Two University of Exeter experts have been appointed to an expert panel which will advise how to improve Dartmoor’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Matt Lobley, Professor of Rural Resource Management and Director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research and Charles Tyler, Professor of Environmental Biology, will make recommendations on the most effective grazing and management regime(s) to protect the sites, while also allowing agricultural production, public access and cultural and natural heritage.
Due to report in Autumn, the scope of the review includes:
- consideration of recent trends in numbers and types of grazing animals on Dartmoor and the influence that this has had on its ecology
- a review of the existing ecological evidence base to consider the current management of SSSIs and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
- consideration of any lessons to be learned from previous approaches
- recommendations as to the most effective grazing and management regime or regimes to deliver improvements on the protected sites
- advice on how to support the delivery of an effective grazing regime, consistent with meeting existing legally binding targets and statutory requirements
- proposing options focusing on those sites that are currently not recovering or in favourable condition.
David Fursdon, an experienced industry figure based in Devon, will chair and will lead the review alongside an expert panel made up of those with technical knowledge of the ecology of upland ecosystems and the impact of different management and agricultural practices on these areas. The panel members are:
- Cicely Hunt – land agent and agricultural grants specialist, and member of the Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA)
- William Cockbain – Cumbrian hill farmer and former Chair of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Uplands Panel
- Jeremy Moody – Secretary of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV)
- Professor Matt Lobley – Professor of Rural Resource Management and Director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter
- Professor Charles Tyler – Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Exeter
- Professor Jane K Hill – Research Scientist for Resilient Ecosystems at the University of York
- Sue Everett – ecologist and land management adviser, chair of The Countryside Regeneration Trust, and former chair of British Association of Nature Conservationists.
- Dr Lisa Norton – agro-ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Lancaster Environment Centre
The panel will engage with farmers, land managers and commoners to understand their views and experience about living and working on the moor and consider all available evidence to provide an independent perspective on the management of protected sites on the moor.
It will not commission its own primary data collection, consider any changes to the existing legal framework or comment on landlord-tenant relationships on Dartmoor.
David Fursdon said: “I look forward to working with the expert panel to make recommendations that deliver improvements on the protected sites across Dartmoor while preserving agricultural production, public access and the moor’s natural heritage.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “This independent review will help identify how we can work alongside local farmers and land owners to continue to protect the beautiful landscapes of Dartmoor.
“I am pleased progress has been made through the publication of the terms of reference and panel members and look forward to receiving and engaging with the results of the review later this year.”