Countryside Stewardship for Barn Owls

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Countryside Stewardship for Barn Owls

Countryside Stewardship (CS) is the EU/Defra-funded environmental land management scheme, offering grants for land owners and tenants. The aim of the scheme is to improve biodiversity, water and air quality, and reduce flood risk. The scheme is jointly delivered by Natural England, Forestry Commission England and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on behalf of Defra.

Countryside Stewardship has 3 main elements:

  • Mid Tier: multi-year agreements (typically for 5 years) for environmental improvements including management options and capital grants.
  • Good Barn Owl Habitat 14Higher Tier: multi-year agreements for sites requiring more complex management with the support of Natural England or the Forestry Commission, including management options and capital grants.
  • Capital grants: 1- to 2-year standalone grants for environmental outcomes. These are separate from the capital grants available under Mid and Higher Tier agreements. They include grants for:
    • hedgerows and boundaries such as stone walls.
    • feasibility studies.
    • woodland creation, improvement, management and tree health.
  • Additional elements include:
    • support for organic conversion and management.
    • a Facilitation Fund for people or organisations that help farmers and land managers to deliver Countryside Stewardship priorities across landscapes by working together.

Countryside Stewardship is unlike previous rural development schemes in that;

  • applications for most elements are competitive.
  • applications will be scored against specific criteria.
  • not everyone who applies will be successful.
  • identifying and targeting priority features may help to secure an agreement and statements of priorities for your local area are provided that include priority habitats and species, water and air quality, and flood risk management. See https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/countryside-stewardship-statements-of-priorities

Choosing Right Tree For Nestbox 01Although the Barn Owl is not a priority species, some of the management options available within the scheme will still benefit Barn Owls through the creation of suitable foraging habitat and/or roost or nest sites. These include;

AB2 Basic overwinter stubble
AB3 Beetle banks
AB6 Enhanced overwinter stubble
AB7 Whole crop cereals
AB8 Flower-rich margins and plots
AB9 Winter bird food
AB10 Unharvested cereal headland
AB11 Cultivated areas for arable plants
AB12 Supplementary winter feeding for farmland birds

GS1 Take small areas out of management
GS2 Permanent grassland with very low inputs (outside SDA)
Suitable Positions Barn Owl Indoor Nestboxes 06GS3 Legume and herb-rich swards
GS4 Legume and herb-rich swards
GS5 Permanent grassland with very low inputs in SDA
GS15 Haymaking supplement
GS17 Lenient grazing supplement

HS1 Maintenance of weatherproof traditional farm buildings
HS8 Maintenance of weatherproof traditional farm buildings in remote areas

SW1 4-6m buffer strip on cultivated land
SW2 4-6m buffer strip on intensive grassland
SW3 In-field grass strips
SW4 12-24m watercourse buffer strip on cultivated land
SW6 Winter cover crops
SW11 Riparian management strip

Good Barn Owl Habitat 04

WB3 Large wildlife box

WD3 Woodland edges on arable land
WD7 Management of successional areas and scrub

WT1 Buffering in-field ponds and ditches in improved grassland
WT2 Buffering in-field ponds and ditches on arable land

The new Countryside Stewardship manual for 2016 provides information on the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, including application procedures and management prescriptions. The timetable for application windows is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/499459/cs-application-timetable-2016.pdf