It’s a long time now since I worked in nature conservation and so increasingly I find that the jargon has moved on from that with which I used to be entirely comfortable. When Moorland Management Plans came up in a conversation with an old friend I had to admit to being unaware of what they are and what they are for. I think it was the use of the phrase ‘sordid little deals’ that may have nudged my interest.
And so I asked Natural England about Moorland Management Plans (having failed to find out much through the process of employing a search engine). This is what I asked and what NE was kind enough to reply:
What is the role of Moorland Management Plans (MMPs) in ensuring that upland areas meet their conservation potential?
Natural England has been working on the development of long term upland management plans with land managers which combines (sic) the full range of outcomes as appropriate to that site – so the sorts of things they can include are: developing positive action required to deliver for range of habitats and species, understanding and enabling grouse management and upland farming/grazing, delivering improvements to water supply/flooding and tackling climate change (through peat restoration). The concept of these long term plan starts with encapsulating a vision for achieving long term environmental gain whilst enabling the businesses to thrive. Each plan will differ slightly in terms of its vision, focus, lifespan and tone – so they will be bespoke to each site.
How many MMPs does NE hope to see by what time, and how large an area will they cover?
We have mapped out which year we would to start discussions on a long term plan – which gives us figures as follows:
For 2017 and 2018 – 86
For 2018 through to 2024 – 101
We’ve not mapped out the total area they will cover, but have been able to look at the forecast ha of blanket bog habitat in the plans we would like to start discussions on in 2017 and 2018 – this is 32,466 ha.
How many MMPs have been completed so far?
We expect the first ones to be completed in the next 2-3 months.
What is the timetable for publishing MMPs?
The plans will belong to the land manager/s and we will work with each of them on how best to communicate their plan.
Quite interesting. From this I take the message that NE isn’t really in charge of what the plans say nor in whether the public who pay NE salaries will know much about them. There certainly appears to be the scope for sordid little deals in the process but I guess that we will have to wait and see. Although maybe we will have to just wait and not see anything.
I wonder what role MMPs will play in getting moorland burning under control? Or use of vehicles on sensitive sites? Or the proliferation of unconsented tracks over grouse moors? Their content will tell us whether NE is acting as a regulator of environmentally damaging activities on our moorlands, or as a mate to intensive grouse shooting.
Remember, there is still a live complaint being handled by the EU over intensive moorland management at Walshaw Moor and across the English uplands. I wonder how it’s going in these post-Brexit-vote days? What might the Walshaw Moor MMP say? Will it make things better or worse? And when will the public see it?
Not only does the jargon move on, but so does the internal culture of our statutory nature conservation agencies. Can anyone imagine (this is a rhetorical question, and many of the readers of this blog are too young for it to have much resonance anyway) Derek Ratcliffe approving of NE working on bespoke plans with the people who manage grouse moors in England? One has to wonder, not for the first time, whether NE is any longer fit for purpose. Maybe MMPs will answer that question one way or another.
I’ve moved from not knowing what MMPs are to being very interested in them. Very interested. Really, very interested.