Peatland tested as delivery model for ‘public goods’ in the Yorkshire Dales

Blanket bogs consisting of peat are being restored.
Blanket bogs consisting of peat are being restored.
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A forward-thinking scheme to effectively pay land owners to manage their land in a way that can help combat climate change and flooding in the Yorkshire Dales has been raised with MPs.

Environmental groups, land managers and farmers who are leading the scheme met with local MPs Julian Sturdy and Rishi Sunak in Leyburn to discuss the role of collaborative land management in providing public goods.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has laid out plans to divert agricultural support payments so that public money pays for “public goods” as part of new UK farming policy post-Brexit, and trial schemes are already underway in the Dales to pioneer this approach.

At Howesyke Farm in Bishopdale, blanket bogs consisting of peat - partially decayed vegetation - are being restored to lock in carbon from the atmosphere by the Pennine PeatLIFE organisation with funding from the EU and other partners.

The group is working under the IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s Peatland Code, a voluntary standard for peatland projects that wish to market the climate benefit of peatland restoration. The scheme sees companies effectively ‘buy’ the carbon emissions that are saved through peatland projects such as this.

York Outer MP, Mr Sturdy, said he supported efforts to see “business offset their carbon in the UK rather than looking abroad”.

Howesyke Farm and other local land managers are also working with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust Flood to test the concept of flood prevention as a public good. A guide has been created to advise on natural flood management measures such as tree planting and buffer strips.

Rob Brown, who runs Howesyke Farm, said: “I’ve been impressed at what we’ve been able to achieve over a relatively short time, although the real impact of the land management interventions we’ve made will really show in the next few decades. This has all been possible whilst maintaining more traditional land uses, including sheep farming and a grouse shoot.”

Studies are needed to back up land management decisions so the right work happens at the right times, the MPs were told and Richmond’s Mr Sunak said: “The Government intends to increase spending on vital research year-on-year.”