Agri-environment schemes provide funding to farmers and other land managers in exchange for certain public goods. Effectively these are a way of using European farming subsidies to influence positive management or ‘stewardship’ of farm landscapes and wildlife. The scheme promoted during the Carrs Wetland Project was called ‘Environmental Stewardship’. (Since 2015 a new scheme has been launched called ‘Countryside Stewardship’.) There were 2 tiers of Environmental Stewardship; Entry Level and Higher Level. In Entry Level farmers picked from a menu of straightforward environmental management actions in addition to basic requirements common to all. Entry Level schemes lasted five years.
Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)
Higher Level Stewardship (or HLS) is no longer open for new schemes, as it was superseded by Countryside Stewardship in 2015. Those already underway, such as in parts of The Carrs can continue until their expiry. HLS involved more complex environmental management than Entry Level (ELS) requiring support and advice from local advisers. More complex types of management demand greater commitment, but yield more significant environmental gains and so they attracted correspondingly higher levels of financial support over a longer period. Agreements tailored to local circumstances were signed for ten years. All the wetland restoration options came under HLS.
Are many farms still signed up for HLS?
A number of agreements were signed between 2006 and 2012 by farms within The Carrs Wetland Project. At the time of editing this page, (Feb 2016) they are all still in force, the most recent expected to continue until 2022. Natural England has formulated a new generation of schemes, following European Union and DEFRA guidelines. During an extended development period this was referred to as the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (or NELMS) but was launched as ‘Countryside Stewardship’ (or CS) in 2015. As old HLS schemes expire it is expected that they will be encouraged to apply for Countryside Stewardship, with Higher Tier offering the financial incentives for continued wetland habitat management. Latest information on Countryside Stewardship and beyond can be found here.
Landowners interested in Countryside Stewardship should speak to their Natural England Land Management Advisor in the first instance to discuss their options.