Introduction to Mid Wales Area Statement
Welcome to the Mid Wales Area Statement. Mid Wales...
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These Area Statements summarise discussions from the last couple of years. We are continuing engagement on Area Statements and are adapting our plans for future events and workshops due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please use the feedback boxes on each Area Statement page to find out more.
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Whilst working on this theme we looked into the current relationship between people and the natural world. We wanted to better understand just how much we all value the natural environment and how we interact with the landscape. How do we make decisions that help make our ecosystems more resilient to the challenges and emergencies we face, such as climate change?
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It’s worth clarifying what we mean by biodiversity and ecosystem resilience in this theme. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) describes biodiversity and ecosystem resilience in our Vital Nature report:
Biodiversity means the variety of life on earth – plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms. It includes both genetic diversity within a single species, and the diversity that exists across all species. Biodiversity is also not just about species but the variety of ecosystems they inhabit, which exist at a range of scales, such as from an individual soil micro-habitat to a whole landscape.
Resilient ecosystems is the ability of ecosystems to cope with pressures, disturbances and change – either by resisting them, recovering from them or adapting to them. Achieving ecosystem resilience is about working at a larger scale, promoting functional connections between natural places, ensuring they have high natural diversity, are in good condition and increasing their extent. Biodiversity is an essential underpinning element of all resilient ecosystems. All functioning and resilient ecosystems have a characteristic healthy and often rich biodiversity.
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About 30% of Wales' land and waters are designated as protected sites containing many ecosystems. These areas make a significant contribution to improving and maintaining the resilience of ecosystems across Wales, particulaly in response to the range of human pressures we place on our environment.
Our natural environment provides a wide range of ecosystem services, including:
Whilst designated sites provide protection for nationally important habitats and species, such sites are becoming increasingly fragmented and isolated which means they become less resilient to change. Designated sites cannot sustain themselves on their own. The way the wider landscape is managed - farmland, water bodies, forestry and uplands - all play a critical role in supporting the long term health of protected sites. There needs to be a greater focus on having ‘buffer areas’ or ‘stepping stone’ sites to provide links for nature, and taking a more holistic approach to managing our whole landscape.
Under this theme, we all need to work towards ensuring our landscape is managed appropriately and more sustainably for future generations.
Invasive non-native species (INNS) are defined as any non-native animals or plants that can spread outside their native range causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health or the way we live. Invasive non-native species have been deemed the biggest threat to our native species and habitats after climate change and are estimated to cost the Welsh economy £128m annually.
Widely spread invasive non-native species in Mid Wales include Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam and are a particular problem along the Wye and upper Wye catchment, Usk, Rheidol and Teifi rivers. There has been an attempt to control Japanese knotweed in the Rheidol Valley, although in the absence of continued management the knotweed is slowly returning. Rhododendron is also an issue in Mid Wales, particularly in the lower Dyfi but also causes localised impacts elsewhere. It affects both woodlands and protected sites.
The main areas of focus under this theme are:
By giving this theme this distinct focus, it does not exclude any emerging issues and new ways of addressing issues that may arise. It is simply to serve as a way of beginning with a set of priorities against which to set work programmes, external projects and start collaboration between stakeholders and partners.
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Making any long lasting positive changes to our environment takes time. There are no overnight quick fixes. The Mid Wales Area Statement allows us better opportunities to prioritise how we can work together as a society to change behaviours and attitudes towards our natural environment.
Through our engagement events, we learnt that there is a detailed and evidence based understanding of what biodiversity means and how we need to create resilient ecosystems to support species, habitats and human populations.
There are still opportunities to discuss further how we can begin to shape these changes, but if the correct outcomes are delivered under this theme, we can hope to see:
In addition to these ambitions, this Area Statement will ensure our actions work across all sectors – public, private and voluntary, in collaborative, new ways. By doing so this will give the economy of Mid Wales the best chance to prosper whilst meeting the needs of the natural environment.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) worked on a range of information including the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) which forms part of our evidence base and the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy priorities. We also took information from the Powys & Ceredigion Well-being Plans and the Public Service Boards (PSBs) to find out their priorities and obtain their expert local knowledge.
We took the ‘bare bones’ of what we considered to be the likely priorities for Mid Wales and let stakeholders tell us if we’d ‘got it about right’ during external stakeholder engagement workshops held in 2019/20. These workshops are only the start of engagement work and we will keep the conversation going. Similar, ongoing engagement will be vital for us as this Area Statement matures and evolves.
In total, over 125 participants took part in the two workshops, from a wide range of backgrounds and interests.
It is very clear from the engagement to date and the review of feedback that the Area Statement process is new for everyone involved, including Natural Resources Wales (NRW), and as such will require an adjustment in the way of working by everyone. The ‘new way of working’ represents a significant shift from how NRW has worked in the past, both internally and with stakeholders, in everything that we do.
We intend to engage further in order to help stakeholders understand why they have been invited to be involved and what it will mean for them and the area in which they live and work.
Our engagement events encouraged discussions around the type of projects and areas of interest that stakeholders are keen to work on. We want to encourage and progress opportunities for collaboration. We hope that this will enthuse and enable different stakeholders to work together to achieve shared outcomes. Our next role will be to coordinate ideas. We hope to develop a number of ideas into deliverable project plans for this area.
We are currently planning a number of ‘peer group’ meetings for spring 2020 with key people in Mid Wales. We want to encourage those who took part in previous engagement workshops to share their views around a specific area theme. This will help us discuss with them how we can start to plan to deliver together what we have set out to achieve in our Area Statement.
It is not too late to still get involved if you have a good project or idea for a project! We expect further opportunities to arise as the engagement process continues.
It is important to stress that the Area Statement belongs to us all - everyone who wants to be involved - and we would like to encourage as many as possible to come aboard.
We see Natural Resources Wales’ role as helping to facilitate and set up the peer groups at this stage, to encourage and enable different stakeholders to get together and identify priorities around the area themes on which they can progress actions into delivery.
There will be opportunities for financial support through Natural Resources Wales’ new grant funding system.
Many of the participants from our engagement work to date have established working relationships with Natural Resources Wales and with each other. The engagement process allows for further opportunities to both grow established relationships and create new ones.
Good practice should be celebrated and learnt from. This can already be seen across the area in the work and projects led by stakeholders. To build on this, the Area Statement directs us to share information and understanding and design innovative ways to address the challenges.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has begun to identify networks where projects with similar outcomes can be joined together and worked on collaboratively. There is an intention in Mid Wales to bring together stakeholders who may not have traditionally worked alongside each other, but who together, can deliver outcomes which have multiple benefits.
Throughout 2020 NRW will continue to work with stakeholders to develop these networks and establish them as a new way of working in Mid Wales.
Conversations will continue as the next phases of the Area Statement process are established. Further events will be held and tailored towards specific themes and actions. We will also look to work with stakeholders to establish a group of likeminded people to help deliver this theme. This group will help and support each other through the establishment of the Area Statement in Mid Wales as a new way of working. They will identify improvements and come up with new project ideas going forward.
We have already identified opportunities relating to the improving biodiversity theme. Including:
The State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) produced by Natural Resources Wales uses evidence to assess Wales’ natural resources and measures how well these are being managed. Area Statements are a key part of that management.
This Area Statement will allow us to make decisions based on evidence that is shared. Gaps in evidence can be plugged through working together and using all available data to further the objectives of each theme.
The underlying principles of SMNR are the essential element of the Area Statement process. Through engaging with stakeholders, we have been able to work together to identify the area themes for Mid Wales. Conversations and discussions have given us an understanding of the issues and pressures faced by different stakeholders, sectors and communities. We hope that this approach signals a new way of working for Natural Resources Wales where we move away from ‘consultation’ and towards ‘collaboration’ and action on the ground, even if that remains an uncertain journey for many as we start out with the Mid Wales Area Statement.
You can join us on Facebook! This Facebook group is one way for you to keep up to date with news and developments on the Mid Wales Area Statement. Anyone can join in the online discussion. The group is currently set to private, although we encourage you to spread the word amongst colleagues and contacts who you think would be interested. You will be asked three simple questions to join the group to ensure we keep the members and content relevant to the Mid Wales Area Statement.
We will also be holding further events and developing specific groups and conversations around each of the Mid Wales Area Themes. If you are already on our mailing list, you will be contacted about these. If you would like to be added to this list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are only at the beginning of the journey as we work with people to improve the management of Mid Wales’ natural resources. If you would like to be part of this process, please get in touch with us.
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