Posts Tagged ‘muzzled watchdog’

Any value in brownfield sites?

July 28, 2013

Along with a couple of colleagues yesterday I enjoyed a pleasant morning looking at a couple of areas on the western edge of Thorne Moors.  Anyone familiar with the old Thorne Colliery site might recognise the image below, now becoming colonised by plants as nature begins to heal the scarred landscape.

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The poor substrate is slowly being colonised by species like mayweed, the prostrate basal leaves hosting an abundance of a recent colonist to Britain Conostethus venustus The species was first recorded in 2010 in Rotherham by Jim Flanagan. Despite its size, the tiny bug is delicately marked and worth inspection with a hand lens.  Jim’s excellent illustrations can be found via the link to Issue 15 of Het News, the Newsletter of the UK Heteroptera Recording Schemes

It doesn’t seem nine years ago that the once proud head gear of Thorne Colliery was a landmark on the skyline by which those unfamiliar with the tracks across the moors could safely find their way back after a visit.  It has always remained a mystery to me why more was not made of the demolition, what a youngster would have given to have pressed down on thet detonator which saw the tons of steel fall to the ground in a mere four seconds, I know because I was there on that day …. 18 August 2004.

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The social historians amongst readers will correct me I’m sure, but the colliery was mothballed well before the decision to demolish the head gear.   The foreground of the image illustrates that nature has gained a foothold here on the approach to the pit head.

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I make no claims whatsoever of being a photographer, I use the media as a way to capture a record or as a memory aide memoire.  In August 2004 I was in the right place at the right time and managed to take a series of images as the massive structure fell, twisted and contorted to the ground in around four seconds!

Colliery scree is an unforgiving substate but many species are able to cope with it, not least a variety of orchid species.  The stunning image of the Bee Orchid below was one of a local colony, similarly the Pyramidal Orchid, both gaining a foothold as indeed other species in what at first glance may appear a hostile environment.

Bee Orchid IMc 3702

Colliery scree can be an unforgiving substate but many species are able to cope with it, not least a variety of orchid species.  The stunning image of the Bee Orchid above was one of a local colony, similarly the Pyramidal Orchid below, both gaining a foothold as indeed are other species in what at first glance may appear a hostile environment.

PYRAMIDAL 006

In 2012, an unusual and unexpected moss was discovered on the colliery scree by a local bryologist.  Glittering-wood Moss, Hyloconium splendens is an interesting addition to the local flora of the area, for more information click on the link.  This is perhaps yet another example of the rewards to be had from ‘local patch’ work or simply taking up a less ‘popular’ specialism.

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Another regular correspondent sent across these superb images below, of a Grayling and Essex Skipper butterflies which further illustrates that there are times where industry and nature can co-exist.  Whilst not from the peatlands per se, they are used as another example of nature’s ability to adapt and take advantage of intervals of availability of space.

Grayling 4

At the moment there are some seriously high counts of a number of our familiar butterflies such as large skipper, but it’s always worth checking because many are actually Essex, the image below illustrates the salient determining feature well, thanks Phil for sharing it with our blog audience.

Essex Skipper 8

Clearly brownfield sites have a lot to offer wildlife able to colonise and adapt amidst an ever changing landscape, but how long before they are promoted as being industries contribution to conservation in the interim whilst a better use or more profitable use for the space is found?  How long before the best sites, the jewels in the nation’s portfolio are sacrificed because they are regarded as resources for man?  Iolo William’s in his plea to protect his back yard eloquently described the use of the word resource in the Welsh successor to CCW as a term which to him inferred it was disposable, something to be used and abused and I for one would agree with his analogy.  The UK government undertook a triennial review of the English agency Natural England along side the Environment Agency.  Much heralded, many contributions but a lost opportunity for reform to benefit nature conservation.  Certainly no robust champion for the environment, the Muzzled Watchdog as its predecesor was dubbed in 1997, became the ‘Toothless Terrier’ and we might now be forgiven for considering the term ‘lapdog’?

If you’ve been out there recording some unusual or interesting wildlife, please …. drop us a line and share the data.

Thanks to Phil Lee, Ian McDonald and Bryan Wainwright for sharing their species images, the others of ‘landscape’ and that of the Glittering-wood Moss are taken by Helen Kirk.

Politics and environmental conservation

May 21, 2013

Whatever your views on the UK’s membership of the EU, it has to be said that there have been some landmark ECJ cases which are down to the Habitats Directive, the Aarhus Convention and the like.  Would those same victories have been secured in the UK courts?  It was thanks to the requirements of the Habitats Directive that the future of Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI, also Natura 2000 sites were secured.  That is not to say they are not still threatened but they are in theory better protected.

 

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There have been a number of reviews over the last couple of years which have seen erosion of protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  In March 2012 the UK Government published its Report of the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives Implementation Review.

The Forum made a submission  to the subsequent consultation as did many environmental organisations.

Then in February 2013 there followed the Triennial Review of the Environment Agency and Natural England, this is seen by some as a variation on the aftermath of 1997 when the statutory protection agency was dubbed a “Muzzled Watchdog” as English Nature morphed into Natural England.  What will be the outcome of this latest review, the muzzle has been removed but are they now toothless?  See Mark Avery’s guest blog for 17 January if you think theat Defra agencies are effective.  See also A Summary of Stakeholders Views to try to work out what future for statutory environmental protection.  Another excellent erudite analysis by Carol Day is to be found in another of Mark’s guest blogs under “The UK and Environmental democracy – the Aarhus end of nowhere?” 

So, whilst there is much to concern us about EU membership, by leaving in a headlong fashion without first ensuring that the environment is not completely “culled” from the agenda, consider the salutory offerings of Friends of the Earth, who issued a recent press release, in it they suggest that ….

Abandoning UK membership of  the EU, or even a partial withdrawal, would pose a significant threat to our environment, Friends of the Earth warns today (Tuesday 14 May 2013).

A new Friends of the Earth briefing, published today, the Implications for UK Environmental Policy of a Vote to Exit the EU, written by Dr Charlotte Burns of the University of York – an expert in European Union environment policy and processes – says:

· UK membership of the EU has led to cleaner drinking water, cleaner bathing beaches and cleaner air and better protection of our wildlife;

· Frequent attempts by UK ministers to weaken progressive environmental policy at the European level suggests that there will be a weakening of the nation’s environmental policy if we are not subject to EU rules;

· A partial EU withdrawal (membership of the free-trade zone), the most popular option in recent poll of Conservative members earlier, would leave the UK covered by most EU environmental laws (which the UK would have no influence over) – but not all. For example the UK would not be covered by the Birds Directive, Bathing Waters Directive and the Habitats Directive.

Friends of  the Earth’s Policy and Campaigns Director Craig Bennett said:

“UK withdrawal from the EU – partially or completely – could have an enormous  impact on our green and pleasant land.

“Our membership has led to cleaner drinking water, beaches and air and better protection for our wildlife.

“If we want to avoid a return to our reputation as the dirty man of Europe we must stay in the EU.”

Remember the words of Edmund Burke who offered that “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little”, factor in the rise of the internet tools such as online petitions and campaign blogs and you begin to contemplate the power of the collective ….

 

 

 


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Hatfield Moors Birding Blog

Bird and other wildlife information service for Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, UK © HMBSG 17/11/2010

Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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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