Chris Short will be presenting a paper at the ‘Sustaining the Commons’ one day conference held at Newcastle University, and organised by the law school.

An outline of his paper follows, and we will provide his presentation in due course on our Slideshare site.

This presentation will attempt to explore the link between ecosystem services and new approaches to governance from a range of perspectives; academic literature, policy developments and the NGO arena.  The term ecosystem services is relatively new but has gained considerable significance at a policy level.  However, the contribution of some areas, such as lowland commons, seems unclear.  Given the richness of lowland commons in terms of the number of policy objectives that they meet this is in some ways surprising. 

Current policy changes are numerous but with an increasing emphasis on partnership working and landscape-scale delivery in order to achieve coherent ecological networks and the provision of ecosystem services.  This has heralded the introduction of policy initiatives such as the catchment-based approach, Natural Improvement Areas and Local Nature Partnerships as well as NGO led initiatives such as Living Landscape and Futurescapes.  The policies underpinning these, such as the Water Framework Directive and Biodiversity 2020, are themselves diverse with differing objectives and approaches.  The Lawton phrase ‘making space for nature will, the paper argues, only work if there is a corresponding emphasis on ‘making place for people’.  In other words the links between nature and society are very strong and need to be included within these landscape scale initiatives if they are to be successful. 

Whilst Fikret Berkes, the social-ecologist, stresses that under a complex co-management situation ‘the State may speak with multiple voices’, the multi-objective contribution of commons makes them natural foci for landscape scale delivery.  The presence of problem-solving processes like A Common Purpose and Integrated Local Delivery means that management has a sustainable outlook.  But what does this mean for governance in the longer term?  A function of governance at the local level might be to filter these ‘voices’ to emphasis the mutual benefits both to meet the local need and the objectives of various policies.  The paper raises the question as to what this might mean for the National Trust with its long-term perspective and broad remit (as well as other environmental/local groups) as a way of initiating a broader discussion. 

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