Our uplands, places over 1000 feet in altitude, are loved for their landscapes, dark night skies and peace and quiet. Their harsh climates and poor soils make them difficult places to grow crops so they are  frequently given over to sheep, grouse or commercial forestry plantations. Only through distortions of the means of production through public intervention (in the case of the Forestry Commission), public subsidy (in the cases of grouse shooting, sheep production and forestry) or wildlife crime (grouse shooting) can nominal profits be made. The true costs of these three upland land uses include lost wildlife, increased

carbon emissions, increased flood risks, damaged landscapes and polluted watercourses. 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 When loss of ecosystem services are taken into account the current system of public support to upland land uses looks ecologically unsound and also unfair to the taxpayer. 5 We have supported land uses which flood our homes, remove our wildlife and increase our water bills – how daft is that? Leaving the European Union allows, indeed necessitates, a radical rethink of how taxpayers’ money is spent: our guiding principle will be

‘Public money for public goods’. The uplands are perfect places to deliver public services such as restored

wildlife, cleaner water, increased carbon storage, more recreational access and reduced flood risk. We will work with the grain of nature instead of against it and that means a move towards rewilded landscapes which have more natural woodland spreading onto the hilltops from the river valleys and undamaged blanket bogs storing carbon and water on the tops of the hills. Such habitats are cheap to maintain and deliver greater benefits than so-called traditional land uses. They will also be rich in wildlife and will be

places where extirpated wildlife such as European Beavers, Pine Martens and Lynx can be reintroduced. They will be true national assets where there is space for many recreational activities including hiking, cycling, fishing, some hunting of game, and wildlife tourism. This aligns the economic value of the uplands with their ecological value. It is a win for the public purse and for the public’s quality of life. Capital land values will fall in the uplands with the removal of subsidies and a clamp down on wildlife crime (which underpins the profits of grouse shooting) so government will be able to acquire land at below current, falsely-inflated, prices. Then, through public ownership, landscape-scale regeneration of upland ecosystems can proceed at a rapid pace.

DR MARK AVERY, AUTHOR AND ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGNER

References:
1. Brown, L. E., Holden, J. Palmer, S. M. (2014). Effects of moorland burning on the ecohydrology of river basins. Key findings from the EMBER project. University of Leeds. 
2. Fuller,R.J., Gough, S.J. (1999). Changes in sheep numbers in Britain: implications for bird populations. 
Biological Conservation91: 73-89
3. Orr HG, Wilby RL, McKenzie Hedger M, Brown I (2008) Climate change in the uplands: a UK perspective on safeguarding regulatory ecosystem services.
Clim Res37: 77-98
4. Worrall, F., Armstrong, A., Adamson, J.K. (2007). The effects of burning and sheep-grazing on water table depth and soil water quality in a upland peat.
Journal of Hydrology339: p.1-14
5. Natural Capital Committee (2017). Advice to government on the 25 year environment plan. Available at: 
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/677872/ncc-advice-on-25-year-environment-plan-180131.pdf(Accessed 11/09/2018)