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Hills are not an 'Indian reserve' DAILY POST May 30, 2013 1 FARM&COUNTRY New Welsh cheese With ANDREW FORGRAVE INSIDE In association with Coleg Llysfasi College is pride of Conwy OONN PPAAGGEE 33 07900 227511 FUW REPORT DEBUNKS CALLS FOR 'REWILDING' Subsidies 'damage' wildlife in Welsh hills.

Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE Rural Affairs Editor

HILL farmers fear moves to "re-wild" the Cambrian Mountains would be akin to the herding of native Americans onto reserves to satisfy a "romantic whim".

In a report launched today, the Farmers Union of Wales said the mountains had been shaped by livestock farming over hundreds of years.

Any changes, such as those proposed this week by celebrated environmentalist George Monbiot, would result in the destruction of existing ecosystems, it said.

FUW hill farming committee chairman Derek Morgan, who farms on the Cambrians, said those in favour of re-wilding were attacking a minority group of traditional land managers.

Comparing their plight to those of native Americans, he said: "We have farmed these mountains for millennia and we will not give in to the latest attack on our way of life."

George Monbiot's new book Feral, published today, is a manifesto for the re-wilding up Britain's upland areas.

In it he argues that humans should reintroduce missing animals and plants, cull invasive species, block drainage ditches - and then just step back to allow nature to take its course.

Writing for The Guardian, he singles out the Cambrians for criticism.

The hills here have been "grazed to destruction" and barely any wildlife remains, he said. Yet each year the average upland livestock farmer in Wales loses PS20,000 on his subsidy income just by raising sheep and cattle. Despite this, Wales still imports seven times as much meat as it exports, he claimed.

"Six thousand years of nutrient stripping and erosion have left our hills so infertile that their productivity is miniscule," wrote Mr Monbiot.

"Even relatively small numbers of livestock can now keep the hills denuded." This is rejected by the FUW report, "The Role of Grazing Animals and Agriculture in the Cambrian Mountains". It was written by Dr Ieuan Joyce, a Mid Wales farmer who is a former member of the Joint Nature Conservancy Committee.

He was also a university leacturer who served on the CCW's board.

His report highlights how large tracts of the Cambrians are protected habitats due to their unique ecologies.

He insisted grazing livestock had played a central role in creating and maintaining landscapes for millennia.

Evidence in the pollen record suggested upland pastures were being cultivated and grazed during the Bronze Age up to 5,500 years ago.

"At the landscape scale overgrazing by sheep is not currently a primary driver of habitat change in the Cambrian Mountains," said Dr Joyce. In fact, additional grazing was needed in some areas to stop a fall in the number of upland bird species, he said. According to the report, the Cambrians also deliver eco-system services such as water management which benefit the insurance and water industries. Dr Joyce recommends these industries should financially support practices which deliver benefits they currently get free. In his column, Mr Monbiot argues current farm subsidies are a "perfectly designed scheme for maximum ecological destruction". Farmers, he said, are paid to stop wild plants returning. But Mr Morgan said the union would fight any plans to abandon the Cambrians to nature. He said: "Our ancestors were farming these hills thousands of years ago. Farming and grazing animals have become an inherent part of our landscape and upland ecosystems."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 30, 2013
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