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  • Harriet Bell

Land Management Plan frameworks - which approach should we choose?

Our Advisory Team, made up of volunteers from the Dartmoor farming community, have now discussed most of Defra’s six public goods, that Defra intends to fund farmers to deliver through ELMs.

For a quick recap these are:

  • Clean air

  • Clean and plentiful water

  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards

  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change

  • Thriving plants and wildlife

  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

The crucial next step we now need to look at is how those public good are brought together in a delivery framework – a Land Management Plan. The plan will be the means by which farmers can identify opportunities to deliver public goods on their land and communicate their work back to Defra.

This plan should be simple and easy to understand. It should make it clear for farmers what opportunities are available to them as well as where and how their land management delivers one or many of the public goods. It should align with a simple, incontrovertible approach to monitoring.

This blog presents the skeleton of three possible approaches so that we can consider which might be best. When we've decided on one (or more) of these options we'll then work on adding more detail to it so that becomes a usable model.

We are looking for a land management plan approach which works for farms, which works for commons and ideally which could work for both farms and commons (but we’ll explore that in more detail separately).

Most importantly we're looking for input from you! If you are a farmer, commoner or land owner on Dartmoor then you can vote, at the end of this blog, on which of these options you think would work best.

Option A – Tailored Advice/Custom Plan

This is a very simple approach. An advisor visits your farm, common or farm and common together and works in conjunction with the farmer/commoners to develop a management plan, based on the 6 public goods, which is site specific.

The advisor is then largely responsible for how that site fits into a wider landscape plan and can communicate with farmers/commoners about that wider vision and any opportunities to move upwards to either the second or third tier in the ELMs scheme (which require farmers collaborating on delivery) by committing to certain actions.

An example of this approach is how the Duchy is currently working with farmers to develop Natural Capital plans for their farms. Something Jeremy Clitherow touches upon in this presentation (you may want to skip forward to 6 minutes in):

Questions about Option A:

  • How well would it work for commons and potentially linking commons and home farms?

  • Is the advisor also responsible for facilitating farmer collaboration within specific landscapes?

  • Is the accompanying monitoring system more technological or is it annual inspection in person?

  • Where is the accountability for delivery in this approach?

Option A Strengths:

  • Site specific management plan gives plenty of opportunity to identify and play to the strengths of each site and demonstrate genuine understanding of its potential.

  • Provides farmers with hands on support and guidance.

Option A Weaknesses:

  • Reliant on the competence of your advisor.

  • Does it make genuine collaboration between farmers within a landscape less likely/feasible?

  • Resource intensive approach.

  • If farmers within a landscape don’t share any land management goals they may be prevented from achieving Tier 2 status within ELMs.

Option A Opportunities:

  • Land management plan can be developed to complement the farm business in a more tailored way.

  • Could farmers/land managers choose their own advisor? Could more than one advisor be available so farmers/land managers can get expert advice relating to the different public goods?

Option A Threats:

  • Poor relationship with the advisor

  • Advisor imposes on land managers rather than informing, empowering and supporting.

  • That all data from the land management outputs is centralized somewhere inaccessible so farmers/land managers in a landscape don't get a sense of their achievements.

Option B – Mapped Opportunities

Farmers/land managers/commoners are presented with a mapping tool which indicates the public goods opportunities for each land parcel/area by providing them with the spatial data.

For farmers/land managers/commoners using the system it might be something like the LandApp on the surface. However, behind the scenes you would have an opportunity mapping system pulling in a lot of data, like the Forestry Commissions map, the lagas map developed for Cornwall or the Dartmoor peat map.

The system could also indicate to farmers, through mapping, the value of different landscape interventions they might choose to undertake on their land.

It is possible, with mapping systems like this, that farmers/commoners could see what commitments were being made on neighboring land and identify opportunities to link their landscapes together to achieve more of an ELMs Tier 2 approach. It would also be possible for commoners to co-design their Landscape Plan.

Questions about Option B:

  • Would you want the system to give suggested recommended actions based on the opportunity map or would it work better if it leaves it to farmers to report through the mapping tool what they’re going to do to deliver the right public good in the right place?

  • Does it need a more human accompaniment to support and guide farmers?

  • Who programs the mapping data? E.g. it could be done nationally as current schemes are or it could be done based on more local knowledge and by more local bodies or local departments e.g. DNPA, Westcountry Rivers Trust etc.

Option B Strengths:

  • Farmers/land managers can control what options they decide to take up.

  • Available options based on robust landscape specific data.

  • It informs farmers/land managers about the role their site plays in the wider landscape.

Option B Weaknesses:

  • Reliant on the quality of mapping data.

  • Low relationship e.g. farmers/commoners have little opportunity to develop relationship and understanding with those mapping the opportunities and providing any associated options (as exemplified by current stewardship approach).

  • How does it build opportunity for meaningful collaboration between farmers?

  • How does it account for more cultural/heritage elements?

Option B Opportunities:

  • To build in quick and easy reporting e.g. complete your transect on the common, data from your phone efficiently uploads that data onto the mapping system.

  • To give farmers more immediate feedback by having a responsive mapping system e.g. map identified flood risk, farmers plant trees, map should update over time to show how this has impacted flood risk.

Option B Threats:

  • Lack of technology, digital skills and internet access in the Dartmoor farming/land management community.

  • Govt. not known for great, reliable, easy to deal with technology systems.

Option C – Scorecard

Examples of this type of approach include the ORC’s Public Goods tool, Elizabeth Stockdale’s AHDB soil scorecard, the LEAF mark etc.

For each of the public goods a scoring approach is developed for measuring their delivery. This indicates different levels a farm or commons landscape can choose to target their delivery at across each public good theme. The information for all public goods comes together in a single scorecard.

The scorecard gives a very clear impression off what good looks like within each theme and obviously different sites would have inherent strengths and weaknesses that would make it easier or harder to achieve the optimum output.

No site would ever be likely to perform well across each public good theme because they conflict with each other, so payment would depend on hitting a specified number of thresholds across a site.

This approach provides farmers/land managers/commoners with a decision making framework to work within but essentially enables them to design the management and delivery of their own scheme.

Questions about this approach:

  • Is this too hands off an approach? Would it need some accompanying training or site visits?

  • How does this approach encourage collaboration, does anyone have any ideas?

  • Who creates the scorecard? Again it could be done nationally as current schemes are or it could be done based on more local knowledge and by more local bodies or local departments.

  • Could this approach work well for a whole of Dartmoor delivery, i.e. all commons in one scheme, if that’s what people wanted?

Option C Strengths:

  • Farmers/land managers can control the level of performance they wish to attain for each public good and how to deliver it is entirely up to them.

  • Being given a clear idea of what to work towards.

  • Farmers/land managers/commoners can play to the strengths of their landscape to maximize financial return.

  • It takes into account existing public goods within a landscape.

Option C Weaknesses:

  • Does this approach run the risk of becoming too complicated?

  • How does it build opportunity for meaningful collaboration between farmers?

Option C Opportunities:

  • Gives farmers/land managers feedback as they attain different levels within the scorecard.

  • Could there be a bonus payment if a site performs particularly well?

Option C Threats:

  • How do we build in opportunity for people to experiment with delivery approaches which may fail? Or support trialing approaches which may take time to work?

Now it's over to you, please use the survey below to tell us which of these options you feel would work best.

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