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The designation of Exmoor National Park in 1954 recognised the importance of the open character of much of the area and, in particular, its moorland to that natural heritage of the UK. However, the moorland that the park was charged with maintaining and enhancing was soon under threat and the following years saw extensive moorland loss and the fragmentation of remaining moorland (Lowe et al, 1986). The ensuing moorland conflict and debate eventually lead Exmoor NPA, in collaboration with farmers, land owners, the CLA and NFU to pioneer a new system of moorland management agreements. Indeed, for a short time, Exmoor was the only location operating wholly voluntary management agreements (Brotherton, 1990). Only two agreements now remain and in the twenty-five years since their inception much has changed. Once castigated for their "theft of the countryside" (Shoard, 1980), many farmers now work in partnership with statutory and non-statutory organisations as 'stewards' of the countryside. The purpose of this chapter is to review the policy and economic changes affecting farming over this time and to review the development of Exmoor moorland management agreements.


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