Defra's new 25 Year Environment Plan – the GWCT response


The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is excited about the government’s new 25 Year Environment Plan. The government has listened to us and pledged to:

  • cut excessive regulation, rather than increase it
  • reward farmers that achieve measurable environmental outcomes
  • seek to work with farmers, rather than against them
  • be realistic about modern farming and the use of chemicals
  • link increased biodiversity with economic prosperity
  • consult on a new grant scheme for woodland planting and include pest control

What is noticeable is the sheer volume of recommendations which were exactly what we advocated:

Changing subsidies – to ensure these are linked to positive environmental outcomes. Now we would like to support Defra with its farmer consultation - to ensure changes are based on scientific evidence and practicality.

Encouraging farmers to get involved – through cutting bureaucracy, making the application processes simpler and provision of expert advice to farmers (research shows this alone can increase biodiversity by 20%).

Trusting farmers – rather than relying on state SSSI designations, allowing landowners to establish Conservation Covenants. This enables the people that know and understand land the best to design their own long-term conservation plans.

Conservation from the ground up – seeking to engage as many farmers in environmental stewardship by making the application process simpler, then supporting the GWCT’s Farmer Cluster concept to boost biodiversity in the landscape. 

Economic prosperity and conservation go hand in hand:
a) if as envisaged, wildlife is valued properly, it is then possible to off-set the impacts of a building development – to achieve better outcomes for wildlife than there were before.

b) Outside the EU our agro-forestry trials can expand. This allows us to: plant trees, produce fuel and timber, graze livestock and grow crops.

Pest control – the new importance of protecting trees from squirrels and deer will be welcomed by those planting them.

Valuing wildlife -  we welcome the idea of giving nature a value, however we are keen to work with Defra to establish exactly how wildlife will be included in this model.

Neonics – No outright ban - their use to protect crops that flower in their second year, such as kale to feed birds, continues.

Pesticides – the focus is on reducing impact - not their use. We support this approach.

Grass to be included in arable rotations to improve soil health – something we have been championing at the GWCT’s demonstration farm, the Allerton Project.

GWCT Director of Policy Dr Alastair Leake said:

“Farmers across the UK should congratulate the Government for rejecting proposals from those that lobbied voraciously for greater statutory regulation, inspection and punitive fines. Instead they recognised farmers are committed to protecting the environment and set out a vison to work with them. Their overall approach of linking biodiversity with increasing prosperous farming is refreshing to read – as are the inclusion of so many recommendations made by the GWCT.” 

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Deer as pests ?

at 0:13 on 17/01/2018 by Robbie Rowantree

a bit like a weed being a flower in the wrong place, the use of the word pest for deer underlines a concern I have around the perception of deer and their management in woodland. Internationally it is accepted that native deer are a normal part of the ecology of a woodland and are, when well managed often a major financial benefit to woodland owners/managers. A better model for managing deer may be required to change perceptions and start to see deer as an asset rather than a pest

What appears to have been missed from this report

at 21:23 on 16/01/2018 by Nick

1st I haven't read the document and so can only comment on what I see above. To my mind what is essential to to get food chains to recover is to encourage the small building blocks. I'e. the bottom end of these chains. That means limiting at least for a time the numbers of the predators (the top end) I read a paper the other day suggesting that the total weight of insects has declined by 75% in the last 25 years. That has to be reversed and as fast as possible.Having predators including us with nothing to eat is not good! Ground nesting birds are vulnerable to all sorts of pressures and these need to addressed along with all the other pressures. It should be remembered that the bits for intensive agricultural production will not contain much wildlife so the management of the rest and how that is done is the key.

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