Posts Tagged ‘Simon Barnes’

‘Moor’ conservation campaigns, contentious bloggers & National Pollinators Strategy updates ….

June 28, 2014

A number of recent occurences appear to re-enforce the accepted view that the environment is low (if at all) on the everage voters agenda.

BLOGGERS RAISING POTENTIALLY CONTENTIOUS ISSUES:

Miles King reported in his excellent blog “a new nature blog” further explained as the “Musings, ramblings and probably a few rants on politics, nature + the environment” reported recently about the Kennel Club challenging the Borough of London’s safeguarding of the Burnham Beeches, this was followed up today with one about the Angling Trust calling for Beavers to be shot and Defra evicting Beaver from the Otter!  I could perhaps understand anglers having issues with otters (after all they eat fish) but with a vegetarian species, the beaver?  Part of their lobbying activity is clearly to influence Natural England.  I do like the aspiration to commission independent research, when has vested interest ever made available funds for independent let alone robust science?  It is time perhaps that when this kind of proposal is made that the funds are passed to and managed by a third party and the science undertaken through a tender process or a selection criteria in which the commissioners take no part.  The science is delivered to the terms of reference or specifications.  Open, transparent and honesty would help provide credibility to any case presented to vested interests and that would also include ‘developers’ (housing, industrial etc. which are required to comply with the planning system recently streamlined to make it easier to ‘develop’ sites with commercial value at the expense of quality natural environment, landscape or conservation significance.

We would not propose to repeat the the stories behind these headlines, but to suggest that you read the articles for yourselves (by visiting the site through the links above). They are well balanced (in my opinion) and they understand the issues as well as the current situation descibed. What King points out very well is the fact that nature is losing out to recreational interest with political clout.

This is evident through the two aforementioned cases, in addition Mark Avery’s taking up the issue of the plight of the Hen Harrier in England, Chris Packham heading up the exposure of the Malta Massacre on Migration, and there are others but people risk their livelihoods if they take a stance.  I have to confess that I am neither an avid reader of the Times or someone especially interested in sport, but Simon Barnes has, apparently left the Times recently.  There have been suggestions that this may have been because of some sympathies with conservationists and has written articles which could be described as questioning?  Now, perhaps it’s a pure co-incidence but when I tried to open the link through to the Times article by Barnes Some of our grouses are beginning to be heard, it has a subscription offer ‘on top / blocking’ it.  Is it worth subscribing and then not continuing the payment explaining that as they sacked him, there’s no point continuing a subscription?  The Times became part of the News International [Corp] empire in 1981.

 

Setting aside politics and the media and returning to the NATURE NOTES notion and occasional purpose of this blog ….

The bird feeders are well and truly being used by the array of visiting families.  The male Great Spotted Woodpecker has started to appear again along with one of his offspring.  Blue, great and coal tits all voraciously attack the home made fat blocks, they seem to prefer these to bought ones which is hardly surprising as they have meal worms and all sorts of ‘luxury’ ingredients in as oppossed to commercial varieties.  Dunnocks skulk and collect the debris from the floor.  Tree and just one pair of house sparrows visit regularly.   Blackirds, robins, greenfinches, chaffinches and goldfinches too are plentiful.  One interesting observation lately has been the begging behaviour of the various finch species.  The chaffinch young move their head and shoulders from side to side in the hope that their parents will feed them, the goldfinch young by comparison stand still and flutter their wings, held at 90 degrees fast to beg their food!

A totally unexpected visitor and I think it’s a first for the ‘garden list’ was a Stock Dove a couple of days ago!  We get far too many woodpigeons, collared doves are plentiful but turtle or stock doves are rarities.  The corvids are well enough represented as well with jackdaws breeding in an owl box!  Magpies too have developed the art of raiding the fat blocks.  Our third black and white species the Pied Wagtail is a fairly regular visitor at the moment so perhaps they have bred nearby as well.

 

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Stock Dove

Image: Chris Cant.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

 

POLLINATORS STRATEGY UPDATE

Defra’s National Pollinator Strategy is progressing through the system, the parliamentary website reports:

The Committee intends to examine Defra’s ‘National Pollinator Strategy’ in the light of the Committee’s April 2013 report on Pollinators and Pesticides.

The Committee will look at the proposed relative roles of particular actors (Government, gardeners, industry, farmers, etc); whether the anticipated research is in the right areas, timely and sufficiently independent; the adequacy of the ‘priority actions’ identified; and the effectiveness of the envisaged Integrated Pest Management model.

So, how long will the industrial lobbyists be allowed to cause delays and put at jepordy the future of bumblebees, and other invertebrates essential to pollination because various industries are reliant upon commercial bumblebee breeding programmes?

The Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius

Red-tailed bumblebee.  Image: Keith Heywood.

But, the WI and others including FOE and Buglife are on the case and advocating for a precautionary approach that the EU pesticide ban remain until robust scientific research is able to provide suffient evidence upon which to review the situation.   The Bumblebee Conservation Trust was the tangible outcome of Dave Goulson after he moved to Stirling in 2006, the story behind the creation of the BBCT can be found in “A Sting in the Tale” (2013) and reviewed in a guest blog by Keith Heywood.  Its evolution reminded me a little of how the Eden Project developed.  From small acorns and conscientous critical mass ….

 

RECALL [MPs] DRAFT BILL

You might recall that the politicians engaged in a little bit of ‘kidology’ recently when the Queen’s speech announced that MPs could be recalled and that a draft bill was being prepared?  Then we all read the small print and it began to resemble the expense saga and how they were left to sort that out for themselves!  So, any other sceptics or should I say realists amongst readers might be interested in passing across your thoughts about the matter to 38 degrees?  On a positive note, might it be an indication that MPS might have been listening a little to voters and realised that they ought to make a start?

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‘Moor’ action needed, particularly by politicians of all persuasions?

June 22, 2014

Reading the Regional broadsheet recently and an article by Ben Barnett (Agricultural Correspondent) “Woodlands still wait for action to secure future” reminded the reader that despite the Government convening a panel to assess the future of the publicly-owned woods there has been no progress since the sell off / give away was abandoned.  The panel’s report, puiblished two years ago, called for the public forest estate to remain in public ownership but one might be forgiven for wondering what part the epetitions and lobbying of Ministers and MPs played in that conclusion?

The recent Queen’s speech did not include measures on forests, prompting members of the panel led by its chairman the Rt Rev James Jones to write an open letter.  The Guardian heads the story Forestry panel attacks UK government.   The Independent Panel on Forestry Final Report was published in 2012.

It is laudable that the IPF urges the Government and all political parties to make manifesto committment to legislate as soon as possible after the General Election to ensure that the future of the public forests are assured. Their report said that the forests cost the taxpayer about £20m a year, around 90p per household in England!  Apparently, that same estate provides an estimated £400m in benefits to people, nature and the economy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other ‘estates’ provided that kind of value for public money …. some of the upland moors in receipt of HLS funding yet failing to safeguard Hen Harriers and other raptors perhaps?  See Avery’s commentary on Simon Barnes’s comments in the Times and just in case readers are still minded to provarication about “Ban driven grouse shooting” then read his message to “wishy-washy liberals”.   His epetition on the Government site currently stands at around 4,773 and his ambition is to achieve 5,000 by the ‘inglorious 12th’ (August) so anyone able and minded to twitter, please sing loudly ….

Someone reputed to know a bit about forestry, Roderick Leslie has written a book “Forest Vision” and if Mark Avery’s review is anything to go by it promises to be an interesting read?  Avery writes that “This is a book about the politics of forestry by someone who knows them better than just about anyone else in the UK.”  Sadly, whilst politics ought not to have a place in nature conservation it most certainly appears to infest and worse still it appears to be from top right down to even regional level?

Since his departure from the RSPB Avery might be regarded as having become more outspoken in defence of the natural world, perhaps Roderick Leslie is joining the ranks and who could forget Iolo Williams passionate appeal when he was part of the launch of the “State of Nature” report in May last year?  It’s worth a periodic revisit to hear him remind us all why we must keep trying …. for the sake of the next generation, who if we fail will not have the experiences we enjoyed as children.

 

For how much longer will our grandchildren be able to find gems like this Fly Orchid in the countryside?

For how much longer will our grandchildren be able to find gems like this Fly Orchid in the countryside?

 

It would be even better if political parties were to show an interest in the natural environment, its future and particularly its protection?  In one lifetime we have seen “A Muzzled Watch-dog” become a “toothless terrier” and more recently perhaps it is morphing to a “lapdog”?  We have seen suggestions that it is acceptable to replace an ancient tree with its saproxylic invertebrate assemblage and epiphytic bryophytes etc. with a 100 new saplings! No doubt that contract would probably be awarded to a hard pressed NGO trying to keep their staff in work, so effectively preventing opposition to yet more loss of species rich habitat?  Perhaps it’s time that we all started to contact our MPs and prospective MPs and ask what their party plans for the natural environment?

Thanks to Phil Lee for the stunning image of a Yorkshire Ophrys insectifera.

 

 

Hen Harriers & campaigning?

February 15, 2014

My birding year has not really had many highlights in terms of sightings of note, but today’s garden tick was a very welcome one.  A stunning male Hen Harrier was observed quartering the northern fields on the periphery of Hatfield Moors SSSI, and all easily witnessed from my garden!  What ‘moor’ could you ask on a cold February day?  There is just something magical in their flight, in the majesty of their graceful movement.  BUT …. I wondered will the superb male I was priviledged to see in winter manage to survive and sucessfully breed in the coming season?   The Hen Harrier failed to breed sucessfully in England last year.  The BBC announced that the Hen Harrier is on the brink of extinction, Mark Avery’s blog frequently posts updates on the topic of Hen Harrier persecution, the most recent data available from JNCC is unfortunately out of date, but nevertheless catalogues a worrying trend.  Mark Avery’s blog is also a good source of background information about the now ‘infamous’  Walshaw Moor case which was initially taken up by Natural England.  Fast forward, it is now with the RSPB who took up the case after NE decided to drop the case.

Can I encourage readers of the blog who have not already done so to consider signing John Armitage’s epetition Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers at the time of writing it has reached 9,302 and needs to achieve 10,000 signatures for the issue to be debated in Parliament.  OK we know what happens to topics that those in power do not like, but if nothing else let’s add it to the catalogue of Government failures to protect our environment.

Of community campaigning, congratulations to the consortium of collaborators who mounted a campaign to persuade Derby Council to safeguard one of their Local Nature Reserves ‘The Sanctuary’.  Unfortunately the Councillors approved the application, however the campaigners believe that they have grounds to challenge the decision and are considering a Judicial Review.  For more background see Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s post here.  It is worth viewing the drone’s eye view of the site, I wonder what brownfield invertebrates lurk amidst the wonderfully neglected grassland and scrub?  As an LNR it even qualifies to feature on Natural England’s website, see here.  Unsurprisingly, given the dangerous precedent in terms of planning law Mark Avery has taken an interest and I suspect that in no small part that assisted in the number of objections submitted to Derby Council.  So, in addition to a potential legal challenge the consortium have also created an online petition which is aimed at the Lottery, see hereSimon Barne’s writes in today’s Times.

A plea also to anyone able to post on facebook or twitter, that the Forum’s petition about Open Access on NNRs could do with a push here.

We need to take back common ground and ensure those in power listen to the community, common sense should prevail but sadly that is swamped by developers greed and a planning system which appears no longer fit for purpose.  If you need a half reasonable justification for that accusation then look no further at a Government which encourages developers to build 20% of new houses in flood plains without ensuring that they are appropriately designed and built IF they are actually really needed in such low lying areas.

In the meanwhile I shall go and dream of another ‘skydancer’ on my horizon tomorrow …. magic moments like that remind me why we must keep on campaigning.


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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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