Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

Restoring nature, delivering change

31/01/22Restoring nature, delivering change

As part of its ongoing commitment to encouraging farmers and landowners to maintain their estates and enhance nature, the Government has revealed plans to restore 300,000 hectares of habitat across England. The scheme is intended to restore natural habitats and encourage rewilding in areas where some species and environments have declined. Even in areas with thriving habitats, the plan is designed to have an impact on ongoing issues, such as improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas.  

At the beginning of January 2022, George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, unveiled the next stages of the Government’s plan to reward farmers and other land managers for actions that will benefit the environment. The nature recovery schemes are part of an overhaul of farming subsidies policy, post-Brexit, with Defra recently introducing three environmental land management plans:

The Local Nature Recovery scheme will pay farmers for implementing locally-targeted actions. They will be encouraged to make space for nature in the farming landscape and countryside – creating wildlife habitats, planting trees, or restoring peat and wetland areas. The Landscape Recovery scheme will support more radical changes to land use and habitat restoration, like establishing new nature reserves, restoring floodplains, or creating woodlands and wetlands. These two initiatives supplement the already announced Sustainable Farming Incentive (which supports sustainable farming practices) in December 2021.

Taken as a whole these measures are intended to provide farmers and landowners with a broad range of options. These reforms are the biggest changes to farming and land management in 50 years, with more than 3,000 farmers already testing the new schemes. This objective will also support sustainable food production and nature recovery, and help work towards net zero targets within achievable timescales.

An environment suitable for all

The Environment Secretary has set out how both Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery will play an essential contribution in halting the decline in species by 2030 and bring up to 60% of England's agricultural soil under sustainable management by 2030. As a result, this is intended to restore up to 300,000 hectares of English wildlife habitat by 2042. Mr Eustice also announced that applications will shortly open for the first wave of Landscape Recovery projects. Bids are being invited for 10-15 pilot projects – covering at least 500-5,000 hectares, and up to a total of approximately 10,000 hectares in the first two-year phase. The projects selected will focus on two themes – recovering England’s threatened native species and restoring England’s rivers and streams. They will target rare fauna, such as sand lizards, water voles and curlews, with the hope that the status of about half of the most threatened species in England will be improved.

The differing schemes are designed to provide farmers with a range of options, so they can choose the best one to suit their business and extent of their estate. The Government is also encouraging farmers to look at Countryside Stewardship. Following a review, it will increase the majority of payment rates and make improvements to how the scheme operates. It is planned that the 2023 offer will be open in February 2022, for agreements starting in 2023.   

If you are a farmer, landowner or estate manager, and would like to learn more about the opportunities in this initiative, there is more information and links here:

Talk to a member of the Forge team to find out how we can help you maximise potential benefits of these government plans.

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