Networks: data & experienced experts?

February 21, 2016

Treeton was the venue for the annual South Yorkshire Natural History Day, organised and delivered by the Sorby Natural History Society.  It was, as usual, well attended with perhaps somewhere between seventy and eighty people.  A mixed or should one say ‘diverse’ bunch, and I could for a change be considered to have been one of the ‘middle aged’ attendees.  It was good to see and hear ‘youngsters’ taking up projects with enthusiasm.  It was particularly refreshing to hear one such speaker express appreciation about the help and support received from experienced experts in the Sorby NHS.  Would that more grant funded projects would adopt a similar philosophy.  When the hardened amongst us, who remember black and white televisions and a time when there were two hundred and forty pennies in a pound, drift back to those days of wanderings, of discoveries and of the difficulties involved in putting a name to the more unusual finds without the benefit of t’internet or digital images and emails one might be forgiven for wondering how it was the necessary field skills were acquired?

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Break time at South Yorkshire Natural History day, organised and facilitated by Sorby NHS in Treeton.

But, when youngsters seek out help then it is generally offered.  Sadly there are a few who seem to consider that it is a right, after all they paid their university fees ….

The Forum have been lucky, we have links with a number of academic institutions and are keen to encourage students to make links and are happy to help where we can.  Last year three such individuals benefited from our help and support.  This coming year another two have linked up with us and one is ongoing from 2015.

All these links, all this networking ought to build a cohesive network able to defend habitats and sites under threat?  All the recording going on should deliver robust evidence to safeguard sites from inappropriate development?

We pose the question, posed by many others as well, where does an aspiring amateur naturalist pass on their observations and records?  Melissa Harrison asked BBC Wildlife magazine readers in the January edition a similar question, she also raised the issue of  charities and organisations competing for data, our money etc.

Back to the destination of data issue …. which presupposes (a) they want to and that (b) they are accurate identifications.  Assuming that the second part is accommodated through making contact with local, regional or national experts in the case of difficult species and validation or determination achieved then what should the new amateur naturalist do next?  Chances are if they live in a town then there may well be a local group or natural history society.  There might be a regional or national one, but do you record by groups or by geographical area?  There are local records centres (LRCs) keen to take your data, it is after all worth money because they are obliged if run by the Local Authority to provide data searches to commercial enquirers.  Conversely there appears to be little data provided to LRCs by commercial consultants who like to promote themselves as ‘professionals’.  There are national recording schemes for many groups (dragonflies, moths, water beetles, spiders and many others).  There are schemes designed to feed into such as the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) which used cautiously can be a useful guide, there are citizen science schemes but all these rely on the amateur naturalists and perhaps a few ‘professionals’ to confirm identification or to actually determine the finds (often submitted as photographs).  There are many keen to act as ‘managers’ but too few keen to support that indefatigable army of amateur naturalists who actually deliver the raw data for the ‘professional’ managers to interpret.  At one time of day the government through various defra agencies collected data on a range of species and habitats.

The February issue of British Wildlife magazine has a though provoking paper “The increasing importance of monitoring wildlife responses to habitat management” (Fuller et. al.). 

A case could certainly be presented for some of that here in the Humberhead Levels?  Doncaster East IDB, are through their management service provision (JBA Consulting) implementing a £2.9m Water Level Management Plan on Thorne Moors.  Mid term through that, Natural England secured £2.3m to deliver a EU LIFE+ Project involving management works, engineering, community engagement and …. science and monitoring, one of the salaried posts was a monitoring officer, so there’s hope that substantive science will be delivered and monitoring put in place post projects to assess impact and changes on key habitats and species?

 

‘moor’ about?

February 19, 2016

The sun was shining, the skies were blue and the wilderness beckoned again, so Thursday saw another visit to a very wet landscape.  Dressing like an ‘onion’ with three pairs of socks easily kept the cold at bay.

A pair of delightful dumpy Stonechats were the first good birds of the day, colourful gems on a winter’s day.160218 Stonechat hrk 309

Feeding at the edge of the track and returning to a perch before repeating the exercise again an indication perhaps that there was plenty of suitable food for these seasonal specials.  Their ‘tchack’ call, reminiscent of stones being hit together, was heard frequently as the two birds worked their patch for food.  Stonechats are omnivorous and will search out seed and invertebrates both of which appear plentiful at the moment and is no doubt contributing much needed fuel for these delightful chats, with up to eight birds being logged on Thorne Moors recently.

The Marsh Harriers, two males quartered the moor flushing wildfowl and pheasant in their quest for smaller quarry.  A stunning Short-eared Owl appearing as the light waned, working the western periphery for small mammals able to escape the wet and relocate on the drier balks.

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Big skies, space to breath but just about every point of the compass is seeing the ring of steel tighten and destroy the atmospheric vista?  Conversely these metal monsters were ‘sold’ as a tourist attraction to which people would flock to see such iconic structures …. not forgetting the marketing spin of wind energy being free ?

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There is much discussion about an early season with the Blackthorn in flower already.  The first adders have been seen on both Hatfield and Thorne Moors, 10 February so ten days earlier than last year!  How long before we hear the first Chiffchaff and see the first Sand Martin, two of the early migrants?

Will the ‘silver ghosts’ who have graced our local lowland moors this winter return to their upland breeding moors and be able to successfully fledge young birds into the declining English population?  Whilst the politicians postulate the pros and cons of the UK remaining in the European Union, will 2016 see an outcome to the RSPBs complaint to the European Commission about the damage on Walshaw Moor?  The case is not just about Hen Harriers, but about management of upland moors and we might also remember that they are now extremely topical for their role in flood alleviation?

In the interim, let’s carry on enjoying the magic that the Hen Harrier brings on a cold winters day when, if we put in the hours scanning the far horizon and the extensive reed beds we can be rewarded with a glimpse of a charismatic bird who can for the winter months at least enjoy a safe haven here with us.  Get out there, experience the magic before the species is just a memory and another obituary in a natural history paper.  It was as recent as 2013 that the headlines reported imminent extinction as an English breeding bird, its status is still extremely tenuous.

The defra sponsored Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population received mixed reviews and it was Mark Avery who summed it up as the ‘[In]action plan’.

 

 

 

Enjoy it while it lasts?

February 10, 2016

The natural environment it would seem is under siege?  Management of upland moors at the moment is very topical not least for the potential flooding implications if not undertaken appropriately and in the public interest?  What is appropriate and who gets to define ‘public interest’?

Government Ministers have written to the chancellor to persuade him not to let nature laws impact on development.  One of those is the Minister for the Environment!

Let’s set aside for this post at least, political hot potatoes and spend a day on our local moors whilst we are still able to enjoy what were once vast wildernesses.  Now they are in the centre of what is rapidly becoming industrialised farmland, with approaching around 100 massive turbines visible from various points of the compass.

They are publically owned, that’s by US, you and me?  They are managed by Natural England, the government advisers on nature conservation.  They also advise developers via their Discretionary Advice Service (revenue generation business).  There are others involved in their management and there is a lot of activity on site now.

February ‘fill dyke’?  There has been a fair amount of precipitation but there have been bouts of fine weather in which to get out there and enjoy the ‘last days of wilderness’.

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It was the bright white ‘targets’ which attracted my attention.  The buck’s antlers resplendent in heir velvet.  A second very inquisitive buck located later in the day and in another area kept checking my progress along the track before nonchalantly trotting off again.  At the risk of being accused of anthropomorphism, did he satisfy himself that I posed no threat to his territory?

The rut for Roe deer starts in July but the does will not give birth until May and June after a nine month gestation of which four involve delayed implantation.  Bucks will aggressively defend territories from the start of Spring in February/March until August.  The Roe is one of our native deer, the other is Red, with records dating back before the Mesolithic (6,000 -10,000 years BC).

There is certainly a wealth of wildlife out there at the moment for visitors prepared to look for it.  Birds of prey are showing well with good numbers of Marsh Harriers and a smaller contingent of Hen Harriers.  The magnificent male, that ‘silver ghost’ with its white rump and ink-dipped wing tips guaranteed to lift a winter’s day.  Peregrines, Short-eared Owls, Merlins, Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks as supporting cast reward effort.  Wildfowl too with up to 10 male Goosanders being logged, the occasional Pintail and Goldeneye, rafts of others including Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Tufted and Pochard.  Plenty of passerines amongst the sheltered spots.  The unexpected bonus yesterday was a Little Egret flying in and along the northern boundary!

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Just be careful where you walk and watch out for contractors vehicles whizzing along.

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Big skies and space, or a cluttered horizon?  Get out there and experience the exhilarating, discover the nature of the place and its wildlife before its become a chapter in a historic review ….

In the interim visit Hatfield Moors Birding Blog and Thorne Moors Birding Blog and check out what has been seen and what with effort you might hope to see.

Fracking free for all creeps nearer?

February 6, 2016

The Guardian heads up it’s latest report on Government support for fracking with the headline “UK ministers make it ‘top priority’ to ensure nature laws do not hamper fracking”

A letter obtained by Friends of the Earth, dated 7 July 2015 and signed by Liz Truss, Amber Rudd and Greg Clark to George Osborne indicates that they sought to ensure that wildlife protection did not interfere with fracking projects.  The letter also revealed that ministers are considering designating shale gas wells as “nationally significant infrastructure projects”, which would take planning decisions out of the hands of local authorities, to be made by officials at the Infrastructure Planning Commission instead.

So, this from a government who had promised local communities involvement in planning decisions which would directly affect them.  The same government also promised ‘world class environmental protection’, but that’s as realistic an aspiration as the ‘greenest government ever’?

It does appear that the three ministers admit that introducing such a change is likely to undermine public support for fracking.

If fracking is so safe and ministers have confidence in the reported safeguards then they should have no problem in personally underwriting any issues proven to result from any aspect of the industrialised process?  Readers might recall that we have listed links and associations of ministers and the fracking companies and their financiers.  In April 2015, Spinwatch’s Melissa Jones and Andy Rowell  wrote “Access all areas: Westminster’s (vast) fracking lobby exposed” might cause one to question who government actually work for?

If Lancashire is distant, the remember the application planned for ‘us’ in the Humberhead Levels …. more details available via Frack Free Nottinghamshire  and there is also information on the Frack Off site for Springs Road.160204 IGas @ Misson hrk 230

There are also plans for Pocklington, Market Weighton and the Yorkshire Wolds ….

 


 

WCU funding under threat again?

February 1, 2016

It doesn’t seem that long since we reported that the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s funding was under review and that it was at risk.  Well, here we are again with much the same issues.  Ministers have failed to confirm it will be funded after March this year.

It’s not a great amount of money, considerably less than the annual alcohol subsidy in the Houses of Parliament.  Public funds for public benefit?

Wildlife crime might not be the top of the ‘green c**p cutting’ politicians agenda but there are links with animal cruelty and unregulated illegal gambling.  Significant sums are wagered on the outcomes of badger baiting with dogs and with hare coursing, and it is the profits which fund the trade and practice of digging.

According to James Fair in the February edition of BBC Wildlife, “The government has made much of its £10m package to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.  The public deserve to know whether the NWCU is to be a part of that.” 

The role of NWCU is more than just about wildlife crime, recent conversations with a local Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) revealed the astonishing links with other crimes, with wildlife related aspects simply a piece of a much larger jig-saw.  Criminals will deal in whatever they can that will make them easy money, be it poaching, baiting, illegal raptor persecution or trespass to undertake any of the activities mentioned.  Poachers might partake of celebratory drink after a successful ‘action’ in a local hostelry and mention of unprotected vehicles and machinery in isolated barns might see the next job is being lined up?  We must all be vigilant and work collaboratively for the benefit of the community and nature conservation.

Perhaps we might also consider that the New Year’s Resolution of a monthly letter to a Minister, MP or other worthy recipient might be one which asks that the NWCU funding is assured for the remainder of the current political term, that is to say, 2020?

If you want to help IFAW in the matter then sign up to their action to Rory Stewart MP Parliamentary Under Secretary Environment & Rural Affairs, asking for continued funding for NWCU.  Remember though, lots of separate letters carry more weight than a campaign, that’s not to say you couldn’t do both?

If you see wildlife crime, then report it. 

Call 101 to speak to a local Wildlife Crime Officer.

 

Useful information about reporting wildlife crime can be found on a number of web sites, for example (but not exclusively):

Birders Against Wildlife Crime

Government Advice  Published in 2010, updated 2014 so a little out of date.

RSPB

League Against Cruel Sports

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Vandalism or maintenance?

January 27, 2016

There was no fallen timber, no blockages preventing water flow but where Internal Drainage Board (IDB) machinery and maintenance are involved woe betide anything getting in their way?  There appeared to be no indication that pruning or removal of trees was required, no paint or tape were located to suggest that inspection had identified flow restriction or other maintenance requirement.

Internal Drainage Boards exist by virtue of the Land Drainage Act 1991 (as amended), they exist principally to undertake drainage of land, generally this is agricultural land but they also receive revenue from other property which may be in their catchment(s). In some areas Local Authorities collect these levies on their behalf and these are paid from revenue collected from council tax payers.

It is the EA who are responsible for flood defence and alleviation, with IDBs encouraged to co-operate in such matters.  Both the EA and IDBs are Public Bodies and as such, ‘reputedly’ accountable.  IDBs are required to take account of and indeed to promote biodiversity benefit ….

See the WLMA website and their guidance note where it clearly acknowledges that IDBs derive their powers from the Land Drainage Act 1991 (as amended by 1994 Act).  Section 12 of this Act states that in discharging its functions with relation to Land Drainage, the Boards must ‘further the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and the conservation of flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest’.

Vandalism or maintenance perhaps, but biodiversity benefit?

On a positive note, this incidence is not on the scale of that in 2012, reported in 2013 via Standing up for nature?  But, is it another example of IDB governance practice and procedure or another ‘runaway digger driver’?

 

 

UK National Fish Vote

January 25, 2016

Last year we had a national campaign to find our national bird, now it’s the turn of the fish.  So if you wish to see haddock or cod on the menu then get your vote registered.  Perhaps you prefer freshwater species, trout or salmon – then again is salmon fresh of sea?  The same might be said of the European Eel perhaps?

What criteria would we each see as important in the selection?  Perhaps the public might opt for a high profile food species? Naturalists might go for a species which represents the need to ensure that particular habitats are cared for and protected?  Anglers might prefer one that represents a challenge in the pursuit of?  Certainly all fish need a healthy environment in which to breed and play their part in the natural ecosystem.  That we exploit particular species as food should not really influence a decision but given the popularity of the christmas card robin, the chances are that the national fish will be linked to Solanum tuberosum served with a generous quantities of acetic acid and sodium chloride?

For more detail and additional information then take a look at Beneath the waterline website and the press release via Fisheye’s View.  UK National Fish is a Survey Monkey website and asks you seven questions, some of which require more in depth knowledge but should not stop you from voting for your favourite species.

We appreciate that people might think there’s something ‘fishy’ about our promoting this request, but fish need a healthy environment in which to live and water, be it fresh or sea is an important habitat as well as a natural resource which needs conserving in all our interests.  If wetlands are healthy and seas are clean then there is hope for our own species?

Take part in the UK National Fish vote, voting is in two stages:

23rd Jan – 26th March: from the 40 species the top ten will be narrowed down

26th March – May (exact date TBC): from the top ten the national fish will be decided.

 

 

Defra’s [In]action Plan for Hen Harrier recovery?

January 23, 2016

I was hoping to write a few words about Defra’s Action Plan when it was published recently, but I decided to comply with one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I spent the day on Thorne Moors instead.  The excursion lessened the variety of emotions the documents elicited, for a while ….

It was cold but who cares, the skies were clear and bright and the light just right for watching those magical ‘silver ghosts’ as they quarter the moor in search of a meal.  Also present was a female peregrine and Short-eared Owl, along with the usual supporting assemblage.

But it is the grey male with its white rump and black ink-dipped wing tips that generate emotions like wonder but also sadness as well as a degree of anger ….

To understand the ‘disquiet’ and disappointment about the “Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population” then you need to read it.  An erudite analysis of the document has been written by Dr Mark Avery via his blog Standing up for nature 

It is interesting too to read the comments made via that blog about the RSPB membership of the Upland Stakeholder Group, that is to say as part of the stakeholder group who have published this [In]action plan.  The RSPB’s response to the Action Plan can be found via Martin Harper’s blog.

Hen Harriers breed on upland moors, many managed for grouse.  Leeds University through its EMBER project found issues of water quality etc. This winter has seen astonishing levels of flooding in areas which are downstream of these [mis]managed moorlands.  An epetition to ban driven grouse shooting achieved 33,615 signatures, the RSPB and the WTs collectively failed to get behind this petition and similarly the RSPB have yet to encourage its membership to sign the Ban toxic lead ammunition petition, why?

But, with flooding topical then we should encourage people in power, Ministers, MPs and others that upland moor management needs to be reviewed and where necessary undertaken for the public good not private profit?  Is it right that large estates cause damage and receive public funds as part of land subsidies?  Perhaps the issue of flooding will keep the management of upland moors and public subsidies in the public gaze?  Ministers were quick to be seen out in devastated areas dishing out sympathies and promises, but time will tell if their flood of promises manifest any tangible benefit to the public who suffered from the consequences of failure to take a holistic approach to flood management?

According to George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian  This flood was not only foretold – it was publicly subsidised.

 

 

 

Resources down the drain(s)?

January 14, 2016

A recent article Government planning thousands of new homes in flood plains in The Ecologist assessed a ‘plan’ that seeks to build some 9000 new homes in floodplains ….

Mary Dhonau OBE, a flood campaigner, told Greenpeace: “No developer in their right mind would build a house in the middle of the river so why build it where we know the river will be when the floods come? It’s setting people up for misery. In the light of the appalling floods we’ve seen in Cumbria, coupled with the threat that climate change brings – it has never been more essential that new homes are not built where there is a risk of flooding.”

But the government are to fast track developments in flood zones.  Read the full article to learn how Greenpeace established the areas and the level of risk.  Readers may recall that we asked that you consider responding to the government consultation on proposed changes to the FoI legislation.  Had not Greenpeace been able to obtain important information, funded through the public purse in the first instance, then use this to establish risk then people unaware of an areas ‘potential’ would be left with a mess to sort out?  This is a prime example of why it is crucial that the FoI legislation is strengthened not weakened?

Let’s hope that the issue of floods and land use remain high on the medias agenda and that of conservation because it is evident that much public money will be spent, but …. will it deliver value for money?  Will it be predicated on robust science, or will those with vested interest endeavour to manipulate and manage the discussions to steer the outcomes favourable to their agendas?

See an interesting commentary on a recent parliamentary discussion via Standing up for nature likewise in a new nature blog.  Read the Hansard report on the debate.  Surely the debate is not simply food or floods, more it is about a holistic and strategic approach to land use?  Oh dear that’s probably too much for government to tackle in their short-term economic ‘outbursts’?

We have been relatively fortunate here in the Humberhead Levels, whilst we have experienced precipitation it has not been the ‘unprecedented’ scale much heralded in the media.  The image below shows an area in the Danvm Drainage Commissioner’s area, an area which saw a massively engineered solution to mining subsidence relatively recently ….

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Fishlake January 2016

It looks like Avery’s petition will pass another milestone tonight, but more signatures are needed to see upland land management more sympathetic to wildlife.

Ban driven grouse shooting

Ban driven grouse shooting?

January 13, 2016
Red Grouse TM

Image: Tim Melling

Ban driven grouse shooting?

Readers may recall intermittent updates on the situation around illegal persecution of raptors in the uplands where driven grouse shooting occurred?

Readers may also recall that Dr Mark Avery set up an epetition Ban driven grouse shooting on the Parliamentary epetition website?  100,000 signatures are needed to secure a discussion in Parliament.  The deadline for these is Thursday 21 January 2016.

Anyone who has read Avery’s book Inglorious Conflict in the Uplands can be left in no doubt as to the issues involved and the impact they have on water quality, the impact on the peat as a consequence of the management practice of burning as well as a whole host of other issues.  The EMBER Report by Leeds University  presents a robust evidence based case for change.  See also the issue of lead shot in game.  Ban toxic lead ammunition is another ‘related’ epetition and there is discussion around this issue via Standing up for nature and other websites.

Whilst the Humberhead Levels may not have breeding Hen Harriers we do get them as winter visitors and they are a part of our avifauna that we should value and be able to enjoy?  Yet, if you look on the map facility on the epetition you can see constituency statistics.  Come on, if you’ve not already signed then please do think seriously about doing so.  If you have, then persuade your friends and network?  Spread the word via social media.  This is one situation where ‘tweeting’ on ‘twiter’ really will help the birds.

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Image: Tim Melling

Interestingly Avery’s blog Standing up for nature was voted Blog of the Year by Birdwatch magazine, Chris Packham Conservation Hero of the Year and the Guano Award for Environmental Harm went to the Rt Hon. Liz Truss!

Ban driven grouse shooting?

2016 – resolved or resolute?

January 2, 2016

Should New Year Resolutions be a personal issue or can organisations take them up?  Perhaps organisations call them Business Reviews, wonder what politicians call them?

The author of this post decided to start the year proactively and whilst not a serious NYD list, a few species of note were recorded making the short excursion worthwhile and carbon neutral by virtue of cycling ….

Stunning views of two Short-eared Owls hunting over arable grassland reverting to scrub, very wet and waterlogged in the lower areas of the field, ideal small mammal habitat.

Short-eared Owl Image copyright: Tim Melling

Short-eared Owl
Image copyright: Tim Melling

The same field, in a drier area, provided a sheltered microhabitat for Viola arvensis or field pansy, something agri-industrialists would consider a weed.  But on a cool ‘winter’ day quiet delightful.

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year's Day 2016

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year’s Day 2016

So, in terms of ‘New Year Resolutions’ that ticked the

*Get out more and enjoy the wildlife / spend ‘moor’ time out in the field recording findings,

*Reduce carbon footprint (including continued *cutting back on ‘commercial’ meat),

Which leaves:

*Focus on a couple of key ‘conservation’ themes to ‘campaign’ on, research them thoroughly to ensure up to speed with the current science involved to underpin case.  Topical issues at the moment might include climate change and what better example to use than the recent flooding episodes and the role of the various agencies and drainage boards?    The use of and impact of neonictinoids on pollinators?  Equally topical might be fracking?  It might be badger culls or illegal persecution of raptors (particularly Hen Harriers)?  In case any reader hasn’t signed the epetition ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ then that might be a topic to consider?  Management of upland moors (burning) for grouse has been shown to be damaging for water supplies as well as other eco-system services, see Leeds University’s EMBER Report Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins.  For background reading an informative and well researched book Inglorious Conflict in the Uplands provides a good understanding and a starting point for further investigation into a sport which has cost implications for all tax payers.

*Enter into ‘regular’ correspondence with a variety of ‘people’.  Ministers, Defra officers, media, MEPs, MPs, local councillors etc.  Write a minimum of one letter a month to relevant MP / Minister (ial Department).

*I suppose we might / should also consider taking up ‘Twitter (ing)‘?  I recall an audience being told, or at least those who didn’t  to ‘get over it’ and effectively get on with it …. whilst I recognise the gains made through the use of ‘Social Media’ I’m not entirely convinced that it is something for us, but ever an agnostic?  Rural internet is sadly still none existent in parts of God’s own county and its hinterlands, so blogging isn’t as easy as it ought to be, twitter and tweeting – I thought that was something the birds did?

*There has been suggestions made that one should review the NGOs you support, and there has to be merit in periodic reviews of this nature because there are the large, medium and small or for those sufficiently motivated there’s always the option to DIY if a gap exists?  Whilst the large can have impact through advocacy on some key issues, they may not help local community groups protect locally important sites.  The regular direct debit becomes a habit.  Regional offers or specialist organisation can help you learn identification skills and can confirm difficult identifications, and are valuable networking opportunities and generally appreciate contributions from volunteers.  It’s not a case of what you receive but what wildlife receives for your contribution and some it has been suggested spend too much on recruitment, PR and spin through regular press releases?  Conversely, they can be a force for change?

*Remembering the late Stephen Warburton, one of the Forum’s founding members, we should remain true to those principles, particularly Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 

*Enthuse the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts / amateur naturalists.  Once upon a time, that would almost certainly have been deemed to be children and whilst that is important, there is a resource with considerable capacity that could take up natural history as a hobby and or conservation campaigning to influence change etc. and they are the early retired proportion of the population.  We should be promoting wildlife and natural landscapes as important habitats at any and every opportunity.  If we don’t then they will be lost to agri-industrial intensification, to green belt development or mono-culture commercial theme / country parks?

So a few for nature conservationists to consider?

Here’s to 2016 – challenges and opportunities it’s sure to bring?

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Can we trust Truss? Where is the evidence?

December 28, 2015

“So, badger culls are working?  Liz Truss produce your evidence!”

This was Oliver Tickell’s headline as he reported in the Ecologist on 18 December that, according to the Minister “the badger culls are working”, try as he might it seems that like many scientists or even agnostics he could not locate any science to underpin or validate the ministerial assertion.  Like many others he drew to readers attention the release of Government information ….

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Bovine TB: summary of badger control monitoring during 2015 was published on 17 December 2015, the day before the Parliamentary Recess.

Defra also released Quarterly publication of National Statistics on the incidence and prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in Cattle in Great Britain – to end September 2015 on 9 December.

Another interesting read is a [Select Committee] report on Defra’s performance 2014 – 2015 “Managing threats”  Crucially in para. 30 there is a clear statement that ‘a cost-benefit calculation must be made in each policy area on how upfront investment can provide value for money by minimising the longer-term costs, such as those arising from a significant flood event or animal disease outbreak’.  So, aside from the headline figures contained within the report where is the detail, where is the CBA?

The Government’s own data shows an increase in new incidents in the twelve months to September 2015 of 7.75% and this despite culls having taken place in Somerset for the past three years. Costs of this have been estimated at as much as £16m, one might be forgiven for asking if the increase in incidences and absence of any evidence of cost benefit analysis then is a programme of continued culls justified? Other estimates calculate the cost at around £20m of tax payers money. The only ‘evidence’ Ms Truss is able to offer appears to be anecdotal promulgated by the NFU?  See also Ecologist article which offers insight on some of the ‘science’ offered by the NFU. Para. 40 [Select Committee report] states that ‘Sound science is essential to provide a robust evidence base for decisions on policies to tackle diseases’. So, again we ask – where is the evidence base to justify continued public spend on a continuing programme of culls?

Ms Truss’s predecessor Owen Patterson put the cull programme on hold amid criticism and mounting evidence of failure, but Ms Truss carries on regardless determined to achieve a 2019 target of being bTB free by relaxing restrictions for future badger culls.

We struggle to understand why, given the assertions that the areas chosen for the culls are rife with bTB, why those promoting the cull and insisting that it is working have not tested any dead badgers to prove their assertions? Imagine credibility ratings if that were undertaken?  The question, we offer, being whose?  It might be that Ministerial credibility will be seriously tested following recent extreme weather, much more than words will be needed to persuade the public of scientific credibility and financial proberty and ultimately, competence?

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Wildlife and farmers deserve better ….

We need a government fit for purpose ….

 

 

Exotics, endemics & Europe as 2016 approaches?

December 26, 2015

We hear of laudable endeavours about saving exotic species, such as the polar bear, tiger, orang utan for example (there are other offers available) and that is absolutely commendable as the big and colourful high profile species attract equally colourful and high profile characters championing their cause and we could apply the addage of any publicity is good publicity &c.

Here in the UK we too have iconic species that experts underpinned with science offer are on the verge of extinction.  The Scottish Wildcat is one such species?  Recent studies have shown that Wildcats can control predators such as stoats, pine martens and polecats rather than grouse and other gamebirds as once believed and promoted.  The Scottish Government’s conservation agency Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned a survey and scoping analysis in 2014 to consider how best to address the continuing decline of the iconic species.  See Louise Ramsay’s account “Saving Scotland’s Highland Tiger” via Ecologist.  It is a tale of two halves, challenges and opportunities?

geograph-2680464-by-Peter-Trimming

Recent arrival, ‘Fergus’, seen at the British Wildlife Centre, Newchapel, Surrey.  © Copyright Peter Trimming and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Factor in also that this year we’ve heard much about the loss of biodiversity and habitat destruction, might we suppose that this was a continuing trend from 2013 (and previously) when many of the large membership NGOs collaboratively published the damming State of Nature report?  Given the apparent inertia in terms of address of the issues and the recommendations complicated by distractions like changing climate patterns and wholesale floods sweeping the UK in recent times then one might wonder as peripheral debates about UK EU membership and the referendum on the horizon, what it might mean for nature conservation, so ….

Would we be better in or out of the European Union in terms of protecting the natural environment?

In 2015 a number of reports were published by the European Environment Agency, some of these post provision of data by members states in 2013 under the Birds (2009/147/EC) and the Habitats (92/43/EEC) directives.

State of nature in the EU  The page provides a link to the report and annexes.

The State of Nature in the EU is the glossy EC version, those above are lengthy texts and graphical data.

Something to ponder, to ‘mull’ over as we prepare to see out the old and bring in the new year?

Post Paris: business as usual for fracking fans?

December 22, 2015

The ‘Greenest government ever’ appear to continue to abandon pledges made, recent u-turns have been solar subsidies and back word on allowing local communities decisions on planning issues?  As more people begin to realise the risks involved with fracking a case might be made that ‘big government’ is taking back decision making and imposing development on local communities?  These developments and indeed all government spending decisions are under pinned by public funds, but the public have no direct say in their allocation?  Neo-liberalism is dependent upon public subsidies (Jones, 2014), so something of a contradiction to the usual call by politicians for a ‘market’ place economy?

All this on the back of the climate change summit in Paris when around 190 nations spent two weeks discussing how they (politicians) would tackle the underlying issues causing so many climate related problems across the globe.

The Guardian has called upon George Osborne to end his love affair with fracking, insisting that scaling up of fracking is incompatible with Paris.  But no sooner was the summit over and Osborne was slashing and cutting support for technologies which would help the UK achieve its targets.  Avery, as ever to the point offers an analysis on Cameron’s tenure as PM and you’d have to admit, he has a point?  PM or PR?

Fracking poses significant risks to people’s health and local environment, as well as being incompatible with tackling climate change and the promises made in the recent Paris climate change agreement, so assert FoE  and we’d have to say that as we can’t find any underwritten assurances or pledges post problem occurence, that we’d be inclined to agree and additionally we’d encourage government to adopt the Precautionary Principle .  Sadly it seems that as the UK delegation to the Paris climate change summit were making their way home by planes that they weren’t long before they were back on track with their unrelenting ‘dash for deep dirt’ after they ‘dumped dirt’ recently with the closing of the last UK deep mine at Kellingley, where is consistency in this kind of action or policy?

Onshore maps showing the local ‘Humberhead Levels’ status according to GOV.UK & FoE also provide a useful reference map which shows the recent (December 2015) licences offered.

Even the British Geological Survey is partially funded by companies involved in hydraullic fracking.

The Independent warned of goverment and industry links in 2013,

Remember the chart which showed links to the various government advisors?  Courtesy of Transition Town Louth

Whoiswho

The link above takes you through to TTL where there are some other useful links and information about fracking, Refraction is a particularly useful, a free ebook “Fracking the UK” by Alan Toothill is available via Defend Lytham St Annes.  The growth of community groups taking up their cause, using the internet to spread and share the information, to support others in their quest for local democracy is pleasing, long may it continue ….   

Remember it’ll soon be time to consider making New Year Resolutions?  If you do indulge, then near the top of that list might be to make sure that if you look at a ‘topical theme or issue’ then you undertake thorough research, ‘all that glistens is not gold’ is certainly a good guide?

Greenblobpride

New Year’s Resolutions: Avery offers suggestions ….

December 13, 2015

It was a packed Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre on Friday evening, Dr Mark Avery’s message to people – don’t just leave it to others, but act as individuals and then the critical mass has the potential to cause change (that assumes that there is sufficient collaborative conservation) ….

IVRLC willow birder 0164 hrk

Avery, author of a number of ‘campaigning’ tomes which if you’ve not already read might feature on your Christmas wish list?  Fighting for Birds written post RSPB employment, A Message from Martha and significantly Inglorious A Conflict in the Uplands provides background information and peer reviewed science on the ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting.  Updates and supplementary information is available via Standing up for Nature.

Mark Avery IVRLC 0165 hrk

Avery asked the audience various questions about their love and actions for the natural environment, with much as expected results.  The acid test as they say would be in twelve months if that same audience returned their with lists of actions and outcomes?

Consider cutting back on meat consumption, Avery now enjoys a four days a week meat free and insists that it’s not difficult.  I’d agree and readers can see why by clicking on the link above.  One person was rather too pleased with themself for being a vegetarian, whilst that is laudable it wouldn’t actually make any impact post talk.  It might be that Avery was trying to encourage meat eaters to think a bit more about the impact of their choice, to inform themselves more about the issues involved with eating meat and thus by cutting back there was recognition but also a compromise which didn’t stop enjoyment of the great bacon butty or succulent steak from locally reared rare breed cattle (not agri-industrialised ‘processed’ meat for supermarket chains with far too many food miles and astronomical carbon footprint).  The talk, was I think designed to make people look at their lifestyles without trying to make them feel guilty, it was about making informed choices and coming to acceptable compromises.

Get out there more and connect with nature, and encourage others to.  By enjoying a space made available for nature to heal, through planning mitigation or industry transfer for an NGO to ‘garden’ then the wilder and less accessible places come into focus and remind people who pay taxes and support ‘agri-welfare’ schemes that they are valuable and not just playgrounds for elite sport or tax deductable forestry developments for pension funds but areas of land which can positively benefit the whole population through carbon sequestration or flood allieviation etc.

Choose a couple or so of ‘causes’ to get involved with, research them well and write, attend rallies etc. to further them.  Neonictinoids and bees, badgers and bTB and climate change were some offered as suggestions.

Write to MPs.  Mark suggested a letter a month as being an easy target.  We’d agree but you must recognise that MPs don’t always respond, a recent letter about hen harriers and driven grouse shooting was sent to one of our local MPs who then sent this on to the Minister and the most patronising ill informed response was sent back via the MP.  Indignant that the respondent had clearly failed to read the letter let alone the eight questions asked which have still not been answered a follow up letter was written, sadly to date no response from either the MP or the Minister.  Other correspondence awaiting replies include such topics as bTB and NeonictinoidsThey work for you?  I must look up what it is that they do such that if they were all (including the other 850 in the Westminster Palace) kidnapped by aliens what in our daily lives would cease to happen ….

Review your membership of the NGOs you support, setting aside reasons like the cost do they still reflect your interests, do they take action on issues you consider important, are they able to evidence claims of outcomes they publicise?  One member of the audience cited a charity seeking additional funds for target species and Avery rightly offered advice on testing the marketing material used, it is certainly something to consider before responding to direct marketing?

Support and get involved with an NGO.

Write to the NGOs of which you are members and praise positives and present a case for action on particular issues that people felt strongly about in the hope that they might become involved.

Sign ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ and encourage others to.

Iceland RG 0146Game meat offered for sale locally, toxic lead content of the brace illustrated???   Click on the image to see more detail and price. 

You’d need to do some backround research as to the case for banning lead ammunition but the epetition to “Ban toxic lead ammunition” is something that is worth considering if you are not already a signatory to it?  Avery’s forensic attention to detail makes a compelling case, a case already supported through the banning of lead shot in wildfowling, supported by the likes of Lord Krebs so one could be forgiven when one reads the pontificating badly briefed MPs in shooting constituencies worried about the cost of converting their pairs of Purdy’s when the topic was discussed recently in the Westminster village?  I suppose if a dozen shooters wrote to them they can claim to be representing views of constituents, but I would still be interested in why they see no issue with no regulation on toxic metals in the human food chain for game when it exists for farmed meat, common sense, consistency?

I’d probably add a couple of other suggestions, if not a daily dose of Avery via Standing up for Nature then at least a weekly look at his blog posts?  He offers thought provoking and often topical items, he prompts action even if it is only a nudge to respond to a goverment consultation, he offers you a ‘right of reply’ through a comment facility.  There are other blogs available, “a new nature blog” is one such offering let us know who you follow and why?  There are of course the ‘corporate’ blogs offered by the NGOs but the two offerded here are independent and not marketing linked to membership organisations.

If you read one book this ‘consumerfest’ then I recommend and challenge any agnostic to not be persuaded after a Yuletide dose of ‘non-medicated nor toxic’ Inglorious A Conflict in the UplandsI suppose if one were to reflect on the description of Inglorious being non-toxic, then it is all relative and those who participate in the activity which appears to endorse illegal acts then it is a spotlight on practices some would prefer kept below the public radar?

As for undertaking the above suggestions, will you if you’ve not already done so?

With apologies to Mark for not providing his full list, NYR – really must do better? 

butt%20henry

Henry the campaign’s mascot (above) – I dipped out on meeting him at the Birdfair, but here’s to 2016 and a good year for Hen Harriers.  To Birders Against Wildlife Crime, long may their endeavours see wildlife crime remain a high profile campaign.  To Chris Packham and the other wildlife ‘celebrities’ who have rallied and risked being threatened by the ‘sack’ a massive thank you.

Greenblobpride

Government proposals threaten environmental justice?

December 8, 2015

Costs Protection in Environmental Claims – access to justice under threat?

Thursday’s article in the Law Society Gazette expresses serious concerns about the Ministry of Justice current consultation on access to environmental justice.  The consultation which closes on Thursday threatens to seriously undermine the recently introduced rules which had previously allowed many claimants access to environmental justice for the first time.

120609 CD @ WF 982 hrk

Carol Day regards the proposal which seeks to confine eligibility to a member of the public could exclude community groups, parish councils and even environmental NGOs from costs protection. The proposals may also exclude legislation impacting on the environment that does not specifically mention the environment in its title or heading (such as environmental taxes, control of chemicals or wastes, exploitation of natural resources and pollution from ships) from review.  The existing, perfectly workable rules were only introduced in 2013 and fully comply with EU and international law.  In the views of many Judicial Review is an essential foundation in the rule of law.

Regular readers might also recall Carol’s guest blog here when she appealed to us all to respond to the proposed changes.  Can we rally and send a mail box full of responses to the MoJ?  Any of you who have been involved in research and collation or putting together ‘bundles’ for a Judicial  Review will understand and appreciate that such work is not undertaken lightly, any of you who have had to find the funds for such action will fully appreciate the difficulties so for government to place more hurdles in communities, an individual or a charities way might forgive us for suggesting it is an affront to democracy?

A letter to The Times today, addressed to Michael Gove MP and signed by Lord Brennan QC, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, Dr Elaine King (director of Wildlife & Countryside Link), Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, Baroness Parminter, Sir Stephen Sedley and Baroness Young of Old Scone deems the proposals to be a ‘backwards step’.  They assert that there is no evidential basis for the changes, a view shared by many who have written extensively on the issue.  The signatories ‘urge the government to withdraw the unjustified and damaging proposals in the interests of protecting the environment, checking the abuse of power and u[pholding the rule of law’.

Readers are encouraged to respond to the Ministry of Justice consultation here.

There is an excellent briefing “Costs Protection in Environmental Claims” via Wildlife and Countryside Link and also one by Friends of the Earth.  The consultation is aimed at organisations, but Mark Avery offers a bit of guidance when it comes to responding to that particular aspect of the proposals.

Hard enough to challenge Public Bodies, statutory agencies and authorities as it is and given they are funded through the public purse there has to be a right of reply?  If politicians words about open, transparent and accountable government are to have any credibility then a legitimate claim should be allowed to anable the public to challenge, in the interests of environmental justice, bad decisions?

Submit responses to the MoJ consultation here:

Costs Protection in Environmental Protection

Deadline for responses Thursday 10 December 2015.

Greenblobpride

Conservation courts controversy?

December 5, 2015

REMINDER

151205 IVRLC hrk 971

Readers who have not heard the inspirational or infuriating (depends on your perspective) conservationist Mark Avery speak are encouraged to head for Nottinghamshire next Friday, 11 December 2015. 

Doors of the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre open at 6.30pm with the talk starting at 7.30pmQ&A session and book signing follow.

The lecture 10 New Year’s resolutions for the wildlife enthusiast who wants to make a difference.  How many of us have already responded to his appeals?  But if you need persuasion beyond the written word or blog post then brave the elements and meet the man ….

Avery rallies and unites?  Whilst others continue controversial ‘conservation’?

 

ADVANCE NOTICE

Birders Against Wildlife Crime Annual Conference 2016

Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 March 2016

http://bawcconference.org/index.html

#BAWC2016

The Brunel Institute, Great Western Dockyard, Bristol, BS1 6TY

One Day Ticket – £50 or Two Day Ticket – £75

The 2015 conference was fantastic in terms of motivational and inspirational speakers, so two days planned for 2016 is surely an indication that the momentum continues apace?  The 2016 venue has greater capacity so even better chance that the information and exposure of illegal raptor persecution (amongst various wildlife crimes) is spread exponentially ….  

Hear Mark Avery promote 10 New Year’s resolutions?

November 29, 2015

For readers of this blog who have not heard the motivational author of Inglorious Conflict in the Uplands speak, then now is your chance.  Avery, also the author of the equally inspiring and insightful Fighting for Birds and who presents, in A Message from Martha a stark warning to us to act ‘today’ before it is too late and we witness other extinctions of species previously considered ‘common’.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Idle Valley Nature Reserve present

150821 MA

A Christmas Lecture by Dr Mark Avery

10 New Year’s resolutions for the wildlife enthusiast

who wants to make a difference

Friday 11 December 2015 

Doors open at 6.30pm with lecture at 7.30pm followed by Q&A book signing & raffle.

Tickets £10pp MUST be purchased in advance online or directly from Idle Valley Nature Reserve, Retford, DN22 8SG

Please note there is also an additional cost as “NWT invites a car parking donation of £2 per car.  All donatations directly support the charity”.  Order your tickets here.

Inglorious front cover 

What might be Avery’s offering in terms of NYR?  Amongst his top ten might be to read Inglorious and consider signing the epetition Ban Driven Grouse Shooting, read Inglorious and understand the issues behind Rob Sheldon’s epetition Ban Lead Shot and consider signing that too?  Avery encourages readers to write regularly to their MPs, there are rumours that they work for us (but that’s a debate for another blog) and he encourages readers to let them know about environmental issues.  Other clues might be found in his very readable blog Standing up for Nature.   Ok, there is emotion but importantly there is well researched evidence to back up statements.  Let’s face it some of the topics he airs and those often avoided by others  are ones which if some could they would litigate so clearly a master of carefully crafted case presentation, long may such narrative be produced and published?  Avery would probably also encourage you to join one or more of the usual conservation NGOs.

Chainsaws reving up?

November 27, 2015

Does the news of cuts to Defra departments in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement 2015 come as a surprise to conservationists?  a new nature blog provides an analysis which is worth a read, entitled ‘Shifting Baselines’ it presented mental images of those badgers moving the goalposts again?

The view of disproportionate cuts to Natural England and the Environment Agency is an interesting prospect?  There is to be some £2bn to protect 300,000 houses from flooding …. per chance that any were built in a flood plain and if so why?  The relaxation of planning regulations could well see more of this kind of development which will need public bail out in bad weather events?  Selling off of family silver (public land) to fund house building (private) appears to be a favoured option still.

But what implications for cuts to NE and EA in this area and would we miss their presence?  Be careful what we wish for?  I suppose one should analyse the remit of an organisation, its raison d’etre?  Natural England, started out as the Nature Conservancy Council …. these days one might be forgiven for thinking they were a advisory service for commerce or a tourist management service offering franchises on country theme parks?

Readers may be interested in some of the latest vacancies with NE, Sustainable Development; Planning, Lead Adviser up to 17 roles in nine areas or Sustainable development, Wildlife Management Lead Adviser – up to 12 roles in nine areas? Excluding pensions these 29 posts come with a price tag of around £700,000. Add in pensions on costs, sick pay, perks &c. then little change from a million? I will leave other bloggers to provide an Eco-mical critique.

There used to be science staff, there used to be science undertaken in the ‘good old days’ …. clearly the organisation or perhaps its hierarchy sees its future with a different focus and one which fails to underpin decisions on evidence based science (eg badger cull)?  Conversely the new approach to science might be as Technical Information Notes?  When was the last time there was an advertisement for a science post?  Maybe it’s down to the big society or citizen science to plug the gap?  Readers may recall our work on Inkle Moor in 2012?

120123 Inkle hab creation hrk 775

Habitat creation (wader scrapes) as part of the Natural England contribution to the project,see also NE TIN109

140714 NE Wader scrapes IMAS background hrk 317

The Survey was a tri-partite collaboration and has its origins in 2011 when a funding application to defra was successful and secured from them around £10,000. The Forum contributed a further £5,000 from its own funds but the added value in kind saw the project deliver, at a conservative estimate, outcomes worth in excess of an estimated £115,000. On the back of the findings from the Survey, funds were then found by an independent conservation charity to purchase Inkle Moor so a ‘win win’ situation delivered by a collaborative endeavour?

Here’s to ‘moor’ ….

 

Call for Action: Freedom of Information under threat?

November 15, 2015

The Campaign for Freedom of Information provides a useful resume of the threat to democracy and to those who seek accountability of Public Bodies funded through the public purse.

In July the Government announced that a Commission would be set up to to examine the FOI Act and consider what further restrictions should be imposed on the right to know.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that policy responsibility for Freedom of Information policy will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Cabinet Office. This change will be effective from 17 July 2015.

After sitting for 3 months, the Commission has now finally invited the public to submit evidence to it.  The Consultation closes this Friday, 20 November 2015 and we understand that the results are promised by the end of November!

Already 140 campaign groups and media bodies and others have written to the Prime Minister expressing concerns about the composition and terms of reference of the Commission.

Readers have a week to compose a response to the consultation, will this campaign to clamp down on open transparent governance and accounting attract as good a response as the recent attempts to ‘challenge’ the Habitats Directives? That consultation we understand attracted some 552,471 responses!

The Campaign are asking people to consider some easy actions:

Respond to the consultation drawing on your own experience of the value of the FOI Act

Write to your MP

Submit your FOI stories to saveFOI.uk

Sign a petition, 38 degree petition to Protect FoI Laws here

There is also a petition option for journalists to sign, via Change.org here

Public Bodies are required to have regard and to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.  Whilst many are efficient and indeed helpful there are other Public Bodies which publish material without provision of primary source evidence, there are Public Bodies which try to evade compliance through selective narrative and dissembling, some Public Bodies assert applicants are persistent / vexatious complainers in an endaevour to avoid providing information about activity or spend of public funds, is this demonstrable open and transparent conduct of business?  To avoid wasting time and suffering such problems readers might like to consider using using Whatdotheyknow as a tool to submit FoI requests.  The benefit of this route is that any request is public, anyone researching the Public Body you are seeking information from can also benefit from the information you receive.  It is visible to the entire world wide web (www).  Even when Whatdotheyknow is utilised, there is often only partial success but that is illustrative of compliance level as well as tactics used by Public Bodies?  Please note other options are available and the Forum has no ‘Interest’ in this website, but we do recognise the excellent service it provides to members of the public and researchers.  Whatdotheyknow are also appealing to people to act to save FoI

Comments on the My Society page suggests that they would like to see it expanded not curtailed, bring it on?  There are also some interesting suggestions as to the reason behind the Prime Minister’s plans?

 

Greenblobpride

‘Thunderclaps’ & rough weather to benefit environmental justice?

November 11, 2015

Technology as a tool for conservation campaigning is something we should all embrace?

This has to be where the knowledge and the expertise combine to create a collaborative critical mass for the benefit of the cause?

It looks like there is to be a bit of rough weather out there soon?  Rumblings in the region of 5,000,000?

The ‘Thunderclap’ that is scheduled to break at the end of November in support of justiceforannie is being promoted by Mark Avery who appeals through today’s blog post to sign up in support of the appeal from Moving Mountains Nature Network. There is a network of groups and organisinations working collaboratively to seek justice for protected species and for legal compliance with the legislation.  See also Birders Against Wildlife Crime website, not just about birds but Wildlife Crime in general.

Let’s help them get a debate in Parliament?

Image: Tim Melling

Image: Tim Melling

 

So, who was ‘Annie’?  For readers not familiar with the ongoing issue of declining raptor numbers and particularly Hen Harriers in the uplands, then read and sign up to Standing up for Nature and there are occasional references on Martin Harper’s blog, a recent one ‘Reflections on the Hen Harrier season’ provides a flavour of the issues involved.

‘Other brands are available’ …. please contact the Execsec@thmcf.org if you would like to submit a guest blog.

 

Diary date reminders:

Northern England Raptor Forum Conference: Saturday 21 November 2015.

DaNES Insect Show: Saturday 21 November 2015.

South Yorkshire Archaeology Day: Saturday 14 November 2015.

 

Natural Capital Report: Trick or treat?

November 1, 2015

On Halloween …. I finally got round to reading the Government’s response to the Natural Capital Committee’s third State of Natural Capital report (published September 2015).  Readers might judge for themselves if this is a trick or a treat by the Government?

The NCC’s third (73 page) report is glossy and is compiled by an interesting mix of experts.  The NCC’s membership comprises Prof. Dieter Helm (Chairman), Giles Atkinson, Ian Bateman, Rosie Hails, Kerry ten Kate, Georgina Mace, Colin Mayer and Robin Smale.  It has a supporting secretariat from defra of four.  The NCC was the product of the 2011 White Paper, The Natural Choice and it claims to have set out the building blocks “to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it inherited”.  Its initial term was for three years but has received a six month extension to produce the third Report post the 2015 general election.

What does it tell us?  What does it tell us that we didn’t already know?  More importantly what is the Government going to do about the parlous State of Nature?

The State of Nature 2013 asked the question what needs to be done?  What has been done in the intervening period?  We understand that many of the original organisations and new ones have come together again to provide the answers and identify key actions needed to reverse the ongoing decline, this is to be reported shortly in a Response for nature (seperate issues for England, Scotland and Wales).  This is laudable, we can all look forward to another glossy launched at a grand event?  Will Iolo provide the opening speech, or will they wheel out a Government Minister who will refer to their response above?  It could be an opportunity for Government Ministers and Chief Executives to persuade any sceptics in the masses of their sincerity?  Would realists prefer underwritten guarantees given track records?

Ten NGOs have written to David Cameron expressing dismay at the weakening and cancellation by Government of ten environmental measures.  Stephanie Hilbourne, representing the Wildlife Trusts is reported to have said that “the Government’s stance is shocking and showed disregard for the health and wellbeing of current and future generations as well as the environment we all depend on”.  Dismay could be considered as a tame word, but then we remember the days when the late Stephen Warburton was active within the WTs and the conservation movement generally.  Today’s managers have understandably to keep an eye on the bank balance if they are to keep the ‘ships’ afloat?  They would be foolish if they were to bite the hand from which crumbs fall?

We can all do our bit, but at the end of the day it is our consumption of finite resources and our spending choices which allow the market economy to wreak havoc upon the natural environment across the globe.  Even if the UK Government provide funding for ‘project management’ to stem the tide …. I seem to recall that Cnute failed?  “Green Blobs” are set up to fail, simply by virtue of the disproportionate funds aka subsidies or state welfare payments to industry?  Neo-liberalism  survives by virtue of state support (Jones 2015).

The recent publication by Government, as part of its Rural Productivity Plan for England, is a 10 point plan for ‘boosting’ …. fundamental to my mind would be the requirement for broadband.  That is to say actual broadband, not necessarily 4G but a decent broadband connection?  Trick or treat, most definitely a cruel trick out here?  Oh, look they will look at satelite provision, ‘look’ just like years ago they were going to deliver but drip drip drip and watering down of words?  So, Mr Osborne & Ms Truss the plan falls at the first and as for the rest they read as more deregulation and therefore risk the very landscapes and natural environment so many of us living in rural areas value?  It would be interesting to access the research which evidences the need for these ten points?  As yet the underwriting of failure eludes readers, but perhaps it’s principally about the deregulation and maximising of private profit at the expense of communities and long term residents?

Like the aforementioned organisations, the Forum has in the main in a voluntary capacity, delivered reports on the state of the natural world on our doorstep.  It is important that we all do make contributions to the catalogue of change in our fauna and flora.  One of our best recent examples has been the Inkle Moor Invertebrate Survey undertaken in 2012.  As well as providing an update on the status of the invertabrate assemblage of this important piece of remnant lagg fen, it even delivered a first for the UK!  Streptanus okanensis a species of terrestrial Hemiptera (or ‘bug’ if you prefer).  The Survey was a tri-partite collaboration and has its origins in 2011 when a funding application to defra was successful and secured from them around £10,000.  The Forum contributed a further £5,000 from its own funds but the added value in kind saw the project deliver, at a conservative estimate, outcomes worth in excess of an estimated £115,000.  The statistics are pretty impressive too, but maybe it’s only entomologists who would appreciate them?  On the back of the findings from the Survey, funds were then found by an independent conservation charity to purchase Inkle Moor so a ‘win win’ situation delivered by a collaborative endeavour?

Similarly Thorne Moors A Botanical Survey initiated by Ian McDonald a local botanist and Colin Wall a local bryologist and for whom this represented something of a magnus opus and a project which the Forum were happy to be involved in and make available their extensive expertise in terms of editing and publishing, also working with other stakeholders to add value to the raw data by incorporating supplementary supportive chapters.  From very positive feedback received since its publication in last year those chapters have added value by providing previously unpublished information to researchers and the public.   Whilst the Forum was able to act as the lead in terms of project management and delivery through to publication, the initial idea was that of local naturalists.   Significantly this project provided the first ever published list of the flora (including bryophytes) of Thorne Moors.  The work started in 2010 and it details the flowering species found over the three and a half years of survey whilst the moss list provides the species known up until publication in 2014.

TMABS front scan

Both these projects demonstrate the value of volunteers and their expertise as amateur naturalists.  It is amateur naturalists who are committed to cataloguing the changes in the nature of Thorne & Hatfield Moors.  Without such contributions and data like these then there is the risk that statute might forget the value in biodiversity and the value in climate regulation, carbon storage etc.?

There are a few copies remaining and details of how to obtain one can be found here.

 

 

The ‘bogs’ salute The Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP.

October 25, 2015

On 21 October 2015, the death of The Rt Hon Michael Meacher was announced.  So, what had Meacher to do with Thorne & Hatfield Moors?

Meacher 3 July 2002 WH pp

It is Meacher that we here at Thorne & Hatfield Moors have to thank that the sites are still here!  Whilst the ‘battle for the bogs’ started long before 1997 that year was a very significant one.  So much so that had English Nature and their hydrological report sponsors won the day, then we may not have been able to enjoy what remains of them today.  Undoubtably the natural environment has much to thank Meacher for, comments further to his obituary in the Guardian are very telling.

In July 1997 English Nature proposed to remove the protective status from parts of Thorne & Hatfield Moors.  The hydrological reports upon which the statutory agency based their recommendations were later established to have been provided by the peat producers!  Derek Langslow, the Chief Executive of English Nature at the time, a very brave man indeed as he ventured to a public meeting held in Thorne Grammar School to try to justify ENs proposal to a packed hall of around 400 people, or so the regional and national press reported.  I don’t recall his response to the question “who funded them [the hydrological reports]?” because the audience at that point were incensed …. the rest as they say is history as Meacher ‘suggested’ his agency to review their proposal.

Meacher & Brown 3 July 2002 pp

Meacher was then keynote speaker at our 2002 conference which celebrated the buy out of the extant planning consents.  The transcripts from “Peat – the way forward, a future for the UK’s peatlands”  are available as a download.   To hear a Government Minister describe local conservation campaigners as a ‘considerable force to be reckoned with’ caused a few chuckles amongst the audience that first day of the conference, his speech that day also shows an understanding and recognition of the part that local communities and activists can have in safeguarding their local areas.  We were fortunate also that Craig Bennett of FoE (second left, front row below)  raised the profile of the peat campaign to that of a corporate campaign.

Speaker Panel 4 July 2002 pp

Sadly one might ponder the possibilities of another of his ilk ….

021014 award MM rm crop

The image above shows Michael Meacher receiving an award for services to conservation when local bog-trotters travelled to London to make the presentation in October 2002.

Today we have Government Ministers calling anyone who cares about the natural environment ‘green blobs’.

Greenblobpride

We have Ministers who sign off badger culls.  We have Government claiming to be an evidence based one but who then fail to commission science or ignore that which exists prefering ‘pr’ narrative?  We have Government Departments who fail to act and enforce legislation when local SSSIs are damaged, fail to comply with European Directives, fail to act when raptors are illegally persecuted …. the list is endless.

The record since Meacher was sacked (rumour has it because he listened to science and to folk in the know) speaks for itself?

Thorne and Hatfield Moors and the T&HM Conservation Forum mark his passing with great sadness but celebrate his achievements for ‘our moors’ and other areas such as the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Thank you ‘honourable gentleman’.

 

ThorneMoors_A_0508_PCR_V2

Lest we forget the corporate carnage wrought by peat extraction ….

Ministerial Party on HM 3 July 2002 pp

Above: It is July 2002 and the Ministerial party look out across the ‘killing fields’ which if revisited today show nature’s capacity to heal industrial scale scars inflicted by industrial processes, but as we mark Meacher’s passing we mourn also for the lost record from the peat ‘Doomsday’ record of of climate change.

 

 

What price democracy? A Guest Blog by Carol Day.

October 20, 2015

The Executive are delighted that Carol Day, environmental law specialist offers us an insight into recent proposals to change access to ‘challenge’ of statute for poor or bad decisions ….

Carol then encourages us all to respond to the Ministry of Justice’s Consultation.

120609 CD @ WF 982 hrk

What price democracy?

The rule of law in the UK dates from the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. It is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials. Unfortunately, in the wake of recent and current proposals from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) it feels increasingly like the latter to those of us working in the world of environmental law.

Judicial Review (JR) is the last and almost the sole mechanism for civil society to challenge the decisions of public bodies and achieve a remedy in the courts. But the process of JR is being systematically dismantled and proposals launched by the MOJ in September will make it nigh on impossible for anyone to challenge the decisions of public bodies on key issues such as a third terminal at Heathrow or High Speed 2.

In July, the MOJ consulted on proposals requiring claimants to provide information about third parties who have provided funding in support of litigation with a view to the court making costs orders against them. The proposals were presumably not crafted to deter people from joining or donating to charities – but that is likely to be the result. The most recent proposals are far less opaque.

After a decade of domestic and international scrutiny, the Government introduced bespoke costs rules for environmental cases to comply with EU and international law. The new rules offer the vast majority of claimants’ access to environmental justice for the first time in years. While repeatedly emphasising the importance of maintaining the rule of law, proposals launched in September will render environmental litigation unworkable and return the UK to non-compliance with EU law and a UNECE Convention called the Aarhus Convention.

There is no evidence to suggest the new rules have led to a proliferation of environmental cases. Information obtained from the MOJ under the EIRs confirms the number of environmental cases did not increase at all following their introduction in April 2013. There were 118 cases in 2013-2014 and 153 in 2014-2015 representing less than 1% of the total number of JRs annually (20,000).

Environmental cases are also “good value for money”. Between 2013 and 2015, nearly half (48%) of environmental cases were granted permission to proceed, contrasting with a figure of 16% for all cases in 2014 and 7% in the first quarter of 2015. Over the same period, 24% of environmental cases were successful for the claimant, contrasting with a success rate of 2% for all cases in 2014. So, while environmental cases represent a tiny proportion of the total, they play an essential role in checking the abuse of power and upholding the rule of law.

On the upside, the proposals include extending costs protection to certain statutory reviews (e.g. some appeals under Town and Country Planning legislation), but the remaining measures are nothing less than death by a thousand cuts. They include:

  • Confining eligibility for costs protection to a member of the public (thus potentially excluding community groups, Parish Councils and even environmental NGOs);
  • Making costs protection contingent on obtaining permission to proceed with JR, thus exposing claimants to thousands of pounds worth of legal costs if they are unsuccessful in obtaining permission;
  • Raising the “default caps” on adverse costs liability from £5,000 (individuals) and £10,000 (other cases) to £10,000 and £20,000, which – together with own legal costs (£25,000) renders legal action wholly unaffordable for the vast majority of society;
  • Allowing defendants to apply to increase, or even remove altogether, the level of the default caps – thus exposing claimants to higher or unlimited legal costs;
  • Applying separate costs caps to individual claimants so that cases submitted by more than one individual or group attract higher costs liability;
  • Making it more onerous to apply for interim relief (an injunction) to prevent serious and irreparable harm to the environment while the legal action is ongoing.

The combined effect of the proposals is that the process of applying for JR will be so expensive and onerous that people will be dissuaded from even trying. If you value the right to challenge the decisions of public bodies you think are unlawful, please ask your MP to write to the Justice Committee about an inquiry into the future of Judicial Review in England and Wales.

Please contact Carol if you’d like more information about the proposals (cday@leighday.co.uk) and you can also respond to the consultation paper here: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/costs-protection-in-environmental-claims

The response is an online option, but for readers whose network might include people without access to the internet or good rural broadband then contact your MP and ask them to help you respond.  MPs can be found via http://www.theyworkforyou.com (although experience shows that this site does not always provide accurate information, something of a ‘postcode’ lottery I fear) or via the Parliament website.

Read also the background paper Costs Protection in Environmental Claim: Proposals to revise the cost capping scheme for eligible environmental challenges.

 

 

 

Diary dates & networking opportunities.

October 17, 2015

As Autumn gives way to Winter and the days draw in then perhaps it’s time to meet up with old friends or attend networking events and make new ones?  Two identification courses and three events are offered, details below.

The Northern England Raptor Forum annual conference is being held on Saturday 21 November 2015, it is being hosted by Calderdale Raptor Group and is to be held at Rishworth School, Rishworth, Halifax, HX6 4QA.  For more information and booking forms, click here.

The Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Entomological Society are holding their Annual Insect Show on Saturday 21 November 2015 Brackenhurst Campus, Nottingham Trent University, on A612 just south of Southwell, nr Newark, Notts NG25 0QF 11am until 4.30pm. Admission and parking free.  Refreshments. Disabled access and toilets.  A chance to learn more about insects and their environments.  Many local societies, groups and individuals will be exhibiting and demonstrating live insects, preserved specimens and trapping and recording methods.  A small number of sales stands will be there, giving people a chance to buy books, insects, and insect related items.  Depending on the weather, there may be a moth watch afterwards. Contact Dave Budworth on 01283 215188

Prof. Ian D Rotherham and team, long standing friends and associates of the late OG are running a two day conference Oliver Gilbert: A life in ecology that marks the premature death ten years ago of a giant in nature conservation.  The conference is 13 & 14 November 2015 at Sheffield Hallam University.

Sphagnum identification courses, 19 & 26 November 2015 in Sheffield.

Waxcap identification courses, 15 & 29 October 2015 in the Sheffield area.

For more information about any of the three events above and booking forms contact the

Conference Team, HEC Associates, Venture House, 103 Arundel Street, Sheffield, S1 2NT

Tel: 0114 272 4227 email: info@hallamec.plus.com

 

 

 

 

Focus on the disease not ‘scape goats’?

October 6, 2015

NATIONAL BADGER DAY : TUESDAY 6 OCTOBER 2015

Badger & mayweed

A report has been draw to our attention and is worthy perhaps of a wider audience, click on the heading below for the full version. 

Despite the continuing call for abandonment of the expensive cull the Government persist in wholesale slaughter, in parallel as reported recently they also seek to consult on the reform of cost protection for Judicial Review applications by the public or environmental organisations and charities.  The phrase ‘evidence-based’ seems to have lost favour when it comes to addressing inconvenient issues?

Cattle testing key to bovine TB control & how Wales achieved a major decline in bTB

The role of cattle testing is fundamental to the control of the disease.

Accurate diagnosis is crucial to identify disease and remove infected cattle to prevent the disease spreading. But the SICCT test used to diagnose infected cattle can miss up to 1 in 5, or about 20%, of infected animals.

This means that infected animals can still be present in the herd when movement restrictions are lifted and Officially Tuberculosis Free (OTF) status is regained

Because of this limited sensitivity, intensive and repeated testing is needed to identify, locate and remove infected animals to prevent them spreading the disease within the herd or to other herds.

In the Area Eradication Strategy(AES) of 1950’s & 60’s the number of reactors slaughtered was brought down in just 4 years from 25,571 in 1959, to 5,901 in 1963.

This reduction was achieved by using a high testing intensity applied across the UK, in conjunction with strict movement controls and tight bio-security.   In 1959 over 11 million tests were carried out.

With the AES of the 1950’s & 60’s, the high level of testing was maintained for many years, and by 1976 the number of reactors slaughtered because of the disease had fallen to 1,058

By 1982 the number of reactors slaughtered had fallen to 569, but still circa 2.5 million tests were being carried out

But between the late 1980’s and 2006 various changes to the testing regime led to the re-establishment of the disease due to:

  • Major reduction in testing intensity
  • The relaxation of movement controls
  • The move to 2, 3 and 4 yearly testing which failed to identify emerging disease
  • Outbreak of BSE which required re-stocking, which was carried out without any pre-movement testing, and often with cattle not under annual testing
  • The abandonment of testing during the FMD epidemic
  • Re-stocking post FMD with cattle that had missed their tests, without any pre-movement testing and which were also moved to areas of the country not under annual testing, therefore any infection present may not have been identified for a considerable period of time, and also allowed for significant onward transmission
  • The scaling back of testing generally which allowed un-identified infected cattle to be moved, traded, etc leading to an expansion in disease incidence

These changes in the testing regime resulted in an ever increasing spread of infection. By 2012, although the incidence of disease was much higher than during the AES, (37,000 reactors slaughtered) only just over 8 million tests were carried out.

So currently, despite a much higher incidence of disease now, (37,000 reactors in 2012) the number of tests still lags far below the level needed to identify and remove all infected cattle.

DEFRA’s response:       In the last 2 years Defra has begun to greatly increase the number, frequency and effectiveness of the testing regime by:

  • Increasing the areas of the country under annual testing
  • Using gamma interferon testing to supplement the SICCT test
  • Zero-tolerance of overdue tests
  • Greater use of severe interpretation of test results
  • Treating inconclusive reactors as confirmed cases

These measures are beginning to take effect, with the number of cattle slaughtered in 2013 14% below that for 2012.  In Wales, which moved to annual testing in 2008 and has tightened up its testing programme, the number of cattle slaughtered in 2013 was 34% down on the number slaughtered in 2012.   Wales has nearly halved the number of cattle slaughtered per annum since 2009; from 11,671 in 2009 to 6,102 in 2013. This represents a very significant reduction of 48% in just 4 years.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/incidence-of-tuberculosis-tb-in-cattle-in-great-britain

In addition, other measures such as pre-movement testing, re-introduced in 2006 and 2007, have also identified infected cattle prior to movement and resulted in limiting the onward transmission of disease.

The level and frequency of testing, now introduced by Defra, is beginning to take effect, and should replicate the reduction in disease incidence as shown during the AES.

SICCT test limitations

Also Defra has recognised that the SICCT test (Single Intradermal Comparative Cervical Tuberculin test) has a variable sensitivity, which means that it can miss up to circa 20% of infected animals which are either in the early or late stages of disease.

This means that infected animals can still be present in the herd when movement restrictions are lifted and Officially Tuberculosis Free (OTF) status regained.

As a result Defra, has ramped up of the frequency of tests, increased the areas under annual testing and introduced gamma interferon testing as a supplementary test.

However, the limitations of the SICCT test do not appear to have been made clear to either farmers or those involved in the livestock industry. Indeed the NFU is silent on the matter in its advice to farmers.

Given the SICCT test limitations it is crucial to introduce and maintain high levels of testing across the country and ensure pre and post movement testing is carried out to identify, locate and remove latent infection before it can be passed on to other animals..

Such intensive testing regimes are onerous for the farming industry, but if the need for them could be carefully explained, then all involved would understand the need for these measures and how they will bring the disease under control.

Further information: including the AWG papers submitted to Defra, are available from: Animal Welfare Group, Co-ordinating Office: 3 The Common, Siddington, Cirencester, Glos GL7 6EY.   Tel: 01285 656812 / 01285 644319      Email janbayley@aol.com

The Government statistics available in Incidence of TB in cattle in Great Britain – statistical notice (data to June 2015) make interesting reading when considered against the revised costs of the cull (in excess of £16m or the equivalent of £6,775 per badger), one might ponder the value of the spend of public funds when there has been a demonstrable improvement in Wales through the adoption of an improved testing regime.  If better bio-security and vaccination were added to the tool kit as well, then a collaborative address would deliver better for both the dairy farmer and their customers as well as poor ‘brock’, a convenient scape goat?

800px-Deceased_Meles_meles_-_head[1]

Erosion of opportunities to protect the environment?

October 2, 2015

Costs Protection in Environmental Claims: Proposals to revise the costs capping for eligible environmental challenges.

Following the earlier ‘consultatiuon’ Reform of Judicial Review by the Ministry of Justice in July 2015, the MoJ have launched the second review around the public’s opportunity to consider challenging any statutory agency or authority through the Judicial Reveiew process.  Costs Protection in Environmental Claims: Proposals to revise the costs capping for eligible environmental challenges.

We wonder how many readers have been involved in any JR application?  From experience we would offer that for the lay person, or any small organisation who seeks to legitimately question a Public Body never mind ‘challenge’ it, it is not something one would undertake lightly.

It is inordinately expensive if you use professional legal advice and anyone would be advised to, it is equally extremely time consuming to put together the ‘bundles’ required in which evidence is presented.  It is perhaps different for Public Bodies as they are generally in receipt of public funds and have paid staff.

So, that the Government now appears to seek to further close down an already arduous ‘assault course’ might be suggestive of a discriminatory approach?  It would be difficult to offer it up as an inclusive, none discriminatory democratic option for legitimate question when all other avenues have been explored and failed?

The duration of the consultation is from 17 September 2015 until 10 December 2015.

Useful background reading:

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, Fact Sheet: Reform of Judicial Review

Reform of Judicial Review: Proposals for the provision and use of financial information

Law Society Response to the first consultation

Readers are also encouraged to read Carol Day’s excellent Guest Blog on the issue on Martin Harper’s RSPB web page.

 

Greenblobpride

 

Charity membership may bring more than you bargained for?

September 21, 2015

Headlines like “Charity Donors could face unexpected legal bills warns ACEVO”

& Martin Harper’s blog featured a guest blog by Carol Day In for a Penny … Under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 charity membership may mean more than you bargained for

might understandably have conservation campaigners a ‘tad’ concerned?

The Government have recently undertaken a consultation:  Reform of Judicial Review. Proposals for the provision and use of financial information.

The Ministerial Foreword in the aforementioned document makes fascinating reading, particularly if you ponder on the people in power who abused that power and continued to and what was done about it when it was made public?  So, we might be forgiven for wondering about ‘protection’?  Spectating from the sidelines of politics I struggle to think of many reviews resulting in revised ‘protection’ which have delivered Public Benefit, the hedgerow regulations were preceeeded by miles of hedgerows being grubbed out, change in rules for agri-welfare subsidies saw ancient grasslands ploughed up.  Some ROMPPs to safeguard Natura 2000 sites are still to be completed here in the Humberhead Levels, Nero & Rome?

The Rt Honorable Michael Gove in his capacity as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice explained that he would defend, above all else, the rule of law. Gove explains that without the rule of law power can be abused.  He continues that JR is an essential foundation of the rule of law.

Anyone who has been involved in compiling and submitting documents to the JR process will know how hard it is never mind inordinately expensive.  Charities in the main, or at least those I have either been involved with or observed from the sidelines who have applied for JR because all else had failed and significantly with great reluctance (not least on cost grounds) it had been undertaken in the Public Interest and not for pecuniary or private benefit or interest.

28 organisations are named as having been sent copies, but para. 8 on page 5 assures the reader that the list is not exhaustive or exclusive ….

So, the consultation has now closed.  Respondents to the Minister’s sixteen questions set in four sections are asked to provide reasons for a positive or negative response, so thereby encouraged to provide evidence to support any submission.  Thirty three pages of carefully crafted narrative, we await deliberations ….

In the interim, the next post will feature an equally worrying update on this same issue ….

Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori?

 

 

Back to Badgering : is £16m+ value for money?

September 19, 2015

Wednesday’s blog post talked of the newfangled thing called science (pers comm. CP).  Clearly the defra agencies and their Minister are not yet conversant with this evidence based approach?

Natural England have approved a cull licence in Dorset in addition to those already running for West Gloucestershire and West Somerset.  Apparently the applications were approved as the applications fulfilled all the criteria.  Natural England’s website appears to confirm that sufficient funds are in place to complete control operations, so does that means that no public funds will be spent on the continued culling in the two existing areas and the new Dorset licence area?  The ‘exercise’ thus far we understand is in the order of £16,777,000 which equates to around £6,775 per badger according to the Badger Trust.

In 2013 NE over ruled its own adviser to grant a licence to extend the Gloucestershire badger cull.  Four of nine NE Board members expressed severe reservations, particularly on the pivotal advice of the government’s chief veterinary officer (CVO) Nigel Gibbens. Wood said that advice was “the key” to the decision to extend.

During the meeting (23 October 2013), the minutes of which were obtained by the Guardian, Prof. MacDonald (NE ‘expert’ advice) said: “The CVO’s advice that killing further badgers would lead to better disease control is not easily reconciled with the evidence.” He added it was “hard to understand” how further trials could be licensed following the failure of the initial culls. Other board members agreed that the extension was likely to increase TB infections in cattle, with one noting “independent advice should have been sought”. The minutes record discussion of “the fact that it was difficult to predict what the disease control benefits would be”. In the end, the board voted narrowly to allow Wood to make the decision.

Readers may further recall that …. “If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”  How then, with the state of the nation’s finance as it is, can this be justified?  No reasonable person lacks sympathies or understanding for the stress and problems faced by herds which are infected with bTB, but why is the English Government so incalcitrant when it comes to evidence based approach?

We read that farmers need to take consumers with them, they need to engage with the public about where food comes from so that they better understand the issues.  How is a conservationist to enjoy Somerset Brie when they know that badgers have been inhumanely slaughtered as part of the ‘production process’ of getting the product onto their plate?  Visit the news page of Stop the cull to see more detail of the issue.  Each of us effectively votes through our purse, across a wide range of ethical and moral issues and supermarkets are very sensitive to market share.

Fast forward two years, Natural England’s web page on GOV.UK clearly states that sufficient funds are in place to complete control operations.  We might read into that that the farmers, landowners or shooters will be funding the operation?  Conversely we might wonder if defra (or other department) through one of its agencies might have made available the next tranche of cash?

The Badger Trust’s recent press release in part here verbatim: “The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.

“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”

We are reminded of Prof. John Bourne’s comment when he was the Chair of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bovine TB.  Watch his informative presentation at the Badger Trust’s AGM Seminar 2015.

“I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said, we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers”.

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Badgers suffer needlessly, are subject of digging, baiting and dog fighting and as if that isn’t enough they appear to be a particular target for the current Government and Natural England?

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Politics & Packham: Poisoned, shot, trapped Hen Harrier RIP?

September 16, 2015

Environmental conservation has a bit of competition at the moment in terms of newsworthiness, but then that’s probably always been the case to some degree?

Politics has suddenly become lively and isn’t it interesting to see the antics of the Parliamentary playground?  The humanitarian crisis continues to unfold and that of course suffers from media hype, political commentory, filibustering rather than a collective address across the piece be it at local, national or worldwide level?

Nature, quietly going about its business, so essential to all humanity is in the back seat again?  Possibly even demoted to the trailer behind?

There have been a few entertaining bits on the worldwideweb recently?  Andy Richardson / the Countryside Alliance petition calling upon the BBC to “Sack Chris Packham” is limping along with 2,629 supporters.    Packham’s team have thus far fielded a spectacular 76,130 on the “BBC Don’t Sack Chris Packham” counter petition.   Packham’s video thanking people for their support also encourages people to join the various charities he called upon / criticised for being too meek, it also importantly asks that they consider signing the Ban driven grouse shooting epetition, it may be coincidental but the numbers have risen at the rate of around 1,500 a day and it currently stands at around 18,823.  The petition has until 21 January 2016 to run, if it reaches the ‘magic’ figure of 100,000 signatories then it “will be considered for debate in Parliament”. 

In an article in yesterday’s Independent, the BBC make it clear that Packham would not face dismissal for expressing his views.  Excellent news, freedom of speech survives a little longer?  a new nature blog provides interesting background information on the Countryside Alliance and its associates.  It also analyses recent activity by government amidst the excitement and confusion of current affairs.

See also the Hen Harrier Day 2015 video, Packham at his best and promoting peaceful, proactive and democratic campaigns.  He even welcomes those who would attack him at all levels whilst failing to provide any credible science to underpin the view of ‘tradition & country lore’.  There is just one blip, ok possibly two needed for sensitive ears but they received hearty rounds of applause.

Packham’s committment to the campaign is assisted by his generous provision of an assortment of T-Shirt designs which he allows supporters to use, his website explains ….

You can download th[e] design for free for your own personal use. Please be aware that it is the copyright of Chris Packham and strictly not for resale. Action will be taken against any infringement of copyright.

Poisoned, shot, trapped – Hen Harrier RIP

This Hen Harrier t-shirt design has been created by Chris Packham and is free to download so that you can take it to your chosen printers and have made up in the colour and size of your choice.

Packham, sporting the above design (along with Avery) reminded the Goyt Valley audience in the open air arena that the management of the uplands were not best served by driven grouse shooting interests.  Cleaning water for human consumption is more expensive because of heather burning, there is also a risk of increased flooding, see the EMBER Report to better understand the effects of prescribed vegetation burning on blanket peatland hydrology, chemistry and physical properties, and on the hydrology, water quality and biota of rivers in upland peat-dominated catchments. It is the first time that a systematic and comprehensive assessment of burned and unburned catchments has been carried out.

Inglorious is the ideal Ban driven grouse shooting handbook, in its pages are all the details of everything you need to know when contacting your MP, defra, food chain suppliers and restaurants etc. to make a case for it to be outlawed.  It offers excellent references as well as further reading matter.  As Packham said recently “I’m a fully paid up member of this newfangled thing we’ve got.  It’s called science and it’s about truth”.

Towering perspective?

September 14, 2015

Shame about the weather for Heritage Day 2015 at the weekend, the views from St Nicholas’s Tower were fantastic but the visibility was not what it might have been.  Despite the trek up a 37 step spiral stair and careful manoeuvre onto the roof it was worth the effort.  Had the weather been more obliging then all points of the compass would have offered a greater selection of local landmarks on the distant skyline.

Looking north towards Thorne Moors.

Looking north towards Thorne Moors.

The vast expanse of Thorne Moors was easy enough to see from the elevated vantage point, with the wind turbines of Tween Bridge along the edge of its boundary.  Towering structures with their foundations contained within hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete breaching the hydrological unit which extends beyond the visible peat and under the agricultural warp land towards the town itself.  The carbon emissions created from cement manufacture do not have to feature in the calculations which provide the carbon emission budget.  Little wonder these industrial structures can be promoted as clean energy efficient options?  Although as far as transparent accounting goes rather like not having to factor fuel costs in the running of a car?

Old and new educational establishments with the formative playing fields a once common sight and a feature of most school grounds.

Old and new educational establishments with the formative playing fields a once common sight and a feature of most school grounds.

St Nicholas is a Grade 1 listed building with an interesting history.

The wall along Church Balk features various mortar loving plant species including Hart’s-tongue Fern and Wall Rue.

 

Should the BBC sack Chris Packham?

September 10, 2015

There has been a call by the Countryside Alliance for the BBC to sack Chris Packham.  The epetition set up by Andy Richardson three days ago is currently running at 2,449 signatures.  The BBC are petitioned “BBC please sack Chris Packham he’s anti shooting and not an impartial presenter thus misinforming viewers”.

We didn’t realise that he was a BBC employee, rather he was ocassionally contracted to appear as a presenter in various series, Springwatch for example?  Even the Guardian describes Packham as a ‘treasure’.  The Telegraph on the other hand offer up the views of Tim Bonner, the CEO of the CA but only a very short paragraph (two sentences) from the BBC Wildlife magazine defending their editorial policy as well as Packham, balanced journalism?

There are other far better opinions expressed about the CA and their attack on one of the country’s most popular naturalists/conservationists/presenters.  Standing up for nature, a new nature blog are a couple of examples.

In the interim, perhaps readers might like to consider signing the epetition NOT to sack Chris Packham.  At the time of posting this epetition set up two days ago is running at 54,471 signatures & multiplying by the second ….

If this epetition had been set up on the government epetition website & reached a 100,000 signatures in six months then the issue would be discussed in parliament!

Perhaps Change.org author should circulate details of the Ban driven grouse shooting epetition (currently running at 16,043 signatories) along with an explanation to the ‘keep Packham’ signatories and then the impact of ‘sport’ on upland peat moors would reach potential sympathisers and signatories for Ban driven grouse shooting?

 

In the meantime the ‘Indian Summer’ continues to provide interesting observations as the wildlife enjoys the warmth of the late sun.

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas Blackwater Dyke 10092015

Small Copper are still active on Thorne Moors along with adders still to be found taking advantage of the warm weather.  Images: Martin Warne.

Adder Vipera berus Paraffin Tram 10092015

 

Swathes of Field Scabious amidst ridge and furrow of an old haymeadow, look beyond the Small Tortoiseshell for the miriad of bee species.  Image: Helen Kirk.

150906 Sm Tortoisehell nectaring on FS hrk 808

 

 

 

Reflections, accountability & action?

September 5, 2015

Wednesday’s Guardian sees Chris Packham slaming “shameful silence of Britains conservation charities” and particularly asking serious questions about the disappointing performance of the large and affluent NGOs on the issue of illegal persecution of raptors, most especially Hen Harriers.  There is also much discussion about this ‘deafening silence’ in terms of organisational support on the popular blog site Standing up for Nature.

The Hawk and Owl Trust are insistent that to Ban driven grouse shooting would be counter productive, but fail to mention the amount of public money large shooting estates receive and how heather burning or predator management provides (or not) public benefit.  Inglorious on the other hand provides an excellent resume of the issue.

The September issue of BBC Wildlife magazine also sees Packham saying that “It’s shameful that some conservation charities won’t stand up for foxes, badgers and hen harriers”. 

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Perhaps their senior staff and maybe trustees will be wincing at his words?  Hopefully some of their members will, prompted by Packham ask questions about the failure of the affluent almost quasi quangoes to challenge and to champion the cause for wildlife conservation?  The National Trust too does not escape comment, partricularly in respect of the upland moors it owns and manages.  Peak Malpractice was an expose of raptor persecution back in 2007 but what is perhaps more astonishing is the fact that the situation has worsened, hence the Ban driven grouse shooting epetion as well as a range of other actions designed to raise the profile of illegal persecution and wildlife crime.  Readers will recall that Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) was a ‘community’ reaction to failure by various organisations who conservationists might reasonably have expected to champion such cause.

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One might comment that it is hardly surprising therefore that despite austere times, new conservation charities are still being created?  Simon King, the President of the Wildlife Trusts, has set up one such venture with education at its heart, the Simon King Wildlife Project.  One might wonder why after all, with a link to a network of 47 charities across the country he has done this?  It seems reasonable to assume that the county trusts ought to be able to engage, educate, enthuse and empower local actions?  The RSPB too has local member groups but their primary purpose appears to be fund raising with ocassional coach trips, nothing wrong with such aims but where do people turn when they want to protect their local woodland or heathland from threat of development?  The march of metal monsters creating rings of steel and the recent government push for fracking are other issues which have mobilised local action.

There are perhaps good reasons for the affluent NGOs to sit on the fence, but after a while the splinters must start to sting from uncomfortable squirming?  Accountability to members or to tax payers in the case of Public Bodies appears not to be a popular element of the government promoted ‘open and transparent’ or conduct in public life agenda?

How does the community, collectively challenge actions it might perceive to be at variance with the public interest?  How many of the large membership organisations offer infrastructure support for grassroots conservation?  FOE and CPRE are a couple which spring to mind, TCV offers help for groups involved in practical conservation but there appears a gap in the market?  Voluntary Action and CVS groups can help small local groups but they are more geared up to working with health or social care groups, luncheon clubs and the likes.  If local action groups as described above were ‘fundable’ then the chances are that it would be offered, but would government want to empower local action?  Local action opposing fracking has exposed the reality of the promise of local decisions on local issues when central government has over-ruled local planning authorities to approve developments and promote fracking, how do local communities challenge multi-million corporations when they have such support?

There are tools to help, there is an amazing choice of epetition options that community campaigners can use.  The government website option petition.parliament.uk is certainly worth considering, if it achieves 10,000 signatures then the department or government agency it involves is required to provide a response.  If it reaches 100,000 signatures then the issue it raises is discussed in Parliament.  2015 saw the time that epetitions are allowed to run on the site reduced from 12 to six months.  Mark Avery elected to use this option to Ban driven grouse shooting.  There are 38 degrees, Avaaz , SumofUs , Change.org and many other web options available.  They are easy to use, the effectiveness in combination with social media has been demonstrably efficient and such examples would be the government u-turn when the ConDems tried to sell off the public forest estate.  Elsewhere on this blog and on others there has been examples offered where the disposal of public forest has been achieved through other options, but that is another issue and should not distract from the value of collective and collaborative critical mass challenging for the public interest?

GOV.UK also provides information on how to make a Freedom of Information request, but another excellent tool available is the Freedom of Information website “whatdotheyknow“.  Public Bodies are required to provide responses to requests as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.  The Information Commissioners Office is also an option where requests have been declined for what might be perceived as no valid or justified reason.  FoI or EIR requests can be addressed directly to the Public Body, agency or authority through a dedicated office(r) or via “whatdotheyknow“.  This option is one by which other campaigners can benefit through open access.  It is a useful resource as researchers can gain connsiderable intelligence on topics or on particular organisations in receipt of public funds.

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Defra & badgers …. can costs like these be justified?

September 2, 2015

FOI REQUEST REVEALS TRUE COST OF BADGER CULLS IS EVEN HIGHER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT AT £6,775 PER BADGER

DEFRA has finally been forced to reveal the true cost of their disastrous badger cull policy in a Freedom of Information request brought by the Badger Trust. The final bill for the taxpayer (including policing costs) is just under £16.8 million, which works out at £6,775 per badger killed.

The DEFRA figures show:

2012 badger cull postponement costs – £2,500,000

2013 badger cull cost – £9,818,000

2014 badger cull cost – £4,459,000

Total costs – £16,777,000

The Badger Trust has pursued the government relentlessly over the actual costs of the badger cull policy but DEFRA fought hard not to reveal them. So in November 2014, the Trust went public with its own estimate of £6,100 per badger for the first two years of the culls, a figure derided as ‘inaccurate and alarmist’ by pro-cull politicians and the farming lobby, who also accused the Trust of inflating the costs to ‘fuel public opposition’ to the policy.

Reacting to the latest figures released by DEFRA, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said, “Despite the best efforts of the government and the farming lobby to discredit us, our cost estimates were, if anything, too low.

“Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer. When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.

“If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”

Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin added, “It’s time the government stopped pandering to the irrational sentiments of the farming lobby by playing the badger blame game. We live in a world of science and facts, and DEFRA’s own data show that even in TB hotspot areas 85% of badgers will not even have the disease and 98% are no risk whatsoever to cattle. Killing badgers that don’t have TB cannot possibly help the situation for farmers or for cows. This indiscriminate slaughter is not only irrational but hugely wasteful of public money at a time when key services are being axed, including 40% cuts at DEFRA.

“The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.

“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”

Thanks to the Badger Trust for sharing these eye watering figures with us.

See also a new nature blog

Miles King has also written an excellent post “Badger Cull Circus comes to Dorset”.

Given the above astonishing figures, then perhaps some more questions need to be asked about the funding for this continuum?  The agri-industry receives substantive ‘welfare’ payments simply for land ownership, these CAP payments are we understood supposed to support wildlife friendly management …. continuation of an unscientifc practice is hardly likely to gain public support for British farmers?  The approach adopted by Defra and or government Ministers appears akin to that for Hen Harriers?

DEFRA

…. seem to be taking quite a bit of criticism lately, Mark Avery has contacted them again to complain about the way in which a FoI was handled.  He has also sought an update on the Walshaw complaint to Europe after the RSPB had to take up the case after Natural England dropped it., see Wuthering Moors 49 & 51.

Perhaps we should revisit an issue we had with two Defra agencies, then again maybe they have enough on their plate already?

‘Moor’ rain needed if bogs are to be safeguarded?

August 31, 2015

According to a local weather site Doncaster Weather the local rainfall this year has been 257.2mm and the month’s 69.8mm with around 10mm falling today.  If the pattern is maintained then it looks like being a dry year, so not helpful in terms of the rewetting of Thorne & Hatfield Moors.  Perhaps we might see an increase in precipitation over the winter months?

Stunning stands of Calluna vulgaris, a plentiful end of season nectar source for bees as they prepare for winter.  Painted Lady were present on both Thorne & Hatfield Moors over the bank holiday weekend.  Image@ Martin Warne.

Stunning stands of Calluna vulgaris, a plentiful end of season nectar source for bees as they prepare for winter. Painted Lady were present on both Thorne & Hatfield Moors over the bank holiday weekend. Image@ Martin Warne.

There are two multi-million pound projects currently ‘restoring’ the sites.  Thorne Moors Water Level Management Plan, being implemented by Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board and the LIFE+ Project being delivered by Natural England.  One of the key outcomes of both projects is to safeguard the peat body in terms of its functioning as a carbon sink and its potential to continue sequestering carbon for future generations.  Both projects have the capacity to retain water on site rather than pump it off into the rivers and eventually out to the sea, similarly the rationale for the compartmentalisation across the sites was to facilitate easy movement of water to accommodate conservation management.  The WLMP clearly documents holding the water level at 10cm above the peat surface.  There are vast areas where this is clearly not the case, nor is the water even at the surface.

A recent visit to Hatfield Moors saw acres of desiccated sphagnum, and perhaps worse were the hundreds and more likely the thousands of seedling birch taking advantage of this situation.  Is this a consequence of the rainfall or is it because the management of the site has failed to address the associated risks of low rainfall and by ensuring that key areas are safeguarded?

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Desiccated sphagnum mat being colonised by birch seedlings, also a presence of common cotton grass a species with a preference for wet conditions.

Desiccated sphagnum mat being colonised by birch seedlings, also a presence of common cotton grass a species with a preference for wet conditions.

The Neolithic trackway discovered in 2004 is perhaps a prime example of a lost opportunity, what still remains buried but will be lost if allowed to continuing drying out?  One might ponder a different outcome had it been found ‘down south’?

The ‘ghosts’ of a past practice now feature as sculptures across the barren peatscapes, others still resistent and thus more evidence that the mineral extraction in these areas was down to basal peat layers above the mineral.  Most of the economically viable peat had been taken from Thorne Moors and much of Hatfield Moors by the end of the 20th Century.

Reminders of a lost record now feature as natural sculptures amid a regenerating wetland.

Reminders of a lost record now feature as natural sculptures amid a regenerating wetland.

 

A pine's last stand?

A pine’s last stand?

Ten Acre Lake on Hatfield Moors, a post mineral extraction legacy was in its early years an excellent site for breeding waders including Common Sandpiper in 1996.  In July 1995 it was also host for about a week to a Long-tailed Duck.  It has since then become much more overgrown with dense birch and Crassula helmsii on the water magin.  This invasive species was first reported in the late 80s and is now widespread across the water bodies of Hatfield Moors.

Ten Acre Lake, Hatfield Moors.

Ten Acre Lake, Hatfield Moors.

Across on neighbouring Thorne Moors, nature’s annual cycle continued to unfold with this Drinker Moth below captured egg laying.  Drinker moth is common on both Thorne & Hatfield Moors and is often encountered as a larva as it crosses grassy tracks.  Drinker Moths lay their eggs on a variety of grasses including Cock’s-foot, Annual Meadow-grass, Couch-grass, Reed Canary-grass and Purple Moor-grass.

Euthrix potatoria 66.01 / 1640. Image: Martin Warne.

Euthrix potatoria 66.01 / 1640.
Image: Martin Warne.

 

DDOS to celebrate Diamond Jubilee

August 29, 2015

DDOS, affectionately know as the “dodos” …. not extinct but still going strong and shortly to celebrate its 60th Anniversary!

I recall first joining back in the 1970s when the meetings were held in the St James Church Hall in Doncaster.  The days of George & Leslie Dye, George and Joan Mitchell, Enid Coleman and Reg Rhodes.  How things have changed over the intervening decades, grapevine to pagers to SMS and Apps.

A question which might now arise is that about the function or purpose of local societies?  Do they act as a data collection servicce to feed into regional and national schemes?  Do they publish their findings as an annual repport or periodic journal, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations?  Do they engage, educate and nurture the next generation of naturalists?  Do they act as eyes and ears in terms of inappropriate developments submitted through the planning system, empowering the community to act as conservation champions?  Are they a social group?

The DDOS was born out of the Doncaster Naturalists’ Society formerly the Doncaster Scientific Society (founded in 1880), both societies were involved with the founding of the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum in 1989.  The DNS celebrates 135 this year, the DDOS its Diamond Jubilee whilst the Forum is a mere youngster at 26.

The current committee are inviting past, present and potential recruits to a celebration on Thursday 24 September, 7.15pm at the Parklands Social Club on Wheatley Hall Road Doncaster.

Invitation to Diamond Jubilee gathering of the DDOS. Click on image to enlarge & read detail.

Invitation to Diamond Jubilee gathering of the DDOS. Click on image to enlarge & read detail.

‘Moor’ Inglorious & RBA poll on ‘brood management’.

August 27, 2015

Never mind ‘gripping yarns’, Inglorious is compelling reading and whilst I am not able to read it as quickly as some seem to have done according to Avery’s recent blog post it is perhaps because it is also motivational and prompts action as one reads the various chapters.

This is the kind of volume that is helpful to people who want to help but need encouragement and probably more importantly direction as well as a ready reference of easily digested facts and figures.  In combination with a talk by, or a discussion with the author then you have not only the inspiration, but motivation and a significant resource at your finger tips to be part of a collaborative ‘community’ campaign.

Inglorious front cover

This kind of community action is interesting because to a large extent it might be said to have arisen from inactivity or rather a robust challenge by the ‘conventional suspects’ to achieve or deliver a positive conservation success story?  Quick wins seem the preference these days and challenges are not for the faint hearted as they require dedication, tenacity, an effective and committed network as well as funding to fight the deep pockets of self interest?  It seems that those self proclaimed champions of conservation are constrained through funding related relationships, so should they act as a catalyst and or support infrastructure for this kind of community campaign?

It is against a similar kind of background that the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum was created.  In our case it was through the peat issue, or rather the destruction of peatlands particularly those here at Thorne & Hatfield Moors.  The founding membership saw benefit in collaborative endeavours through an independent organisation able to act in a timely manner and with principle without recourse to copious committees and tedious policies and protocols.  The ability to think and act through an extensive and experienced network  as well as commissioning and publishing robust science brought credibility and a catalogue of campaign involvements and successes.

So back to the current conservation campaign, or at least one very high profile one which is the plight of the Hen Harrier and other persecuted raptors which appear to interfere with the ‘sporting interests’ of a relatively small number of people.  Avery offers an estimate in the region of around 15,000.

At the moment it seems that the Hawk & Owl Trust are promoting ‘brood management’ as a mechanism to try to find compromise and a way forward for Hen Harrier conservation in the uplands particularly.  Rare Bird Alert are running a poll which is seeking peoples views on the option, there is also the opportunity to add comments on the proposal.

HOT founded in 1969, markets itself as being dedicated to conserrving owls and birds of prey in the wild.  Interestingly their website also explains that they ‘create and manage nesting’ …. they appear to manage just three reserves in Norfolk, North York Moors and Somerset.  ‘The HOT say stop this illegal killing’.  It all seemed laudable but then their high profile President resigned ….

The epetition Ban driven grouse shooting is steadily but surely increasing numbers daily, potential signatories are informed that “Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers”.   Can we help get it to the 100k by the end of the year, therein ensuring a discussion in Westminster about the issue?  It’s well past the first milestone of 10k and the reply from Defra is well overdue ….

A more in depth analysis, forensically researched and referenced with robust science is available …. in the form of ‘Inglorious’. Avery’s uncompromising style pulls no punches which is precisely what is needed as the patient endeavour to achieve compromise has, it must be said, failed miserably?   

 

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Inglorious & keep on the campaigning ….

August 25, 2015

Fresh from the Birdfair I’ve been wading (no pun intended) through “Inglorious” and whilst previously considerably annoyed from the accounts and information provided via such sites as Standing up for nature that has now morphed into ‘considered’ anger.

It was cheating I suppose, but curiosity as to what Avery would advocate we all do is summed up in eight short paragraphs in the book and a resume here (for those of you yet to read Inglorious):

  • Attend a Hen Harrier Day event
  • Write to your MP
  • Write to supermarkets and restuarants
  • Write to your water company
  • Write to newspapers
  • Use social media
  • Support BAWC, the RSPB and other wildlife NGOs
  • Finally he encourages readers to keep an eye on his blog and Twitter account @markavery  He also recommends people read his book.

We’d certainly encourage readers to do all the above and another easy one to consider would be writing to Ministers as well as MPs, if there is a critical mass of community campaigning then Westminster is more likely to take note and listen?

Another …. if readers have not already done so is to sign Avery’s epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.

It’s no longer simply an issue of challenging a minority sport, but the impact that that sport has on many other things including the quality and cost of our drinking water.  See post of 1 July 2015 in which a number of reports are referenced, including that of Leeds University’s EMBER findings.

Ban driven grouse shooting

Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.

RSPB , 7 March 2014 ‘…burning drainage and other forms of intensive land management in England’s iconic peat-covered hills are threatening to create a series of environmental catastrophes’

Inglorious – conflict in the uplands (a book on why we should ban driven grouse shooting)

Dr Dick Potts, scientist, 1998 ‘…a full recovery of Hen Harrier breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers’

Chris Packham addressing Hen Harrier Day rally, August 2014 ‘We will win!’

Of the epetition, which now stands at over 14,000 signatures, is that whilst it is increasing at a reasonable rate that it is not to the magic 100,000 (the number needed to ensure a ‘discussion’ is held in Parliament) and government in their wisdom have reduced the time permitted to secure the number of ‘required’ signatories to six months (previously 12 months).  So please, working on the assumption that many of you have already signed it, please promote it ‘moor’ so that we might all write to Defra and their Ministers welcoming the forthcoming debate ….

Avery very generously suggests support of the larger NGOs such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, but where are the 1 million members?  Just 10% of the RSPB membership would be enough, the WTs claim a combined membership of around 800,000 and ok there will be overlap but come on NGO hierarchy never mind the whispered personal views get the corporate message behind conservation of the uplands, please?

 

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See more images of Henry as he searches for a ‘mate’.

Celebs & call to arms …. Birdfair 2015

August 23, 2015

Today is the final day of the annual Birdfair at Rutland Water and if Mark Avery’s blog is anything to go by Henry is having a great time meeting up with and getting lots of hugs from conservation ‘celebs’.  This year was the 27th and was significantly different to the first back in 1989.  The weather has thus far been kind, Friday saw a few spots but n’owt to deter folk and the marquees were within easy distance of each other, but over far larger acreage and a far cry from the very first BF which Bill Oddie described as a boy scout camp in his reminiscing on page 8 and 9 of this year’s programme.

This year Iolo Williams made his debut appearance, alongside a cast of other ‘celebrities’ from the environmental conservation sector.  His presentation, as expected was an excellent call to arms similar in some respects to his introduction at the State of Nature Report launch in 2013.  His charasmatic Welsh charm was wonderfully refreshing to hear and his honesty despite his frustration with statutory failure to address the loss and ongoing decline of habitats and species was evident, yet there was also a ‘can do will do’ proactive passion still there.  Red Kite is the Welsh national bird, but he admitted when asked by a member of the audience that his favourite was the Hen Harrier and one of his favourite memories was that of finding his first nest of the species.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

The next ‘celeb’ up was Simon King, he is clearly passionate about educating the next generation and to this end has recently established a new charity, the Simon King Wildlife Project which is using a 10 acre meadow to restore wildlife and in so doing create inspiration for young people through education and engagement.  It has to be said that he did a wondeful job persuading people to experience the true aroma that is otter spraint.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the 'educational engagement experience' offered.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the ‘educational engagement experience’ offered.

Another speaker who has created a haven for wildlife and alongside a fantastic education facility at Aigas in the Highlands, Sir John Lister-Kaye also spoke of statutory procrastination and the need for nature in all our lives.

The irrespresible Bill Oddie 'Unplucked'

The irrespresible Bill Oddie ‘Unplucked’

The wonderfully provocative Mark Avery offered and advocated an ‘Inglorious’ challenge to the ‘grouse-industry’ much to the delight of the audience in another packed marquee and risked writers cramp by signing copies of his book Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands. 

150821 BF Mark Avery 2 hrk 662

Tucked away in a corner of a marquee was a ‘Lush’ species created specifically to raise the profile of the issue around illegal persection and loss in our uplands of the spectacular Hen Harrier.  It was great to be able to secure a HH bath bomb and to thank Mark Constantine in person for Lush’s support of the Hen Harrier campaign.

150821 BW items hrk 692

It was great too that the guys from Birders Against Wildlife Crime had a presence.  Charlie, Phil & Lawrie have worked hard to raise the profile of the Hen Harrier issue and in collaboration with Mark Avery and Chris Packham have run a seriously successful Eyes in the Field Conference in March 2015 in Buxton, two fantastic Hen Harrier Days in the Peak District and an evening of talks ahead of this year’s HH Day.

150821 BF BAWC hrk 2 660

 

It is great that as well as the expected ornithological related stands and the astonishing array of travel offers, the latest optics to test out that other natural history disciplines were represented.  The British Arachnological Society had a presence and Dr Helen Smith was present with some of her fabulous study species Dolomedes plantarius or fen raft spiders. They really are a fabulous beast, well they are in the author’s opinion and it was a delight to be able to see some first hand.  “On the margins: The fen raft spiders of Redgrave and Lopham Fen” is superbly illustrated by Sheila Tilmouth and is an account of Smith’s studies and work on the species.  There is a dedicated FRS website Dolomedes.org.uk

Atropos, the journal for all butterfly, moth and dragonfly enthusiasts was present and subscribers were able to collect the latest edition of the journal ‘hot off the press’.

One pleasant surprise was the service received from the guys at the Leica stand.  Now my trusty 8×42 Trinovid’s are admittedly in their early 20’s but they are still in very good condition and optically as one would expect provide Leica excellent views but they were in need of a new rainguard so I enquired if they had any to purchase.  Half an hour or so later I came away with a new rainguard and they’d stripped the eyepieces down and performed a very professional clean of some two decades or so of accumulated ‘dust’.  All part of the Leica lifetime guarantee, now that is what I call service!  Thank you Leica team.

So all in all an excellent event and here’s hoping they reach their target for this year for ‘Protecting migratory birds in the Eastern Mediterranean’.

 

‘Moor’ missing wildlife?

August 17, 2015

Spectacular views but then it is Yorkshire, but worryingly where was the wildlife?

Beloved of Yorkshire folk & beyond.  Ilkley Moor.

Beloved of Yorkshire folk & beyond. Ilkley Moor.

A couple of Small Heath butterflies and a small, very dark Lizard scurried quickly across the track in front of me.  A solitary ‘windhover’ doing what they do best.  A few Meadow Pipits but little else until we reached the masses ‘mountaineering’ over the Millstone Grit that is at the very heart and soul of ‘baht ‘at’ territory!  Then a few Swallows and a Peacock Butterfly to add to the depauperate list.

Not quite Stonehenge but the 12 Apostles on Ilkley Moor.

Not quite Stonehenge but the 12 Apostles on Ilkley Moor.

Heard Grouse, saw a single Red Grouse, found the remains of a casualty – no more the evocative bubbling voice that typifies moorland from this Curlew.

Perhaps a peregrine took a fancy to it, after itself running the gauntlet?  Maybe another one of those nasty predators destroying the wildlife of the upland moors?  Just possibly maybe at a distance a flying mottled brown object  on an upland moor could be construed as 'game'?

Perhaps a peregrine took a fancy to it, after itself running the gauntlet? Maybe another one of those nasty predators destroying the wildlife of the upland moors? Just possibly maybe at a distance a flying mottled brown object on an upland moor could be construed as ‘game’?

Magnificent views and before long some oddly placed markers or were they shoot pegs?  Bradford Council, who owns much of Ilkley Moor and who promote open access to the moors has recently agreed to allow grouse shooting to continue on their holding.  The Report by the Environment and Waste Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee Ilkley Moor Sporting Rights Deed (2013) can be reviewed here.

Answers on a postcard please ....

Answers on a postcard please ….

Thus far according to the research (not mine) some 45 people from the Doncaster constituencies have signed the epetition “Ban driven grouse shooting”, can we swell the number from the wider Humberhead Levels?  See ‘Standing up for nature’ for an explanation of the statistics as well as excellent and extremely erudite argument.

Find out more about Henry here.

 

 

Campaign updates ….

August 14, 2015

 

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Un bee-lievable?

Damian Carrington of the Guardian recently reported that pesticide companies took part in a key meeting about the banning of chemicals which have been linked to bee deaths.  Documents previously suppressed have shown that the chemical companies and the NFU have sought to have the EU ban on the use of Neonics in the UK lifted.  FOE have written a judicial review pre-action letter to the environment secretary Liz Truss who is the prospective defendant.  What is even more astonishing, or maybe not is the fact that these companies Bayer, BASF and Syngenta are suing the European Commission to overturn a ban on the pesticides that are killing millions of bees around the world.

If readers have concerned about bees and other pollinators being harmed and the actions of the big pesticide companies then they might consider the epetition calling upon the industry giants to drop their lawsuit?

When the UK government suppress documents then is there any wonder people ask the question “is this an example of open and transparent government that we were promised”?  Is this cause to trust government when multi-national companies are deemed to have a right at the table?

Fracking update

Another worrying example of reneged promises is that of allowing local councils to make local decisions, Lancashire Council who rejected a fracking application appears to have been overuled by government, is that another example of the local democracy we were promised?  Fracking continues to remain a contentious issue, readers may recall the chart we used to show corporate and government links to the industry?  If any reader can provide any updates to these details from November 2014 then please contact execsec@thmcf.org

Forthcoming events

Treat yourself to a day out at a fantastic open air venue and hear some inspirational speakers guaranteed to motivate and inspire.  Mixing with like minded is a good antedote for momentary lapse in focus or determination to champion the case for environmental conservation and protection for the species and habitats we share the planet with.  A week today the 27th Birdfair at Rutland Water opens.  It runs from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 August and the programme is to say the least pretty impressive.   Mark Avery, Nick Baker, Simon King, Bill Oddie, Chris Packham, Iolo Williams are just a few of the ‘names’ attending.  For more details visit the Birdfair website.

and finally for now …. help Henry and his kind and promote the signing of the epetition

Ban driven grouse shooting

Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.

RSPB , 7 March 2014 ‘…burning drainage and other forms of intensive land management in England’s iconic peat-covered hills are threatening to create a series of environmental catastrophes’

Inglorious – conflict in the uplands (a book on why we should ban driven grouse shooting)

Dr Dick Potts, scientist, 1998 ‘…a full recovery of Hen Harrier breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers’

Chris Packham addressing Hen Harrier Day rally, August 2014 ‘We will win!’

 

Today it stands @ 13,404 and gaining momentum by the day

2015 HH Day logo

 

 

 

 

Inglorious 12th

August 12, 2015

Hen Harrier Day in the Goyt Valley, the Buxton weekend as well as the series of HHD gatherings are best read via Mark Avery’s Standing up for nature blog.

2015 HH Day logo

Today marks the beginning of the grouse season, once upon a time billed as the ‘glorious 12th’ but the ‘moor’ one delves into the practices associated with the ‘sport’ the ‘moor’ one sees it as a historical land use and no longer fit for public purpose.  Today also sees Avery’s epetition racing towards 13,000 signatures and in all likelihood passing the milestone by midnight.  If you’ve not already signed it, then read his book Inglorious – Conflict in the Uplands to see a reasoned case for banning driven grouse shooting, and in so doing better protecting the peat to act as a carbon sink, water purification service amongst a whole series of extremely important ecosystem services.  Even the Independent appear to question the economic argument to provide sport for around two thirds of an ‘Old Trafford crowd’.  If you’ve already signed it then present the case to your friends, family and network?

Chris Packham in the latest edition of BBC Wildlife, rightly offers comment on the poor performance of politicians in terms of the environment and conservation.  Since 1970 he reports the loss of some 44 million birds from our countryside (The State of the UK’s Birds 2012), then he reflects on the ‘mysterious disappearance’ this spring of five of the last breeding hen harriers in England. The piece is Packham at his best, passionate and erudite and he asks “What tragedy will wake us all from lethargy and shake us into action?” 

Over the next few years we may well see the continued ‘disposal’ of public assets to private profiteers, it wasn’t that long ago that the sell off of the forest estate was abandoned but if you follow that topic then one might be forgiven for wondering if it were not being undertaken via other avenues?  Natural England were looking at disposal of the series of National Nature Reserves (NNRs).  Will we see continued erosion of protection as planning becomes less regulated?  Building in floodplains?  With the abandoning of the requirement to register contaminated land might there be an increase in building on post industrial brownfield sites?

We were reminded recently, of our failure to take better account of the sheer power of nature in the form of increased flood events when Jeremy Purseglove, Dr Paul Buckland and Prof. Ian Rotherham graphically illustrated catastrophic failure to heed history and prepare for increased incidences consequential of changes in land management and other practices.

Published in 2008 & since when increased incidences have occured, some in our region catastrophic.

Published in 2008 & since when increased incidences have occured, some in our region catastrophic.

Perhaps when the misery is wrought people will realise the politicians, civil servants and Public Bodies have agendas other than the public benefit?

What can be done about the disregard of the natural environment, fundamental to all life?  What are the statutory agencies and authorities doing to ensure that the law is adhered to?  What are the large membership organisations doing?  What can we do as individuals do?

With champions leading the way then the critical mass of collaborative endeavour can effect change, if we can continue to build a momentum because tomorrow is too late to hope that we can catch a shuttle to another habitable planet ….

Engineered or natural solutions to flood alleviation?

August 9, 2015

We recently organised a well received event to celebrate the revised edition of Jeremy Purseglove’s seminal work “Taming the Flood”.  Other speakers included Dr Paul C Buckland and Prof. Ian D Rotherham.

2015 TtF front cover

There was much discussion around engineering vs sustainable and more environmentally benign and sustainable options which did not rely upon regular and increasingly eye watering amounts of public funding as options and approaches to flood allieviation.

One such example was that of the Environment Agency managed realignment at Alkborough Flats funded through the Water Framework Directive.  This project, which involved some 400ha resulted  in the largest realignment in the UK and the second largest in Europe.

The image below shows part of the Flats today, the lagoon fringed by phragmites hosted good numbers of Avocets, 6 Spoonbills and a Little Egret and not forgetting the delightful but elusive Bearded Tits amongst a more extensive species list mid week.

Looking north across Alkborough Flats showing phragmites reedbeds with Six Penny Wood wind turbines in the distance.

Looking north across Alkborough Flats showing phragmites reedbeds with Six Penny Wood wind turbines in the distance.

 

Slumbering Spoonbills.  The Little Egret lurked out of lens at the interface of the reeds along with another unidentified 'white job' probably another LE but not confirmed!

Slumbering Spoonbills. The Little Egret lurked out of lens at the interface of the reeds along with another unidentified ‘white job’ probably another LE but not confirmed!

The two images (taken on seperate days) show the extent of the tidal lagoons which along with those across the River Trent at Blacktoft Sands provide a fantastic habitat for a range of breeding species as well as a refuelling station for species on migration.

Squadron of five Spoonbills return.

Squadron of five Spoonbills return.

For other superb images of the Alkborough Spoonbills see Simon & Karen’s blog.

Hen Harrier Day 2015

August 7, 2015

Tomorrow evening there is an event in Buxton ahead of the second annual Hen Harrier Day.  Some 275 people will gather at the Palace Hotel in Buxton to hear a series of talks, and to meet Henry …. for more details see here.

2015 HH Day logo

Then on Sunday, when the weather threatens a repeat of the previous year, masses will gather in the Goyt Valley at Goytsclough Quarry in Derbyshire as well as other sites across the UK to show solidarity against the ongoing illegal persecution of one of the UKs favourite birds, the magnificent Hen Harrier.  Remember it came 9th in Britain’s National Bird poll organised by David Lindo the Urban Birder.  Ahead of the Puffin!

150321 CP & Henry hrk 878

Mark Avery’s epetition on the GOV.UK website has already passed the required 10,000 signatures to make it eligible to receive a response from Defra!  In fact it’s heading rapidly to the next 1000, the question is can we get it to the magic 100,000 level to secure a discussion in Parliament?  Interestingly the Government have reduced the time period they allow epetitions to run for, six months instead of twelve – wonder why that is?  Come on, can the critical mass of collaborative conservation get the Westminster village to discuss illegal persecution of one of the nation’s favourite birds?  If you’re not already one of the first 10k, then please think about signing the epetition.

If you need to understand the issues and have a case laid out then read “Inglorious – Conflict in the Uplands”.  

Alternative opinions are available, for example that expressed by a writer in the Daily Telegraph.   It is interesting to note that many conservationists have now submitted complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).  Freedom of the press ought to be something we are keen to support, but what when they fail to establish facts instead preferring to repeat unsubstantaited PR and spin?

Congratulations to all who have worked so hard to deliver HHD 2015, here’s to continued momentum ….

Have you seen Henry?

 

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter? Image: Tim Melling

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter?
Image: Tim Melling

Floods and related matters & ‘moor’ invitations ….

August 2, 2015

A fabulous couple of days, on Friday 31 July the Forum network and visitors gathered in Crowle to hear a series of presentations by three well qualified speakers on wetland related topics offer thought provoking challenges.

“The Flood Untamed” was organised to celebrate Purseglove’s updating of his seminal work “Taming of the Flood” and the event which saw our return to Crowle Community Hall where ten years previously we held the first in the series of the Stephen W Warburton Memorial Lectures and where Jeremy had joined us to reflect on the loss of the ‘guardian of the Yorkshire landscape’ was well received if the feedback has been anything to go by.

We were treated to some thought provoking questions around water management and engineered vs softer more natural options particularly in floodplain areas.  With all three speakers offering well illustrated case studies from across the globe as well as a local perspective which included reports from Sheffield and Hull as well as the Doncaster area.

Dr Paul C Buckland spoke on Floodplains and the fossil record: What should we be aiming for? and Prof Ian D Rotherham provided graphic illustrations to accompany Here comes the flood.  Surprised?  How history should inform future water management.

This aberrant Gatekeeper was located on Thorne Moors whilst a Crowle audience listened to the possibility of increased flood events.  Image: Martin WArne.

This aberrant Gatekeeper was located on Thorne Moors whilst a Crowle audience listened to the possibility of increased flood events. Image: Martin Warne.

The following day – a delicious picnic which included home made shortbread and freshly picked  ‘Napoleon’ cherries – what better way to enjoy Yorkshire Day than in the company of delightful companions on the wonderful wetland wilderness of Thorne Moors which we accessed via Crowle Moors.  Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and the squeal of a hidden Water Rail amidst wetland vegetation along with the expected assemblage of sun loving butterflies in the drier areas along with a number of day flying moths including a Beautiful Hook-tip.  Damsels and Dragons too were numberous with aeshna, sympetrum, coenagrion and enallagma species represented.

Hidden gems amongst the juncus and other wetland vegetation. Image: Patrick Wildgust.

Hidden gems amongst the juncus and other wetland vegetation.
Image: Patrick Wildgust.

If readers are minded to consider experiencing the wetland for the first time or indeed for a ‘moor’ detailed look then why not come along on Monday 10 August and mingle on the mire with knowledable experts?

An Introduction to Wildflowers and Wildlife of a Peat Bog will take place on Thorne Moors.

The event is free but places are limited and pre-booking is essential. Please email info@hallamec.plus.com or telephone 0114 272 4227 or execsec@thmcf.org for more information or to reserve a place.

The event is with the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum, JBA Consulting Ltd., the British Ecological Society Peatland Group, Sheffield Hallam University, and South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group.

This is a unique chance to see the magnificent and expansive Thorne Moors – one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in Britain and one of Europe’s biggest restoration projects for nature conservation. No prior knowledge is required and this event is suitable for beginners wanting to see the Moors and find out about the special flowers, which grow there.We expect to see plenty of other wildlife too.

We will depart from the Delves Café car park at 10.45 am by minibus and return for 3 pm. Bring a packed lunch and drinks, plus suitable outdoor clothing. Use sunbloc if the weather is good and anti-insect ointment or sprays are recommended.

Come on, get out there and experience the magic before it is lost, before it ‘morphs’ as projects seek to ‘develop its potential’ ….

 

Thorne Moors: a new recording map available.

July 26, 2015

The Executive are delighted to announce that the Thorne Moors Compartment Map, sister to the Hatfield Moors variation is hot off the press!  Excellent value at 50p.

It is A3 (42cm x 29cm) folded to 7cm x 15cm (approx.), full colour, 120gms paper and easily fits in your pocket.  One side features an aerial version overlain with grid squares whilst the other side provides local names for the various compartments.  The compartments often have drains as boundaries, and many of which are named on the map as well, along with the main trams and rides, woods and wetland areas.  Both maps show scale bars to allow walkers or naturalists to gauge distance.

Thorne map 444

 

To obtain a copy why not come along to the series of presentations The Flood Untamed at Crowle Community Hall this coming Friday, 31 July 2015 at 10.30am.

Alternatively send a cheque for £1 to cover the cost of one map and return postage.  If you want two maps then that would be £1.50 as two maps will fit comfortably in one envelope.  Alternative a copy of the new Thorne map and the Hatfield version plus postage is similarly offered at £1.50.  Cheques made payable to Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum and sent to Publication Sales, P O Box 879, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 5WU.

A third option is also available if you live locally, drop in to the Thorne Times Office and collect one there for only 50p.

‘Moor’ meetings & other conservation campaign updates

July 22, 2015

A reminder that the Hen Harrier Day 2015 is Sunday 9 August

2015 HH Day logo

the various venues are detailed here but the ‘local’ event is to be held in the PEAK DISTRICT with the location confirmed as Goytsclough Quarry

The Goyt Valley, Derbyshire OS Grid Reference SK 011 733

There’s also an event the evening before HHD in Buxton at the Palace Hotel, more information and how to book can be found via Standing up for nature website.

 IT’S BACK …. the long awaited return of the Government epetition website, so those readers who are supportive of the stance taken by proactive conservation campaigners in ‘challenging’ the established incalcitrant stance exhibited by Government are invited to consider adding their names to it again. 3,272 already, read some of the history behind ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ creation and the renewed epetition campaign progress here.

[Ban Driven] Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.

RSPB , 7 March 2014 ‘…burning drainage and other forms of intensive land management in England’s iconic peat-covered hills are threatening to create a series of environmental catastrophes’

Inglorious conflict in the uplands (a book on why we should ban driven grouse shooting)  See also Standing up for nature where the reasoned rationale is presented.

Dr Dick Potts, scientist, 1998 ‘…a full recovery of Hen Harrier breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers’

Chris Packham addressing Hen Harrier Day rally, August 2014 ‘We will win!’

It has a deadline of 21 January 2016, so clearly the new offer is a reduced one in line with the proposed 40% cuts across Government Departments.

It’s already raced to the first 1000, can collective connservationists and campaigners get it to that ‘target’ 100k by the reduced deadline?

At 10,000 signatures, government will respond to this petition (what are the odds on a recycle of their previous reply)

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in ParliamentThe Government website ‘boasts’ …. Parliament hasn’t debated any petitions yet but we note that another epetion has been started which calls for a Parliamentary recall if 100k signatures are reached it’s what we pay for …. now there’s a challenge?  Which other sector gets a 10% payrise and an immediate recess?
It’s interesting that the Government still use the same old software which fails to identify accurately people’s MPs. But hey, do Government or civil servants do accuracy?  Perhaps I should start writing to their offering maybe then the error will be addressed, then again …. there’s bigger fish to fry or harrier haters to harry?

Remember also that we have “The Flood Untamed” with Jeremy Purseglove, Dr Paul Buckland and Prof. Ian D Rotherham at Crowle Community Hall (DN17 4LL) on Friday 31 July. 

2015 TtF front cover

To book a place please contact execsec@thmcf.org

An invitation to “Meet the Bog Plants at Thorne Moors”

July 20, 2015

British Ecological Society Peatlands Research

Meet the Bog Plants at Thorne Moors

Monday 10th August 2015, 10.30 am to 3 pm. 

ThorneMoors_A_0508_PCR_V2

Meet the Cotton Grasses – The first of two one-day ‘Meet the Bog Plants’ events will take place on Monday 10th August. This introductory day An Introduction to Wildflowers and Wildlife of a Peat Bog will take place at Thorne Moors.  Numbers are limited but places are free. Please email info@hallamec.plus.com for more information.  The event is with the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum, JBA Consulting Ltd., the British Ecological Society Peatland Group, Sheffield Hallam University, and South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group.

This is a unique chance to see the magnificent and expansive Thorne Moors – one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in Britain and one of Europe’s biggest restoration projects for nature conservation.  No prior knowledge is required and this event is suitable for beginners wanting to see the Moors and find out about the special flowers, which grow there. We expect to see plenty of other wildlife too.

We will depart from the Delves Café car park at 10.45 am by minibus and return for 3 pm.  Bring a packed lunch and drinks, plus suitable outdoor clothing. Use sunbloc if the weather is good and anti-insect ointment or sprays are recommended.

Meet: at 10.30 am, Delves Café car park off Selby Road, Thorne, near Doncaster.  10 minutes from the M18.

Grid Ref: SE 682135 or Postcode for those using Satnav is DN8 4AA

Booking: The event is free but places are limited and pre-booking is essential. Please email info@hallamec.plus.com or telephone 0114 2724227

Drosera

 

 

Masses of moths & moth-ers on T’Moors

July 18, 2015

It wasn’t perfect weather for mothing , but the date had been set and nothing short of a deluge was going to stop an evening spent on the periphery of Thorne Moors trying to add new data to our ever burgeoning catalogue.

Despite being a cool star-lit night reasonable numbers of moths visited a series of lights across Thorne Moors. Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Despite being a cool star-lit night reasonable numbers of moths visited a series of lights across Thorne Moors.
Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Interesting species recorded included Beautiful Hook-tip (72.069) Laspeyria flexula, described as a mainly southern species in the literature and first recorded from Thorne Moors in 2012.

Other species recorded included Round-winged Muslin (72.037) and Four-dotted Footman (72.038), both described in the literature as ‘local’ species and uncommon.

Cybosia mesomella Four-dotted Footman (72.038) At least four specimens to Actinic trap. Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Cybosia mesomella Four-dotted Footman (72.038)
At least four specimens to Actinic trap.
Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Four Ghost Moths, one male in the company of three females all of clearly differing dimensions.

Hepialus humuli Ghost Moth (3.005), one of three females in the company of a single male at MV light. Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Hepialus humuli Ghost Moth (3.005), one of three females in the company of a single male at MV light.
Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

A Garden Tiger was a nice moth and to some extent unexpected, but a welcome emergence from one of the Actinic traps as they were emptied around 1am.

Arctia caja Garden Tiger (72.026) Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Arctia caja Garden Tiger (72.026)
Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Supporting cast included Brimstone, Blackneck, Scarce Footman, Elephant and Poplar Hawkmoths, Large Emerald, Miller, Coxcomb Prominent, Peppered Moth, Lackey & Drinker amongst others.

Opisthographis luteolata Brimstone Moth (70.226). Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

Opisthographis luteolata Brimstone Moth (70.226).
Image: Simon & Karen Spavin

There was relative quiet, background hum of the generator excepted but the amount of light pollution was really apparent, this despite a distant tree line and hedgerow.

Two other records of interest for the evening were Barn Owl as we arrived on site and a Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus) sauntering around the sheet of one of the MV lights.  There were of course the usual hordes of mosquitoes but not in the usual vast swathes and of no consequence with an enjoyable evening amongst fellow mothing enthusiasts.

 

Taming the Flood?

July 12, 2015

A reminder that readers can hear the author’s presentation of “The Flood Untamed” on 31 July at Crowle Community Hall. 

Tickets a nominal £5 to defray refreshments and light buffet lunch.  Booking essential and is by contacting execsec@thmcf.org.uk

2015 TtF front cover

Back in print, the classic tale of man’s attempts to master nature and the consequences.  This new volume brings an update to the 1988 edition and includes the 2014 floods.

There is reference to our beloved moors but sadly the term ‘waste’ is retained, a derogatory term inflicted by the cartographers of yesteryear and in an age where perhaps the word did not have quite the same negative image.   Frustratingly it is repeated on the current OS maps despite reference to the Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve.  Why couldn’t Natural England make representation to the OS to have the derogatory term removed and consigned to the Cassini Historical Series of Maps?  It might have been a persuasive case that statute at long last recognises the value of the peatlands as carbon sinks and wildlife sites?

The line up of speakers also includes Dr Paul Buckland on recent work

Floodplains and the fossil record: What should we be aiming for?

And introducing Prof. Ian D Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University

Here comes the flood. Surprised?  How history should inform future water management.


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Mark Avery

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a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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