Monday, 29 July 2013

Maintaining Ecosystems Services - its not just a nice thing to do....

Photo: 2020Vision
In explanation of the often vexed topic of the Ecosystem Services, 2020VISION's latest short film, commissioned by the Scottish Government for the Year of Natural Scotland, showcases Scotland's stunning wildlife and beautiful natural habitats.  The film introduces the concept of 'ecosystem thinking' and why we need to work together on a larger scale to protect Scotland's nature.  

Inspiring photography and video may lightly sugar-coat the topic, but the message is real.  We need to work on a larger scale and must include people.  "Great things can happen when people care."

Monday, 22 July 2013

Say no to Sky Lanterns

The Farmers Guardian has started a campaign to ban Sky Lanterns.  This follows the recent large fire in a recycling plant in the West Midlands.  This was reported to have been started by a sky lantern.  Numerous other incidents are mentioned in the Farmers Guardian article.

I think Defra has got this is one wrong and that it is time to reconsider the decision not to ban sky lanterns.  What do you think? 

The Farmers Guardian has established an e-petition so that you can add your weight to the demand for a ban.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Welsh Connections

The Trust has been rather quiet in Wales recently.  I regret this separation as I believe there are plenty of opportunities for the HT message to be beneficially applied in Wales, but as a result of two recent visits, I hope that this situation is about to change.

There has been a big upheaval in Wales with the establishment of a combined government agency called Natural Resources Wales (NRW) that has been formed from the Countryside Commission for Wales (CCW), and the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency in Wales.  This new organisation will no doubt take time to bed down but it provides an opportunity to reconsider the support for the Welsh uplands.  I hope that this will prove to be a turning point for an integrated approach to moorland management in Wales.

In response to the formation of NRW, the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) in Wales called together a group of landowners to consider how an approach to the Welsh Government could best be made to highlight the importance and value of the Welsh uplands.  I was pleased to attend this meeting, and I have offered support for any work that develops from it.

I have been maintaining a watching brief as a member of Upland Ecosystems Group (UEG) in Wales, but it has been hard to justify attending meetings as there has been no opportunities to develop any involvement.  However, I was able to attend a meeting of the UEG, last week, and this was combined with a workshop for a new project being run by the RSPB called North Wales Moors Futurescapes; this seeks to consider landscape scale conservation management across a large area of the uplands that include Ruabon Moor, the Berwyn Mountains, and moorland at  Migneint and Hiraethog.  I have suggested that some 'old fashioned' demonstration events that I champion for the Trust could be beneficial to being people together to discuss the issues.

I hope that these initiatives will serve to re-establish the Trust's presence in Wales and allow us to provide some  input that will help to improve the management of the Welsh uplands.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

BBC News - Call to pay landowners to save peat

Photo: IUCN Peatland Programme

The article by Roger Harrabin published by the BBC yesterday is welcome for highlighting the importance of upland peatland as a store of carbon but his argument has gone astray in several places.

With other organisations I am working to promote peatland management, including restoration where appropriate, as an integral part of moorland management and to interpret the research for landowners. Many management and restoration schemes are in progress and many more are planned. Some of these are supported by public funds through agri-environment schemes, but others are being funded privately.

Defra is supporting a large amount of work to develop a system for trading carbon and this could provide some income to contribute to management and restoration costs.

The message is very positive. A diverse range of organisations, covering policy, research and land management, are working to develop structures that will lead to the improvement of the condition of our peatlands and place them at the centre of our management of the uplands, where they deserve to be. Issues remain to be resolved but with willingness on all sides these will be resolved.

Against this background of developing cooperation Roger Harrabin's article should be seen as an aberration. Perhaps he would like to publish a more accurate follow up story - there are plenty of people who would be willing to give him a rounded picture to work with.

For a more balanced view, see the article in today's Yorkshire Post.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Glastir worth £16m to Welsh upland farmers

See the article published by the Farmers Guardian.  This is positive news and I was interested to see that the Common Land Development Officers (CDOs) appear to be making a positive impact.  I have long argued that there is a role for some form of facilitator to bring people together in rural areas to help with grant applications and this is especially valuable on Common Land.

I am in Wales tomorrow for a meeting of the Upland Ecosystem Group followed by a meeting of the North Wales Moors Futurescapes project.  Glastir is bound to be central to much of the discussion and it will be interesting to find out if there are any lessons that can be exported to other parts of the UK.

Scottish Game Fair - a triumph!

Anne and Patrick and I attended the Game Fair at Scone, just north of Perth, last weekend, in support of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and what an excellent three days it turned out to be.  After the debacle of last year's event, which was washed out at the end of the first day, this year was blessed with perfect conditions.

It was great to meet a large number of our members and supporters and to introduce new people to the need for moorland management.  We were focussing in particular on our work with heather beetle and bracken control, but got involved in discussion about all aspects of moorland management.

The attached photos provide a flavour of the action and show:
  • Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, Minister for Environment, visiting our stand on the Friday, 
  • Making the Golden Plover Award to Edinglassie Estate, Strathdon.  People in the photograph:
    • Malcolm Hay, Heather Trust Chairman 
    • Andrew Salvesen, Scottish Chairman GWCT
    • Charles Pearson, owner of Edinglassie Estate
    • Derek Calder, Headkeeper (who does all the work!)
    • Stuart Young, Estate Factor.
  • Patrick and me on the HT stand
  • HT mobile HQ - the tent and 'Kermit' the camper van. 

One of the highlights of the Fair was the presentation of the Golden Plover Award for Moorland Management to Edinglassie Estate, Strathdon, which was selected as a result of the estates excellent and innovative approach to moorland management over a period of many years.  Charles Pearson was presented with a print of a Golden Plover that had been provided by the artist Colin Woolf, from a painting he did specially for the award, which can be viewed on the Wildart website

We will be publishing more details about Edinglassie Estate in the Annual Report, next month.

This was the inaugural presentation of the Golden Plover Award, and we look forward to considering applications for next year's award, which will be made at next year's Game Fair.

Seen on the central display
outside the HT stand

Thursday, 4 July 2013

CLA Cymru Moorland Initiative

I was pleased to attend a meeting organised by the CLA in Wales last week, to lend support to their initiative that is considering how best to support upland managers across Wales.  With the recent formation of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as a successor body to the Countryside Commission for Wales (CCW), in combination with the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency in Wales, there is an opportunity for moor owners to develop new relationships with the Welsh Assembly Government and its agencies

In England and in Scotland, I believe that the role that landowners and land managers can play in helping the government agencies realise their ambitions for the uplands is now better understood and the relationship between the different organisations is improving, although there is always room for improvement.

In Wales, I believe that there is much more scope for improving relationships and perhaps there are lessons that can be learned from elsewhere.  From the views expressed at last week's meeting, there is little doubt that the previous arrangements for managing the Welsh uplands have not been a success and that under NRW the regime should be changed.  There may be some resistance to drawing on ideas from elsewhere,  but I would suggest that this should be very acceptable if it leads to faster improvements in the state of the moorlands and uplands in Wales.

I think back to my test when reviewing the condition of an upland area.  Stand on a high point and look around.  Ask the question, 'Is this how I would like it to be?'  If, as is all too often, the answer is no, the follow up questions must be, 'What needs to be done, who is going to do it and how is the work to be funded?'.  There needs to be a lot of mountain climbing in Wales to look at the views.

There will always be a shortage of funding and in simple pragmatic terms, if some landowners want to fund some management work that will improve the uplands with a view to one day shooting a few grouse, where is the sense in opposing this?  Every source of income needs to the exploited to the full.

I am pleased to be supporting this initiative and I wish it every success.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

See you at the Scottish Game Fair?

I look forward to seeing as many members and supporters as possible at the Scottish Game Fair this weekend and we will be delighted to update you on our activities, past and present and we would welcome your input into our plans for the future.  Come and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sky Lanterns in action - fire at Smethwick

Photo: BBC News
BBC News is carrying a report of the fire at Smethwick in a large store of recycled plastic that is thought to have been ignited by a sky lantern.

The West Midlands may be a bit outside my usual parish, but the point here is that this incident shows that sky lanterns can act as an indiscriminate source of ignition.  On this occasion the fire has occurred in an urban area, it is not 'just' crops or rural lives that have been affected, the incident has occurred in a built-up area close to a centre of population.

Think of the cost of the fire fighting operation, the risk to firefighters and other people in the area, and the disruption that this fire is causing. Can this be justified by the 'wow factor' of sky lanterns drifting into the sky to wreak havoc somewhere downwind?

Although there is a risk of being branded as an 'I told you so' have a look at the blog post from 18 May 2013.

Defra's position is that a ban on sky lanterns is not under consideration.  Can this approach be justified in the light of this incident and the growing body of evidence about the damage that sky lanterns cause?

Heather Trust at the Scottish Game Fair

We will be supporting the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust at the Scottish Game Fair, this year.  We will be on the GWCT stand in the centre of the action and look forward to meeting members, supporters and anyone who has an interest in our moorlands and uplands.

We will be happy to discuss any part of our work, but in particular we will be promoting the Heather Beetle Survey.  We will have a large map on display that will show all the reports of heather beetle damage  we have received recently.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone who has had an outbreak of heather beetle and even those who have not so that we could add some additional pins into the map during the Game Fair.

Anne, Patrick and I look forward to seeing you.