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Rider Rights

Seventy-six-years ago 500 Manchester ramblers 'mass trespassed' on Kinder Scout to demand public access ("the right to roam") which today we take so much for granted.

Natural England caught red-handedBut, asks Steve Yandall, Could there be a 'hidden agenda' within conservation grazing to erode those freedoms by reducing access to large areas of the UK through the introduction of one means of management at the expense of inclusive public access? Does it mean riders as well as walkers are facing a restriction on the use of public access areas?

Writes Steve:

76 years of hard won access under threat from conservation grazing?

Many of the countryside freedoms we currently enjoy can be traced back to Kinder Scout.

Could there be a 'hidden agenda'within conservation grazing to erode those freedoms by reducing access to large areas of the UK through the introduction of one means of management at the expense of inclusive public access?A restriction on the use of public access areas?

Grazing excludes the disabled,elderly,infirm,children and carers and those that are'wary'of cattle.I would defy even the fit to picnic with cattle around!Even hardened ramblers when surveyed had a high % return saying they would not venture near cattle!

I hear the voices "but grazing is the salvation of these areas"etc etc.What a wonderful shield against criticism of a targeted attack on public access!!How feeble in view of alternatives.

Grazing is just one tool not the panacea being so freely talked about.The one thing Natural England DO NOT DO is discuss options when negotiating management of wild public access areas.They impose.Conservationists also avoid opening their agenda up to criticism by not mentioning the benefits they associate with decreasing public access.

What they fail to see is that we,the public, are paying for the privilige of being excluded and in that knowledge could demand a redirection of funding.

Top payments of circa 3m per 1000 hectares of(to stewards)subsistence land every 10 years with NO guarantees of success are totally unacceptable and unsustainable.Excluding the most vulnerable public is totally unsustainable as physical exclusion denies education,participation and'ownership'--the cornerstones of a real sustainable environment.

The singleminded application of one management type over such a short time is highly dangerous,agenda driven and exposes us to huge environmental risks.

- "We are putting money into the rural economy"I hear NE(government) say.Why not village shops,Post Offices and public transport then?

- "We are saving heathland" I hear NE say.Ask NE to define heathland and their definition does NOT align with either research(Chapmam/Webb) or public definitions.

- "ELS/HLS replaces ESA" I hear NE say.Because ESA failed and an European Biodiversity Action Plan was imposed to reverse ESA declines WITHOUT rectifying the real reasons for ESA failure(accountability,guidance etc).

- "We target ELS/HLS areas"says NE.Without creating the accountability or giving the guidance to guarantee a return on the huge public investment targeting is useless.

- "Science supports us"says NE.Only if you neglect options.Only if science is interpreted as husbandry and only if you neglect the global impact of spending billions of pounds on a local environment with no reference to how that money was generated! - "We believe in maintaining local character"say NE.The launch of conservation grazing over such a short time over such a huge land mass tends toward homogeny.

- "We support public access" say NE.The management choices made by NE deny that.

Every conversation with NE relates to the success of grazing without NE having a measure of success!Where is the list of failures to corroborate the existence of successes?Even on National Nature Reserves(wardened by NE staff) overgrazing has been admitted.

Grazing is an important part of our management 'diet' but should not be the staple. NE are trading off public trust by promoting the positives of grazing whilst depressing the negatives.Environmental decisions are more than science.They are about good management,education, and,in our historic island,the continued interaction between ourselves and our environment.

Grazing strikes at the very root of environmental democracy and NE(and predecessors)in turning our surroundings into a'science' have gradually divorced many from that which sustains us.'Science'is a foundation not an application.Without interpretation it is meaningless and stratifies us into 'experts'and the ignorant.

Many of the 'ignorant' are given the responsibility of stewardship,with little support,to fulfill long term environmental objectives.

Many of the'ignorant' are denied credibility by the'experts' thus supressing challenges to their autocracy.

The basics of management have been overlooked and lessons from previous initiatives not learned. The initiative at Kinder Scout must not be forgotten neither must we forget that it is for us,the public,to demand accountability,transparency,inclusivity and environmental value for money from self proclaimed experts that have failed to impact on biological decline but continue to drive flawed agendas.

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