Tuesday, 29 December 2015


Vital Uplands was a key policy document produced by Natural England in 2009. For the first time the agency took a few modest steps in the direction of considering our hills and moors in the interests of the environment and wildlife before vested interests. It was not a major revolution but it was a start. Among its proposals was a significant shift towards allowing a more natural vegetation in the uplands, i.e. more trees and scrub and less short, cropped, grazed and burned grass and heather. It would have allowed natural processes and natural succession to become default in many higher land areas.

But Vital Uplands was killed off three years after its launch following a concerted campaign by lobbyists for the vested interests in the farming and grouse shooting industries. The laudable aim of reducing intensive exploitation of the land was thrust aside by the single minded pursuit of short term business benefits. This is the problem with basing the whole of our approach to national policy on the economy. Business, entrepreneurship and the wealth creation agenda is most often short term. And that's reflected also in public policy which needs to satisfy the lobbyists for business. It's not always a question of huge profits. Farm income for many on the land may be modest compared with what is earned in the city but to keep up with the rat race there's a gradual tendency to farm more intensively.

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