Wednesday, 15 March 2017

England: Heather Burning

An article in the Shooting Times reports that there is to be a total ban on burning in the Central Pennines, but this is not the case.  See what the Moorland Association has said about this.

The Trust is working with many other organisations to make sure that such a ban is not put in place.  We argue that, while bad burning practices can cause damage, the use of appropriate burning techniques in the right place at the right time is an essential management tool for large areas of the uplands.  We want to see burning carried out in a way that supports the balanced management of the uplands, and the facilities that they provide, including ecosystem services and economic activity.

Through the Uplands Management Group, which provides input to Defra's Upland Stakeholder Forum, we have been supporting the production of guidance about the importance of sphagnum moss for peatland, and carbon capture and storage.  This guidance supports the use of fire as one of the management tools in the uplands.  The Group will publish further guidance soon   that outlines the appropriate management techniques for sphagnum.

In Scotland, I am leading the review of the Muirburn Code for the Scottish Government,and this serves to indicate the government's support for muirburn that is carried out using appropriate techniques.

In my view, heather burning is an essential part of upland management that must continue to be available, but like any powerful tool, burning must be used intelligently with an awareness of the impact it can have on sensitive features. 

Scotland: Peatland ACTION re-launch

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, has re-launched the Peatland ACTION project.

The Peatland ACTION fund received a further £8 million from the Scottish Government, in January. The investment allows the Peatland Action Fund, which is administered by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to continue working with its partners and restore a further 8,000 hectares of this precious peatland habitat in Scotland, during 2017/18.

The fund is open for applications on 1st April, but the project team would like to hear about proposed projects now. Updated application requirements and guidance are available from the project's webpages.

In this phase of the project, there is an emphasis on extending the geographical reach to the Western Isles, and for further contractor training. More information will be become available in due course through updates on the project's webpages and posts on social media accounts: @SNH_Tweets and @ScottishNaturalHeritage

The Scottish Government has issued a press release.

A BBC News article includes a video clip with the voice-over provided by Andrew McBride, the Peatland ACTION Project Manager.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Farmers are given free reign to preserve land under new scheme

See the article in the Yorkshire Post for details of the 'outcomes approach' being applied to hay meadows in Wensleydale.  I like the sound of this approach, and I wonder if this might be the way of the future of agri-environment schemes in the post-brexit world.

I am a believer of giving those who manage the land responsibility for delivering an agreed outcome in a way that suits their capabilities, the land and their enthusiasm.  I think we have proved rather too successfully the limitation of a top-down, prescriptive approach to achieving targets.  The garden is not all roses and there will still be a requirement for a regulatory stick to beat those who do not get the message or who try to cut corners, but for once the needs of the majority should be put first.

Well done all involved in setting up this scheme.  I believe that this type of bold approach will achieve the long-term benefits that are required.  There will be some bumps in the road, and I hope that these will not deflect everyone from the common purpose.

Tick and Lyme disease awareness events for South Uist

It is good to see that someone is taking sheep ticks and Lyme disease seriously. See the BBC news report for details of what is happening in the Western Isles.  I think it is something that the rest of us are in denial about.  Lyme disease is nasty, and if you have any doubts about this, talk to someone who has had it.

Are we doing enough to warn people about the threat?  I do not think so.  I have a mental image of happy hikers skipping off on a walk through deep bracken wearing shorts and a T shirt.  There are ticks salivating on the fronds at the prospect.

We have the ability to reduce tick numbers by treating the stock they depend on for a blood meal.  It is not difficult, but it can be expensive and to take place where there is no grouse benefit, will require incentive.  What price human illness, suffering and treatment?