20th November 2012
I recently took the opportunity to visit the Park Authority to find out more about how it is managed and operated.
It was a pleasure to meet with many of the team who ensure that the Park can be enjoyed by current and future generations. Alison Kohler, Director of Conservation and Communities, and Bill Hitchins, Chairman of the National Park Authority, explained to me the work of the Authority and its impact.
The running of Dartmoor is very much a collaborative effort between the Park Authority, local communities, landowners, farmers and other public bodies. As Maurice Retallick, Chairman of the Haytor and Bagtor Commoners’ Association, explained to me the Park (with support from the Dartmoor Commoners’ Council, Duchy of Cornwall and Natural England) is developing a new approach to managing the commons one that offers farmers and landowners more responsibility for the design, delivery and monitoring of the agri-environment schemes that help protect the National Park’s special qualities.
The idea is that all the stakeholders in two pilot areas of thePark agree on the outcomes being sought (food production, public access, conservation of biodiversity, management of archaeological remains etc) and the farmers are then empowered to deliver the management to provide those benefits. There are no prescriptions within the scheme but rather a clear understanding of who needs to do what and the farmers are engaged in monitoring the impacts.
I think that this level of farmer ‘buy-in’ is essential if any scheme is to survive into the future. Too often schemes like this are imposed from the top down so I congratulate the Park Authority and its partners on genuinely trying to create a bottom up approach for taking the park into the future.
I had a highly informative visit to Dartmoor National Park Authority. There are many exciting projects ahead and I hope that it is able to attract more volunteers and visitors. As in so many cases though, the problems they face in the future revolve around funding. The Park currently receives £4million in funding from DEFRA. If this total is reduced still further then standards and services may well have to be reduced on the moor. Given the size of the operation and the public benefits it delivers, the Park will always be reliant on Government funds so I hope that the Government recognises the value that our National Parks bring to the South West and the country as a whole.