First of all, let’s hope that 2020 brings you everything you need to continue the great work being done across the country!

At present, lots of land-manager groups that applied for the fourth round of the Facilitation Fund are hearing the outcome of their applications. Let’s hope you have been successful if you applied, and if you are not, then please consider the alternatives and perhaps opportunities of self-funding your project – don’t let it be over before it begins! We can put you in touch with clusters that have funded themselves so that you can gather inspiration.

GWCT’s primary role in this conservation movement is one of support and guidance. That is why we created this website with your feedback in 2018, and will continue to organise the farmer cluster conferences in conjunction with other partners. The next conference is likely to be in Autumn 2020 – we will keep you updated. There are now over 120 farmer-led landscape scale conservation groups across England, and 2019 saw two form in each of Wales and Scotland which will no doubt lead to others following suit.

So, what next in these extraordinary times? Well, for one, we are keen to explore all the opportunities available to you, and we think 2020 will bring new thinking on accessing natural capital and private sector funding. We already know landscape-scale is likely to feature in ELMs and you will be rewarded for working collaboratively, but there may be other major sources of support out there too…

Working as a group gives land managers a greater likelihood of access to new environmental markets, such as those emerging in the private sector. Many developers, companies and retail corporations are required to or have voluntarily created funds to spend on environmental projects, and they will be looking to award funding to projects which operate ambitiously, and at scale. Companies like the Environment Bank and initiatives like LENs (Landscape Enterprise Networks) are looking to launch this approach to land managers across the country.

Clusters are obvious candidates for this money, which they can invest in their landscape to improve wildlife habitats, soil health and water quality. With a combination of advice, better agri-environment support from the government, and substantial and long-term funds invested from the private sector, we can unleash the potential of these landscape-scale groups.

Together with The LandApp – a very exciting mapping service which is making waves – we and other organisations such as FWAG, 3Keel and Environment Bank are involved with advising and supporting the conversation about how we help buyers and sellers of ‘ecosystem services’ connect. The LandApp recently hosted a webinar to start this conversation, and you can view it here. Please share it with all those you think would find it interesting.

As demonstrated in the webinar, you are welcome to join the Farm Group map here which we are compiling to help illustrate the distribution of the project areas and get more funding flowing to farm groups. We are steadily adding projects to it on an individually-approved basis, and we think it’s in everyone’s interests to be on here if you want to explore every funding opportunity available to you.

The webinar also covered:

  • Dan Geerah, FWAGSW – how the UKHabitat Classification is used to understand and appraise the natural environment, and how that data (which is available in The Land App) is the language to communicate change and uplift in the natural environment
  • Jess Brooks, GWCT – the growing value of landscape-scale farming groups as the source of effectively supplying ecosystem services and the importance of this for future income of farms
  • Tom Curtis, 3Keel – how there is now a ready market for the demand of ecosystem services and how the Landscape Enterprise Network is aggregating the funding from this demand to pass it down to facilitated landscape-scale farm groups
  • Tim Hopkin, The Land App – how it is being used by facilitation funds and farming clusters throughout England to contain in one place all farming and land use information to appraise the land and collaboratively design environmental uplift over RPA field boundaries at a farm and landscape level. This process ensures information can be shared in a digital and interactive format so funders can pay for environmental services.

Together with other organisations, The LandApp is planning a series of webinars in 2020 to continue to share more information on the growing natural capital market, to keep everyone in the loop with the progress and help you connect with new opportunities in your area.

I hope that has brought you up to speed with these emerging ideas. All that’s left to do is wish you and everyone involved in your project a great festive break and good luck for 2020. And as we have stated elsewhere on the website, please do continue to update us with your group details and if you have a success story or case study you’d like to share, we’d be delighted to post it here, in the interest of sharing ideas and continuing this great conservation movement.

Many thanks

GWCT & Partners

p.s. thanks Tim from the LandApp for contribution to this post.

End of year update

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