Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of 12 AONBs in England taking part a National Association for AONBs programme to provide information to help Defra in the design of the new Environmental Land Management System.

Environmental Land Management System (ELMS) Test and Trial project

Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of 12 AONBs in England taking part a National Association for AONBs programme to provide information to help Defra in the design of the new Environmental Land Management System.

Each of the 12  AONBs is focusing on a different aspect of ELMS.

The purpose of the Blackdown Hills project is to explore how investing in the capacity of landowners to liaise and build trust amongst themselves can improve ELMS take-up in high-nature-value landscapes.

The aim is to develop peer-to-peer collaboration, with ‘farmer ambassadors’, with a view to improving connectivity between close or adjoining holdings, allowing collective identification of public goods and agreement on appropriate approaches to their management.

The project will:

  1. Collate mapped habitat, natural capital, water quality and natural process data for the whole AONB using GIS mapping software, to produce a map of hotspots.
  2. Translate AONB Management Plan into geographical form (a landscape spatial framework) and overlay the hotspots map.
  3. Analyse hotspots map, identify greatest co-incidence of natural capital and opportunities for policy implementation, compare this against known farmer engagement, opportunities and challenges, and identify two zones for project to focus on.
  4. The farmer ambassadors will then approach farmers in the selected zones and seek to sign up 10 to participate in each, supported by expert advisors.
  5. Bring the signed-up farmer peers for each zone together to consider the landscape spatial framework of the zone, and co-design environmental outcomes which could be pursued across the area, identifying shared environmental assets, shared responsibilities, collective challenges and collaborative opportunities.
  6. The farmer ambassadors will then work with the farmer peers to develop component land management plans (LMP) for each of the 10 holdings in each zone. The land management plan process will include ground-truthing mapped information, identifying assets and opportunities, and agreeing on desirable actions.
  7. Reconvene the farmer peer groups for each zone and work with them to define the capital and management costs of the works required to achieve the environmental outcomes agreed within each zone.
  8. Bring together the results from both zones to evaluate overall exercise and draw out common themes and learning. This will provide the basis for reporting back to Defra and the AONB family, while also feeding back into future iterations of the Blackdown Hills AONB management plan.

Read more about farming in the Blackdown Hills AONB

Find out about Blackdown Hills’ Farming and Woodland Group

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