Written evidence submitted by the Dartmoor
1. While the Council supports the main thrust
and all the recommendations of the Report it only comments below
on those matters in which it has a real and informed interest.
They are those connected with upland farming and the management
2. Critical to our response and to our thinking
about the modern functions of commoners in the hills is the concept
of public benefits (goods, assets, also known clumsily as ecosystem
services) which upland grazing alone sustains and which far exceed
those available in the lowlands per unit area.
3. We recognise nine such: the landscape
and its beauty; easy access to it; the cultural heritage it reveals;
its contribution to biodiversity; its storage and supply of clean
water; its role in mitigating flooding downstream; its sequestering
of carbon in peat; the first link in a food chain; and the actual
production and marketing of protein. We agree that the ways of
paying those who sustain all these things for that work have to
be devised, urgently.
4. Concentration by government and its agents
on only one of those public goodsbiodiversityand
neglect of the others for some years now, has skewed the grazing
regime to such an extent that hill farmers generally and commoners
in particular are having to review their own operations and plans
very carefully, and indulge new business initiatives.
5. Which leads to our clear and strongest
support for No 6 in the summary of Recommendations on p. 21 of
the report: "securing the future for hill farmers".
The huge risk at this moment is that the next generation, develops
the present forced initiatives to the extent that the need to
graze the open moorland as part of the business is extinguished.
The farmstead would still be occupied so there would be no alternative
base from which to start any new grazing management system. Moreover,
the historic skills base involved in the existing system of stock
management and burning regimes would be lost.
6. Without grazing, moorland becomes impenetrable
to people and stock and scrub invades. Transpiration of moisture
increases and thus water held and peat (the carbon store) diminish.
The surface heritage becomes invisible, walking and riding cease
and even the view is impeded.
7. We inevitably also strongly support the
need for recognition of regional flexibility in this whole area
of policy making. Grazing formulae constructed in NE England just
do not work in SW hills. The climate, and thus the growing season,
is very different. Cattle play a vital role in managing moorland
in the SW, and the combination of cattle, sheep and ponies' grazing
is critical to sustaining the mosaic of vegetation which provides
those nine public benefits.