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A round up of the top countryside, conservation, wildlife and forestry stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


New Countryside Stewardship Offers open for applications - Defra

New Countryside Stewardship Offers introduced to help more farmers and land managers protect wildlife and enhance the environment

The Countryside Stewardship scheme has opened for farmers and land managers to request 2018 application packs today (15 January).

Four simpler, and quicker to apply for, offers are being introduced this year to complement the existing Higher Tier and Mid Tier offers and open up the scheme to even more farmers and land managers. Unlike existing offers, all landowners who make a valid application for any of the four new packages will be guaranteed funding though the scheme.

This application window is an opportunity for farmers new to Countryside Stewardship (CS), or those coming out of previous stewardship agreements, to sign up for an agreement that will be guaranteed for its lifetime, to protect wildlife, boost biodiversity and deliver environmental benefits for their local communities.

Earlier this month, Environment Secretary Michael Gove outlined government plans to replace existing farm subsidies outside the EU with a new system of public money for public goods. Ahead of this, the new CSoffers are an opportunity for even more farmers to establish positive environmental practices on their land and prepare for the future.


Water voles thriving in the Trossachs – Forestry Commission Scotland

Water voles are recolonising restored wetlands in the Trossachs thanks to an ambitious re-introduction project. Over 1,000 animals were Image: Forestry Commission Scotlandreleased into 1,700ha of restored wetland habitat on the National Forest Estate and are now thriving throughout the Trossachs. In November last year, this project was shortlisted for The Nature of Scotland Awards which gives recognition to conservation projects for their excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in Scottish nature.

Image: Forestry Commission Scotland

Water voles became extinct in the Trossachs in the late 1980’s due to habitat loss and predation by American Mink. Since then, Forest Enterprise Scotland, with help from partners, has carried out a huge amount of work to restore wetlands and create new riparian areas ideal for water voles.  This habitat network creation has included clearing trees from burn-sides to allow vegetation to recover, building over 100 ponds, many miles of ditches, building dams and sowing wetland seed mixes to enhance the forest for wildlife.

The project, which began in 2008, has been a tremendous success with signs of water voles spreading fast. The water voles originally came from a development site in Glasgow where ecologists were struggling to find a home for the animals.  The captured water voles were then bred in captivity by Derek Gow to produce a large population for release.


Surfers three times more likely to have antibiotic resistant bacteria in guts – University of Exeter

Regular surfers and bodyboarders are three times more likely to have antibiotic resistant E. coli in their guts than non-surfers, new research has revealed.

Conducted by the University of Exeter, the Beach Bums study asked 300 people, half of whom regularly surf the UK’s coastline, to take rectal Regular surfers are three times more likely to have antibiotic resistant bacteria in their guts (University of Exeter)swabs. Surfers swallow ten times more sea water than sea swimmers, and scientists wanted to find out if that made them more vulnerable to bacteria that pollute seawater, and whether those bacteria are resistant to an antibiotic.

Regular surfers are three times more likely to have antibiotic resistant bacteria in their guts (University of Exeter)

Scientists compared faecal samples from surfers and non-surfers to assess whether the surfers’ guts contained E. coli bacteria that were able to grow in the presence of cefotaxime, a commonly used and clinically important antibiotic. Cefotaxime has previously been prescribed to kill off these bacteria, but some have acquired genes that enable them to survive this treatment.

The study, published today (January 14) in the journal Environment International, found that 13 of 143 (9%) of surfers were colonised by these resistant bacteria, compared to just four of 130 (3%) of non-surfers swabbed. That meant that the bacteria would continue to grow even if treated with cefotaxime.

Researchers also found that regular surfers were four times as likely to harbour bacteria that contain mobile genes that make bacteria resistant to the antibiotic. This is significant because the genes can be passed between bacteria – potentially spreading the ability to resist antibiotic treatment between bacteria. Recently, the UN Environment Assembly recognised the spread of antibiotic resistance in the environment as one of the world’s greatest emerging environmental concerns.


It’s time to put a freeze on plastics - Iceland

IImage: Icelandceland has taken the bold decision to remove plastic packaging from its own label products by 2023 for one simple reason: because we care. I’m a keen surfer so I may be more aware than most of all the plastic detritus in the sea – but we’ve pretty much all watched or at least heard about Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planetseries, and seen the sort of damage plastic waste is doing to the oceans. Insidiously, it is also breaking down into small particles that are being consumed by marine life and re-entering the human food chain through fish and seafood. The consequences could ultimately be catastrophic for humanity as a whole, and as the father of young children I want to do everything I can to protect their future.

Image: Iceland

Just consider the facts. Every bit of plastic ever produced still exists, unless it has been incinerated, and more of it has been produced in the twenty-first century so far than in the whole of the last one. We’re dumping a truckload of it into the sea every minute, and it is going to stay there for hundreds of years. It’s crazy, and it has got to stop.

Clearly someone needs to act – so why not us?

Response from Greenpeace


On Monday 15 January Bradford Council’s Labour group voted not to renew the shooting lease held by the Bingley Moor Partnership since 2008, reactions to the news

Grouse shooting ban on Ilkley Moor a calamity for conservation, says BASC

BASC has warned that a decision to ban grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor will be calamitous for conservation in the area.

It has been reported that Bradford Council’s Labour group has voted not to renew the shooting lease held by the Bingley Moor Partnership since 2008. The Labour group holds a majority on the council and a decision to ban shooting could now be taken without a full council meeting.

The vote follows three years of campaigning by anti-shooting extremists who have demanded the end of Ilkley Moor’s status as the last remaining council-owned moor on which grouse shooting continues.

Bradford Councillors vote to end grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor – Ban Bloodsports on Ilkley Moor

Ilkley, UK – Bradford Council’s Labour Group votes by overwhelming majority to not renew grouse shooting rights for Ilkley Moor, a move that has been strongly welcomed by wildlife campaigners.

Bradford Councillors voted to not renew controversial grouse shooting rights for Ilkley Moor at City Hall tonight. The decision, which was taken by the Bradford Labour Group, is understood to have been supported by an ‘overwhelming majority’ of those councillors who voted.

Bradford Labour is the largest party on the Council and ending grouse shooting is also backed by Bradford Liberal Democrats, Bradford Green Party and the majority of Independent councillors.
Ban Bloodsports on Ilkley Moor (BBIM), which has lobbied Bradford Council to end grouse shooting on the moor since its formation in May 2014, has strongly welcomed the move. The group notes that over half of protected breeding bird species have declined or become locally extinct on Ilkley Moor, government figures collated by the RSPB Northern England office show. It has urged for efforts to now be focused on reversing the wildlife crash, which has negatively impacted on the moor’s population of specialist species, including Merlin, Dunlin and Short Eared Owl, and could result in the loss of the site’s conservation designations if declines continue.


Environment Agency launches consultation to give communities more say in how rivers are managed

A consultation which aims to give communities and local organisations more say in the ways in which rivers are managed and maintained, has been launched today (15th January).

The Environment Agency is considering proposals to transfer ‘flood risk management activities’ on a number of stretches of watercourses to internal drainage boards (IDBs), lead local flood authorities (LLFAs) and district councils. This will only happen where the watercourses have a low level of flood risk, are not associated with major rivers or major city centres and where the local community supports the change.

A transfer would mean that IDBs, LLFAs and district councils can take on more responsibility for their local flood risk, where appropriate – by carrying out activities such as maintenance or giving permission to carry out works.

The Environment Agency has been working with partners to consider proposals to ‘re-designate’ sections of watercourses in a number of locations. The watercourses will be re-designated from what is currently known as a ‘main river’ to an ‘ordinary watercourse’ – a change referred to as ‘de-maining’.


Looking back at a tragic year for cetacean strandings - ORCA

The recent death of a white-beaked dolphin found stranded on the Isle of Wight occured right on ORCA's doorstep, just across the Solent A common dolphin stranded in Fareham in 2017 (ORCA)from our main offices in Portsmouth.

A common dolphin stranded in Fareham in 2017(ORCA)

With 2017 seeing very high numbers of cetaceans stranding around the UK and beyond, ORCA wanted to look back at the challenges these animals face and the factors contributing to these sad deaths.

Common dolphins at serious threat of by-catch related stranding

In early Autumn, two members of the ORCA team attended a stranding right on our doorstep in Fareham Creek, where a common dolphin was found to be in significant difficulty. Both were trained Marine Mammal Medics and responded as BDMLR volunteers, but despite theirs and others best efforts, the animal was euthanised.

This was one example of a worrying trend of deaths of this species, with more than 75% of strandings being found to have been caused by by-catch from fishing activity. In the south-west particularly the last few years have shown an increase in strandings of common dolphins and is most closely associated with seabass and albacore tuna pelagic trawlers.

A recent study estimated that 3650-4700 individuals were straded by by-catch each year, making this a significant threats to the UK & European population of common dolphins.


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Active Aviemore – natural health service on the doorstep! – Cairngorms National Park Authority

Active Aviemore is a new initiative aimed at making it as easy as possible for people to move about the town without the need for motorised transport, and ultimately contributing to an improvement in health and wellbeing.

A new £13.5 million community hospital to service the needs of Badenoch and Strathspey is due for completion by 2021. This investment provides an opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors in Aviemore. Through improved vehicular and non-Image: Cairngorms NPAvehicular (e.g. walking and cycling) infrastructure the aim is to design an active community that not only promotes physical activity as part of normal daily life, but actively encourages everyone to enjoy the outdoors in Scotland’s largest national park.

Image: Cairngorms NPA

The project is being led by the Cairngorms National Park Authority in partnership with Aviemore and Vicinity Community Council, NHS Highland, HiTrans, Sustrans and The Highland Council.

‘’Being physically active and choosing to walk or cycle is one of the best ways to prevent or delay health problems in later life. New active travel facilities such as cycle paths, a better walking environment, green spaces, traffic management and signage will help deliver an active community that maximises the contribution of Scotland’s outdoors to a healthier Scotland” explained David Clyne, the CNPA’s Recreation & Access Manager.

The first phase of the project will be identifying the challenges faced by people moving around Aviemore, such as safe space for walkers and cyclists, street clutter, flow of traffic, path condition, lighting and so on. To get things started, the partners involved in Active Aviemore want to hear from members of the public what they think – what are the main issues for moving around Aviemore safely and freely?


Blight on Scottish forests – Scotland’s Rural College

Exotic pine tree species planted next to native Scots pine forests should be removed to limit the risk of disease to Native pinewood at Inshriach, Glen Feshie. Credit: Richard Ennosnative trees, new research suggests.

Native pinewood at Inshriach, Glen Feshie. Credit: Richard Ennos

Scientists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the University of Edinburgh have completed an in-depth study to show how increased numbers of Corsican pine from Europe and Lodgepole pine from North America are heightening the risk of disease when planted next to native Scottish pine species.

Plant researcher Peter Hoebe (SRUC) and Honorary Fellow Richard Ennos (University of Edinburgh) have found the widespread planting of exotic species in dense forests has introduced new races of fungi and raised the threat posed to native Scots pine.


The scientists studied genes in fungi attacking pine needles from a number of locations, including forests around Aviemore, to determine the diversity and spread of the fungus Dothistroma septosporum. This disease is responsible for the current outbreak of Dothistroma needle blight (DNB) in native Caledonian Scots pine populations, as well as other species.

Having found that the widespread planting of Corsican pine and Lodgepole pine can place native species at greater risk of disease, they have said that the removal of exotic species from the vicinity of Caledonian pine populations and the restriction of movement of planting material are necessary to minimise its impact.

To read the full report, click here.


Social prescribing gets National Lottery boost - TCV

TCV will develop how social prescribing can be used by clinicians thanks to a £397,000 National Lottery grant from the Big Lottery Fund the Image: TCVlargest funder of community activity in the UK.

Image: TCV

Using the National Lottery grant, TCV will work with NHS England, local healthcare services, commissioners, academics and charities to inform when and how social prescribing is used to help people living with specific health issues, such as mental health problems and musculoskeletal disorders. This will include developing and piloting a quality assurance and evaluation framework to measure different social prescribing models.

Social prescribing recognises how social, economic and environmental factors affect people’s health, where medication alone is unlikely to provide a sustainable improvement. It connects patients with support in their local community to help address their health issues holistically and give them greater control of their own health and wellbeing.

TCV’s Green Gym programme, now in its 20th year, is already part of the social prescribing process, reflecting its positive impact on both physical health and mental wellbeing. This experience and TCV’s strong links across the health, academic and the wider charitable sectors, puts it in an ideal position to deliver this exciting project.


Revitalising Redesdale - Northumberland National Park

Revitalising Redesdale Landscape Partnership has received a confirmed grant of £1.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of Redesdale, in Northumberland.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, Revitalising Redesdale will deliver a five-year programme of 12 interlinking projects which will seek the restoration of historic monuments, conservation and enhancement of wildlife habitats, and the opportunity for local people to get involved in archaeological and practical conservation projects.

This summer the iconic Ridsdale Engine House will be conserved and consolidated through the project. This was once part of a 19th century ironworks which provided the iron used to build the famous Tyne Bridge. Working with the Redesdale Society, the Revitalising Redesdale team will also be delivering a local history project to learn more about the Ironworks and provide new interpretation to tell its story. A similar project is also planned for High Rochester which will see major repairs to the Roman Fort and new interpretation.

Other projects include £670,000 of improvements across the river Rede and its tributaries to improve water quality to support the nationally important population of freshwater pearl mussel and undertake habitat improvements and measures to address diffuse pollution.  Working across Redesdale, including in partnership with the MoD, 760 hectares of peatland will be restored and 55 hectares of hay meadow. The Battlefields Trust will be leading a pioneering community research project to recreate the medieval landscape at Otterburn to more accurately identify the site of the 1388 moonlit battle between Harry ‘Hotspur’ and the Earl of Douglas. There are also plans for a significant investment in the valley’s rights of way network, including the restoration of the historic Smoutel Ford. New interpretation, signage and artwork are also planned including innovative new star cairns and exciting new structure on the Forest Drive to encourage visitors to explore Redesdale.


Exciting find in Northern Strathspey Wildcat Priority Area – Scottish Wildcat Action

(image: Scottish Wildcat Action)Snow and ice can make the winter field season a challenging time: many of our field sites are remote, and icy conditions can make access extremely difficult (if not impossible).

Like the other Priority Areas, Northern Strathspey has been in the grips of an icy winter so far, with many forest tracks more like toboggan runs than footpaths. But winter is the best time of year to find wildcats, primarily because it is the breeding season and cats tend to roam more widely (males are looking for females, and female cats are not tied to kittens at a den site).

(image: Scottish Wildcat Action)

A cold winter with a layer of snow is particularly good for finding cats, because they are less able to catch their natural prey and therefore more likely to visit our baited camera stations. Bait is very important to attract cats to our cameras because unlike many other British mammals, wildcats leave little sign of their presence and so we can rarely rely on field signs to target camera locations. Instead, we usually choose camera sites based on landscape/habitat features that act to restrict or funnel animal movement (like predator holes in a long fence line).

But snow has an additional unique advantage: cat tracks! The snow is an incredibly valuable resource in finding and targeting potential cat locations, because you can identify cat prints and target your camera locations.


Scientific publications

Šálek, M., Bažant, M. & Żmihorski, M. (2017)  Active farmsteads are year-round strongholds for farmland birds. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13093


Rojas, D., Ramos Pereira, M. J., Fonseca, C. and Dávalos, L. M. (2018), Eating down the food chain: generalism is not an evolutionary dead end for herbivores. Ecol Lett. doi:10.1111/ele.12911


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