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CAP Conference calls for real enviornmental benefits

Co-ordination and intensification to deliver real environmental benefits  

DELEGATES at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and Moorland Forum conference in Perth this week were asked to consider how more environmental benefits could be woven into the next version of the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Thinking CAP event which was supported by Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage and sponsored by PDG Helicopters and Turcan Connell, kicked off with a keynote address by Nigel Miller, president, NFU Scotland which was followed by four highly informative presentations by GWCT researchers.

The aim of the morning session was to inform delegates of how conservation measures could and should be integrated into the new version of CAP to benefit a wide suite of wildlife and greatly enhance Scotland’s rural landscape to the benefit of biodiversity.

The afternoon session took the form of a discussion session, teasing out salient issues such as habitat, grazing and wildlife management and exploring missing options in the current suite of agricultural schemes.

Summing up the event, Jo O’Hara, Head of Natural heritage Management at Scottish Government, said:

“I congratulate the GWCT for giving me the science to go to my counterparts and for providing robust, policy-focussed research.”

Ms O’Hara recognised that the system for applying for rural development funding was complex and should be much simpler but also warned that there was a lot of pressure on where funds would be spent:

“We need to do more to diffuse pollution and on climate change, so money will be spread more thinly.”

She also stated that she could not foresee much European funding being available for predator control – a management principle which has been proven on numerous occasions to protect fragile populations of native birds such as black grouse and wading birds.

The GWCT would like to see predator control included in agri-environment schemes alongside ‘bundling’ options so there could be a bigger environmental benefit. One obvious example was that muirburn should be linked to grazing options.

GWCT director Scotland, Dr Adam Smith said:

“I would like to see an intensification of conservation which would really deliver benefits to the environment. It’s really about getting a better return from more concentrated areas.”

Simon Thorp. Director of Scotland’s Moorland Forum commented:

“I have welcomed the opportunity for the Moorland Forum to combine forces with GWCT for this event, which was attended by representatives from 20 of the Forum’s 30 members.  The review of the SRDP offers an important opportunity to influence the way support for upland management is targeted in the future and working together is the best way to maximise the benefits.”

An over-riding take-home message from the conference was that of co-ordination between land managers to deliver landscape-scale improvements and the availability of individuals to facilitate co-ordination. This, Ms O’Hara said, was a ‘missing link in the chain’.


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