Posts Tagged ‘natural england’

Diary dates & Neolithic trackway updates?

September 13, 2013

Just a few items which might be of interest to readers interested in the natural history and management of Thorne and Hatfield Moors.

Monday 23 September 2013: The Executive are delighted to announce a seminar at which key findings of a recent invertebrate survey will be reported.  If this is of interest to you then contact us via execsec@thmcf.org

Wednesday 2 October 2013: A British Ecological Society Workshop (with JBA Consulting, T&HMC Forum, the International Peat Society, South Yorkshire ECONET & Sheffield Hallam University) which will look at the complexities of “one of the biggest, most interesting and historically controvertial peatland restoration sites in the UK, so it is a unique chance to get involved and find out more”.  For more information see UKECONET.

The image below, taken on Thorne Moors in July this year, shows an exceptional display of common cotton grass Eriophorum vaginatum.  Many familiar with the moors over many decades couldn’t recall a year when the seeds created such a vista as to appear as a snowstorm, a sheet of white across acres of moorland, gossamer clusters hanging from all nature of vegetation structure.

 

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Saturday 23 November 2013: South Yorkshire Archaeology Day, see Sheffield City Council website for more detail.  There are eight talks, the one being given by Dr Henry Chapman: Modelling the past: the hidden landscape archaeology of Hatfield and Thorne Moors might be of interest to readers with an interest in the Neolithic trackway.

The images below, taken on Hatfield Moors illustrate the condition of the Neolithic trackway, a nationally significant find and its ‘in situ’ conservation following the discovery in 2004.

 

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The image above shows investigative work in 2005.

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This above taken in 2008 shows neglect and the dispair felt by the finder of the trackway?

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And in 2011 shows the condition ‘in situ’ preservation, these management works undertaken and monitored by Natural England.

Watch this space for the next installment of this rather sad South Yorkshire saga.

 

 

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epetitions & badger culls

September 6, 2013

CONGRATULATIONS and thanks to all those involved with the HM Government epetition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257

The window of opportunity is fading rapidly to add to the 302,924 signatures as the deadline is 07:38 tomorrow morning, but you can still do it ….

It may be that it achieved this excellent level of support because it was fronted by Dr Brian May CBE.  Nevertheless, it remains a fact, people rallied – bring on the public debate, prove this country is a democracy ….

That’s the first stage in drawing it to Government attention, have the other side had that kind of support for the cull?  Will we see democracy in action?  Will we see any science brought forth by those supporting and advocating the continued roll out of this ConDem cull?

 

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By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

I hope that the discussion in parliament is televised, it’s one debate that I would like a ring side seat to watch.  Will whips be applied?

So, are epetitions effective?  The volume of signatures this one received would indicate quite a sample achieved, three times that required to ensure a discussion in paliament.

 

There are a variety of epetition options to choose from if people or organisations are minded to run a campaign.  The Forum are working with 38 degrees to raise public awareness of the truth behind the Board and Senior Directors within Natural England proposal to dedicated some 87 National NATURE Reserves as Open Access.

 

STOP & RETHINK National Nature Reserves as Open Access areas.

 

Please consider signing it and if you twitter or facebook then please spread the word.

Doom & gloom or a call to arms?

August 31, 2013

It seems that it’s all doom and gloom at the moment, The State of Nature illustrates well the collective failure to redress the damage and the decline in habitats and species.  We read that Hen Harriers are predicted to become extinct in our lifetime and now the badger cull has started.

Mark Avery’s blog discusses the merits of on line petitions and the one most often cited is that calling for the licencing of upland grouse moors in an attempt to protect Hen Harriers, just in case you’ve not signed it then see here.  Currently there are 6,334 signatories, so what happened to those million voices for nature, similarly the 800,000, accepting of course that it’s highly likely there will be many who are members of both?

In terms of the badger cull which, as many of us will be aware of has already started, so again in case you’ve not signed the ‘directgov’ epetition then click on this link.  In terms of the ‘debate’ there is an amazing volume of blame laid at the door of the badger, yet there seems to be deafening silence from defra or the farming lobby about finding real solutions to the problem, that is to say other than culling badgers.  There are some excellent points made by readers of Mark Avery’s ‘Standing up for Nature’ blog, well made and anyone needing persuasion should read here.   Avery’s recent post ‘Bovine TB’ has attracted 54 comments, that’s quite some response which seems to infer that there’s been too much war mongering and too little science, some basic questions about the ‘intensification’ of beef and dairy farming have also come to the fore again.  The cartoon, in my humble opinion, sums up the state of the nation’s democracy – in general and not just the badger debate, politicians as a species – one wonders if their decline be missed, do we really need 650 as well as another 800 unelected?

These badger cull ‘trials’ are being conducted in Gloucestershire, so do we write to MPs, Ministers, the NFU, CLBA and the tourist boards indicating that we will no longer visit, purchase British beef, British milk and oh dear, that lovely Shropshire brie has to go as well – but let’s think positive: less calories so a healthier diet!  It’s somewhat extreme, rather too radical …. but, what else are we left with when approaching 300,000 voices are ignored?  Money talks and if the farm gate receipts fall then farmers might be persuaded to reconsider, or will they expect to be bailed out by the ‘welfare state’ (aka tax-payers)?  Should we suspend the Single Farm Payments used to support farmers in that area, after all how can they argue the case that they are the custodians of wildlife and the countryside?  I don’t know the answer, does anyone?  The arguments are emotive, highly charged and will still not be resolved by the shedding of badger blood.

We have to ask is the dire straights which the countryside finds itself in, the ongoing decline of once familiar species, a sorry barometer for the state of mankind in general?  Should we go along with the apathy or should we act to ensure that there is accountability and that history attributes accurately the facts of the matter?

Which if we may be forgiven for bringing another petition to readers attention, they say things come in threes?  So can we appeal to readers who haven’t yet signed the Forum’s petition STOP & RETHINK National Nature Reserves as Open Access Areas to consider doing so here. 

 

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Once ravaged for its peat, saved or so we thought …. is it destined to become a theme park now, no longer the idyllic tranquility local people treasure?

To those who have, a massive thank you and to those who have twittered or tweeted it or posted it on facebook ‘moor’ thanks.  We wondered what the response would be to our challenging the proposal of Open Access, it seemed contra to the conservation campaigning of the past.  We have been heartened by the many supportive comments posted on the 38 degree’s campaign petition.  This approach, by Natural England, is demonstrative of a failure to listen, to conduct business behind closed doors as well as compliance in terms of the Habitats Directive.  Senior Directors have failed to provide assurances that sufficient funds have been secured in perpetuity to monitor and manage for Likely Significant Effect.  Instead, it appears that it will come from core funds.  Does that mean that less will be spent on ensuring that National Nature Reserves, not just here at Thorne and Hatfield Moors, will slip into decline in terms of favourable condition status for their special interest features because funds are diverted for fences, gates, stiles, interpretation boards, picnic tables rather than management which will benefit habitat and species of nature conservation interest?

 I leave you all with a thought, borrowed from a report produced and downloadable at Common Cause

“What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is. Unmistakable, unforgettable, unshakable, elemental as earth and ice, water, fire and air, a quintessence, pure spirit, resolving into no constituents.”  Jay Griffiths.

 

 

HELP: Please sign our on line petition STOP & RETHINK

August 14, 2013

Readers may recall our post about blogging being good for conservation ?  Well, driven by frustration the Executive have now used another on-line campaign tool in an attempt to draw to the public’s attention some rather ‘quiet’ activity being undertaken by Natural England.

In 2011, senior directors within Natural England proposed Open Access under the Countryside Rights of Way Act across all their freehold National Nature Reserves.  Remember that these sites are ours, i.e. public.  Remember too the local campaigns ‘fought’ to secure the sites for posterity, particularly those here at Thorne and Hatfield Moors, were driven by grassroots activists, see the recent page created to provide a campaign chronology.   So, National NATURE Reserves, surely the clue is in the name?

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The sign above accurately reflects, in the opinion of the author of this post, what ought to be the ethos of NNR raison d’etre.

 

The Forum’s Executive have sought answers to many points but those below have yet to receive responses in sufficient detail.

  • Has Natural England secured sufficient funds in order to finance in perpetuity the monitoring, and management of of Natura 2000 sites to ensure that any conditions and restrictions necessary to protect the special interest as a result of Dedication for Open Access under the CROW Act can be maintained in perpetuity?
  • Can Natural England confirm that where it cannot be determined at the outset, that a Project to Dedicate Open Access on a National Nature Reserve which is a  Natura 2000 site, will not have the potential to have a likely significant effect on the special interests for which the site is designated, then a full Appropriate Assessment as required by the EU Habitats Directive/Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended) and involving the public where appropriate will be conducted to inform the acceptability of conditions or other restrictions necessary to ensure there is no harm to the special interest of the Natura 2000 sites before any dedication takes place?
  • Can Natural England confirm that as Dedication of Open Access under the CROW Act cannot be carried out conditionally that full funding and resources are in place and legally binding to ensure that the monitoring, management and controls necessary to protect the special interest of National Nature Reserves which are Natura 2000 sites in perpetuity, must be guaranteed in perpetuity at the moment of dedication, otherwise the Dedication cannot proceed?

Then there is the matter of open and transparent public consultation, that is to say demonstrable implementation of a democratic process.  Senior Directors offered to arrange a closed meeting in June but since we proposed including the public there has been prevarication and laterly a deafening silence.

There also appears to be an avoidance to ensure compliance with the Habitats Directive.  We are not yet convinced that the Chinese Walls that NE insist will ensure there will be no Conflict of Interest between regulatory compliance and access staff interests are of the appropriate material.  The Board paper NEB PU28 03, para 3.7 suggests that whole project costs will be in the region of £40,000 but correspondence received has already indicated an annual figure of around £73,584 not inclusive of the £40,000 which is available for ‘establishment’ of Open Access is necessary.

Many NNRs are in unfavourable condition status and some in unfavourable declining, including parts of Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI, so why therefore when access already exists on these sites would anyone divert money from ensuring that we comply with achieving favourable conservation status to encouraging inappropriate access across dangerously deep peat bogs awaiting those unfamiliar with the complex nature of the sites?

Why place at risk the SPA interest of the site?  See the post “Skylarks under foot as gates opened?”  Factor in that there has already been one dog attack on a member of the public on Hatfield Moors.  This was reported to the police because previous approaches to Natural England were dismissed as being trivial.

So, please consider signing the Forum’s petition on the 38 degrees Campaigns By You website.  Please help us to spread the word, help us to ensure that Thorne and Hatfield Moors are safeguarded for future generations.

Perhaps finally (for this post), to add that we are not oppossed to appropriate access on NNRs, de facto open access already exists here at Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI.  We simply seek proper process, open and transparent consultation based on science and underpinned by the acceptance that these sites are the gems in the nations natural crown jewels.  We simply ask STOP & RETHINK.

Is “gardening” for wildlife an alternative to nature conservation?

August 4, 2013

I wonder, is gardening for wildlife a better option that trying to conserve habitats and species?  Is the challenge to stem the decline too much and should we simply build biodiversity instead, on land that the developers and agri-industrialists don’t want (for now)?

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We’ve heard much about the State of Nature published following collaboration by some 25 organisations.  Some pretty horrendous statistics were revealed.  In all probability it seems that they are only the tip of the iceberg?

The report catalogues the continuing failure of Government and NGOs to even stem the decline of our wildlife.  It looked at some 3,148 species (but a minute fraction of the nation’s wildlife species, ones that data is held on such that meaningful analysis can be had), 60% of these have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly.  One in ten RDB species are at risk of extinction, if that’s true then Thorne and Hatfield are in for some hefty losses.  Conversely I’m sure there are some who would step up and offer to introduce some iconic alternatives which would be better suited to climate change or a country park regime and badge it as a community outreach project.

So, given that speakers at the conference admitted that in 2010 they had missed the targets of halting biodiversity decline, what will they now do?  Some wondered where they had gone wrong, clearly they’d not really been listening to the likes of Iolo Williams.  They’d been drifting along chasing funds for projects, delivering projects designed for building biodiversity – hand outs from developers mitigation.  Why has the challenge been dummed down, why did Natural England back off from taking the Walshaw case through as a compalint from Europe, why did the RSPB have to pick up the gauntlet?

Natural England happily sign off authorisations for badger culls, but they will not enforce reparation of damage to SSSIs.  Similarly the Rural Payments Agency refuse to investigate reports of damage insisting it is Natural England’s role to enforce.  It’s political ping pong – inactivity which might be likened to Nero fiddling whilst Rome burnt, or the ongoing decline of the UKs wildlife or SSSIs failing to reach favourable condition status.

Amongst the various responses of the ‘conservation agencies’ was the announcement of a(nother) meeting (sorry Iolo) – then the production in autumn of a challenge document and finally action will follow .  I’ve heard it all before and whilst I’m absolutely certain that those speaking mean well, perhaps if I may be forgiven for considering myself an unsung hero, but here in South Yorkshire I’m not prepared to hold my breath.  The 25 NGOs plan to repeat the event and reconvene in three years time, to talk maybe not about species recovery but what they’ve been doing about it – like Iolo I really hope they actually do DO something about the continuing decline which I see no sign of abating.

The Ghost Orchid Declaration produced in 2009 by Plantlife is an earlier call to arms, but it too like so many other variants from the spectacular array of special interest or focus groups pleads that agri-environment schemes are better targetted.

Apathy, avarice, competition between agri-industrialists and conservation play a significant part in the ongoing failure.  The Common Agricultural Policy and its subsidies to the fat cats of agri-industry (not farmers) who tell us they are the guardians of the countryside so should receive public money to deliver nature conservation.  Natural England appear to subscribe to that view because they continue to dole out extra support by way of HLS for otherwise unproductive corners of otherwise efficient businesses.  Defra programmes designed to encourage land owners to be green create improvement schemes for example where land owners are advised on how best to receive additional funds for short term involvement to create ‘corridors’ or pocket handkerchief ponds.  It might be suggested that the nations’ back gardens deliver better value for money but taxpayers are not recompensed, instead they appear to be expected to continue funding those who have played a significant role in the depletion of species.

Preventing a wasteful “double payment” for the same environmental activity from agri-environment schemes would at least be a start.  Monitoring for tangible outcomes through truly independent analysis might also begin to offer credibility.

As someone who used to be a member of approaching a score of organisations do I think they represent value for money?  If we read the future as suggested by Anna Bawden in the Guardian recently then its pretty bleak.  Mark Avery in his excellent blog is currently analysing NGO performance and there are some interesting comments made by his readers.

So, what of the future, what will be left for the next generation?  While you give thought to what you think should be done, I’ll offer a little grassroots activism news …. for those readers interested in invertebrates the Forum are shortly to present the findings of an invertebrate survey on a piece of peripheral lagg fen.  Thus far some 8,000 specimens of coleoptera alone have been deterined and amongst them some RDBs, some species are relocated classics as recorded by the old Victorian naturalists who made occasional visits to Thorne Moors (Hatfield Moors was less accessible).

 

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So, I hear you ask what does that prove (aside from quality habitat still exists at Thorne), well I offer that in the main the determination to get this project off the ground and then implemented was through the tenacity and committment of a handful of people – thank you to my colleagues and associates you know who you are.

It follows then (perhaps) that if we can deliver worthwhile projects then just think of the capacity of the NGOs and their statutory allies.  Better still bring on ‘moor’ local action?

Remember the words of Edmund Burke who said The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing and considered that Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

Images: Martin Hammond & Helen Kirk.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Skylarks underfoot as ‘gates are opened’?

July 12, 2013

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The delightful image above sent by Bryan Wainwright shows a fledgling Skylark.  Sharp eyed Bryan in his own words “shood the bird to safety” as it froze and remained motionless in the hope of danger passing it by by.  Nearby I watched as a Redshank adopted distraction tactics to try to ensure the safety of its offspring.  These strategies offer an insight into the risks posed to young birds if Natural England proceed with their proposal and open the gates on their 87 National Nature Reserves across the country to Open Access.

 

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The observations reminded me of an incident a couple of years back when management work (in the bird breeding season) was being undertaken to facilitate ‘disabled access’ on Hatfield Moors.  A pair of woodlark, a Schedule 1 (WCA 1981) species were on territory but as judge and jury of impact of their work and a limited window of availability of men with machines Natural England decided to displace the birds and disrupt their breeding.

There are many papers offering good case studies where increased access and dog walkers have had negative impact upon ground nesting birds particularly.

Recreational use of forests and disturbance of wildlife is a useful literature review detailing case studies undertaken in forests since 1990.  Two species subject to studies, nightjar and woodlark are key species on Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI and two species likely to be impacted upon by increased recreational use being encouraged by Natural England.

What is the impact of public access on the breeding success of ground nesting and cliffnesting birds? Is a Systematic Review and another resource worthy of a read. It synthesises the findings of a number of studies of disturbance to nightjar (albeit on southern heathlands) and it does not offer much hope for us here when the gates are opened.

A Review of Disturbance Distances in Selected Bird Species is a Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned report undertaken in 2007 and it too makes depressing reading in terms of likely significant effect on the productivity of breeding nightjar the SPA interest of Thorne and Hatfield Moors.

Already there has been one dog attack and a member of the public bitten recently.   The victim then subsequently reported the incident to the police.  That bite was at a level of a childs face but it was dismissed as a one off and no further action taken.

A case might be made, certainly here on Thorne and Hatfield Moors that there already exists de facto open access.  What’s wrong with that?  Why mend something which isn’t broken, why spend diminishing budgets on access maintenance rather than ensuring that the sites achieve ‘favourable condition status’ as ‘natural jewels in the public crown’, as best examples of National NATURE Reserves, and European Natura 2000 sites?  They are not countryparks or themeparks they are National NATURE Reserves.

Does this matter after all nature is a resource, The State of Nature, something that the ‘Welsh bard’ Iolo Williams made an empassioned plea to us all to do something about before it is too late for our grandchildren to inherit.   See also the early warning offered here.  In a single lifetime the wilderness that was Thorne Moors is now surrounded on all points of the compass with industrial clutter which can be seen and heard if you stand on the viewing platform in the middle of the moor.  No longer can a visitor easily hear the drumming of the snipe or the churring of the enigmatic nightjar they are all too frequently drowned out by cheap holiday flights overhead or wind blown noise pollution from the neighbouring industry or road systems.

In principle the proposal seems not an unreasonable one but there has, in the view of the Executive been a lack of open and transparent public involvement.  The consultation, if the exercise could be described that, has been conducted outwith the public gaze and with organisations whose focus appears other than nature conservation.  There has not been, to our knowledge been any open meeting to which the public have been invited.

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Must what is left of England’s largest lowland raised mire be ‘moor’ eroded and lost to local people for the benefit of short term gesture politics?  What would the late Wm Bunting have made of this?  He would certainly have challenged the notion that NE as judge and jury could not avoid legislative compliance.  Bunting would certainly challenged the fact that NE be allowed to assess the project which they themselves are primary proposers.  One might be forgiven for drawing the analogy with MPs designing their own expense system or failed bankers expectation that the public purse will fund bail outs?

A Senior Director of NE has offered to attend a meeting but that was a couple of weeks ago and we are still awaiting a response in terms of date ahead of any definitive announcement in respect of dedication.

Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated.  If you’d like to know more then please contact us via execsec@thmcf.org

The culls continue ….

May 24, 2013

The UK Government agency responsible for nature conservation appears to be attracting a lot of press coverage recently. Sadly, it is for all the wrong reasons. I seem to recall that Natural England once had a strap line describing themselves as being the guardians of the countryside but I may be mistaken. There are a few rare species, gems within their ranks but they are in decline and as difficult to save as the nations diminishing wildlife. Three quite damming articles have appeared in the last two days.

On the 22 May Tony Juniper writes about the anti nature narrative being hard to fathom. Juniper like many hardened campaigners and advocates for environmental conservation, is not expecting the ‘ConDem’ Government to strengthen wildlife protection after the reveiew of EU environment laws. Given the language used in the Terms of Reference it’s easy to see how anyone could fail to draw the same conclusion.

Then on the following day, 23 May Damien Carrington writes about Goverment licensing to cull raptors, a historic precedent without any public consultation.

Then the other item by Leo Hickman reveals more wildlife culls.

Much of the information upon which the articles are based has been secured through Freedom of Information requests made by the media or the RSPB. It may be that if this continues, that FoI legislation might be the next target for review and reform, perhaps it already is?

Clearly the role of Natural England is already seeing a change of emphasis ahead of any formal announcement of the outcome of the recent Triennial Review. The jury is still out (perhaps), but interim indications can be found on official Government websites.

There is also some excellent opportunities for business to negotiate favourable outcomes if they make early approaches to the Governments advisers, ‘discretionary advice’ comes at a price but its all relative if it avoids a costly EIA required under EU regulations. NE will advise how to mitigate first which will avoid, in the words of the Chancellor George Osbourne “ridiculous burden on business'”.

If there were a referendum, a public vote, would the “Muzzled Watchdog” be put out of its misery and culled? Its certainly a good lapdog these days, helping developers, assisting landowners – I must look up its statutory duties, unless they too have been culled?

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 ….

 

 

 


BIRDING SITE GUIDE - Birding Site Guide

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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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