Options for landscape scale collaboration under the UK’s environmental stewardship scheme
Current agri-environmental schemes (AES) in the UK address environmental management at the scale of individual farms. However, Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ESS) has two incentives for group action: HR8 and UX1. These are analysed in this report.
A telephone survey found these options are more likely to be taken up where (i) there is a history of land mangers working together, (ii) when the ESS has replaced a previous AES, (iii) where there are other benefits of joint action, and (iv) following encouragement from an outside organisation. The flexibility of the HR8 option allows stakeholders to devise solutions that best suit their circumstances. The major problems of UX1 are (i) requiring the register of land use to be updated and (ii) upfront costs, which are incurred before final UELS agreement is been reach.
Because of (i) the success in forming environmental groups around HR8 and UX1 options, (ii) the evidence that the scale of management is likely to deliver more effective AES and (iii) the acceptance by policy makers that this general approach represents a way forward, a proposal is made to introduce a financial incentive for farmers to collaboratively conserve environmental goods. It is proposed to amend Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) by moving some current options into compulsory cross compliance to free-up points to create Entry Level Stewardship plus (ELSplus) whose aim would be to incentivise farmers to conserve the environment at a landscape scale. It is proposed to allow farmers to enter ELSplus alone or, if members of ELS, they would be required to enter ELSplus before being accepted into HLS. ESS would become more effective, allow farmers currently outside ES a new route into ES, allow ESS to be more climate change focused, and create social structures and organisations that could be used to improve the management of all land-based natural resources.