Monday, 27 February 2012

Is the UK losing its taste for turbines?

Photo: The Guardian
The article in The Guardian provides information of reduced predictions for windfarm capacity by 2020 which suggest that the UK might be losing a taste for turbines.

For those who would like to know more about how these all too familiar, 'triffid-like' beasts operate, The Guardian provides a useful animation that reveals the anatomy of a turbine.

The Bellamy Trophy for Gamekeepers

Photo: Yorkshire Post
George Thompson, the gamekeeper on Spaunton Moor on the North York Moors has been awarded The Bellamy Trophy.  The moor is owned by George Winn-Darley, who is a member of The Heather Trust.

This trophy is the most prestigious national award for gamekeepers who promote countryside conservation and education.  For full details see the article in the Yorkshire Post.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Is Natural England shifting towards a better balance for the uplands?

Credit: Cumbria Commoners
See the views reported on the Cumbria Commoners website.  Talk of a move away from the Upland Vision document of 2009 is welcome and the constructive discussion with farmers on the ground about where and how to burn, optimum stocking levels and predator and raptor control would also be useful.

Here's hoping these statements will lead us to a better place.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Ilkley Moor - challenges ahead

Credit: Ilkley Gazette
Ilkley Moor is an example of the difficulties facing grouse moor managers in explaining the benefits that their management brings. The article in the Ilkley Gazette describes the challenges facing Edward Bromet, Heather Trust member and Chairman of the Moorland Association, who with partners has the shooting rights on Ilkley Moor.

If there is no shooting input, who will the manage the heather, reduce the spread of bracken, or control the predators?  If this work does not happen, will the moor just become another wildfire waiting to happen?

Tick Bite Prevention Week: 26 March - 1 April 2012

Feeding Tick ©BADA UK 
The link between the warm and moist conditions provided by the litter beneath bracken and sheep ticks is well established.  Sheep ticks can transmit Lyme disease to humans and can also pass a range of other diseases to birds and farm livestock.  In view of this threat to human and animal health, The Heather Trust is delighted to support the Tick Bite Prevention Week. 

Bracken control is an important part of moorland management and reducing the area of bracken, which is an ideal habitat for sheep ticks, helps to reduce the spread of Lyme disease; each year it is estimated that around 3,000 people in the UK contract Lyme disease from a tick bite.

The aim of bracken control is to prevent the plant spreading over large areas and smothering other plants.  Where this occurs, there can be an economic impact through loss of grazing and a reduction in shooting potential, and the range of plant and animal species present can be reduced.  There are virtually no winners and therefore the Trust believes that efforts to control bracken should be encouraged at every opportunity.

The ban on the main chemical control product, Asulam, when it comes into full effect, next year, is very significant and will reduce the ability of landowners and managers to control bracken.  The Trust is pleased to have been asked to coordinate the activity of The Bracken Control Group, which will be seeking to find a way to maintain a supply of Asulam until the product can be re-registered for normal use.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Kyoto Protocol and National Accounting for Peatlands

Work in progress on Exmoor (photo:ENPA)

The IUCN UK Peatland programme has published a briefing that describes the changes to accounting for peatlands introduced as a result of the conference in Durban, last year.

This information is not easy to digest, but the news is good in that drainage and re-wetting of peatlands can now be taken into account to meet emissions reduction targets.

This is recommended reading for all with an interest in peatland management.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

'Investing in Peatlands: Demonstrating Success' Symposium 2012

The symposium takes place at Bangor University in North Wales, 26 - 28 June 2012.  The symposium will assess how peatland restoration can safeguard biodiversity and deliver ecosystem services, such as climate and water regulation or preserving knowledge archives, and how challenges in knowledge gaps can be addressed.
This is the third of three conferences being organised by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme.  The website has more information and details of how to book. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

CAP post-2013 - What others are saying

This extract from the latest edition of Landscope from Smiths Gore gives a view of the direction that the ongoing discussions about the review of the CAP are taking.

Government commitment on greening
Defra has said that English farmers entering or renewing agri-environment agreements can subsequently opt out without penalty if they have to make changes to their agreements as a result of CAP greening.

CLA supports greening of CAP
Giving evidence to the open debate on the future EU farm policy, Professor Allan Buckwell, policy director of the Country Land and Business Association, said that the big theme in the reform is greening and not delivering on it would be a “wasted opportunity”. He supported channelling 30% of resources from Pillar 1 towards sustainable environmental management – saying that it would represent a 5-fold increase in current agri- environment expenditure and make the reform ‘highly radical’ although questioned whether a one-year system is the right one for delivering environmental goods. He said that it is logical that organic farming and agri- environment measures with the same higher environmental standards should be automatically entitled to the 30% allocation of direct payments under Pillar 1.

New argument developing on greening and bio-products
The European Commission seems to be politically manoeuvering to include energy crops and non-food crops for biofuels in the greening proposals for the CAP. Environmental bodies are likely to oppose the move but the Commission has recently published a report stating that the EU is in danger of losing its status as global leader in the field of biosciences unless funding is increased and policies, such as the CAP, support the sector.

Scottish Government consultation on proposals
The Scottish Government is consulting on the Pillar 1 and 2 proposals. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

England - Heather Burning Inquiry - More detail

Walshaw Moor Estate, South Pennines.  Follow the links for more background information about the Judicial Review and the Public Inquiry.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

England - Heather Burning Inquiry - Walshaw Moor Estate

See today's article in The Telegraph for the background and an update about the public inquiry that has been hearing the appeal by the Walshaw Moor Estate in the South Pennines against restrictions proposed by Natural England on heather burning.

Concerns about burning on blanket bog are at the centre of this issue; Natural England appear to want to restrict the burning cycle preferred by the estate.  The details of the inquiry are not yet available but the outcome, and the judicial review that follows it, will have a major bearing on the management of the English uplands that is likely to spill over into other parts of the UK.

The management of moorland for grouse is correctly reported as being the most significant factor on much of the English uplands.  It attracts the investment, that pays the wages of the gamekeepers, that produce the grouse, that attracts the guns, that provides the income to justify the investment and provides the financial benefit to the whole community.

While grouse might be the driving factor, we should not lose sight of the other benefits that management of our uplands brings.  Increasingly the wider benefits from management are being recognised: for agriculture, through improved quality of grazing; for biodiversity, through the increased species mix; for the ecosystem services, through amongst other factors, better quality water and better storage of carbon in peat; and for the landscape, by avoiding monocultures of invasive species such as bracken, scrub and coarse grasses.

A Heather Trust view is that it is possible to meet all these diverse objectives through an integrated, management approach.  To achieve this we must not stop the private investment in these areas and to justify this investment requires grouse production, and an appropriate burning regime.  To turn off the private investment is to condemn much of the uplands to becoming an unproductive, species-poor desert.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Thinking CAP: Upland Research & Management

The online booking facility is now available from the GWCT website.  For details see the earlier post, below.