A precautionary pond

7 thoughts on “A precautionary pond”

  1. Not a bad idea, on the face of it, but does this not reveal a dichotomy in what some landowners say and what they actually do? I suggest that if we take a closer look at the proposal we will see that it is flawed.

    As the Countryside Stewardship Scheme comes into being, I am hearing from land owners who are realising they they will probably not get into the new scheme. A few of them are saying that they will remove all the environmental improvements they made under the old scheme if they are not going to get paid for them. This is despite the fact that they could include them in their greening actions for Basic Payment; and they continue to claim that they are stewards of the countryside.

    We need some honesty here: if you are going to claim that you are holding the nation’s natural heritage in trust for future generations then do something about it, something that can be measured and celebrated, something that makes a real difference to our declining wildlife. But don’t make the claim if it depends upon the tax payer carrying the cost. If land owners have a short-term and purely profit-based approach to their land management, then fair enough (it’s their land); but they should say so.

    The most successful wildlife conservation schemes I see on farms in my area have nothing to do with money and everything to do with the passion, belief, understanding and the utter commitment from land owners that wildlife will thrive on their land, under their watch. The idea that we can pay landowners to produce wildlife is to my mind discredited as it is blindingly obvious that it has not worked. Financial incentives bring all the wrong drivers into play and as soon as the incentives stop, the activity ceases.

  2. Interesting Rob. How would you go about measuring whether a net gain for biodiversity had been achieved, and over what timescale? Who would pay for the long term monitoring needed to provide the data to inform the metric? Or are you suggesting something simplistic like the biodiversity offsetting approach…..

    1. Miles, thanks, I knew you would pick up on that one and since agri-environment schemes are a form of biodiversity offsetting (productive farmland to feed us and unproductive headlands ‘offset’ for wildlife), we don’t seem to be brave enough to explore many other options.
      Who pays? We all do somehow but that’s another blog related to our consumption. Here’s a wordy warm up http://www.farmingfutures.org.uk/blog/where-world-food-more-expensive-europe

  3. I agree entirely with the sentiment – I have had a number of discussions with farmers recently regarding woodland management, and the great expense of bringing in consultants to screen, and re-screen for protected species, when what the farmer actually wants to do is introduce woodland management, under Glastir, to increase biodiversity. I would agree that there should be an avenue to reimburse folk if a net increase in biodiversity is proved, but it would be hard to capture the nuance. You could demonstrate a net increase in biodiversity by increasing the diversity of common species, but you might lose a rare specialist in the process. Comes down to that balance – do you prioritise protecting the unique by retaining a specific set of habitat parameters, or do you build robustness into habitats by bulking out the rest and aiming for maximum diversity?

  4. Interesting blog – I have quite a lot of sympathy with your client’s predicament. But then, I might not with some other people’s position. It’s an anecdote, and a good one. The Directives are, on the whole, pretty good. How would you like them changed, Rob? Got any specific proposals?

    1. Thanks Mark. Agree the Directives are correct in principle but it’s about implementation. Regulations cannot trump common sense every time – bar David Bavin’s comment above – I’ve had offline replies that beggar belief! Where there’s a genuine application to enhance biodiversity, it’s how the planning process relates to conservation
      I’m aware that ‘genuine’ is the ‘moot’ word but as ‘engineering works and change of use’ of the land (i.e. from field to pond) are catch-all phrases that require planning permission, perhaps works for nature conservation – whether a creating a scrape for snipe under an agric-enviro scheme or enhancing existing habitat – could be grouped under the permitted development rights as enjoyed by agriculture and forestry http://www.fwi.co.uk/business/farm-buildings-know-your-permitted-development-rights.htm
      At the moment, our fear of contravening EU Directives and mistrust of those with digger buckets does little to help our beleaguered wildlife.

      1. We are farmers who decided to put in an additional pond (we have 8 on our 300 acres already) specifically for pond dipping – we host school visits at times. However, although we are in HLS and had a small grant, the net costs including planning permission, for an approx. 10m diameter pond are ridiculous. Fortunately we did not have to pay for any surveys, it was in the corner of an arable field, else we would not have done it at all,. Having to get planning permission for a small pond is ludicrous, it is no wonder so few farmers create them. Then we get onto the costs of protecting great crested newts so that we can build a single 50kw wind turbine…. when the same newts have survived despite their fields being fertilised, mown for hay, turned, baled, driven over when carting corn, silage, bale trailers… grazed by cows. It is a world gone mad. And don’t get me onto why badgers – 3 setts on my 300 acres are more precious than my beautiful and heavily pregnant heifers and cows that have just had to be slaughtered as TB reactors. – we have just lost 1/4 of our cattle over 30 – and 27 calves inside them, and it is devastating and very very emotional. And we have no cattle movements on (closed herd) and no neighbouring cattle adjacent to ours we have always been very strict on biosecurity. Poor badgers – they are suffering too. I am a keen naturalist and take great pride in the wildlife on my farm – we have an SSSI, 8 LWS, county red list flora and have recorded nearly 100 species of birds, but a bit of a reality check is needed on some of the legislation.

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