Priority: The future of farming and forestry

– supporting sustainable farming and woodland businesses that conserve and enhance the special qualities of Dartmoor

Dartmoor's landscapes are the product of man's interactions with the land over centuries; today, management by farmers and commoners is critical to the maintenance of these landscapes, biodiversity, heritage and natural ecosystems. Over 90% of the land within the National Park boundary is used for farming. Farming on moorland is confined to hardy cattle and sheep breeding with the traditional hefting of stock on the commons. Dartmoor ponies and hill ponies also graze the moors and commons, and provide an important role in conservation management, as well as being an iconic part of what makes Dartmoor special to people.

The lower land on the fringes and to the east support a slightly less extensive system within enclosed farmland, producing an attractive landscape of small, uneven fields, divided by traditional boundary features, such as granite stone walls and hedgebanks. Around 12% of the National Park is wooded, including internationally important upland oak woods, and productive broad-leaved and conifer woodlands used for timber, woodfuel and other woodland products.

What are the issues and opportunities?

  • The future viability of farming on Dartmoor including farm succession.
  • Ensuring traditional skills and knowledge are sustained for future management of the National Park.
  • Under-grazing in some areas of the moor leading to dense vegetation, which in places changes the open character of the landscape, affecting habitats and impeding access.(National Character Area Assessment, Recreation & Access Strategy)
  • Intensive grazing (and recreational pressure) on parts of the moor leading to degradation of heathland habitats.(National Character Area Assessment, Recreation & Access Strategy)
  • Decline in the number of active graziers managing the commons.
  • The importance of good land management on Dartmoor to maintain clean water supplies for a large proportion of the population in Devon and east Cornwall.
  • Uncontrolled burns (wild fires) affecting water quality and loss of carbon stored in peat.
  • Securing woodland management (particularly for smaller woodlands).
  • Developing new markets and added value for woodland products.
  • Reducing the impact of conifer woodlands on landscape character.
  • Restoring plantations on ancient woodland sites to their former habitats.
  • Animal and plant health, including the spread of non-native species and increases in disease.

What are we trying to achieve?

In responding to these challenges, we have identified four key areas where action should be focused over the Plan period:

  • a policy framework for upland farming that supports sustainable farming practices and National Park purposes;
  • engage with and empower farmers to manage the landscape, deliver public benefits and add value to their business;
  • next generation initiative for young farmers;
  • encourage sustainable management of existing woodlands and opportunities for new woodlands.

The key areas can be seen in detail by selecting the read more button below.

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