Asulam for Bracken Control - Update

This gets complicated, quickly, but I hope that this summary will provide a starting point for those who are interested in the control of bracken. There is much more information on the bracken control website.

In response to an application for an Emergency Authorisation to allow Asulam to be used for bracken control in 2020, a draft approval was issued by Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) of HSE, in November 2019. However, this contains restrictions that would prevent Asulam being applied from ground-based equipment, and for aerial spraying, increase the buffer zone against surface water bodies from 50m to 90m. The Bracken Control Group is unhappy with both these proposals. In addition, a list of information required to support future applications was introduced that will be very difficult to achieve.

A discussion, hosted by Defra, took place with CRD and Natural England in February. It was agreed that the Bracken Control Group should prepare an additional application to set out info…

COVID-19 Wildfire Risk - EWWF Statement

This is a statement that has been issued by the England & Wales Wildfire Forum, this afternoon. This is in response to a continuing elevated wildfire risk, many reports of wildfire incidents and follows a conference call with wildfire stakeholders hosted by Defra, last Friday

COVID-19 Wildfire Risk
Help the emergency services: avoid starting wildfires.
When the weather is dry and warm the risk of wildfire increases and it only takes a moment of carelessness to start a fire.

Now, more than ever, we all need to play our part and make sure we do not add to the strain on our emergency services.

Fires that take place in remote, rural areas, make the news but vegetation fires in towns and cities, and on the edge of urban areas, are common and pose a real threat to life and property.

In the countryside, during the current COVID-19 restrictions, there are fewer people on hand to spot fires and to tackle them.

The clear message from government remains for everyone to stay at home to protect…

Prescribed Burning - EWWF Statement

The EWWF has published the following statement, as a result of the concerns about wildfire, in all parts of the UK, not just on moorland, while the Fire & Rescue Services are struggling to meet their commitments with reduced numbers of personnel during the COVID-19 outbreak. Getting the burning done is important, but other things may be even more important right now.

Prescribed Burning Advice – March and April 2020

The current warm and dry weather conditions are increasing the risk of wildfires across England and Wales. Several wildfire incidents occurred at the weekend and all of the ignitions were caused by people.

Like every section of society, the Fire & Rescue Services as well as other emergency services and community responders are currently stretched due to the COVID-19 national emergency, and they cannot guarantee to be able to provide the normal level of support for all wildfires. Therefore, everyone needs to be particularly careful to not start fires.

The EWWF recommen…

Wildfire & Muirburn: manage the fuel, reduce the risk

I am giving this presentation on 8th October in Seil Island Hall, to the south of Oban.  Although not exactly on a main thoroughfare (you have to cross the 'Bridge over the Atlantic' to get onto the island), the meeting promises to be well attended.
I have borrowed the title from the UK Wildfire Conference that is taking place in Cardiff, 20th-21st November.  Many of the points I will be making will be a rehearsal for the discussion I expect to take place during the conference, but I suspect that with 'wildfire' and 'muirburn' sharing the title, there will be no shortage of discussion.
For tickets, please contact the Talks Convenor at LNHG.

Creating a Brighter Future Project

In July, I helped to deliver the "Creating a Brighter Future" (CABF) project for the Uplands Alliance, with Nigel Stone, the former Chief Executive of the Exmoor National Park Authority.  
I am very grateful to the hill farmers who attended the five meetings I ran in the north of the country and to Defra's team for attending the meetings, during a very busy period.   This post is a summary of the project and highlights the need for more work of this sort to take place, as we all stand poised on the edge of the unknown.

With the support from the Prince's Countryside Fund, the CABF project brought together over 100 hill farmers, with Defra staff, to explore how farmers can create a brighter future for their businesses and the environment.Farmers were keen to stress how many public benefits they already provide and that, with appropriate support, they can provide more.They also reminded Defra that these public benefits are delivered alongside producing high quality food an…

Wildfire is not a future problem: it is already here

The wildfire threat is not recognised in all quarters.I made this point as part of a presentation at an All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in Westminster on Tuesday.
As chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Form, I had been asked to give the presentation to highlight the approach to wildfire being promoted by the Forum, following the wildfires of 2018.  Other speakers at the meeting were Professor Rob Marrs (University of Liverpool, President of The Heather Trust) and Clifton Bain (Director of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme).  Despite our varied backgrounds and interests, there was a high degree of unanimity amongst the speakers.
I was grateful for the support of EWWF members at the meeting, which included the chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, two Wildfire Tactical Advisors and a representative of the Forestry Commission.
I mentioned that wildfire should be seen as a year-round threat and this point was endorsed …

Grazing for the Future - Event Report

Graze the Moor Project
I have been working on Molland Moor, Exmoor, since the start of my time at the Heather Trust, in 2002. Since April 2014, I have been managing a project at Molland called Graze the Moor, which finishes at the end of March, next year. The project seeks to establish the impact on habitat from the re-introduction of an effective grazing regime, throughout the year using hill cattle and sheep.  A brief summary of the project can be downloaded.

Winter grazing had ceased at start of the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme in the late 1980s and many farmers use this to explain the habitat changes that have taken place across Exmoor.  
Graze the Moor draws on 20 years of habitat data that have been collected on Molland Moor, and this has allowed the habitat changes to be mapped.  This five-year project follows a two-year case study that proved the concept, and this has allowed a continuous stream of habitat and livestock data to be collected over the last seven years, w…