26 June 2000
Green cash to save Long Mynd

By FWi staff

A FAMOUS Shropshire landscape damaged by overgrazing will be returned to its former beauty under a 1.7 million government scheme.

More than 20,000 acres of the Long Mynd is to come under the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme, it was announced on Monday (26 June).

This is one of the largest environmental agreements to be signed under the ministry of agricultures agri-environment programme.

Junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley said commoners will receive payments of more than 1.7m over 10 years.

To receive this, they must reduce their stocking levels, control bracken and re-introduce a programme of heather burning.

It is hoped this will allow the heather to regenerate and provide a home for of upland bird species such as the red grouse, curlew, wheatear and ring ouzel.

A 1990 survey revealed that overgrazing of the Long Mynd had led to 94% of the heather being suppressed.

In 1992, stocking density was 5.5 ewes per hectare in summer and 4.2 in winter. This compares with 1.5 ewes/ha under the ESA agreement Mr Morley said: “I am absolutely delighted that the long-running environmental problems of the Long Mynd are to be sorted out once and for all.

“This is good for farming, good for the rural economy and good for the environment.”

There are some 92 commoners, of whom 17 are actively exercising their grazing rights on the National Trust-owned Long Mynd.

There are over 10,000 agreement-holders in the 22 ESAs in England and the overall budget for 2000/01 is 46m.

Earlier this year there was outcry from South Downs farmers after their ESA payments were cut by the ministry of agriculture.

Because farm incomes and profits have fallen, MAFF cut payments calculated on the level of profits foregone.

Last year, the government announced it would spend 1.6bn in environmental expenditure over seven years.