The CLA is considering its involvement in the European Wildlife Estates Label - a European Landowners Organization) initiative intended to promote the good environmental management carried out by(mainly) sporting estates across the EU by means of an evaluation system.
The CLA is discussing the merits of participating in Wildlife Estates at English and Welsh level and more particularly whether a working group should be established to explore the matter in more detail.
The aim of the Wildlife Estates Label is to establish a “network of exemplary estates” that demonstrate the good management and conservation practices associated with hunting practices (in the European sense of the word). The link to the website is http://www.wildlife-estates.eu/
The Wildlife Estates Label is gaining traction in other EU Member States and a number of English estates, including Buccleuch and Holkham, are keen to explore the advantages and disadvantages of implementing it here.
Therefore, a working group is being created of interested members, with Viscount Coke as chairman, supported by a staff secretariat, to consider the issues in more detail.
The basic principle of the Wildlife Estates Label is fairly straightforward. It operates on the basis of a two level structure. The first level involves the estate self-certifying that it meets certain basic standards set out in the Wildlife Estates Charter, including the drafting of a management plan. .
The second level involves the establishment of a national evaluation committee. This committee defines the conservation value of the biodiversity and management practices found in its territory by means of a number of indicators. Estates complete a questionnaire based on the committee’s indicators, and if they meet enough of them they qualify for the Wildlife Estates Label.
The Wildlife Estates Label is not aimed at all landowners. As the name suggests it is primarily intended for estates, particularly those with significant sporting interests.
There are two levels to be completed by any applicant before they can qualify for theWildlife Estates Label:
- Level 1 is signing the WE Label-Charter, gaining access to the WE Label Network; and,
- Level 2, which consists of completing the WE Label Questionnaire.
National Delegations will provide applicants with the WE Label-Application form which contains both the WE Label-Charter and the WE Label-Questionnaire, and will be available for any assistance that might be required throughout the application process.
Level 1 – Commitment to the Wildlife Estates Charter
Level 1 involves the owner making a commitment to observe the principles set out in the Wildlife Estates Charter. This comes in the form of a ten-point pledge that commits landowners/managers to sustainable practices on their estate:
(1) Identifying a manager and supervisor of the estate concerned;
(2) Undertaking active wildlife management following a long-term integrated wildlife management plan;
(3) Maintaining records and monitoring the implementation of the wildlife management plan;
(4) Undertaking sustainable shooting, stalking and/or fishing;
(5) Managing for a sustainable balance of game and wildlife and their shared habitats;
(6) Improving, whenever possible, biodiversity and species protection, notably those favourable to pollinators;
(7) Compliance with all legal requirements, relevant National codes of practice and European Environmental legislation (for example, Natura 2000);
(8) Adhering to the requirements of the Agreement between Birdlife International and FACE on Directive 79/409/EEC the European Charter on Hunting and Biodiversity and the EU Commission’s Guide on Hunting under the Birds Directive;
(9) Maintaining active engagement with local communities and undertaking education/awareness raising activities; and,
(10) To make the required effort to apply for Level 2 Accreditation process within 2 years.
These are the founding principles of the Wildlife Estates Label philosophy and apply to all National Delegations. They all look relatively straightforward apart from the need to have a management plan covering landscape, habitat and species, which could be seen as being quite onerous.
Level 2- Wildlife Estates Label
Level 2 involves the owner obtaining the Wildlife Estates Label itself.
Applicants are assessed on the information they provide by completing the WE Label Questionnaire, which has been developed on a set of general and specific criteria according to different countries and climatic regions. These “biogeographic” regions each possess a unique blend of vegetation, climate and geology. Based on these criteria, different aspects of the economic activities, land management practices and their impact on nature and biodiversity are assessed and awarded a score.
The WE Label Questionnaire covers all aspects of the property based on the parameters for each biogeographical region. It aims to collect all the relevant information about the property, the economic activities carried out, the plans for improving the property and measures taken to enhance biodiversity.
Applicants are required to submit the management plans of the activities carried out on the estate (i.e. agriculture, forestry and hunting) together with the WE Label Questionnaire. The questionnaire is structured in a way that the applicant can easily fill out. It is separated into 2 main parts: GENERIC and SPECIFIC indicators. This requires the creation, at Member State level, of an “evaluation committee” composed of at least three experts chosen because of their expertise in the field of biodiversity, wildlife and land management. There is a presumption that these experts will represent the spectrum of stakeholder views, including pro hunting interests, green NGOs and public bodies, thus ensuring its credibility.
The committee is appointed through the “national liaison office”. This is generally the ELO member in the Member State concerned, so in England and Wales it would be the CLA. However, in France and Belgium the equivalents of Natural England have agreed to take the lead in establishing the committee. In Portugal the equivalent body has also agreed to pay for it.
The evaluation committee’s initial role is to adapt the generic questionnaire and evaluation methodology to national conditions.
Wildlife Estates has prepared a generic evaluation grid for each bio-geographical region in the EU. In the UK the “Atlantic grid” will apply. Each of these grids consists of a number of general indicators against which management standards can be assessed on the basis of a points system.
The maximum number of points is 300, with 210 points constituting a pass.
The national evaluation committee takes each of the general indicators and defines them at national level. For example it will define what constitute valuable fauna and efficient keepering.
If the evaluation committee and the national liaison office think that the applicant has obtained sufficient points, the application has is forwarded on to the European Jury appointed by the ELO which makes the final decision. If it is satisfied it awards the label.
The ELO has advised that wide scale participation in the Wildlife Estates Label will put the CLA in good stead with the Commission and will increase compliance with greening measures under the CAP. It already has the support of DG Environment, the IUCN and RISE.
In any event it will be a positive for landowning organisations to be able to set out how much biodiversity Europe's estates provide. This is likely to become more significant as EU policy continues to shift from concentrating on N2K sites and looks to protecting the biodiversity outside them.
Scottish Land and Estates have established the Wildlife Estates Label in Scotland in tandem with the Cairngorms National Park and the SRSPB.
The main concern is that in the absence of any direct incentive or threat, most estates will not sign up as there is no reason for doing so. If this was the case there is a danger that Wildlife Estates Label will be discredited with landowners perceived as indifferent to biodiversity.
The CLA has asked Natural England for its views. NE will not support something that just accepts the status quo. To gain support there would need to be some additionality, the objective being to bring about an overall improvement in biodiversity.
The Director General of the European Landowners Organization recently told CLA Policy Committee the principles of the European Wildlife Estates label. He noted that the concept of the label was to make the link between biodiversity and estates and that it is a public-private partnership. Through the greater opportunities for landowners to influence land management and sustainability through the WE label it was possible to reduce the regulatory impact of wildlife and environmental legislation.