Posts Tagged ‘Standing up for Nature’

Will you be going to Henry’s picnic rally?

June 19, 2016

butt%20henry

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the ongoing issue of raptor persecution, particularly that involving  Hen Harriers and the issue of upland management for driven grouse shooting. 

We are informed that there is to be a ‘picnic’ next Saturday, 25th June 2016 in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  It is being billed as a Hen Harrier rally to mark this year’s virtual absence of nesting Hen Harriers from the English uplands.

The details will be released on Wednesday this week, for details visit Standing up for nature via http://markavery.info/blog/  and or Raptor Persecution UK via https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/

Another useful and informative website is Birders Against Wildlife Crime, Charlie Moore’s recent blog post is worth a read via  http://birdersagainst.org/where-do-you-stand/

Have you booked your place on the Raptors, Uplands and Peatlands conference to be held in Sheffield on 9 & 10 September?  For more details visit http://www.ukeconet.org/news/raptors-upland-peatlands-conference-2016

Meet the author of “Inglorious” at the above event.  An authoritative tome which presents a well researched case against the management of the uplands for grouse shooting.

Inglorious front cover

Help get the epetition to Ban driven grouse shooting to the 100k in order that it can be ‘considered’ for discussion in Parliament, via https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003

 

 

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Vandalism or maintenance?

January 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

Vandalism or maintenance perhaps, but biodiversity benefit?

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

 

 

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 ….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Hear Mark Avery promote 10 New Year’s resolutions?

November 29, 2015

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

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Idle Valley Nature Reserve present

150821 MA

A Christmas Lecture by Dr Mark Avery

10 New Year’s resolutions for the wildlife enthusiast

who wants to make a difference

Friday 11 December 2015 

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

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

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

Inglorious front cover 

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

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

 

 

 

Inglorious & keep on the campaigning ….

August 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ban driven grouse shooting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BAWC_Slider_Wildlife_Crime_Henry_v3

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

‘Moor’ missing wildlife?

August 17, 2015

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

Beloved of Yorkshire folk & beyond.  Ilkley Moor.

Beloved of Yorkshire folk & beyond. Ilkley Moor.

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

Not quite Stonehenge but the 12 Apostles on Ilkley Moor.

Not quite Stonehenge but the 12 Apostles on Ilkley Moor.

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

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

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

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

Answers on a postcard please ....

Answers on a postcard please ….

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

Find out more about Henry here.

 

 

Out & about & Hen Harrier Day 2015 update

July 6, 2015
York Museum Gardens  Image: Peter Kendall

York Museum Gardens
Image: Peter Kendall

The RES IF15 yesterday was busy, a conservative estimate placed attendance at around 1,700.  York is a popular venue choice, not just for tourists and visitors who might drop in but also for regional entomologists and naturalists.  The marquees (above) were popular with the children as they offered face painting but also hands on with ‘pets with a difference’ whilst the Hospitium (below) housed an array of organisations with a wide range of interests and specialisms.

The Hospitium York Museum Gardens. Image: Helen Kirk

The Hospitium York Museum Gardens.
Image: Helen Kirk

The weather held with the advent of rain only as the day drew to a close and the deluge came as we drove home but it didn’t detract from the day.  The RES hold the event every two years and the Forum have exhibited since it began back in 2009 so it was pleasing to be told by a few visitors that we had an astonishing array of published material which reflected our knowledge base as well as an extensive network , even more pleasing that people took some back with them.

Other than the Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows we were the only other organisation which had as its focus a geographical area, yet despite that we were able to help people with their IDENTology requests and sundry entomological enquiries.  People still ask about the peat extraction and if it has actually ceased, they are sometimes aghast that the Reviews of Mineral Planning Permissions (ROMPPs) have not yet been concluded by the Local Planning Authorities as required under the EU Habitats Directive and that planning consents are still extant on areas of Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI.

2015 HH Day logo

It was good too that people easily recognised the Hen Harrier Day posters displayed on our stand, and that they were aware of the issues.  Of HHD 2015, it’s great to be able to report that the PEAK DISTRICT HEN HARRIER DAY 2015 has had its location confirmed as Goytsclough Quarry, The Goyt Valley, Derbyshire, OS Grid Reference SK 011 733  To keep abreast of news on the events planned across the country bookmark and regularly visit www.henharrierday.org   Other useful sites include Standing up for Nature and BAWC.

 

Whilst members of the Executive were engaging with the next generation others were out in the field ….

This stunning Ringlet was one of 246 counted by Martin Warne on Thorne Moors recently.

This stunning Ringlet was one of 246 counted by Martin Warne on Thorne Moors recently.

Recording the wildlife we seek to conserve. 

Another of Martin Warne's stunning images, this time a pair of Large Skipper.

Another of Martin Warne’s stunning images, this time a pair of Large Skipper.

Martin’s patience was certainly rewarded or perhaps the target species were a little distracted and otherwise occupied to worry too much about a photographer?

EU Birds and Habitats Directives under threat?

May 15, 2015

I’m sure many readers will have received appeals from mainstream NGOs as well as ‘enviromental’ bloggers to respond to the Public consultation as part of the Fitness Check of the EU nature legislation (Birds and Habitats Directives).  This can be done via the NGO website or directly through to the EU here.

We’d certainly encourage all readers to respond and further encourage others to do likewise.  In tandem perhaps readers might also consider writing to their MPs and even directly to UK Ministers explaining why legislation needs strengthening not weakening.  There are many erudite ‘arguments’ put forward as to why we need protective legislation to safeguard habitats and species and why leaving the EU would not be a good thing for wildlife or the ‘natural’ environment.

According to the Environment LIFE Programme webpage the deadline for responding to the consultation is 24 July 2015. 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Europe.svg

Craig Bennett, a long standing associate of the Forum writes in yesterday’s Guardian of the consequences for wildlife of leaving Europe.

“The environmental consequences of Britain leaving the EU would be huge.

In the piece Bennett cites a report by Dr Charlotte Burns, Environment Department, University of York, expert in European Union environment policy and processes.

The Implications for UK Environmental Policy of a Vote to Exit the EU.

The referendum first promised by the ConDems and then reneged on is now back on the Conservative right’s agenda.  Already economists are warning of the impact on businesses if the UK left the EU, and the uncertainty is not helpful to the economy nor to the environment not that there are many businesses interest in the natutal environment?  There are issues to be resolved but where there is a will there is surely a way, but then again can a case be presented that politics is a principled profession?

A guest blog on “Standing up for nature” by Richard Wilson also makes interesting and useful comment on the potential risks for nature conservation of leaving the EU.

Greenblobpride
Recent press articles of potential interest to readers:

Another recent Guardian asks “Should we drop protection on birds of prey?”

More bad news for wildlife “A third of Europe’s birds under threat, says most comprehensive study yet.”

 

 

 

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

 

 

‘Moor’ campaigning?

January 14, 2015

Wow, who’d have thought when we started this blog that we’d pass the 10,000 views milestone?  Well amidst the recent hiaitus we did – thank you readers.  Today’s posts are a bit of a catch up of comings and goings and in the main linked to concern for the natural environment and wildlife.

Readers will have noticed that the Government released the results of the badger culls just before Christmas and it seems that the culls are scheduled to continue this coming year despite another season of failed and realigned targets dressed up by Ms Truss the Defra Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs when the Report was made public. The Yorkshire Post ran the headline (in the weekend farming section) Calls to extend culls after latest pilot hailed as a success.  Around the same time the Farmers Guardian reported on a failed appeal by a farmer found guilty of falsification of the results of a bTB test.   

  800px-Deceased_Meles_meles_-_head[1]

Of other persecuted wildlife, the Hen Harrier controversy continues.  Mark Avery in his Standing up for nature blog reports on the Mutch case.  The RSPB video  posted on another media site is sickening and one wonders if slowly there is a change in the attitude of the law around wildlife crime? It is to be hoped that it does not turn out to be like the MPs sorting their own expense scandal out?

Sightings of Hen Harrier on Thorne and Hatfield Moors appear to be down this winter but the Blacktoft roost is still attracting a handful amidst the good numbers of Marsh Harriers. One observer in neighbouring Lincolnshire commented of a coastal site “Having completed the winter roost surveys since 1982/3 this is the poorest year of any for Hen Harrier and Short Eared Owl”.

Readers might also be interested (but dissappointed if you’ve not secured tickets because I see that it is sold out) in the forthcoming Eyes in the Field Conference being organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime on 21 March 2015 in Buxton Derbyshire.  It is essential that we collectively continue to keep the issue in the public arena and the profile high, only then is there any chance of change.  Patrick Barkham (author of Butterfly Isles) writes in the Guardian of The mystery of the missing Hen Harriers.  The entrenched attitude of some has forced people like Avery to adopt a high profile stance by creating a GOV.UK epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.  

Greenblobpride

Another recent issue, well perhaps it would be better described as recently reported, are the stink pits full of Mountain Hares reported killed because of the need to eradicate disease which threatens bags of Red Grouse.  Readers might like to consider supporting another epetition Protect the Mountain Hare?

At least the Tawny Owls are still contentedly calling despite the cold winds outside as I sign off on another post.

From Moth-athons to ‘Frack-athons’ & the Peak District Hen Harrier Day ….

July 28, 2014

The Thorne Moors ‘Moth-athon’ species list referred to in last nights blog post is slowly creeping nearer the target of 200, currently it stands at 177 species with two ‘stations’ still to have their data incorporated.

Clouded Border, one of the 177 species recorded so far on the 'moth-athon'.  Image: Steve Hiner.

Clouded Border, one of the 177 species recorded so far on the ‘moth-athon’. Image: Steve Hiner.

 

The state of English HEN HARRIERS

Another piece of good news is that Mark Avery’s epetition Ban driven grouse shooting is nearing his interim target of 10,000 as the ‘inglorious 12th’ approaches. It currently stands at 9,451 – can readers help him get it to that 10,000 target by the Hen Harrier Day scheduled for 10 August in the Peak District?  Chris Packham is attending the Peak District event, let’s hope for plenty of coverage in the press.  We hope the media do a decent job of reporting the rationale behind the event instead of playing politics with serious conservation issues which have been neglected for far too long.  If the industry can’t sort it’s own act out then it’s time that the people had a say and the politicians listened?

We will not repeat the various ‘arguments’ that Mark Avery and Chris Packham have used to justify the call for a ban, the series are better read via Standing up for nature, they make interesting reading as do some of the comments anonymous correspondents have submitted.  I understand that there is to be a ‘Thunderclap’ and the target, which is already exceeded, is to be a million signatures, but you can still join in see here for more about ‘Thunderclaps’.

So, if you’ve not altready signed the epetition Ban driven grouse shooting then please consider doing so here.  Send an email to your address book network and draw the issue to their attention if you’ve not already done so, the more who join in the stormy issue and ‘Thunderclap’ ….

As if no breeding Hen Harriers in England isn’t depressing enough we have another threat facing our natural resources, and no surprise it’s those owned by you and I i.e. the public!

HYDRAULIC FRACKING: A contentious business?

I’m sure I’m not the only person reading this blog post who will have received an email alert/appeal very similar to that below:

Today, David Cameron opened up huge new areas of the country to fracking. More than half of Britain is now up for grabs in the prime minister’s latest frack-a-thon, including areas in 10 national parks. 

But already, almost 250,000 people have signed our petition calling for David Cameron to keep the UK frack free. Can you help us hit 300,000 and show prime minister the strength of opposition he and his government are up against?  Readers can access and sign the petition here.

Despite the government claims that national parks will only be targeted for drilling in “exceptional circumstances”, today’s announcement is littered with loopholes – meaning the tranquillity of the Peak District, the Lake District and Brecon Beacons could still be shattered as fracking companies move in to drill.

Not only has the fracking industry still to prove it can operate safely, the oil and gas produced by fracking would increase our carbon emissions at a time when we need to be massively reducing them.

But there’s still time to stop the industry before it begins.  Last week, Cameron’s fracking juggernaut was forced off the road in West Sussex when the county council unanimously turned down an application to drill in the ancient village of Wisborough Green, just outside the South Downs National Park.

Nearly 2,500 people voiced their concerns about huge lorries thundering through country lanes. And on the day the application to drill was heard by council leaders, an expert geologist described the fracking company’s plan as “incompetent and disingenuous.”

The brakes might have been put on fracking in Wisborough Green for the time being, but the prime minister’s obsession with fracking has blinded him to the scale of opposition up and down the country. Remind him what he’s up against – sign the petition now to urge David Cameron to ditch fracking.

The email appeal uses emotive terminology and we would seek to understand both sides of the argument, so naturally we would expect that case to be accurate evidence based science.  The Guardian calls for the protection of National Parks but also our houses.  They also reported that Fracking push gets the go ahead, but there appears an expectation that we will trust politicians to safeguard National Parks, sounds like the time that the public let *politicians sort out their expenses scandal or when they bailed out the banks at the public expense or sold off public assets at less than market value?  However, ever an agnostic ….

In a tightening of the guidance, the government will ask energy firms to submit an environmental statement that is “particularly comprehensive and detailed” if they want to frack on or near protected countryside, forcing them to demonstrate their understanding of local sensitivities. It will make clear that the applications “should be refused in these areas other than in exceptional circumstances and in the public interest”.

In addition, Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, is likely to make a final decision on more appeals related to protected areas over the next 12 months, instead of leaving it to the planning watchdog.  [Read the full Guardian article here.]  Another excellent piece was that written by John Vidal when he called for Frack free zones to protect water and wildlife, see here.

Government will ‘ask’, …. firms will produce an environmental statement to demonstrate – that’s really reassuring isn’t it?   We all appreciate that we need an energy mix, that we need to conserve energy (perhaps someone should remind Government of ‘conservation’) but I suppose that doesn’t make the energy companies money does it if we reduce our consumption?  We need safe and reliable energy, we need energy companies to be accountable …. (see above*).

A useful start in terms of understanding the issue of Hydraulic fracturing can be found here.

If you are minded to consider signing the Greenpeace petition then it can be found here.

Campaign updates & not so Scarce Footmen

July 8, 2014

CAMPAIGN UPDATES:

Syngenta’s attempt to undermine the EU pesticides ban has caused public uproar in the past few days. When the pesticide company applied to the Government for the go-ahead to use banned chemicals on UK crops, a number of organisations stepped in and called upon the public to help.  FOE and others report that ….

Thousands of us emailed the Bees Minister over the weekend and, as a result of this and the work of brilliant bee-loving allies such as Buglife, we think Syngenta and the Government have truly been feeling the pressure. [On 4 July] we found out that Syngenta have withdrawn their application.

This is fantastic news for our bees. It means the most bee-harming pesticides will not be used in the UK this year.

Syngenta say they’ll try again next year – but we’ll be ready for them.

 

Should LEGO advertise for Shell, a multinational seeking to exploit the Arctic?

There is currently a Greenpeace campaign to persuade Shell to reconsider its plans for exploitation of the Arctic for oil.  They have also raised the issue of advertising through ‘Lego’ toys, so are asking people to sign a petition to Lego to persuade them to reconsider helping Shell present itself as a family friendly and caring company.

 

‘MOOR’ GROUSING ….

Another ‘plug’ to those who might still be undecided and considering whether or not to sign Dr Mark Avery‘s epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.  Currently standing at 7.018 – can we get it to the 10,000 by the ‘inglorious’ 12th August?  Updates and background information can be found on his excellent blog Standing up for Nature.   

 

I’ve recently been reading Tony Juniper‘s What has nature ever done for us?   I think I’d suggest that it needs to be compulsory reading for all 1450 residents of the Westminster village.  Perhaps Kirsty Young should make it a compulsory companion when she interviews politicians and similar professions on R4’s Desert Island Discs?

 

NATURE NOTES:

The changeable weather recently has curtailed a little, my endeavours to boost my ‘backyard’ moth list …. but a recent addition to the list is shown below alongside its more common cousin.

Easy when they're side by side.  Eilema complana (top) and E. lurideola (bottom).

Easy when they’re side by side. Eilema complana (top) and E. lurideola (bottom).

The Scarce Footman has, in my view a completely different ‘jizz’ to that of the more frequently encountered Common Footman.  It was a pleasant find, there were two amidst more plentiful cousins and whilst not as ‘rare’ as it’s name suggests it is not a particularly common species yet …. although, according to Harry Beaumont (YNU Lepidoptera Recorder for ‘Micros’) Scarce Footman has turned up frequently during the past few years, with the records slowly making it onto the Yorkshire Moths website.  After VC61, VC63 holds the second largest number of unique sites and individuals.

 

‘Moor’ badgering, upland Hen Harriers, Natural England have a new Chief Executive & Beverley Common.

June 27, 2014

BADGERS

The plight of beleaguered brock was brought home to me recently when I attended a meeting to explore ways of safeguarding the last few setts in the area.  We knew the situation was bleak but apparently it’s actually worse than we’d imagined and local naturalists are pretty hardened to public attitude to wildlife and the natural environment.  We were aware that South Yorkshire is the known cruelty capital and Doncaster is particularly bad.

Why do people enjoy inflicting cruelty on animals?  Why are the police unable to secure prosecutions?  Why do such crimes go unpunished?  Perhaps more cattle should be farmed here where there is a reduced badger population and then there would be no need for Paterson to continue his vendeta against the species elsewhere in England?  Recent press coverage questions efficacy of the culls.

HEN HARRIERS

Of persecution, the Hen Harrier epetition “Ban driven grouse shooting” created by Dr Mark Avery continues to secure additional signatures and now stands at 5,861 could it reach the 10,000 threshold by the inglorious 12th?  Anyone interested in attennding a peaceful day out with like minded folk is invited to meet not only Mark but Chris Packham as well, see “Standing up for nature” post for ‘moor’ details.

The Ethical Consumer Research Association (May 2014) has written a very readable, well researched and informed report Turn your back on GROUSE A popular campaign against greed and intensification on England’s grouse shooting estates.

NATURAL ENGLAND

Another bit of news material to any reader interested in the politics of Defra agencies, is the announcement of the new Chief Executive of Natural England, James Cross.  The usual PR material is available on various websites but suffice to encapsulate the spin, Andrews Sells, Natural England’s Chairman, commented: “I am delighted to be able to announce the appointment of James Cross as our new Chief Executive. He brings a wealth of experience which will be invaluable to us.

“Natural England does vital work on behalf of the environment and we are keen to drive forward the programme of reform outlined in the Triennial Review, further develop our status as a trusted advisor to government and build confidence and respect among our many stakeholders and customers for the way we work with them. James will bring an important combination of experience, energy and drive to enable this to happen.”   

Previously CE of the Marine Management Organisation we await evidence to back up the words.  Interestingly Dave Webster who was appointed Natural England’s Acting Chief Executive in March 2012 and continued in the role while the Triennial Review was underway, confirmed in March this year that he would not be seeking the role on a permanent basis and will be leaving Natural England on 18 July 2014 to take on a new executive role within Defra.  Natural England’s Executive Director, Guy Thompson will act as interim Chief Executive until James Cross takes up the permanent Chief Executive role on 1st September 2014.  So along with the recent restructuring how long before there is any robust science to underpin the dash to Dedicate Open Access across all publically owned NNRs?  We’ve already had reports of increased equine access and even 4 x 4’s attempting to cross ditches to access Hatfield Moors …. one might be forgiven for having concerns about the proportion of reduced budget has been spent on yet another restructure, redundancy packages, recruitment and the like?  Nature conservation a very poor second perhaps even third if you contrast against access and engagement?

BEVERLEY COMMONS

Readers may be aware that in the ERY applications are progressing to Deregister and Exchange Land at Beverley Westwood COM544.  It seems that the local authority have been writing to objectors ahead of the Public Inquiry seeking to get the withdrawl of those objections.  The campaign has hit the front page of the Hull Daily Mail.  There is a real fear that a precedent would be set by the approval of such an application.

The Open Spaces Society have added their objection to a growing call for more open and transparent conduct of business by the local authority.  For details of the full saga then the reader is signposted to the excellent Beverley Commons Blog which regales the debacle in full technicolour.  There are a number of related issues which add to the complexity including procedural issues around the application by developers to build luxury housing on the former Westwood Hospital.   The ERYC planning website refers to the development as application 3876, yet a letter received by the Forum yesterday refers to the same description as application number 0573!  Confusing, definitely!  Even more so when I tried to locate the Forum’s representation, as rare as a South Yorkshire Meles meles!  In fact it appears rarer …. so watch this space for updates.

It is a dilemma of modern living perhaps that finds what we previously took for granted as being protected sites are slowly being eroded and nibbled away at the edges to benefit business and not retained for the public benefit, the basis on which they were established.

& finally for tonight ….

For those readers who are not able to receive the Thorne Times as a newspaper, then read the June edition of Ramblings and nature notes of a bog-trotter here.

 

 

 

Should driven grouse shoots be banned?

May 29, 2014

Dr Mark Avery has just launched an e-petition on the No 10 website calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting in England.  Anyone who follows his blog “Standing up for Nature” will realise that he must have agonised about this action for some considerable time.  He admits that he is not really very keen on banning things so it has clearly taken a lot of soul searching to launch this petition.  However, he reasons that despite the species ‘enjoying’ 60 years of complete legal protection, the Hen Harrier is now rarer than it was (in England at least) when it got that protection!   And after at least a couple of decades of talking about solutions with the moorland community, in which he played a part for a while, the Hen Harrier is almost extinct in England.  As most readers would recognise there are generally times when one can reach an understanding with ‘the other side’ but he argues persuasively that this doesn’t appear to be one suchtime.  Avery considers that the systematic, illegal, wholesale removal of a protected bird from our countryside is a disgrace.

He admits and we’d be inclined to agree that we would all be rather surprised if this e-petition led to the banning of driven grouse shooting but it is hoped that it will highlight the issues around this land use (which are far wider than a protected bird of prey) and make it easier for some sort of sensible solution to emerge.  But if grouse shooting were banned, would we really miss it, he asks?

We would echo his sentiments about signing petitions, all of us I am sure are inundated with requests to add support to a campaign petition, but he is right when he only seeks support from those sympathising with the situation.

So, do readers sympathise with the fact that there are less Hen Harriers breeding now than when they first received protection, should grouse moors in receipt of public funds be accountable?  Is there sufficient support out there to get the issue debated in Parliament?  For more detail see “Ban driven grouse shooting” , so far there are 1,110 signatures …. can Avery do for Hen Harriers and upland moorland what Chris Packham has done to raise the profile of Malta Massacre on Migration?

The previous post to this raised the politics of the European elections, as I understand the situation the case involving the Walshaw Estate and breach of legislation is still ongoing …. without the Habitats and Birds Directives much UK wildlife would be less protected?

Or maybe, just maybe the various political parties are all going to review and revise their respective environmental policies?  Or will they simply dust down those which used to lurk somewhere in a cupboard …. ever an agnostic …. and in the meanwhile Hen Harriers need our help, so – can the critical mass of the conservation community achieve a debate in the Westminster village, aka Parliament?


Causes for celebration?

March 16, 2014

It’s always nice to receive good news or positive outcomes and to be able to congratulate people on achieving best conservation outcomes:

The Badger saga: there was a Backbench Business Committee debate on Thursday 13 March in the ‘House’, see here to watch the debate or to download the transcript.  It is interesting to observe the proceedings and ‘performaces’,  one might be minded to agree that the Independant Expert Panel (IEP) report should have been made available ahead of the debate (as oppossed to being leaked on the day) in order that all MPs could read and understand all the significant findings.  219 to one MPs voted to halt the cull, many justified abstention by indicating that the final IEP Report was required ahead of a debate.  In the interim of the awaited IEP Report, perhaps they should read a few statistics provided by ‘Team Badger’?   The outcome of the debate is not binding upon the Government and thus far the ConDems have carried on in just that manner,  ConDem’ing wildlife and the environment to an uncertain future by clearing away red tape they see as inhibiting development.  What is perhaps equally worrying is a Government who appears deaf to the masses?  Fifty Shades of Grayling a guest blog by Carol Day was another damming view on the Government’s ‘green credentials’ and featured on the well read Standing up for Nature site operated by Mark Avery.   Another recent critique he featured was subsequent to a magazine interview with Dave Webster, CEO of Natural England, entitled What would you have liked to have asked?  it too receives a number of interesting comments. 

It is unfortunate that the Defra website  does not contain up to date information which raises the issue of open and transparent reporting by a Government Department perhaps?  The Defra website then directs you to GOV.UK website for more information, but that only brings you to the end of last year in terms of the IEP.  GOV.UK also provides details of the membership of the IEP.  It is understood and reported in the media that the Minister, Owen Paterson has at long last received the IEP Report, so hopefully it will not be too long before its findings will be made public.  The BBC (television station not Parliamentary Committee) reports that Badger culls were ‘ineffective and failed humaneness test’.

Badger & mayweed

Badger by Tatterdemalion.   Image courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons license.

A number of email updates were received reporting upon the success of the collaborative coalition to save The Sanctuary a Derby CC Local Nature Reserve.  This was an excellent outcome not only for the wildlife of the site but also that it demonstrated what can be achieved by a collective collaboration of community conservationists.  It is understood that Derby CC press release concludes with this quite stinging comment ‘Derbyshire Wildlife Trust continues to have a service level agreement with the Council to provide expert advice on matters related to the natural environment.  Their compliance with this agreement will now be formally reviewed, and if found to be in breach, the appropriate legal action will be taken’.  It raises the issue of ‘paymasters’ requiring unchallenged compliance and co-operation otherwise potential loss of revenue to anyone with the audacity to challenge?  That was perhaps one of the benefits of forming a collaborative coalition, and was the rationale behind the Forum’s governance model.  There are an array of interesting comments posted, clearly and understandably local conservationists are not planning on complacency and will remain vigilent, long may the network deliver and where statute fails may they be held to account?

It was also pleasing to note that the Open Spaces Society have submitted a objection to the land swop at Beverley.  A timely reminder perhaps that one of the guest speakers at the Forum’s forthcoming Annual Meeting is Emeritus Professor Barbara English who will give a presentation on Beverley Pastures, the natural history and campaigning perspective will be provided by Kieran Sheehan. 

The IUCN have recently produced a glossy PR brochure on UK Peatland Restoration.   A number of geographically diverse case studies are offered but for the analysts of associated costs then there is disappointment and likewise perhaps the superficial reporting but nevertheless it delivers something we (conservation) often fail to celebrate, so well done!  Aimed for the layman rather than the scientist, one might see the benefit of having sufficient printed / CD to provide all 650 MPs in Westminster with a copy?

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. 

 

DSC_1916_lowres

 

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.

 

 


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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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