CLA Rural Advisor, Megan Cameron, gives us the CLAs thoughts on Countryside Stewardship............
The window is still open for farmers and landowners interested in applying for Countryside Stewardship grants to protect and enhance the natural environment.
Farmers need to look now at the environmental management work they are already doing, alongside food production and how they might extend it through the next five years. The application window for the Countryside Stewardship scheme’s Mid and Higher tiers is open and although these grants will not take effect until January 2017, now is the time to decide whether to apply.
Many farmers and landowners in the region are already involved in providing wildlife corridors, nesting opportunities for wild farmland birds and pollinators, water quality initiatives and Countryside Stewardship is a competitive scheme which offers the opportunity to attract funding for these important measures.
Improving biodiversity and water quality are among the most important elements of Countryside Stewardship, but the scheme also covers woodland management, flood risk management, protecting historic environment features, maintaining and restoring the natural landscape and educational access. Capital grants are also available for environmental works such as new fencing and hedging, coppicing to improve woodland and support for the creation of new woodland areas.
Woodland management is an option under Countryside Stewardship (c. Bruce Fowkes)
The creation of resting, feeding and nesting opportunities for wild farmland birds and pollinators are at the heart of Countryside Stewardship and in the case of Higher Tier and Mid Tier applications, these important land management options are part of the Wild Pollinator and Farmland Wildlife Package, which should be spread across at least 5% of the application area to provide ecological benefit.
Countryside Stewardship offers an important opportunity for farmers and landowners to receive support for the ongoing positive work they are doing to enhance the ecological diversity of their land. The reporting and evidence requirements for Countryside Stewardship, particularly for Higher Tier applications, are weighty, but with more information readily available this year and clearer timescales for applications, we at the CLA hope that the Scheme will increase in popularity for the January 2017 start date.
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