Friday, 30 March 2018

Principles of Moorland Management - Guidance Published

I am delighted that it has been possible to publish the guidance on three PoMM topics today:

  • Heather Cutting
  • Mountain Hare Management
  • Worm Control for Grouse

This guidance can be found on the Forum's website in a separate Published Guidance page and there is a link to this page from the Home page.

This published guidance has had a long-gestation period but I believe that the effort has been worthwhile.  I understand that some members of the Forum will be happier with the guidance than others, but we should remember that this guidance is intended to be a summation of current thinking with a view to advising practitioners about how to manage in accordance with best practice. This will never be a static position and the intention is to keep all the guidance under review so that it continues to reflect latest information, regulation and experience.

My thanks go to everyone who has contributed to the production of this guidance.  It has not been simple to achieve this level of consensus but I believe this type of guidance provides a baseline to work from and it is likely to that the guidance provides a more flexible and a more effective approach to achieving best practice than the alternative of additional regulation.

I set out some suggestions about the further development of the PoMM project in the earlier blog post.  I hope this will trigger some support to produce guidance for more topics.  Some nice quick, easy wins would be welcome after these three, heavyweight topics!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Forum Meeting 23rd March - Highlights

The Forum met on 23rd March in Perth and the meeting was well attended. Full minutes of the meeting will be circulated to members of the Forum, but these are the highlights.

Guest presentations

Jo O’Hara, Head of Forestry Commission Scotland provided an outline of the changes that are taking place in the Forestry Commission to set up ‘Forestry & Land Scotland’ (management of the forestry estate) and ‘Scottish Forestry’ (regulation), which will both be independent agencies of the Scottish Government. An open consultation will be held regarding the development of a Forest Strategy.

Emma Goodyer from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme had been due to speak about the Commission of Inquiry Update that is in progress, but sadly she was unwell and unable to attend the meeting.


Briefings were provided before the meeting and they are available on the website, but the authors spoke to their briefings during the meeting:
  • Andrew Coupar – Peatland Update.
  • Hamish Trench - The Land Commission. As a result of his attendance it was agreed that the Land Commission would apply for membership of the Forum.
  • Will Boyd-Wallis - Cairngorms NPA forestry strategy review.
  • Duncan Orr-Ewing - Carbon-Neutral Farming.

Strategic Issues

Discussion centred on how the Forum could identify long-term objectives for moorland in Scotland with links to other strategies and as part of the development of a UK, post-Brexit framework. Engagement with the consultation over the Forest Strategy could be part of this, as well as input to the work strands identified by the Land Commission, principally Land Ownership and Land Use Decision-Making.

A short summary of the breadth of issues covered by the Moorland Forum could be prepared, as a way to highlight why the uplands are in need of careful consideration. Volunteers to refine this approach and assist with the production of a summary are being sought.

Summer meeting

It was agreed that the summer meeting on 1st June 2018 will take place at Carsphairn and it will be hosted by the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.

Principles of Moorland Management (PoMM)

Agreement was reached to publish the guidance on: Heather Cutting, Mountain Hare and Worm Control in Grouse. Much debate has taken place during the development of this guidance and although the topics have covered some contentious issues, it is to members’ credit that the Forum has been able to agree a common position on this guidance. Some final tweaks will be made, to reflect the discussion during the meeting, ahead of publication at the end of this week.

With the publication of this guidance, the focus can now shift to the production of other guidance. Suggestions for topics to cover will be welcome (see the Blog post).

Muirburn Code

A Development Plan to address the refinement and expansion of the Code’s supplementary information (See the Muirburn blog Post) is being considered by a small group. This will be circulated for input to the Muirburn Group, and more widely, before being finalised.

Working for Waders

Chris Wernham (BTO) provided an update from the meeting of the Facilitation Team that had taken place earlier in the week. Three Action Groups have met twice and a plan for further work during 2018-19 is being developed.

Chairman’s Succession

The Succession Task Group met after the meeting and a separate note will be circulated to Forum members.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Principles of Moorland Management

The Principles of Moorland Management (PoMM) project is funded by SNH and seeks to develop guidance with a practitioner focus.  It avoids re-inventing guidance that is already available but aims to draw all the information that relates to a particular topic together in one place.  Input from people with specialist knowledge who are not members of the Moorland Forum is encouraged to make sure that the guidance is as representative as possible of all views.  The Moorland forum will be responsible for reviewing any guidance that is published through PoMM on a regular basis so that the guidance is kept up to date.

Current Topics
The plan was for topics to be kept light and to link to other information wherever possible so that we could achieve a quick turn round between starting to prepare the guidance and then publishing it.  The  in-built ability within PoMM to refine the guidance after publication would allow the guidance to be refined and improved.

This laudable objective has not been achieved in practice.  However, we are now close to the publication of the guidance on three topics:
  • Worm Control in Grouse
  • Heather Cutting
  • Mountain Hare
The guidance for these topics has been made available for Forum members to review in advance of the discussion that will take place during the postponed Forum meeting on 23rd March.  Being an optimist, I am anticipating publication soon afterwards.

Future Topics
Having got the first three topics to the point of publication, I am now looking for topics for the next phase of work.  Current proposals include: 
  • Input to the development of a Trapping Code of Practice by SNH
  • Sheep Tick Control
  • Management for Waders
  • Monitoring of Mountain Hare populations
  • Fire Danger Warning System
My question to everyone with an interest in the Scottish uplands is what other topics should PoMM be providing guidance for?  The guidance need not be long and involved; it could be as simple as a side or two of bullet points that provide a summary of the key issues and links to other guidance, reports or information.  I see this sort of guidance being prepared by someone who has specialist knowledge of a topic, who might already have prepared more detailed information.  The PoMM guidance could be seen as a way to promote the report or other information to a wider audience.

Longer more detailed guidance can be prepared, but I would welcome suggestions for some 'quick-wins' as well.

The PoMM project has funding and provided any proposals meet the requirement of the PoMM Steering Group, funding may be allocated to support the preparation of more guidance.