This week, the Lake District received world heritage site status, joining iconic locations such as the Great Barrier Reef as a place of international acclaim. The Guardian columnist George Monbiot called it a "betrayal of the living world" in his article, to which North East MEP Paul Brannen, who is Labour's agriculture spokesperson in the European Parliament, replied. The letter was published in today's (Friday 14th of July) issue of the paper and you can read it below:
"George Monbiot’s anguished wail concerning the granting of Unesco world heritage status to the Lake District deserves a wide audience and a practical response. Scotland is currently quietly forging a middle way between sheep and trees, or – to put it another way – between a monoculture and a richer biodiversity.
The Eskdalemuir report, produced for Confor, the body that promotes forestry and wood, made a comparison of hill farming and forestry. Findings included: forestry produces three times the economic output of farming before subsidy; forestry’s spending in the local economy is double that of farming; and forestry supports the same number of jobs as farming.
While blanket afforestation is neither popular nor desirable, there is a growing body of research and practice, from the likes of the Woodland Trust, that suggests there is great potential for integrating agriculture and forestry to achieve environmental benefits without compromising productivity, eg correctly planted trees provide shelter for sheep, improve drainage and enhance grass growing conditions."