The CLA has welcomed the recently-published independent review of protected site management on Dartmoor, and is calling for swift action to implement the recommendations.
As reported earlier this year, Defra announced an independent inquiry into plans to reduce grazing levels on Dartmoor following lobbying from the CLA and a number of Devon MPs. The CLA had consistently raised concerns from its members who graze livestock on common land within the National Park, much of which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Natural England, the government body responsible for ensuring that SSSIs in England are in a favourable condition, had proposed a new reduced grazing regime for sheep, cattle and ponies aimed at improving what it considers to be the poor the condition of sites in Dartmoor.
Many farmers, however, expressed concern that complying with the new rules could cause profound damage to the environment as well as their business.
The review, led by David Fursdon, has now published a review which gives recommendations for Defra ministers to consider on the future management of Dartmoor’s SSSIs.
It says Natural England "needs to recognise the scale of the challenge it faces to rebuild trust and confidence on Dartmoor".
The report argues more cattle were needed for "conservation grazing" to combat the spread of purple moor grass which was "out-competing other vegetation and creating a tussocky, bleached, landscape where few animals will graze apart from a short period in late spring and early summer".
'Voices and experiences heard'
Responding to the report, Country Land and Business Association President Victoria Vyvyan said:
“This thorough and swift review fully recognises the deep-seated challenges faced by those living and working on the moor.
“The farmers and the local community know this land better than anyone, and finally, their voices and experiences have been heard.
“Despite a track record of poor communication and unilateral decision-making, Natural England and Dartmoor National Park have an opportunity for a reset that puts farmers, livelihoods and the unique environment at the centre of land management. We expect immediate action to implement the recommendations of this report.”
Read the report here.