Environmentalists Call for Fair Grazing Fees

Graham Willers glw at globalnet.co.uk
Wed Mar 17 12:47:06 EST 1999

On Sun, 14 Mar 1999 11:58:02 -0800, "Mike Hagen" <MHAGEN at OLYMPUS.NET>

>A couple of observations on a very interesting thread...
>Isn't it odd that your forestry policy is so far in advance of your grazing
>as far as the environmental scorecard is concerned?   Might this be because
>in your area, timber has not been a resource for such a long time it's out
>of the equation, while sheep are still a societal mainstay?
You are right our forestry policy is (at least on paper) way ahead of
our Deer management policy.
I think this is due mainly to historical reasons. The state run
Forestry Commison was formed after the 14-18 war with a mandate to
provide sufficient timber stocks in the event of another war.
Obviously they didn't have time to do this before the 39-45 war and
this led to a renewed urgency to plant stocks in the 50s and 60s.
This was carried out on (primarily) publicly owned land: ie.FC land.
At he same time private landowners on the big estates allowed the Deer
populations to soar. Large FC monocultures fenced off from the
neighbouring private Deer shooting estates became the order of the
However there was a big outcry in the late 70s and 80s about the ugly
square blocks of conifers and now the policy is to encourage
cooperation between private and public landowners with a veiw to
create more natural unfenced forests by keeping the Deer numbers down
to levels compatable with successfull tree growing.
Needless to say the private landowners (whose estates are valued on
the basis of how many prime stags are available for paying customers
to shoot) do no not always see the benefits of this policy.
Another reason, of course, is that forestry only returns 3-4% on
investment in this country whilst shooting is still lucrative for the
privileged few.
You are also right in that sheep have been a societal mainstay since
the Highland population was forcibly evicted in the 19th century (the
infamous 'Highland Clearances' ) to make way for them.
However sheep have not been genuinely economically viable for about 20
years now and the situation is getting much much worse. The average
small sheep farmer now costs more in subsidies from government than he
would if were unemployed so what is the point of him keeping sheep?
The general basis of the argument to remove them from some areas is
that you would be better paying someone to improve the landscape- ie.
with sustainable 'natural' forestry - than paying them to degrade it.
ie. via overpopulation of sheep with all the erosion and river and
soil degradation that results.
>What in the world is a "mental Frenchman"?
Sorry! - I was referring to our famously excitable French cousins who
tend to react with rather more gusto than do we towards proposed
changes in the CAP. ie. they go 'bonkers'.

>It's well known that grazing on forest service lands was used as a
>rationalization for the halt in understory burning early in the century.
>Aldo Leopold himself denigrated "Paiute forestry" as being beneath notice.
>The return to low intensity fire regimes may require some means of fuel
>reduction before it can be safely allowed.  Would you rather have
>cattle/deer/sheep do it or pay a contractor?
This doesn't really apply to Scotland. We don't have cows or sheep in
the forests. The fire problem is not nearly so acute here. The new
policy aims to have mixed age forests with any dead trees or brash
being 'recycled' as habitat for invertebrates which in turn feed
higher animals.
>In my opinion, the negatives of over grazing are, like the negatives of
>forestry, a result of occasional poor planning, bad incentives and lack of
>follow through.  No reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater though.
>Mike H.
Sure- but it has to stem from cooperation and what can you do if a
selfish rich landowner flatly refuses to cull his Deer even though not
to do so will result in the loss of livelihood for almost an entire


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