Thursday, 2 July 2015

Understanding Predation Project - a quick update

The Understanding Predation project is in full swing. Over 300 questionnaires have been received although there is still plenty of time for more questionnaires to be submitted.  The workshops are in full swing and these will continue until the end of July.  The bibliography for the final report has been prepared, and this will be published on the Project’s webpage, next week, along with an explanatory post on the Project's blog.

A full update on the progress of the Project will be submitted to the Steering Group, next week, and the Group will be asked to confirm that this satisfies the requirements of the second milestone.

All members of the Moorland Forum are asked to keep their own members and supporters up to date with progress through their own networks.  An outline briefing will be prepared that Forum members may wish to adapt for their own use.

I will be at the Scottish Game Fair for the next three days, along with several other members of the Forum and this will provide an opportunity to discuss the project.  A postcard promoting the project has been printed so that web & blog details for the project can be given easily to anyone who shows an interest.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Tenant Farming Advisor

Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has appointed Andrew Thin as Scotland’s new independent advisor on tenant farming.

The Scottish Government's news release has more details and quotes.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Land Use Strategy Annual Stakeholder Event – 11 June 2015

You are invited to attend this year’s annual Land Use Strategy stakeholder event on 11 June at SNH Battleby, Perth.  Please register early as places are limited.

The event will focus on the recently concluded Land Use Strategy Regional Pilot projects in Aberdeenshire and Scottish Borders. 

Registration for the event is on Eventbrite – please follow the link here

Please note that this is a half day event from 10 am – 2:30.

Tea and coffee will be served from 10 – 10:30 and lunch will be provided. If you have any special requirements please let me know.

I look forward to seeing you at the event.

Best regardS

Linda Gateley
Scottish Government, Land Use & Biodiversity Team, Directorate for Environment and Forestry,
1C North, Victoria Quay, EH6 6QQ             0131 244 7968              website: Land Use Strategy

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Molinia Conference, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire: 14-16 September 2015

Molinia on Marsden Moor
Although Huddersfield may be a distance from Scotland, this conference will be applicable to everyone who wants to know more about Molinia across the UK.  I will be attending in my Heather Trust capacity, but I circulate details in case some Forum members would also like to attend, or at least be aware of it.

The full title of this conference is: "Molinia caerulea on upland peat in the UK: history, dependencies and the role of intervention in achieving conservation goals".

From the flyer for the conference:
"Peat covers much of the flat or gently sloping uplands of the UK, forming blanket mire that can host a number of vegetation types. The type favoured by conservationists, and considered to be associated with the greatest rate of peat formation, involves cotton-grass (Eriophorum) species, ericaceous shrubs and Sphagnum mosses. In practice, this is lacking over large areas of upland where it might be expected, its place being taken by very dominant Purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea. Conservation bodies expend much effort in trying to replace Molinia with the more desirable species and conservation objectives are set with this in mind. This conference examines the place of Molinia caerulea in UK plant communities, factors affecting its growth and experiments looking at ways of adding greater diversity where appropriate. The aim is to gain a clearer understanding, through discussion, of what types of conservation objective should be applied and how to achieve them.

The conference will take place in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, 14-16 September 2015 and will contain two days of presentations and discussion followed by a field trip on Day 3 to look at diversification experiments set up in dominant Molinia on the Marsden Moor Estate. We are able to keep the conference fee low due to generous support from Natural England and the International Peat Society."

I can vouch for Marsden Moor being a good venue for the field visit.  The Heather Trust ran a demonstration project for Defra at Marsden for three years from 2003, and I remember walking over the part of the moor shown in the photograph.  At the time, it had a complete coverage of molinia tussocks and it was hard walking.  I suspect it has not changed a lot since.

For more detail about the conference see the Marsden Moor Estate website.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Summer Meeting at Invermark - 5 June 2015

With thanks to Lord Dalhouse and Richard Cooke for their offer of hospitality, I had a great visit to Invermark today to set up for the Forum's Summer meeting at Invermark. The programme for the meeting will be discussed at the Chairman's Working Group meeting on 22 May, but it is likely to include a business meeting for Forum members, followed by a discussion meeting to address issues that are relevant to the management of Invermark. Some guests will be invited to the discussion meeting and we will visit an area of the estate in the afternoon. It promises to be a fascinating and informative meeting.

I took the photo today and it provides an indication of what we will see in June, weather permitting.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Land Reform - Letter to the Minister

The Land Reform consultation was discussed during the Chairman's working Group meeting on 6 February, which took place just 4 days before the close of the consultation on the 'Future of Land Reform in Scotland'.

To summarise the discussion that took place, this is an extract from the Minutes of the meeting:
  • There is value to the Forum in understanding which proposals would create challenges or opportunities in the uplands.
  • The Forum should not miss the opportunity to express opinion on something considered to be important. There were concerns that the timescale for response (by Tuesday 10th February) was extremely tight.
  • Also, it was felt that, in order to be in place by May 2015, the Bill is not following the usual sequential process, it was short on detail and it was being rushed through at breakneck speed. 
  • Concern was raised about the unintended adverse consequences resulting from this fast-track process.
  • From the Consultation report, it was suggested that Forum members should focus their attention on proposals: 
    • 4 - Sustainable development test for land governance, 
    • 5 - A more proactive role for public sector land management, 
    • 6 - Duty of community engagement on charitable trustees when taking land management decisions, 
    • 7 - Business rates for shooting and deerstalking, and 
    • 10 - Wild Deer. 
A multi-signature submission to a Minister attracts more attention than individual letters and the most effective Forum response would be an immediate letter to the Minister expressing interest, some concern and an offer to support the process.
  • A letter would be drafted for the Chairman’s signature.
  • The letter should include a strong plea for more time to consider the potential unintended consequences in more detail.
The letter was sent to the Minister for Environment and it was submitted to the Consultation Team through the formal response system.  The letter can be viewed here.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Scottish Wildfire Forum - update

SFRS Training Centre, Cambuslang
I represent the Moorland Forum on the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF). The SWF was formed initially in 2005 and was run by the Highlands & Islands Fire & Rescue Service, but momentum was lost in 2011, when the restructuring of the fire services in Scotland started.

The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service  (SFRS) was formed on 1 April 2013, and this coincided with a spate of wildfires, predominantly in the north and west. The SWF was reformed in 2013, spurred on by the experience of the April wildfires, and since then it has been gathering momentum.

One of the most significant recent developments has been the closer cooperation between the SWF, the England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Wildfire Group set up by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA WG). The concept of a wildfire community has developed and this will help to ensure that there is no duplication of effort in developing policy to minimise the risk of damage from wildfire.

A UK wildfire conference has been held every two years and in 2015 this will be held in Scotland.  The difference this time is that the conference is being organised by the wildfire forums and the CFOA WG. This will allow the conference to be developed to meet the needs of the wildfire community. The SFRS will be hosting the conference at their magnificent training facility in Cambuslang. The theme of the conference will be Wildfire Prevention and it will take place from lunchtime on 10 November and finish at lunchtime the following day. One of the aims for the conference will be to engage with a wide range of interest groups, in an effort to promote the concept that wildfire is not just a problem for the SFRS and that it needs to be planned for with the owners and managers of land, of every description.

Another area of work that the SWF is supporting is the development of a Fire Danger Rating System (FDRS). The CFOA WG put together some ideas with the MetOffice early in 2014, but funding for this was not found. The current proposal is for the wildfire community to identify the need and an approach to produce a system for the UK, and this will include several options. If there is agreement about the requirements for a system, efforts will then be made to get development work funded. The FDRS will provide the SFRS with early warning of high wildfire risk, but ideally the system will also be useful for planning prescribed burning, as it will be able to predict periods when conditions will be suitable.

Wildfire has been suggested as a topic that the Forum should consider in more detail, and it would be good to get input from the Wildfire Project Officer within the SFRS.  A new person is about to be appointed to this role, and as soon as they have settled in, I will approach them with a view to inviting them to attend a Forum meeting.

I will keep the Forum informed of developments within the SWF, and I hope that many members will wish to attend the wildfire conference in November.  I will circulate a programme as soon as this is available.