Foundation for Common Land: & public meeting with George Monbiot

Zardoz Greek zardos777 at
Sat Dec 27 22:50:32 GMT 2014

Purpose of the Foundation for Common Land
The Foundation for Common Land is a registered charity established to protect the public benefits from pastoral commoning.

Our charitable objects are as follows:

To conserve the agricultural systems and the cultural landscapes associated with commoning and the management of common land for the benefit of the public
To promote the conservation of the physical and natural environment of common land by supporting the responsible and sustainable pastoral use of commons
To conduct and commission research into commoning and common land issues and publish the results of such research to the public at large
To educate the public, particularly policy makers and other interested parties in subjects pertaining to commoning and common land
Our supporters include commoners’ associations and federations, parliamentarians and non-governmental organisations. Our core principles, as specified in the charter which all supporters are invited to sign, are:

The active management of common land makes a significant contribution to rural economies and the maintenance of local communities
The active grazing of commons provides substantial public benefits by managing land to enhance its landscape, biodiversity, access, heritage and other environmental goods
Common land and the exercise of common rights are fundamental components of our historic and on-going culture.
In 2006 a number of commons graziers’ organisations discussed the idea of setting up a national umbrella network to promote, advocate and care for a unique and precious approach to landscape, farming and the management of common land.

An inaugural meeting for all interested parties was held in December 2008. At that time it was agreed that a Shadow Board (8 members representing the main commons graziers’ organisations in the UK), other volunteers and some self-employed specialists would research and develop a ground-up, light but effective partnership organisation.

The result was the development of a structure that brings together existing commons grazier organizations including the Dartmoor Commons Council, Federation of Cumbria Commoners, the Yorkshire Federation of Commoners, Gower Commoners Association and Scottish Crofting Federation among others, along with organizations with European links and professionals with significant knowledge and experience in the sector.

A fundamental principle is that the work of FCL will be driven by the demands, concerns and needs of grass-roots active graziers.

George Monbiot meets Cumbrian Commoners head to head

Wednesday 12 March 2014
George Monbiot, environmentalist and journalist, addressed members of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners on Friday 7th March at Newton Rigg College as part of their 10th Aniversary AGM.

The meeting was well managed, giving Mr Monbiot the opportunity to address the commoners before being joined on the top table by a panel of speakers,  including Julia Aglionby, the Foundation's Executive Director, to take questions. Despite taking a position very far away from any of the farmers in the room, the commoners showed Mr Monbiot a great deal of respect and listened carefully to his opinions.

Mr Monbiot claimed the deforestation of the uplands and stocking sheep on the hills increased flood risks. He added deforestation and grazing caused an ecological disaster was directly related to a lack of wildlife on the hills. He said he was not advocating forcing people off the hills to rewild, or return the hills to something more like their natural state, but he would like to see incentives to support rewilding. On previous occasions he has described the Lake District as "one of the most depressing landscapes in Europe", arguing its "celebrated fells have been thoroughly sheepwrecked" and that there is "more wildlife in Birmingham".

The trouble with Mr Monbiot's comments about the Lake District is that he has picked on the one National Park which is 28% common land, has a strong cultural heritage associated with the farming practices and where farmers are improving areas for wildlife, but in a managed way rather than 'let it go' rewilding. Almost all commons are are in stewardship schemes and new woodlands are being planted. The farmers are working in partnership to continue to enhance all the National Park's special qualities.

The Foundation believes that we should exclude commons from any opportunity mapping exercise for rewilding as they have a strong cultural value and complex management delivers multiple benefits. But commons are only 3% England, 8% Wales and 5% Scotland.

Also see the Federation of Cumbria Commoners webiste to read other reports on Mr. Mobiot's talk.

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