As part of the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, national charity Butterfly Conservation is running two facilitation groups, which are open to all landowners interested in improving their land to achieve environmental and wildlife benefits that go beyond what could be achieved by working in isolation.
The Wyre Forest group is coordinated by Dr Jenny Joy, Senior Regional Officer of Butterfly Conservation in the West Midlands and the Morecambe Bay Limestones group by Martin Wain, Butterfly Conservation Morecambe Bay Limestones Project Officer. The objectives of both groups are to restore habitats and connect landscapes by working with local farmers and landowners.
In the past eighteen months the Wyre Forest Group has increased in size from 10 to 38 landowners, and has run a series of events and workshops on a wide range of environment and wildlife issues including the historic environment, woodland management and wild pollinators. New initiatives include the establishment of a squirrel management group, working with group members towards establishing management plans in previously unmanaged woodland, and moves towards establishing some natural flood management work as part of ongoing woodland management in the area.
For the Morecambe Bay Limestones area the initial priorities were to run a series of demonstration days focussed on habitat management in woodland which included events on coppicing, the management of rides, temporary deer fencing, firewood processing, and helping to develop local community wood fuel projects. Recent events have had a broader focus, reflecting the interests of new members, and included training in dry stone walling, butterfly identification, conservation grazing, quarry restoration, and meadow creation. This group now has 49 members, works closely with both partner organisations and landowners and has recently started to develop an orchard initiative.
In both the Morecambe Bay and Wyre Forest Facilitation Groups some members have already submitted Countryside Stewardship applications or are getting ready to do so whilst others are developing woodland management plans, considering Mid-Tier schemes or simply thinking more about what they can do on their land to conserve the wildlife priorities for the areas which include High Brown Fritillary, Duke of Burgundy, and Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies.
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Nationally, Butterfly Conservation also runs the Farmland Butterfly and Moth Initiative (FBMI) which is a Natural England funded project to improve the level of support for NE advisers in England where priority butterflies and moths are being targeted through Countryside Stewardship. Regional staff and branches provide expertise and training to advisers in the field to ensure that agreements maximise benefits for priority species, widespread species and other pollinators on the farm. Every year, Butterfly Conservation staff and volunteers interact with hundreds of holdings where agri-environment schemes are in place across England and, along with colleagues in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, offer support for advisers and landowners alike. If you would like to know more or receive advice on butterflies or moths on your farm then please contact the FBMI co-ordinator, Katie Cruickshanks at email@example.com