Friday, 20 December 2013

Implementation of CAP announced

Defra has announced details of the CAP review in England and the amount of money that is to be transferred from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. Initially, this has been restricted to 12% rather than the 15% that had been muted.

The understandable aim has been to ensure that the income to farmers from single farm payment is secure and that less depends on applications for environmental grant funding.  The shift towards to Pillar 2 will continue and with it will come the greater control over the environmental benefits that public funding will deliver.  There is a logic to this, but I am wary of it being taken to extremes that will stifle farming's entrepreneurial skills.  The ideal to my mind is knowledgeable farmers who have the enthusiasm and funds to apply their skills to the management of their land.  The old cry of 'it is difficult to be green when you are in the red' still rings very true.  Local, well-motivated people are always going to achieve more than broad brush control from a distant office.  Perhaps we need to focus more effort on explaining to our farmers and the other managers of land what is required and why.

The Defra website has no shortage of additional information.

Farmland birds need YOU to show they count

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is urging all farmers and gamekeepers to take part in the first annual Big Farmland Bird Count. 

The organisation wants to determine how the UK’s farmland bird species are faring and to highlight the success of the conservation practices that farmers and gamekeepers putting in place.

The GWCT website has more detail.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Scotland’s Soils website launched

See the article on the SG website, and the Soils Website.

I believe that we do not take enough account of what is under our feet and the effect it has on drainage, surface vegetation and productive capacity.  

If you are like me, a knowledge of soils will not have been included in your education and I hope that this site will provide us with a useful resource.

With the increasing interest in peatland, we are getting better at thinking about some of the issues, but we need to transfer this interest to all the other soil types.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Bog restoration in Wales

Photo: Wales online
The National Trust, with funding from Natural Resources Wales, is working to restore the large Migneint upland bog on the Gwynedd-Conwy border.

For more details see the WalesOnline article.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Back to the Blog

This Blog has once again been going through a quiet phase but I am going to try to boost the output for the benefit of Heather Trust supporters.  This reduced output is not the result of lack of activity within the Trust - just the opposite.  When the pressure is on, it becomes harder to justify the time taken to keep the Blog up to date.

I am going to link at least some of these blog articles to the Trust's newsletters - see the latest edition here.  On a monthly or more frequent basis, the newsletters will contain a thumbnail view of our activities and other issues, and these thumbnails will link to articles on this Blog, and elsewhere, to provide more detail for those who want it.

As ever, the aim is to provide filtered information that will be of interest to Heather Trust supporters.  I will be aiming to avoid regurgitating a vast quantity of information that might give the illusion of activity, but in reality is only adding to the amount of bumph that is in circulation.

Read on and feel free to comment.

Biodiversity Offsetting

Biodiversity Offsetting is a term that requires some clarification.  In my simple understanding, if biodiversity is to be lost or damaged by development, then the developers can enter into an agreement to achieve similar biodiversity gains on another block of land.

The Environment Bank is very active in this area and their latest newsletter provides some case studies that explain the principle rather better.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Wildfire Developments

There have been several developments relating to wildfire in recent months that I have been involved with.

Housing & Moorland
The Wildfire 2013 conference was held in Cardiff in October and this followed a familiar pattern. There was a wide range of presentations covering research everything from research through equipment to best practice. The South Wales Fire & Rescue Service hosted the meeting and organised the site visit. My memory of the site visit was the proximity of open hill ground to housing estates in the Welsh valleys to the north of Cardiff. It is no wonder that they have a significant wildfire problem.

The Wildfire Operational Guidance was launched by ACO Robert Scott the Chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum.  This was the culmination of an enormous amount of heard work Northumberland FRS who produced the guidance for the Scottish FRS.  The guidance is primarily aimed at the Fire & Rescue Services, but there is much good information in it for everyone.  It is likely to be adopted throughout the UK and it marks a significant step forward in raising our ability to manage wildfire and it is available to download from the Scottish Government website.

The Scottish wildfire Forum has been in the doldrums for a while, but the formation of the single Scottish Fire & Rescue Service on 1 April, this year has provided the catalyst to review the work of the Forum.  As a result of this, the Forum was relaunched on 21st September and is now building momentum.

Uppermost in many minds in Scotland will be the events of April 2013 and the spate of wildfires that affected the north-west of Scotland.  Discussions are being held about how the warning system can be improved so that periods of high fire risk can be identified in advance.  Such a system would have a double benefit: it would allow warnings to be issued to the owners and managers of land in advance, and it would also allow the FRS to make preparations by moving manpower and equipment into high risk areas.  A Fire Danger Rating (FDR) system is envisaged and the Met Office is involved in developing proposals.

As Vice-Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum I have been involved in the discussions of the FDR and also developing stronger links to government in England and Wales so that they have a better understanding of the risk posed by wildfire and the capability of the wildfire forum to assist in raising awareness and developing the best techniques for reducing the risk of damage from wildfire.