Tuesday, 18 December 2012

FWAG relaunched in England

Following its demise in October, last year, FWAG has been relaunched in England as the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group Association to provide a habitat advisory service to farmers.  The relaunch has been facilitated by GWCT and supported by LEAF.  See the article in the Farmers Guardian.

FWAG Cymru is also operating as an independent organisation but there has been no sign of rebirth in Scotland.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

New National Centre for the Uplands launched

Photo: FWi
Congratulations to Julia Aglionby on her appointment as Director of the new National Centre for the Uplands, based at Newton Rigg College in Penrith.  See the Farmer's Weekly article for more detail.

The objectives set for the college include:

  • undertaking and publishing research into hill farming and land management
  • demonstration for research and training
  • running training programmes
  • organising events to stimulate discussion
These objectives will sound very familiar to supporters of The Heather Trust - they are very similar to ours, and as a result I have offered support for the programme of work at the new Centre.  It may be helpful to use the HT networks to spread the word about the Centre's activities throughout the UK.

CAP reform package delayed until 2015

Photo: FWi
It has been confirmed that CAP reform will not come into effect until 1 January 2015.  See the announcement in Farmers Weekly.

NFU president Peter Kendall has said that putting implementation back a year adds "a massive area of uncertainty that needs to be addressed going forward".  I fear that this is likely to be an understatement.

Friday, 30 November 2012

And the Environmental Champion award goes to ..........

I was nominated as the Environmental Champion as part of the Dumfries & Galloway Life magazine's People of the Year Awards.  

The awards were presented, yesterday, and I am delighted to say that I won, as the certificate demonstrates.  Fame at last!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Dartmoor - Pilot scheme for upland farmers

See the report from This is South Devon about a pilot scheme on Dartmoor that is giving farmers more say in how the land is managed.  It appears to be gathering speed and gaining support.

Fine and rare sporting book sale

David Grayling is hoping to retire in the next couple of months and with a view to clearing his stock is offering 30% off all the books on his website.

If he has a book that you would enjoy owning, reading or investing in, now is the time to buy!

This offer will be of interest to anyone with an interest in books on hunting, shooting, fishing, big game, hunting, natural history etc etc...
David has been a long term supporter of The Heather Trust and I am delighted to recommend him and support his sale.  I also wish him well for his retirement.

Delays to the CAP Reform Process

The article in the Teesdale Mercury sets the scene and flags up that delays in the reform process could cut the income to farmers from agri-environment schemes and the implementation of conservation friendly activity on the ground.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Moorland Forum posts

See the recent posts on the MF Blog:

Snaring developments in Scotland ahead of new legislation coming into force in April 2013.

New Chief Executive for the Cairngorms National Park Authority

Friday, 23 November 2012

Wildfire Prevention Seminars

The assembled delegates - Glen Tanar
Thank you to all who supported the Wildfire Prevention Seminars in the Cairngorms National Park, yesterday and last week.  I hope you enjoyed them, in spite of the interesting weather conditions, and benefited from them.  Photos are available: Laggan, Glen Tanar

The seminars were funded by the Cairngorms National Park Authority and I was working with Michael Bruce in his Firebreak Services capacity to deliver these seminars at Laggan on Speyside and at Glen Tanar, Michael's estate on Deeside.  We generated a good level of discussion during both seminars and this to me is a sign of success.  To give a feel for the content of the Seminars, the flyer can be seen on the CNPA website.

We would like to hold similar seminars in other parts of the country and would be pleased to hear from anyone who might be interested in this.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

New Chairman of the Moorland Association

Photo: Moorland Association
Congratulations go to Robert Benson on his appointment as chairman of the Moorland Association.  Robert is a member of the Trust's Board and he succeeds Ed Bromet, who is also a member of the Trust.  I look forward to working with Robert in his new role and supporting his work with the Moorland Association.  There is more information on the Moorland Association website.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Nature of Scotland Awards

The Nature of Scotland Awards is run by the RSPB and recognises and rewards those who are making a real difference to the conservation of Scotland’s beautiful landscapes and unique wildlife. The 2013 awards are open for entries on the 14 November 2012.

There are eight categories to enter, each identifying a different area of nature conservation: Marine Conservation; Sustainable Development; Politician of the Year; Innovation; Outstanding Contribution; RSPB Species Champion; Community Initiative; Education. 

It is free to enter to nominate those who should be rewarded for their conservation efforts.  The website has more information about how to enter, and the deadline for submissions is 15 March 2013.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Natural England - Uplands Delivery Review

This is the text of a letter I have received from Ian Fugler, Director Uplands at Natural England, that outlines the state of play with the Uplands Delivery Review.  I am pleased to be assisting with this process through Defra's Upland Stakeholder Forum and as part of the Evidence Review Group for Tracks.  

For those with concerns about the Evidence Review, note the final paragraph of the letter: there will be opportunity to provide your thoughts on how the Evidence Review feeds into the development of the advice that Natural England provides after completion of the review process, early next year.

Natural England
Mail Hub Block B
Whittington Road

Dear Simon


I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with a short update on progress Natural England has been making on its work in the uplands. I want to make sure Natural England strengthens working relationships with those who own and actively manage the uplands and make sure they, and other key stakeholders, have a good understanding of the role government has given us in delivering its aims in the uplands.

Through Defra’s Upland Stakeholder Forum we are consulting Government and key stakeholders about a wide range of our uplands work. I hope this will help improve the way we work with others in the uplands and provide clarity about our role and remit, about the outcomes we are seeking and about the evidence we will use; alongside investment in our relationships with key partners and stakeholders and in the capabilities and resources of our staff.

We have just recently published our Upland Strategic Standard which aims to ensure our upland customers and partners know that our decision-making and the advice we give is consistent, even if outcomes may differ and provide them with a good quality service, from confident, skilled advisors and specialists who know what they are doing for the natural environment and why. A copy of the document is available at http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/uplands/background.aspx .

More specifically stakeholders have provided us with a list of key concerns they have about the way we work currently. For example they told us that they feel the administrative burden of gaining consent for all works, however small, on grouse moors is unnecessarily high. In response we took a proposal to Defra’s Upland Stakeholder Forum to develop a suite of products including a revised ‘Moorland Management Plan’ approach which would allow all works to be proposed and consented in a single document. This proposal received conditional support from stakeholders on the group and we are developing it further with Defra and stakeholders. We will make sure Defra are made aware of the other issues raised by stakeholders and use the Forum to ensure resolution is achieved in transparent and consultative way.

Regarding the Uplands Evidence Review we want our stakeholders to be confident that we make sound, evidence-based decisions and operate robust and transparent processes. We are collating, reviewing and identifying any gaps in the evidence we hold on the effect of burning on peat, feasibility of restoring degraded blanket bog; the effects of track construction on moorland; livestock management and stocking rates and hay meadow management. The response from stakeholders has been very encouraging; we have received over 150 references from 18 separate organisations and interested individuals. These references, combined with the 1760 references uncovered by our librarians across the Tracks, Burning and Restoration topics and the 2500 across our Hay Meadows and Grazing topics, means that we are starting to build a significant body of evidence to review. We are currently screening the references that have been collected to date. Between now and Christmas, there will be an intense period of activity as the review groups whose membership includes independent academic appointments consider the evidence and produce their reports. These reports will then be considered by the overall Assurance Group and we plan to publish the results of the review in spring 2013.
We are also making excellent progress on stepping up our staff training to ensure that all our people are better able to deliver clear, high quality advice to our customers which is consistent with our standards. We are working with the Foundation for Common Land to train 60 conservation professionals each year in practical aspects of hill farm management. Business in the Community are funding the scheme which will be delivered by trained farmers at Newton Rigg College, Cumbria and the Duchy College in Cornwall with pilot schemes running this autumn and full roll-out next year. We will also make sure that the findings of the evidence review are fed in to our ongoing staff training programme so that our advice continues to reflect our standards.
In early 2013 we will need to consider any implications of this work for the development of our advice, together with practical, social and economic factors, and we hope that you will want to be involved at that stage. I will write to you again around that time to provide more detail on this. In the meantime please contact Alice Kimpton on the details above if you have any questions, suggestions or concerns.

Yours sincerely

Ian Fugler
Director, Land Management North and Uplands

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Friday, 26 October 2012

Annual Report Articles

Selected articles from the 2012 Annual Report are now available on the Trust's website.

The Annual Report is sent to all members of the Trust at the beginning of August each year and parts of it are made available to everyone on the website later in the year, with the authors permission in the case of external articles.

There is a full list of contents and the selected articles are available here.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Bracken control presentation

I gave a presentation at the British Crop Production Council Annual Weed Review conference (snappy little title!) yesterday.  This provided a summary of the current position with asulam products and also emphasised the two most important issues:

  • there is a route to maintain a supply of asulam products for bracken control after this year, and
  • it will be illegal to store asulam products after 31 December 2012; all stock must be disposed of.
The options for disposal are: apply the asulam product, use a local authority disposal facility, or if there is a significant quantity in sealed containers the manufacturer may be willing for the product to be returned, possibly for a small charge.

The presentation can be viewed on the bracken control website.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Heather Beetle Survey

The Trust continues to search for reports of heather beetle outbreaks, this year.  I have asked Patrick Laurie to contact everybody who submitted a report, last year, but from whom we have not heard anything this year.  Reports of no beetle activity, especially following a positive report, are as important as reports of rampant beetle attacks.

It may be that it has been a poor year for beetles, and they would not be alone in suffering from the unique weather conditions this summer, but the more information I can collect, the more I will be able to establish the pattern of beetle activity across the country.

The current state of play: attacks have been reported from all parts of the country.  The large-scale outbreak on Exmoor is continuing, but the equally severe attack on a large estate in Caithness appears to have retreated. The same is true of the outbreak on Langholm Moor,  in Dumfriesshire, where we have been carrying out a restoration trial following beetle damage.  This supports the hypothesis that beetle attacks last for about 3 years.

There have been some large scale outbreaks in the Peak District, this year, and as a result, representatives of Natural England are visiting Langholm Moor to inspect the restoration trial and to view the beetle damage to the heather. This will help Natural England to decide how to respond to the Peak District outbreaks.

We have set up a map showing the location of the 2012 reports on the website and you will see that the level of reports received so far this year is sparse.   In spite of the possible impact of the weather, I suspect that we have not tracked all the outbreaks this year, and I would welcome support from all moor owners and managers to collect as much data as possible.

The survey form is available from the website, but I would welcome information about the presence or absence of heather beetle outbreaks in any form.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Wildfire Prevention Seminars

The Trust has teamed up with Michael Bruce (Firebreak Services Ltd & Glen Tanar Estate) to run two seminars on Wildfire Prevention for the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).  The seminars, which will include a visit to nearby moorland, will take place on 13 November at the Gaskmore Hotel, Laggan, and on 22 November at Glen Tanar Estate.

Further details of the events, and how to apply for a place, are available in the flyers that can be downloaded from the CNPA website.   Although the seminars will be relevant to all parts of Scotland, and beyond, as these events are being funded through the Park, priority will be given to people from within the CNPA boundary.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Wider benefits of moorland management

Geoff Eyre + restored heather

Hunting makes an important contribution to the biodiversity of wildlife.  See the Country Diary article in The Telegraph by Robin Page on 9 October.

To whet the appetite:
"...where there were grouse there were usually other fantastic moorland birds too: curlew, lapwing, dunlin, golden plover, merlin and the elusive ring ouzel."

"...a degree of moorland management, actually started long before driven grouse shooting began seriously 150 years ago."

"If gold medals were given for heather moorland management and rare bird conservation, Geoff (Eyre) would bag several."  (The photo shows Geoff Eyre with some of his handiwork - part of Howden and Derwent Moors he restored to heather.)

Accounting for CO2 emissions from peatlands

Photo: Norrie Russell, RSPB
I am delighted to echo the IUCN's plea to the UK government to account for CO2 emissions from peatlands.  A decision has to be made now if peatland rewetting is to be included in the UK national greenhouse gas accounting for the next Kyoto Protocol commitment period 2013-2017.

Electing to account for Wetland Drainage and Rewetting in national climate change targets could give extra impetus for Government spend on peatland rewetting and it would be possible to bring all restoration work carried out since 1990 into account.  Also, it could pave the way for business funding through carbon markets; this could give extra reward to land managers who choose to restore peatlands that would help to make the work economically viable.

I recommend the IUCN briefing as a way of gaining understanding of what is proposed and there is more detail available in the longer briefing that is linked from the first document.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Flow to the Future project clears the first hurdle

The funding application for the Flow to the Future project is over the first hurdle and has passed the first stage of the application for Lottery funding.  Under the project, seven square miles of peatlands may be restored in Caithness.  for more details see the BBC news article and the article in The Scotsman.

The Heather Trust supported the application and it is good news that this first stage of the application has been successful.  It is an important step forward for everyone with an interest in making more of Scotland's 3 billion tonnes of peat and I look forward to supporting the project. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Golden eagle shot near Southern Upland Way

See the BBC news article for details of this completely defenceless act of mindless stupidity.  

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Restoration - a global perspective

Photo: Guardian.co.uk
See Katherine rowland's article in The Guardian, which describes some of the restoration work taking place around the world.  It's on an enormous scale.  Peatland restoration is not the only game in town.

Friday, 5 October 2012

AGM & Langholm Meeting

We had an excellent day for the AGM and discussion meeting at Langholm in Dumfries-shire, yesterday, and thanks go to Mark Oddy, the estate manager and chairman of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project Board, for hosting us.  Some photos of the occasion can be viewed here.

The AGM dealt swiftly with the business of running the Trust, and this was followed by a discussion meeting that focussed mainly on the work of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project.  The Project is now 5 years into its 10 year programme, and it was clear from the discussion that even though a large amount of very interesting work had been completed, there was plenty still to do.  I suggested that, if the project was able to review progress against the objectives set for the work, there were four areas that should be considered: predation issues, communications with the 'upland industry', a more challenging approach to muirburn and more monitoring of heather restoration areas.

The afternoon visit to Langholm Moor was very ably led by Simon Lester, the Head Gamekeeper, who has gathered a wealth of knowledge in a very short time.  Simon's Diary is well worth a read to learn more about the work he has been involved with.  The visit took place in sunshine, which has been a very rare commodity for Dumfries-shire, as was evidenced by the very wet state of the ground.

Thanks go to all who attended and helped to make the day work so well.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Peak District - 150 million beads of sphagnum moss

The Yorkshire Post has reported on the airlift of 150 million beads of sphagnum moss onto Black Hill in the Peak District to re-establish this moss, which forms peat.

For more detail about beads of sphagnum moss see the Beadamoss website.

Bracken Control - BBC Radio Wales

I was interviewed for the Country Focus programme that was broadcast on Radio Wales at 07:00 on 23 September.  For those not glued to their radio at 07:00 on a Sunday morning, or not living within Radio Wales coverage, the programme is available on iPlayer, until 30 September.

We got 12 mins of coverage and my words followed those of Mike Davies, from MD Air Services, recorded while working with a helicopter spraying bracken.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Defra: Upland Stakeholders Forum

I attended the third meeting of this Forum in London on 10 September.  The Forum met for the first time in July but a series of quick-fire meetings are being held to gather some momentum and reach a decision on its future role.  There will be two more meetings before the end of the year.

The Forum has been reviewing strategic upland issues and receiving updates from Natural England on the work they are engaged with (following the Walshaw Moor inquiry) that includes the Review of Upland Evidence and a revision of the consenting regime for work on Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  I have volunteered to provide some input to the review of the consenting regime and there is hope that it might be possible to introduce arrangements to allow some minor works to be granted deemed consent, providing there are adequate safeguards.

Other topics discussed include the review of the Less Favoured Areas regime, to become Areas of Natural Constraint, and I sneaked in a briefing about heather beetle.

The Moorland Burning Working Group will be providing an input to this Forum, and Arik Dondi from Defra, who is part of this Forum, has taken over as Chairman of the Burning Group.

A Hen harrier sub-group has been formed and this will be considering Hen harrier issues in conjunction with the Environment Council led initiative, which faces an uncertain future following the withdrawal of the RSPB.

It is good for the Trust to providing some input into discussions at this level in England and I am able to bring my experience of what is taking place elsewhere in the UK to the discussions.

In view of his responsibility for English upland policy, Adam Smith, GWCT Director for Scotland, joined the Forum at this meeting, and he will also be able to provide some cross-border input.

Natural England - Review of Upland Evidence

In view of my involvement with the tracks topic that forms part of this review, I thought it worthwhile providing a summary of the what is involved.  This is a rather wordier post than normal ones, but I hope it is informative.  The Natural England website has even more detail!

The key point is that I am supporting phase one only, at this stage.  This will be reviewing evidence not changing guidance or policy.  Phase 2 might be more interesting to those involved directly in management issues.

Reasons for the review:
·      An increase in scrutiny of the uplands - want to ensure stakeholder confidence
·      To make sound evidence-based decisions
·      Operate robust and transparent processes
·      Ensure compliance with environmental standards

Phase 1
This phase reviews current evidence and evidence standards including:
·      quality assurance;
·      relevance of evidence and appropriateness of analysis;
·      conclusions drawn;
·      clarity of communications and consistency of advice to customers and stakeholders.
 It will:
·      Identify and consider all relevant evidence
·      Identify gaps
·      Consider the effect of defined activities
·      Draw conclusions based on available evidence (including recommendations for future research)
It will not:
·      consider other relevant information such as socio-economic factors
·      recommend changes in management practices or operational guidance

Topics to be covered include:
·      Effects of tracks/vehicles on soil structure and hydrology, and their effects on biodiversity.
·      Effects of managed burning on peatland biodiversity and ecosystem services
·      Appropriate management regimes for sustaining biodiversity and upland hay meadows.
·      Determination of environmentally sustainable stocking regimes for moorland.
·      Feasibility of restoring degraded blanket bog including areas such as drainage, vegetation cover (peat forming species) and climate change.

Phase 2 
This phase has not yet been defined but will look at possible changes in advice provision for each of the topics,

Review Process
Evidence Review groups
·      will evaluate outputs from the evidence review, draw evidence conclusions, and summarise these.
·      Each group includes two expert  members on the topic being covered.
·      Timing: 14 September – 5 October
Assurance Review group 
·      will comprise a chair and two independent specialists who will check the soundness of  the topic reviews and their conclusions.
·      The Group will report  to the Natural England Science Advisory Committee (NESAC).
·      Timing: 5 – 26 October
Stakeholder Workshops
Natural England plans to hold a series of workshops to discuss initial findings for each topic in November 2012 and to publish a report in December.

"Research in the Flow Country" conference: 23-25 October

The Environmental Research Institute is hosting a peatlands conference in Thurso 23-25 October - "Research in the Flow Country: Linking Science to Society".  More details are available on the website

I am disappointed that I cannot attend (due to speaking about bracken control at another conference) but it does offer an opportunity to visit the Flow Country and learn about developments in peatland research.

IUCN World Conservation Congress

IUCN World Conservation Congress has been taking place on the island of Jeju, South Korea.  A huge programme has covered five themes linking nature to climate, food, development, people and governance, and to valuing life.  

Clifton Bain, from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, has been at the conference and no doubt discussions from this conference will feed into our work on peatlands.