This paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2018 entitled: The Role of Commoning in the Maintenance of Landscape and Ecology: A New Forest, National and Global Perspective.
Jenny Phelps, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, South West
There is a widespread recognition that there have been dramatic changes across the countryside in the UK over the past 70 years. Currently environmental land management initiatives tend to be top-down, driven by large institutions citing national legislation, policy obligations and international Directives and Conventions. Local communities, including farmers, who may nevertheless feel protective of the natural assets within their vicinity (that may also make a considerable contribution to a local sense of identity), may feel alienated from the imposition of targets relating to these same assets from whose formulation they have been excluded. However, such communities frequently have essential knowledge, experience and a sense of pride and commitment to the future survival of such areas. Furthermore the range of national organisations, strategies and policy frameworks can sometimes end up working against each other in a particular area. This is particularly true of complex sites and issues that contain a wide range of legal obligations and other interests. In such multi-objective areas there is a real need for greater connectivity at all levels, local, regional and national, to enable a synergy to be possible on the ground. This lack of co-ordination, coherence and integration at the national (and even regional) level results in a series of confusing, disjointed and contradictory signals and mechanism for those who live and work close to these areas and, most importantly, have the capacity to assist in their management and governance.
While it is possible to see how these tensions have developed, largely through the shift in power away from productivist agriculture and towards measures aimed at halting environmental decline, the need to embrace a holistic multi-objective approach that inspires and enables farmers and local communities is pressing. The international institutions without the engagement of local people, who feel distanced and even disenfranchised from their own land as a result, undermines the environmental imperative. Within Gloucestershire, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) have been developing an integrated local delivery (ILD) model, implemented in a range of situations that utilises and enables those with local skills and environmental land management knowledge that contributes to the management of sensitive and key environmental sites.