Friday, 28 June 2013

Donside estate wins new moorland management award

We have teamed up with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to present The Golden Plover Award for Moorland Management, a new award which recognises progressive, innovative and environmentally sensitive moorland management.  The award will be presented to Edinglassie Estate, Donside at the Scottish Game Fair on Saturday, 6 July.  Edinglassie Estate wins this award in recognition of its consistent performance in all areas we considered and its continuing awareness of best practice and innovation. 

Artist, Colin Woolf, has kindly donated a framed special edition print with original pencil remarques to be presented to Edinglassie. The picture is an extract from this print of a commissioned watercolour portrait of a Golden Plover, which will be on display at the Scottish Game Fair.

The press release has quoted me as saying: 
“The aim is for a winner that is an example for others to follow. In making our choice, consideration was given to sporting and farming interests, the key traditional land uses, but critically included management for a range of other purposes, such as conservation and improvement of ecosystem services. A wide range of entrants were considered but Edinglassie rose to the top.” 

Adam Smith, Director Scotland, GWCT commented: 
“The concept of this award is to bring to the fore all the superb work being done to effectively and economically manage our heather moorland so it is a healthy and sustainable environment. Edinglassie is an ideal recipient and has long been regarded as a consistent and high achiever in moorland management. We hope this award will instil a healthy competition amongst Scotland’s moor owners.” 

The intention is that this becomes an annual award that will be open to land owners, estates, land managers, farmers, gamekeepers, sporting tenants, syndicates and any other individual or group with an interest in high quality moorland management and aims to encourage and promote good practice.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Members' Briefing: Peatland Management

While I was away for a few days holiday, during May, Patrick added a Members' Briefing onto the website about Peatlands.  In my absence, this went unannounced and as is the way of such things, there is a danger of it sitting on the website without anyone spotting it.  This post and the associated Tweet is aimed at giving the fanfare the briefing deserves.

The world of peatland management and restoration is developing fast, but this briefing still provides a good value summary of where we have got to and the direction that is being taken with the development of policy.

The biggest development sine the publication of this briefing has been the issuing of the draft Peatland Carbon Code, which is available for consultation until 21 June.  This is a significant stepping stone towards the development of a carbon market.  I will be commenting on this draft as part of my work of the Peatland Working Group of Scotland's Moorland Forum.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Heather Trust Annual Report

The Annual Report is published in early August each year and it is aimed primarily at members.  However, we also circulate copies to people who support us and have an interest in the work we do.  We are in full production mode at the moment and this is a lot of work for us to do, but as ever I am very grateful for the contributions we are receiving from guest authors we have invited to contribute an article.

The first half of the report is the relatively mundane report on the Trust's activities, but the second half gets more interesting with the guest articles introducing a wide range of topics.  We publish the guest articles, with authors' permission, on the web site at about the time of the AGM in early October, and you can get a feel for the type of articles by looking at last year's articles on the website.

We would welcome any suggestions for additional articles (if they can be produced quickly) - it's a quick, easy and cheap way of getting your views into print.  If anyone is feeling left out of the distribution of the Annual Report, the solution is simple - become a member.  It's easy!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Phytophthora Ramorum in action

Many may think this disease only happens on a small scale to someone else.  The photo that I took last week shows part of a large area of damaged larch trees on land owned by the Forestry Commission at Glen Trool in Galloway.  It is a murky photo as it was taken on a murky day.  All the trees will have to be clear felled, which is the only defence against this disease.  Other types of the disease are out and about and if you think you ought to know more about the phytophthora diseases have a look at the Members' Briefings on the Trust's website.  So far the disease is not affecting heather, but it might do.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Peatland Restoration on Dartmoor

The peatland restoration message appears to be causing some indigestion on Dartmoor.  See the article from the Western Morning News, which highlights the concerns of the Dartmoor Society about the impact of the  ongoing restoration work on 20,000 acres of Dartmoor.

I can understand the concerns.  Marching over sensitive habitats with heavy equipment is not everyone's idea of conservation, but I believe that the end justifies the means.  Clearly, communication needs to take place to try and resolve the differences and confirm that the long-term benefits of rewetting justify the need for short-term intervention.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Knowledge for Wildfire

I am pleased to be on the Steering Group of the NERC funded Knowledge for Wildfire (KfWf) project, which is getting into its stride.  It is a successor to the FIRES Seminar series that took place 2008 - 2009, and in general this project aims to assist the management of wildfire risk in the UK at all stages from prevention to response and recovery, and more specifically to:

Join up emerging cross-sector, cross-disciplinary interests in wildfire;
Apply and adapt NERC's fire-related research to improve the evidence base for managing wildfire risk; and
Facilitate new partnership research and knowledge exchange projects to fill knowledge gaps.

To provide context there are some interesting satellite images of April's conflagration in NW Scotland, and this provides a demonstration of the information sources that are available.  We need to develop our use of this information so that it can be used in real time, rather than just when we are at the 'lessons learned' stage after another bout of wildfires.  This project will help.

This is a UK project and I will be keen that the project feeds into the Scottish Wildfire Forum.  I have been asked to attend a meeting with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service in advance of organising a meeting that I hope will wake the Forum from its current dormancy.

I am attending a Steering Group meeting for the KfWf project this week and this will be followed by a meeting to discuss fire intensity and the implications for managing wild and prescribed fire.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

To demonstrate or not to demonstrate

The Trust has considerable experience in organising and running demonstration events (we ran 22 separate events in one year alone!) and I believe that it is an under-rated method of communication.

I attended a Predation-Prey Associations workshop in Dunkeld, yesterday, that was organised by SNH (see the post on the Moorland Forum blog).  How best to capture practical experience of this topic and how to communicate the findings of a revised report was considered.  There was some support for using demonstration events for this purpose, and this was music to my ears.

I would like to see this idea developed further and it would combine with the interest being expressed in using demonstration events as part of the development of the Scottish Land Use Strategy Action Plan that will be considered at a workshop on 25 June.

So why do I like the concept of demonstration events?  There are many possible forms, but I believe that events can provide a unique opportunity to develop discussion amongst a diverse range of people in a non-confrontational way.  A 'talk & walk' format can include discussion on the ground, and I am fond of saying that the issues often come into perspective when standing on 'the purple stuff'.

The format provides an opportunity to establish and maintain communication with the people who manage the land, and local communities, who may not be members of the groups of 'usual suspects' that attend meetings.  Getting a diverse mix of people away from their ivory towers, computers and PowerPoint projectors, and perhaps getting them slightly wet and cold, can really help to focus minds and identify areas of consensus.

As a development of the concept, I believe that there is an argument to establish a small number of venues in each part of the country to represent a range of conditions.  The most appropriate venue could be used for each event and people would look for events that were relevant to their interests.  Several topics could be covered in an event to increase its appeal.

There would be benefit in not holding single, one-off events, as a series of events would allow confidence in the process and momentum to build.  When I ran demonstration events on four sites across England & Wales for Defra over several years, I knew I was making progress when people started contacting me to ask when the next event would take place.  Then the funding ran out and momentum dissipated!

I am not suggesting setting up expensive demonstration sites, the aim would be to demonstrate work that was already taking place or features that were already present, but some facilitation funding would be required to organise events and to fund external contributors.

With proper management I cannot see how such events cannot provide an invaluable opportunity to generate discussion and offer value for money.  We must not forget, that all the research or policy instruments are of no value unless there is communication to allow managers of the land to understand them.  People are important: do we put enough effort into thinking about how we can communicate our messages that we spend so much time developing?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Back in the Saddle: an Update

A slice of holiday and a busy period leading up to it has served to introduce a gap into this blog, but I am back restored, refreshed and re-focused, so will now pick up this blog again to bring followers up-to-date with the tales of everyday activity at The Heather Trust.

It is a fact of life in this fast-moving electronic age, that taking your foot off the throttle for even a short period means that on return there is a mountain to climb to get back on top of things.  I was away for 10 days, and even then thanks to electronic communications I was able to keep in contact for the first few days while stormbound in a WiFi equipped Danish yacht marina (but that's another story...).  This link allowed me to eat into the list of issues that I did not quite get finished before catching the ferry, but even so it is amazing how much can happen in a little over a week.

I am climbing fast and hope to be back on top of things shortly, but bear with me while this blog picks up on a few thing that took place while I was away.

Asulam & Bracken Control
The Notice of Authorisation was issued by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate on 20 May and this means that it is now legal to sell, transfer and promote the use asulam for bracken control.  The application period starts on 1 July and will continue until 18 September.  A use-up period will follow and this will allow application programmes to be completed and the product to be returned to the supplier or destroyed until the end of the period on 31 October.  After 31 October it will become illegal to store asulam again.

I am hoping for willing end-users and a good application season to justify all the expense and effort that has gone into getting to this stage.

Heather Trust AGM & Discussion Meeting
We have been working hard to organise the AGM in an interesting, original location and sifting through diaries and other commitments to come up with the best venue and date.  I think we have found  it.

The AGM and the associated Discussion Meeting will be held in Pickering, North Yorkshire, on 2 October 2013.

More details will follow.  All members will be welcome to attend and we will also be inviting supporters who are in reach of Pickering to join us.

Scottish Game Fair, Scone, 5-7 July
We will be present on all three days of the Game Fair and will be working on the GWCT stand to promote moorland management activity.  We will also be giving our Heather Beetle Survey a push and would be delighted to see anyone who is passing, especially if you wish to tell us about your experience of heather beetle.  Reports from the lucky ones who have not had a brush with heather beetle will be just as valuable as we try to generate a picture of where the outbreaks are located across the UK.

Scotland's Moorland Forum
Anne has been busy setting up the Forum's Summer Meeting which takes place on Friday (7 June).  This year the Forum is being hosted by the John Muir Trust and we will be given a view of their form of management at their new Wild Space Centre in Pitlochry and afterwards on Schiehallion.  These meetings are icebergs: there is such a large amount of information to cover that to get through it without members suffering 'death by PowerPoint' a lot of work has to take place in advance to get the information into a form that we can run through quickly.  We are now all set and ready for the off on Friday.

I will keep this blog going as a record of what we are up to.  But right now it is time to don my Scotland's Moorland Forum hat and prepare for a meeting organised by SNH to consider Predator-Prey relationships in Dunkeld.