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
Worcester
WR5 2LQ





Dear Simon

PROGRESS WITH THE UPLANDS DELIVERY REVIEW

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.