Reminiscences and New Year Resolutions

Despite tradition, ‘spring cleaning’ seems to happen in the winter months as far as my experience goes.  Maybe because it is relatively quiet in terms of natural history field work?

I imagine that readers will not be surprised to learn that the Forum have an archive and to describe it as a veritable treasure trove is probably something of an understatement.  We’ve recently been offered the opportunity to to study some ‘Bunting memorabilia’ and copy it for our archive.  Such offers are greatly appreciated and as a consequence I’ve been doing a bit of tidying up and archival filing.  Well, no surprise that it’s taken longer than intended as one is distracted by reading and reminiscing over items.

This piece of campaign memorabilia below, has both fond memories because it saw around 400 people gather and challenge proposals by English Nature to denotify parts of Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI of their protective status and sad ones because statute saw fit to allow the peat extractors of the day (Fison’s Horticulture) to fund the hydrological reports upon which they based their assessment.  Interestingly I’ve also located those same reports as well.

1997 pub mtg flyer

A case could be made that the eventual outcome was the 2002 Scotts Agreement, eventually delivered in 2004 when Michael Meacher sanctioned some £17.3 million to buy out the extant planning consents on Thorne and Hatfield Moors and on Wedholme Flow in Cumbria.  Then an additional £1.32 million to pay Scotts to assist with restoration on site.  A bargain?  Remember that this was on public land, those of you with long memories will recall the peat campaign in the early 1990s when Fison’s pulled off a wonderful PR coup by gifting the land to the nation in 1992, but under an agreement with English Nature in 1994 they carried on the rape and pillage of the peat fields regardless!  EN media releases claimed that it was the best deal that could be achieved in difficult circumstances.  Beleagured conservationists differed in their interpretation.  If it had not been signed then all the NGOs would have carried on with the campaign and the reality was that the anti-peat case was impacting upon peat sales and that was bad for business.

A key player back then was the late Stephen Warburton, the photograph below shows him (third from the left) with the appellants and Richard Buxton in the Preston Under Scar High Court case.  See also here.  For a full appreciation of Stephen see Volume 7 of Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers.

SWW & RB @ PuS Court

Stephen was a rare species, he worked with other campaigners such as Colin Seymour (Flamborough hedgerow case) and Wm Bunting across a broad spectrum of issues.  All three posses that forensic attention to detail.

We often ask where the next generation of naturalists are, but of equal concern where is the next generation of conservation campaigners?  How many would be capable of teaching themselves mediaeval latin in order to present irrefutable evidence in court?  How many have the tenacity, the passion to spend thankless hours researching and preparing cases?   Then there’s the issue of ‘standing’ and the ever scary cost of holding fast to principles.  No wonder that conservation campaigners are a rare species?

Yet, there has never been a greater need than the present time.  How does a novice start, how did the Forum come into being ….

In the interim, here’s wishing all our readers a Happy and Healthy New Year and may environmental conservation collaboratively rise to the challenges and opportunities which are sure to present themselves in 2014!

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