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WILDLIFE PILOT SCHEMES LAUNCHED IN W MIDLANDS & E ANGLIA

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An initiative aimed at improving wildlife in arable areas has been ...
An initiative aimed at improving wildlife in arable areas has been

launched in the West Midlands and East Anglia as the UK embarks on its Presidency of the European Union. The Arable Stewardship pilot scheme, based on ideas from various conservation bodies, will be pioneered in East Anglia and the West Midlands.

In proposals put to the National Agri-Environment Forum in October 1996, changes in arable farming practices were identified as a key factor in the decline of a number of species of birds, mammals, insects and plants. This pilot scheme aims to reverse that decline and establish the principle of encouraging farmers to create habitats which will see wildlife return. Agreements run for 5 or 6 years.

Farmers in the pilot areas will be able to apply for annual payments for managing arable fields in a way which is designed to enhance wildlife.

Countryside minister Elliot Morley said:

'I am very pleased to see this pioneering new pilot scheme get under

way.

'The pilot will enable us to see which measures prove the most effective at turning round the decline in wildife in arable areas.

It is widely recognised that the declines noted in surveys of farmland wildlife have resulted from the intensification of agriculture in recent years, and we are extremely keen to see this trend reversed, as part of our commitment to increasing biodiversity.

'It is particularly appropriate that Arable Stewardship is being launched at the beginning of the UK's Presidency of the EU. We wish

to see a common agricultural policy in which agri-environment and conservation measures play a much greater role and will be working to

this end over over the coming months and years.

'If our monitoring of the Arable Stewardship pilot confirms that the new measures have a beneficial effect, it could direct us towards a model for the future and the kind of measures that might operate countrywide in a more environmentally sympathetic countryside, following a reformed CAP.

'I must thank partner organisations for the close cooperation and support that they have given during the development of the pilot scheme. We are particularly grateful to the Royal Society for the

Protection of Birds, the Game Conservancy Trust and English Nature, from whose ideas the pilot has been developed.'

Notes

1. The Arable Stewardship pilot scheme has been introduced following a recommendation from the National Agri-environment Forum which comprises representatives of voluntary conservation agencies, land managers and farmers, local authorities and others. It is based on

proposals developed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Game Conservancy Trust and English Nature. To be eligible for the scheme, land needs to have been in arable production (including set-aside) on 31 December 1996.

2. Arable Stewardship will provide annual payments to farmers who undertake 5 or 6 year agreements with MAFF to use management practices which are expected to produce direct benefits for wildlife. New funds of£0.5m are available to meet the annual cost of the agreements approved in the first year of the scheme. Ministers will consider the level of funding for later years of the pilot scheme in due course.

3. The pilot will operate in 2 areas,

(1) in East Anglia covering parts of south Cambridgeshire, West Suffolk, North Essex and North Hertfordshire with an area of 2,200

square km of which 1,800 square km (180,000 ha) are in agricultural use.

(2) The West Midlands with a total area of 1,500 square knm, of which about 1,200 square km (120,000 ha) is in agricultural use. This covers the Shropshire/Cheshire/Staffordshire Plain, the Mid-Severn Sandstone Plateau, and three Natural Areas, Mosses and Mears, Midlands Plateau and the Shropshire Hills. Maps attached.

4. The two launches taking place today are in Lilleshall, at the National Sports Centre, Shropshire, near Telford and at Chilford Halls, Linton, Cambridgeshire.

5. Further details of the pilot scheme are available from MAFF, Rm G15/18, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR, or

from the Crewe Regional Service Centre, or the Cambridge Regional

Service Centre. Applications for agreements in 1998 have to be sent to the Regional Service Centres by 31 March.

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