Making the most of private stewardship for conservation - a voluntary landscape approach
Research undertaken by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) into the conservation and sustainable use of wild grey partridge in the UK has been transferred into practice via engagement with individual farmers through a combination of demonstration, advice and on-farm, bi-annual counts of grey partridge. Over time this has created a body of 800-1000 farmers who actively manage their farms for wild grey partridge recovery. Many of the management prescriptions developed for grey partridge have proven beneficial to other farmland birds and wildlife, and are now embedded in policy in the form of national Agri-Environment Schemes. This extensive engagement with land managers has given the GWCT insight into how farmers, gamekeepers and other land managers are motivated to undertake management for quarry species, wildlife conservation and environmentally friendly farming. Understanding this psychology has helped GWCT develop voluntary landscape-scale, farmer-led conservation projects which go beyond sustainable use — known as Farmer Clusters. These have been adopted by Government in England as a model for future conservation and part-funded through Agri-Environment Schemes (which provide payments to farmers and land managers to look after the natural environment on their land). An objective of this policy is a greater focus on conservation outcomes rather than outputs, increased longevity, less dependence on continuing subsidy, and, hopefully over time, an increased awareness of the natural capital values inherent in increased wildlife and environmental gain on land under private stewardship.