been requested by 1 July 2011.  Public meetings are being held in Inverness, Perth & Moffat.  More details are available from the SNH Website.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Fair Game: Scotland's Sporting Estates

This TV programme was broadcast last week, and for anyone who missed it, like I did, it is currently available on the BBC iPlayer, but I am not sure how long for.  It is worth a look.

The programme highlights the problem of the raptor-grouse conflict and although I believe it had some errors, both sides of the argument are presented.  But it is not only the birds that lose out from this impasse; I think that the raptor grouse conflict is a blockage to investment in our uplands areas by both the private and the public sectors.  In spite of this, with the exception of Prof Steve Redpath, a former Trust Board member, no-one was proposing any solutions.

The problems highlighted in this programme are deep-seated and have so far proved to be intractable.  Sitting in silos hurling bricks across the divide is not going to provide a solution, and I doubt that increasing the screw of legislation will solve the problem.  We need to find compromise and bright ideas are welcome.    I suggest that Steve Redpath needs more support. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

International Wildland Fire Conference 2011

Wildland Fire Conference 
I am delighted to be in Sun City, South Africa attending this conference. It is hard work, but in delightful surroundings.  Today was the first full day of the conference and the highlight of the opening ceremony was the enthusiasm, pride and singing of the ~1000 young firefighters who are involved in the Working on Fire programme. There are an interesting range of presentations tomorrow, but Thursday will be spent in the nearby Pilansberg National Park seeing a practical demonstration of the South African way of prescribed burning and fire control.  It promises to be impressive.

'Working on Fire' project equipment
Pilansberg National Park

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Asulam - the latest

My understanding of the story so far:  Asulam was due to be considered for re-registration on Annex 1 of the Sustainable Use Directive, which would allow us to continue using it for aerial application to control bracken.  Concerns were raised about a possible food safety issue linked to Asulam's use on other plants (e.g. spinach, sugar cane).  As a result, a recommendation was submitted to the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health for Asulam not be re-registered.  The Committee met on 11 March but due to a blocking minority of members on the Committee a discussion was postponed until the next meeting which took place yesterday and today.

The result from the Standing Committee meeting is a ‘no opinion’ on the proposed non-inclusion. The blocking minority appears to have grown in size (with thanks to those who have been lobbying hard).  The consequence is that this dossier becomes the first (apparently in the Commission) to be referred to the Appeal Committee, which must meet at least 14 days after notification by the Commission, and within six weeks.  Apparently this is a new procedure and it is not clear how it works or who attends.

I would like to think that today's news makes light at the end of the tunnel glow a bit brighter for Asulam, but time will tell.

Cost of wildfires damage mounting

See yesterday's STV report on the wildfire damage in Scotland.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

West Highland landowners unite to fight devastating wild fires

It is good to see the report from the John Muir Trust that organisations are working well together to control the fires in Coigach & Assynt.

Come on rain!

Country Market & Sporting Sale

Bids for the fascinating range of Lots offered for this year's Sale are coming in thick and fast.  See the website for more details.

You still have two days to make sure you do not miss the chance to bid; we are open to receive Bids by any means until 12 noon on Friday, 6 May.

Tel: 01387 723201  e-mail: info@heathertrust.co.uk

Wildfire burns swathes of Balmoral estate

Willie Fraser,
National Trust for Scotland
See today's article in The Scotsman.  This provides a useful summary of the current state of play.

It is early to start drawing any conclusions from this spate of fires, but here are some initial thoughts:

  • The excellent work of the Fire & Rescue Services (FRSs) is in support of the land managers from private and other estates, who are in the front line.  They are working alongside the FRSs using to the full their local knowledge, fire management experience and specialist equipment to help control these fires.
  • The value of this mutual aid between the public and private sectors cannot be overstated.  It is hoped that this will come out in the wash-up to these fires.  We need more resources to develop fire groups across the whole of the UK to harness the abilities of land managers and their specialist equipment to work effectively alongside FRSs to tackle wildfires.
  • Helicopters are invaluable tools for fighting large-scale fires on difficult terrain but it should be emphasised that they are usually provided by landowners, not by the Fire & Rescue Services.
  • Many of the fires are being started by carelessness - have we done enough to raise public awareness of the risks? 
  • Arsonists are a significant source of fire.
  • Very few fires appear to have started from out of control heather burning / muirburn.
  • Blame is often placed on smokers and discarded cigarettes.  I am not a smoker but I always feel that when the cause of a fire is not known someone blames the smoker, forgetting that fire is a natural phenomenon.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Wildfires in Northern Ireland

See the report from Northern Ireland - 376 incidents in 24 hours.  Note the statement: "..it is only a matter of time before someone loses their life."

Is that what it will take to start treating the wildfire threat seriously?

More on Wildfires

The post on 28 April has proved to be all too relevant.  The Fire & Rescue Services have had a very busy Bank Holiday weekend indeed.  A good source of information is the BBC website and the following two articles cover the latest situation:

Six People Airlifted from Torridon Wildfire
Crews continue battle with Highland Wildfires

The locations of the recent wildfires shown in the video report on the second link shows that the wildfire problem has been experienced across Northern England, Northern Ireland as well as Scotland.

These are serious incidents.  It is not just the 'harmless' burning of heather. There is a real risk to property and people - note that evacuation in Scotland has been considered and people had to be airlifted to safety or rescued by lifeboat.  In addition to the destruction of habitat that will adversely affect breeding birds at this time of year, there has been the economic loss associated with the destruction of recently planted woodland.

In these conditions, it is easy to get people to think about measures to reduce the risk of wildfire, but it is a shame that this enthusiasm appears to wane as soon as it rains.  I believe we need to take the risk of wildfire more seriously.  The indications are that climate change is going to produce hotter, drier summers that will serve to increase the risk of wildfires.

Against this background, it is very relevant that, with thanks to Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service for sponsoring my flight, I am attending the International Wildfire Conference in South Africa, next week.  I would be pleased to hear from anyone about wildfire issues either before or after the conference.  I will add key messages and a summary to this Blog during and after the conference.

In this country our wildfire threat is not as extreme as in other countries (see the recent photos from Texas) but we should not ignore the increasing risk.