Wildfire - where to next?

As Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum (EWWF) I have written to The Home Office and Defra to offer the support of the members of the Forum to review the state of preparedness and planning for wildfire.  From early reports coming from the well-publicised fires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill in the South Pennines, I understand that the firefighting effort required to control the fires would have been much reduced if some precautions against wildfire had been in place.  The need to plan for wildfire is thrust of the EWWF's message, which has support from The Heather Trust and the rest of the wildfire community.  We should not be surprised by wildfire; we should accept that it will happen and plan accordingly.
It is not just in UK that major wildfire incidents have been occurring.  The BBC News summary provides a useful overview of the international situation and the horror of what has been happening in Greece, which has resulted in the death of at least 80 people…

The England & Wales Wildfire Forum: Meeting in Wrexham

The England & Wales Wildfire Forum met in Wrexham today, and it was valuable that the Scottish Wildfire Forum was represented at the meeting by the chairman, Bruce Farquharson from Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. This helped to support my view that wildfire requires a UK-wide approach, and the developing interest from Northern Ireland in the work of both Forums is also very welcome.
We covered a lot of ground during the meeting, including the confirmation that the next UK wildfire conference will be held in South Wales in November 2019. The South Wales Fire & Rescue Service has agreed to host the conference and the theme will be based on management for wildfire. In an effort to reach a wider audience, consideration will be given to organising some local / regional events in advance to provide a connection to people who might not want to attend the conference.
We agreed that it is too early in this late spring to be turning our backs on wildfire for the year, as there i…

Wildfire Risk

You may think it is cold and wet where you are, and that this winter is never going to end, but at this time of year the vegetation is at its driest and it only takes a day or two of dry weather to push the wildfire risk to a dangerous level.
Significant wildfires have already occurred this year in southern England, Wales and Scotland.  The latest incident dealt with by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service occurred in Sutherland yesterday.
Indications are that the short burst of hot dry weather that is occurring this week, will raise the wildfire threat in parts of the country, particularly in north and east Scotland.  There is no scope for complacency about wildfire at any time of the year, but at this time of year vigilance is required to avoid serious incidents.  It is not 'if' a wildfire happens in your area, it is 'when', and we should be planning accordingly.
I will be chairing the meeting of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum in Wrexham, next week.  I hope …

Northern Ireland: Reducing Wildfires in the Countryside

Another day, another wildfire meeting.  Yesterday, I was in Northern Ireland as part of an international cast advising Northern Ireland wildfire stakeholders, led by the NI Environment Agency and NI Fire & Rescue Service, about the development of a wildfire strategy.  The other members of the  cast were:
Ciaran Nugent, Forest Service (Ireland)Michael Bruce, Firebreak Services and the Scottish Wildfire ForumChuck Bushey, International Association of Wildland Fire (USA),Colum McDaid - organiser (Northern Ireland Environment Agency)Rob Gazzard, Forestry Commission EnglandJordi Vendrell, Pau Costa Foundation (Catalonia)Alex Held, European Forest Institute (Germany) The meeting took the form of a workshop with group working by the 47 delegates to assess the best approach to adopt in Northern Ireland to develop a wildfire strategy.  It was pleasing to note that there was a high degree of consensus.  The establishment of a mechanism (a wildfire forum?) to bring together the unique range …

South & West Wales Wildfire Meeting

As Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum, I was pleased to give a presentation, representing The Heather Trust, at the South and West Wales Wildfire workshop that took place today at the HQ of South Wales Fire & Rescue Service (SWFRS), at Llantrisant to the north of Cardiff. I had the last slot of the day and gave a presentation that covered the ‘The Role of a Wildfire Forum’. I had watched many of the points I wanted to make being covered in the earlier presentations, but this provided me with an opportunity to build on what others had said.
I think that a key role for the wildfire forum is to promote the 'power of partnership' - to develop a consensus amongst the broad range of stakeholders that are engaged in wildfire or that are likely to be affected by it.  I also believe that the wildfire community should work together across the UK, as this will give the message about wildfire the greatest impact. The most important message about wildfire  is that we …

Let's Hear it for Cows

In the debate about carbon, global warming and impending disaster, the cow often gets a bad press.  The popular view is that, as large herbivores, cattle produce large amounts of CO2 and, less pleasantly, large quantities of Methane (CH4).  If this is your view and it concerns you, read the blog from Smiling Tree Farm.  You will be offered a different view that provides justification for the continuing supply of beef, milk and leather, for the foreseeable future, at least from a climate change perspective.

Perhaps a key point is that 'cows cycle carbon, while fossil fuels add carbon'.

Let's love our cattle!  In an upland environment, I think there is an important role for cattle and when managed correctly they are a significant force for good.  I welcome this alternative view to counter the views of the prophets of doom.

Smiling Tree Farm - Cattle Mooooves

Exmoor's Ambition

Is this an example of the shape of things to come?  If nothing else it comes as a relief to see some common sense thinking about how support for upland farming could, and perhaps should, be shaped in the new era that will follow departure from the EU.

Extract from the Exmoor NPA website:
During 2017, the Government, through Defra, encouraged the people of Exmoor to develop new ideas for incentivising the wide range of public benefits provided by farming and other land management. In response to this, and to a clear appetite from the Exmoor farming community to influence future policy and investment, a steering group was set up to explore the potential for a locally designed scheme.
The steering group comprises the Exmoor Hill Farming Network, ENPA, Exmoor Society, Natural England, RSPB and private landowners. Robin Milton, the Authority Chairman is chair.
In a Nutshell (from the Exmoor Ambition Report)
Brexit provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to forge more effective ways of pr…