Proposal to commons-proof New Environmental Land Management Testing and Trials

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We submitted a proposal to Defra to develop and test a commons-proofing tool that scrutinises New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS)  design and delivery so that new schemes enhance rather than undermine traditional fell farming.

More often than not each round of agri-environment schemes on commons has asked for progressive decreases in stocking levels and more off-wintering. As a result, sheep are less well hefted and shepherding has become increasingly time consuming at a time when the number of full time commoners is declining. On some commons we are getting to a critical threshold of livestock and shepherds below which collaborative management and the hefting of stock could break down. 

Proofing is a well know mechanism by which policies are assessed for their likely impact on a particular area, population or sector. As far as we are aware past agri-environment schemes have not been proofed for their impact on commoning. 

If successful we will work with commoners’ associations, commons councils and breed societies throughout England with the support of national organisations including the Foundation for Common Land, National Sheep Association and the Tenant Farmers Association. Our tool will help scheme designers understand of the impacts of NELMS design on commoning and how schemes can affect traditional fell farming systems and farm businesses.

You can download our proposal here.