Environmental Stewardship does benefit the countryside, says CLA West Midlands
The CLA in the West Midlands has welcomed the Countryside Survey's recognition of the benefits Environmental Stewardship is giving the countryside.
CLA West Midlands director Caroline Bedell said: "Take-up of Environmental Stewardship Schemes in the last 10 years has shown significant improvements in management of land for the environment.
"For example, the survey says there has been a fall of more than nine percent of arable land area that has led to a plant species richness increase of 30 percent. Part of this is due to the arable reversion option in agri-environment schemes.
"The survey indicates an increase in area of nearly seven percent for broadleaved woodland in the last decade, due in part, to land managers planting projects.
"Nearly half of all 'managed' hedges are now classified as being in good structural condition – again because of Environmental Stewardship Schemes and the efforts of landowners and farmers. Although there is still room for improvement in some hedgerows, especially in filling gaps, it is good news that there appears to be a growing number of hedgerow trees."
The rural business leader added: "Surely this disproves the view that farmers are despoilers of the countryside. This survey clearly demonstrates that the current policy and how it is applied by farmers is working and providing real benefits to the environment.
"There is still room for improvement and we must ensure that our significant environmental gains are not lost. As historic agri-environment agreements come to an end, those involved must be encouraged to continue their existing good stewardship by taking on equivalent new schemes, and not be downgraded. This is particularly important in upland areas.
"I would certainly encourage land owners to consider taking up Entry Level Stewardship if they have not already done so."
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