Landscape Stewardship: Integrating a broad suite of landscape values into rural development policies

2015-06-03

The workshop addressed a central issue of the HERCULES project: The emergence of collaborative approaches to landscape stewardship across Europe. Together with around 60 participants from the European institutions, government agencies, NGOs, businesses, and academia, the workshop intended
(1) to explore the characteristics of landscape stewardship initiatives in Europe and their contributions to sustainable land management,
(2) to discuss the role of landscape stewardship in EU rural development policies, and
(3) to examine how Europe could contribute towards making innovative models of landscape stewardship more effective.

So what did we learn? Here are some random thoughts from Tobias Plieninger, HERCULES project coordinator:

Landscape in EU policies
Landscape is, as one contributor pointed out, the late-comer among the research themes of the 7th framework programme of the EU. This is somehow indicative for EU and many national policies where landscape has remained unconsidered for a long time. But there are signs for some change. For example, practical approaches to cultural heritage conservation and to ecosystem management are step-by-step moving to the landscape scale. Also, landscape is a serious concern for large parts of the public, as many prominent land-use conflicts, for example around mining or renewable energies show. Landscape is also increasingly seen as an investment opportunity and may receive higher EU funding priority in the near future.

The rise of landscape stewardship
A multitude of examples from throughout Europe (as regular readers of our blog are aware) demonstrate that there is indeed something like landscape stewardship in practice. Landscape stewardship approaches comprise many different types of groups and initiatives, often united by an interest in maintaining and developing the cultural ecosystem services of a particular landscape. Landscape stewardship initiatives do not fit easily into established categories – quite often they are partly private, partly public, for example. Also, they frequently cross borders between fields such as nature conservation, agriculture, or cultural heritage. Therefore, they have difficulties in linking to established policy fields, but there are exemplars in the Netherlands and elsewhere where such initiatives were assigned formal responsibility in land management.

Framings, values, and management actions of landscape stewards
Who are landscape stewards as individuals? A survey among land managers in the UK showed that there are many different framings of landscape stewardship, with some focusing more on environmental, others on production orientations. These framings are accompanied by different values and management practices. Interestingly, after around 25 years of agri-environmental funding, a particular group of landscape stewards being characterised by an „instrumental framing“ (whose values are mainly determined by available funding opportunities) has emerged.

Fostering innovative models of landscape stewardship
Although motivation of land managers is crucial for achieving agri-environmental goals, existing incentive schemes often have not considered this diversity of different framings and values very well. Rural development policies might foster landscape stewardship through tailoring of policy targets to specific land-use systems, landscape attributes or catchments; through more frequent and timely communication of policy changes; through providing longer-term funding security; and through broadening the types of values supported, such as education and support for a local, green food culture. A big challenge for the future design and implementation of rural development policies will be to realign such features with the need for administrative simplification of funding schemes. To mainstream landscape stewardship in land management practice, we may have to go wider than just reinventing funding schemes. For example, some participants expressed the need for socially and ecologically responsible land consolidation programmes, bringing landscape structure together with current demands for landscape functions (e.g., for outdoor recreation). Also, we do not know well enough how for example farmers perform in terms of landscape stewardship. This calls for better social-ecological indicators that would be used for cross-farm comparisons and that might even become part of accounting systems. Finally, the EU Green Infrastructure Strategy has large potential to become a vehicle for promoting landscape stewardship.

 

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