Posts Tagged ‘a new nature blog’

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

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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?

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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’ ….

 

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”.

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

 

 

 

The aftermath of the General Election: what will be the fall out? Starters for 10?

May 12, 2015

One of the very obvious issues around the recent election of MPs to Westminster is the bizarre fact that one party polled a little short of 1.5m votes to secure some 56 MPs, another party received approaching 4m votes yet only saw 1 MP take a seat in Westminster.  Is this right?

Setting aside the system allowing the above and irrespective of party politics what was very obvious in the run up to the General Election was the lack of mention of environmental issues by any of the major parties.  So, what future England’s green and pleasant lands?  What future for the wildlife reported as continuing to decline, what of the State of Nature for the foreseeable future?  Here we offer a few potential issues readers might consider ….

Recent concerns might be the proposed sell off of the national forest?  Some report that it continues by less direct routes.  Commentators have prersented the case that the ConDems under valued the Post Office and short changed the tax payers, so did that set the standard for the sell off of public land which is in all likelihood sure to be back on the agenda?

There is still the issue of National Nature Reserves (NNRs), they are percieved in some quarters as a drain on the public purse and there is a determination to secure revenue from them as they are not eligible for state assistance like charity owned nature reserves or privately owned mountain and moorland periodically available to the public through open access.  Will we see increased enthusiasm for ‘best examples’ to be transformed into country theme parks?  Irrespective of your views on this issue, there still remains the potential conflict of interest with Natural England as judge and jury in the matter of EIAs or Appropriate Assessments?

Further relaxing of the Planning System presumption in favour of development.  Again, the erstwhile statutory guardians of the nature conservation interest is also keen to promote its ‘Discretionary Advice Service’ to developers keen to avoid any constraints upon their commercial proposals.  This service, when you eventually locate it, hidden amongst the labyrinth that is GOV.UK offers pre-submission screening service.  Developers are required by virtue of legislation to consult NE where there may be impact upon European sites from their proposals.  Effectively therefore they have a read made supply of customers?  The staff of this ‘service’ have often ‘forgotten’ in our experience to consult with colleagues local to the sites which may be at risk and are the subject of commercial enquiries.  This seems somewhat short sighted as it may give rise to or cause issues later on.  Our most recent example would be the solar farm proposed for the brownfield site of Thorne Colliery.  Had there been inclusive consultation early on in the planning process then the development may not have hit the problems it subsequently encountered?

The above points perhaps raises the question of the future of Natural England, such that we have heard the question asked …. will they have one?  Might they be merged with the Environment Agency?  Might they be required to morph further and take better account of economic growth?  Perhaps they might undertake a review of the Birds and Habitat Directives in line with the desire within the EU to weaken wildlife legislation across Europe?  They could play a lead role in further weakening EIA and SEA under a wider review role to cut back on the “green c**p” which was reported to interfere with economic growth.

Natural England could preside again over the licencing of the next tranche of badger culls which are almost certain to be rolled out?

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

Conversely they could remember that whilst the corporate entity might be considered a pawn in the political game, the staff in principle are defenders of the natural environment and the wildlife it is home to?  Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as they say, where will they turn?

If they (NE) or the RPA (mis) manage the Biodiversity Offsetting and Biodiversity Trading then they might be able to recycle their civil service jobs again? Will they undergo an expensive rebranding exercise?

Will they become a grant distributer to agri-industrialists by topping up the subsidies with agri-welfare payments?   They may continue to distribute crumbs as appeasement to the NGOs to ensure co-operation through project grants?  Hard pressed cash strapped NGOs will be stiffled further in terms of lobbying or challenging?

Could we see a blind eye continuing to be turned in regard to the persecution of wildlife, notably Hen Harriers on upland moors and other birds of prey and lest we forget poor brock: a scapegoat for poor biosecurity on livestock farms?

Hen-Harrier-Day-lg

Biodiversity 2020, well after publication of “The State of Nature” what more is there to be said?

Relaxed approach to implementation of cross compliance (we reported on ‘potential’ breach of cross compliance of in 2012 and the failure of both the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and NE to investigate and to act to recover public funds).

Introduction of GM crops?  Neonics given the go ahead?  Fracking rolled out across the UK, well the north certainly as it is being promoted as the new ‘power house’.

SY Hatfield Fracking Poster

Further curtailing of charities to lobby and stiffling or removing their ability to speak out and challenge policy making.  Freedom of speech, an outdated concept in the modern materialistic mayhem of market forces?

The list is endless, these are just a few potential options to consider?  The starter for 10 might well be the EU Referendum?  The rest will chug along and be ignored by the mainstream media who prefer to play out their own political programme?

There are a number of erudite analyses on potential environmental impact and whilst some commentators do have party afiliations they offer valid points.  Miles King, offers a greater ‘fall out’ list than ours and one which includes issues such as education and energy.  Happy Birthday too Miles, 240 posts over two years a very respectable offering and a fantastic 102,711 views!  This blog is a tad longer in the tooth, we started tentatively in December 2012 and thus far we’ve published some 237 posts but have not yet opened up the comment option, but we have received feedback via the execsec@thmcf.org email address.

Here’s to continued success for bloggers like King and lest we forget “Standing up for Nature” then there’s the fun ones like “The Ponking Chronicles”   Environmental conservation and wildlife needs champions to ‘challenge’ and in so doing create change for the greater good.

Greenblobpride

 

 

Natural England & the future of SSSIs?

April 3, 2015

Mark Avery recently raised the issue of Natural England’s performance on SSSI notifications, and quite rightly so in our opinion.  Avery cites the West Pennines  as a case study: the site was surveyed by the Nature Conservancy Council back in 1991 but its successor body, English Nature, passed on the file to Natural England in 2007 and more surveys have been completed since 2012.  Local naturalists, many of whom helped collect the data, were hopeful that the site would be notified by December last year, but it wasn’t. It’s so easy to forget things at the tops of hills in the north of England.

Sadly a familiar scenario, locally we have Thorne and Hatfield MoorsThorne was first notified in 1970 under the 1949 Act and in 1986 under the 1981 Act.  Hatfield was first notified in 1954 under the 1949 Act and in 1982 under the 1981 Act.  The last revisions for the two sites was 1986 and 1988 respectively.  At each twist and turn it has been input from local naturalists and campaigners which has delivered statutory ‘protection’.  Throughout the whole of the periods detailed above the sites were subject of planning consents and were mined mercilessly for their peat.  Even when the planning consents were bought out in 2002 for some £17.3m + £1.32m and extraction on the majority of the Scotts (UK) Ltd holdings (gifted to the public in 1992, lease back agreement from English Nature in 1994) ceased around 2004 there has been no review resulting in any revision.

Avery’s example covers statutory inertia of around 24 years, here at Thorne and Hatfield ours can be traced back to 1989 so the lethargy here in South Yorkshire / East Riding / North Lincolnshire is some 26 years!  The Executive have written to Senior Managers in Natural England, the reply sadly fails to answer the questions asked.  One might be forgiven for wondering if the civil servants have been on the same training courses as politicians, that is to say how to avoid answering a question or how to use selective diversionary phrases?  The support staff are certainly familiar with the cut and paste technique and then incorporating with the ‘local NE staff contribution’ to give the appearance of a bespoke reply.

With far more eloquence Avery ‘challenges’ both the Executive Board (senior staff) and the ‘real’ (appointed through civil service appointment system) Board of Natural England to explain what they are about.  The Executive Board are using a bunch of unknown criteria in secret discussions in order to choose which qualifying sites should be allowed to progress to their deserved protection whilst the Board it might appear do not realise that SSSI notification is being ‘filtered’ and notification is being delayed and ‘prioritised’?

It would be interesting to consider why there appears to be a ‘DNR’ (do not resuscitate) instruction on the SSSI file?  Is it because the risk assessment lists too many issues that the lawyers / legal advice to the Executive have recommended the ‘procrastination’ tactics rehearsed in the letter Avery quotes?  Incidentally the same paragraphs are contained in the Forum’s response.  Is the issue one of the expense in consultations with landowners, is there fear of protracted legal wrangling (as happened here when European designations were being progressed), is it that NE no longer have the staff competencies, perhaps they have lost the files (that was what was claimed back in 1989 here)?

In 1997 “A muzzled watchdog” appeared and painted a bleak state of affairs around the delivery of nature conservation by English Nature.  That same parliamentary session a House of Commons sub-committee looked into the workings of English Nature.   In due course, despite dissatifaction reported of English Nature’s performance the NGOs rallied and secured an additional £6m for their budget so they could deliver their core outcomes.  Here were are again, some 17 years later and how the public body has metamorphosised, the most recent re-brand being Natural England?

It is interesting to read the comments on Avery’s well read post and recent critique of Natural England.  It’s not the first but it is a quite damming one, the case study used like ours here is one of either inertia or deliberate obfuscation or perhaps even both.  Irrespective it seems that the conservation campaign, like that for ‘Henry’ is calling for change.  Well respected figures from the conservation movement are beginning to speak out and openly criticise Natural England and their concerns are shared by many grassroots activists.  They have been described as ‘not fit for purpose’ at a recent conference and blog comments posted on Standing up for nature and others illustrate further examples of the ever evolving “toothless terrier”.   Even Tim Sands in his book The Wildlife in Trust reminds us that back in 1997 WWF reported in “A muzzled watchdog” that 45% of our SSSIs were still deteriorating “behind the smooth and professional facade of the restructured English Nature” and that there were “serious questions about the willingness of the new agency to stand up for nature in difficult and controvertial cases”.  What, if anything, has changed in the intervening 18 years?  NGOs are still having to pick up where statute stepped back from, a good contender for a recent cause celebre might perhaps be Wuthering Moors?  

Miles King’s ‘a new nature blog’ likewise raises concern about the government agency.  King’s research and  comment about the new Chairman of NE is certainly worthy of a read, likewise the post which informs us of the new Chief Executive of NE.

What in an ideal world would we like to see in an organisation charged with protection of the natural environment?  How would it be structured, what would an effective proactive organisation look like?  What governance would best ensure independence?  Where would the NNRs and forests and other public land be in the mix?  All these issues should be on the political agenda, but thus far deafening silence in the main from the major parties?

150321 BAWC EitF Speakers hrk 873

If readers have similar case studies with supportive documentation then drop us a line via execsec@thmcf.org with a brief synopsis of the case.

 

Have you voted for BRITAIN’s NATIONAL BIRD yet?  Polling stops on May 6th!  Usual suspects and a few outsiders ….

With any election there is always a candidate that is billed as having an outside chance.  This beautiful raptor is a hot political potato as it is the most persecuted in the UK.  Shamefully, there is just one pair remaining in England – if Britain wants to back an underdog then the Hen Harrier is the one. 

Again, Avery explains well the logic and the benefit to nature conservation here. 

Updates & ‘moor’ ramblings

June 15, 2014

Readers might be interested in an event which is being run as part of a series of British Ecological Society Peatlands Special Interest Group workshops and in which the Forum have an involvement.

Sphagnum Mosses: Identification, Diversity, Landscape and Ecology.

The field visit is to Thorne Moors and the ‘basecamp’ is a community venue in Moorends.

Monday 20 October 2014 (9.30am – 4.30pm).

For more information access the information and Sphagnum booking form 2014 here.

See also In the bog conference details via UKEconet

‘Campaign corner’:

Conservation campaigning readers who also visit Standing up for Nature may share some of the frustration around the recent news released by Defra in respect of agri-industrialist welfare payments, sorry …. agricultural / environment support.  Even the BBC report that EU wildlife grants will be used to grow crops.  Another excellent and worthwhile read can be found on “a new nature blog”, in this substantive analysis Miles King explains why he considers that “The CAP no longer fits” and one might struggle to find much in the post to disagree with?  Absolutely astonishing, we shall be having nightmares …. a vista of thousand acre monocultures of peas and beans?  No hedgerows (so where do the pollinating insects build nests), no ponds, no diversity?  But agri-industrialists get their welfare grants, where are the challenges?  The main players in terms of membership numbers have been quite critical, but words come easy and there are many ‘politicians’ in some of the NGOs as there are making a mess of environmental scheme support.

Avery’s petition to Ban driven grouse shooting has passed its 4000 mark in a mere 18 days.  Can that magic 10,000 be reached to ensure that the topic is discussed in Parliament?  Please read Avery’s rationale and consider doing as he asks?

Another appeal which has recently visited my inbox has been that which informs us that:

Right next to Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales, developers are planning to turn 830 acres of hillside into a 3.5 mile race track — into the Circuit of Wales motorsports complex.

The local council argues that 6,000 jobs will be created — but, as environmentalists point out, the park will certainly be affected by pollution and an expected 750,000 people visiting.

Should we support the campaigners seeking to ask the Welsh government to reconsider turning this pristine natural area into a race track?  If you believe that nature should be protected and a priority then here’s the link:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/183/006/193/wales-reconsider-turning-830-acres-of-wildlife-into-a-race-track/

Nature notes:

Some nice moths have recently have visited the garden Actinic Heath trap but other methods can bring rewards too.  This rather snazzy beast was spending a lazy afternoon on a poplar leaf.  It morphs into a delightful adult, but the larvae are certainly worth the effort of searching out.  The White Satin Moth, which is what this will eventually turn into  is recorded from both Thorne & Hatfield Moors.

140615 WSM hrk 187


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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.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

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