The farmed environment is the dominant land use in the county, with 72% of the county classified as arable (Countryside Survey 2000), and as a result the futures of many species of plant and animal are inextricably linked to the way farmland is managed.
There are now very few areas left in Cambridgeshire which are farmed in a traditional way. The vast majority of farming is of a more intensive nature producing a wide range of crops and livestock.
There is a great deal of data now available which shows that many of our once common species of bird, mammal and plant have undergone considerable declines in recent years as a result of changes in agricultural practices (e.g. British Trust for Ornithology surveys).
Many of the schemes promoted under the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Farming (MAFF) Agri-Environment Policy are already leading the way in demonstrating how, given the correct incentives, farming practices can be both environmentally friendly and economically viable. There are also some LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) demonstration farms in Cambridgeshire which promote such good practices.
The vision for farmland must be to find ways of arresting the declines of formerly widespread and common species, such as the skylark and the brown hare, and to create new areas of farmland habitat where feasible. The Farmers Biodiversity Pack (available in the Library section) gives lots of ideas how to improve farmland for biodiversity.