Agri-environment schemes

Agri-environment schemes are agreements that pay farmers or landowners to farm or manage their land in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Over the years there have been numerous schemes and two which apply to South West Lakes Trust are the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (now closed) and the Environmental Stewardship Scheme which came into place in 2005.
Countryside Stewardship (CSS) is gradually being phased out and replaced with the Environmental Stewardship (ES) Scheme which is comprised of three tiers – Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS).

Countryside Stewardship (CSS) was introduced as a pilot scheme in 1991 by (at the time) the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

It was designed to make payments to farmers and land managers to improve the natural beauty and diversity of the countryside. The scheme is now administered by Natural England and its objectives are to:
• sustain the beauty and diversity of the landscape
• improve and extend wildlife habitats
• conserve archaeological sites and historic features
• improve opportunities for countryside enjoyment
• restore neglected land or features
• create new habitats and landscapes.
In 2001 a ten year CSS agreement was put in place for Roadford Lake for various fields around the lake. The agreement focused on the Culm grasslands, hedgerow management, grassland management and orchard restoration.
The Scheme was split into Annual Management and Capital Payments and claimed annually on completion.
A majority of the capital payments were front-loaded into the first four years of the agreement.
In summary, the Roadford agreement contained the following:
• Lowland hay meadow annual and rotational cutting
• Culm grassland management
• Lowland pasture management
• Old orchard restoration and management
• Educational access
• Boundary protection and management (e.g hedgerows and earth banks)
• Scrub management plan .
In 2008 The Trust successfully obtained additional funding under the Scheme for the following work:
• Orchard Management Plan
• Fencing of three Culm Grassland fields for grazing management
• Hedge laying around orchard
• Pond creation
• Restoration of orchard behind the Angling & Watersports Centre
The Countryside Stewardship Scheme has now finshed and the Trust will shortly be submitting an Entry Level Scheme application to enable the positive management to continue.

Environmental Stewardship was introduced by Defra in 2005 and is administered by Natural England.
It is now replacing Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Area Agreements.
The aims of Environmental Stewardship are:
• Wildlife conservation (biodiversity)
• Maintenance and enhancement of landscape quality and character, by helping to maintain important features such as traditional field boundaries
• Protection of the historic environment, including archaeological features and traditional farm buildings
• Promotion of public access and understanding of the countryside
• Natural resource protection.
Entry Level Stewardship (ELS)
ELS is open to all farmers and land managers in England and it is non-competiive. The Trust will shortly be submitting an application for Roadford Lake to replace its previous Countryside Stewardship agreement ad we are currently looking at a similar scheme for Wimbleball Lake.
Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)
HLS options are designed to contribute to one or more of the Scheme’s objectives and are usually only available to land of significant environmental interest such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
The Trust currently has a HLS agreement in place for Crowdy Reservoir where there is SSSI and SAC designation. This agreement has enabled the Trust to work with the Davidstow Commoners Association to provide for controled grazing in order to manage the fragile mire habitat.
Options for management under ELS and HLS include
• Boundary features
• Trees and woodland
• Historic and landscape features
• Buffer strips and marginal land
• Soil protection
• Grassland
• Moorland
• Access
• Lowland heathland
• Wetland.
Under each land management area there are various options for management which can be tailored to suit the individual site.

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