Posts Tagged ‘state of nature’

Campaigning, what’s the alternative?

December 10, 2014

The Rally for Nature went to Westminster on Tuesday, at the end of the shooting season for Red Grouse, and it was by all accounts a successful event and reported by Mark Avery in his Standing up for Nature blog.

Martin Harper, Conservation Director RSPB also comments on the state of SSSIs  analysing Defra’s 72 page Biodiversity 2020: a strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services Indicators summary December 2014 which makes pretty depressing reading.  Effectively it echoes the 2013 State of Nature Report.  The Govt. answer – to cite the £7.5m worth of Nature Improvement AreasMonitoring of the outcomes are provided by Natural England, but generic rather than specific in the nature of any detail.

Avery also celebrates the creation of an infographic which challenges an earlier one by the Moorland Association and BASC which extolled the virtues of the ‘inglorious 12th’, the latter has we understand been referred to the Advertising Standards Agency.

FRACKING: For, against or still an agnostic?

Despite the chilly wind there was a reasonable turn out last night to the Haxey Memorial Hall, where the local premier showing of “The Dash for Gas” was ‘enjoyed’ by around sixty people gathered to learn about the benefits of fracking.  The film itself, in my humble opinion presented a reasonable and balanced case.  It was just a shame that previous attempts to get industry advocates to allay local fears has repeatedly failed as many there were keen to hear both sides of the scientific case that provided assurances of safety, no impact upon water supply or to human health or that of the natural environment.

The following planning applications have already been passed for exploratory drilling.  Depending upon outcomes a fracking application may follow.

Planning permissions to site a rig for an appraisal bore hole with associated works and equipment COMPOSITE ENERGY

Cottage Farm, Crowle, DN17 4BH

Land to the north of the A161, Eastoft Road, Crowle, DN17 4LR

Pasture Lane, Amcotts, DN17 4AW

Temple Gardens, Land to north of, Off King Edward Street, Belton

Haldenby Hall, Track adjacent to, access road to Haldenby Hall, Luddington, DN17 4QU

Access Road to North Moor from White House, Land to the southeast of Pilfrey Bridge, Althorpe, Keadby, DN17 4DH

Land North West of, North Street, West Butterwick

Planning permission for the construction of a temporary wellsite for drilling of an exploratory bore hole with associated structures and works EGDON RESOURCES

Lodge Farm, Clapp Gate, Broughton and Appleby, DN15 0DB

Help us keep the local community network updated:

Check out areas under investigation for exploration (or exploitation?) near you, do drop us a line with your findings and updates

Check out any Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) near you …. locate Recent Licences through a Department of Energy & Climate Change Energy Portal.

LOCAL GROUPS

Frack Free Lincs

H.E.Y. Frack Off is another local community group active in Hull & East Yorkshire

Frack Free South Yorkshire  

Frack Free Gainsborough

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Natural environment pressured from all points of the compass?

December 26, 2013

Sadly wildlife is continuously reported as being in decline.  This blog has posted items on the State of Nature, Nature 2013 et. al.  See also here All these reports chart serious declines in species and habitats and over many years.  How many SSSIs are in favourable consition, how many NNRs are the very best examples of their kind [habitat]?  Until issues like these have been seriously addressed and resolved then it would seem wholly reasonable that aspirations should not be unfairly raised nor projects initiated without appropriate account being taken of consequences, costs and accountability?

The Natural England website provide a glossy interpretation of FCS of SSSIs and this Spotlight on SSSIs Working towatds the biodiversity goals of 2020 Issue 1 October 2012 (10 pages, two of which are covers), then there’s Issue 2 June 2013 (11 pages, including introduction and cover) and the most recent Issue 13 December 2013 (12 pages, including introduction and cover), should all be accessible via the single link from earlier referred to title.  These reports provide ‘delightful’ colourful case studies painting a wonderful picture, but to ecologists and analysts they fall far short of the days of the statistical presentation and appear to suggest that marketing budgets are larger than those available for clearly reported science (that naively assumes that there is science undertaken)?

Strange then that Natural England (once considered to be ‘guardians of the natural environment’) seek to promote increased recreation through dedication of open access on all publically owned NNRs?

There is a Public Footpath (and it is publically owned) which takes the pedestrian onto Thorne Moors, which yields an annual income of £55,000 for a period of 35 years for Natural England so there’s certrainly scope for earning money from public land which developers take an interest in and one might ask, why not?  It would seem reasonable that such revenue should stay local and fund works or monitoring required to maintain the site and to ensure that there is no adverse impact consequential of new activities?  Not at all, we were informed that it goes into a [Head office] ‘central pot’.

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Publically owned land, closed whilst utilised for private profit on the periphery of Thorne Moors SSSI.

Damien Carrington reported recently in the Guardian difficulties faced by trying to ensure existing PRoWs were well maintained.  Clearly there are some excellent observers out there and others who should perhaps have been more diligent in their research?

Would Natural England not be better looking to assist Local Authorities ensure that all existing Public Rights of Way were in good condition before increasing costs to the already moth-eaten public purse by creating more?

Here around the Humberhead Levels, across the Doncaster Borough, in tranquil hamlets like Fishlake and Sykehouse PRoWs are either woefully neglected or used as tracks for off-road users, or private commercial operations which then leave the green lanes unfit for ‘quiet pursuit’.

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An example of one of Doncaster Borough’s green lanes being used for purposes other than those they were designated for.

Promotion is all well and good, but open, transparent and adherence to legislative process is surely essential?  Well intentioned aspirations are all well and good but what of unintentional consequences and accountability?  An availability for redress if abuse or damage is evidenced?

How long before the scrutiny is transferred to the uplands, where substantive public funds are provided to private landowners?

To draw today’s post to a close on a positive note, as I started writing earlier I watched wistfully from the study window as around six hundred or so winter plovers wheeled around as they settled to feed in the short sward of autumn sown crops.  Black headed gulls harried golden plover, the less numerous lapwings milled about on the edges of the feasting flock.  I should perhaps have taken the telescope to make sure that there were no transatlantic cousins amongst the masses?

Nature Check 2012, wildlife obituaries & celebrations?

December 1, 2013

We’ve been inundated with various hefty tomes cataloguing the losses to wildlife recently.  We had the hard hitting State of Nature,  a veritable choir of conservation charities singing from the same hymn sheet.  Before that we had the ‘promising’ Securing Biodiversity A new framework for delivering priority habitats and species in England (2008).  Then came Lost life: England’s lost and threatened species.  For Natural England to effectively chart species decline was quite something, they are to be applauded for making public such revelations of their analysis and findings.

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The next buzzword was ‘Landscape’ scale conservation, Defra funded by competative application 12 ‘Nature Improvement Areas’ (can nature be improved I ask?).  These projects appear designed to some extent to provide more grant aid to the agri-industry to make every square inch of land return or generate income.

Now we have another contribution to the arena, this time from the Wildlife and Countryside LINK Nature Check 2013    It is the third year this analysis of Government’s natural environment commitments have been assessed.  Many of the same organisations who produced the State of Nature are members of WCL, but this somehow is not to my mind as hard hitting as some of those tomes mentioned earlier.  It might be said to be a sad inditement of a previous report Halting Biodiversity Loss by 2010.  Page 4 revealed that the National Audit Office had issues with the reliability of Natural England’s figures presented when reporting on condition status monitoring of SSSIs.  Incredibly there is no consistent record keeping of assessments.  See Natural England’s Role in Improving Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  This report was produced in 2008, and one might hope that an annual update would be produced but thus far I have been unable to locate any such document.

It is now 2013 and the Government agency once described as a guardian of the environment was then described as a ‘Muzzled Watchdog’ (1997).  In January this year a guest blog was posted on Mark Avery’s Standing up for Nature blog effectively downgrading them to a “Toothless Terrier”, it catalogued a failure by Natural England to safeguard a SSSI and also a Natura 2000 site and in addition failure by the RPA to investigate a potential breach of cross compliance and recover public funds.  The most recent project being conducted outside the public gaze is that of Dedication as Open Access all publically owned National NATURE Reserves.  For more information see here, here and here.

It seems to me that all these excellent tomes are either catalogues of decline or obituaries.  Might they be useful tools for those who advocate for biodiversity offsetting and mitigation funds for projects to ‘garden’ on behalf of developers?  They could be offered as justification for ‘experiments’?  The finances raised then perhaps find their way to government agencies or local authorities, or a new bank who then have the role of deciding those most worthy of assistance.  I wonder what level remmuneration for the new ‘bankers’?  A ray of hope on the horizons for NGOs to fund their staff, but curtailing campaigning lest they challenge or champion conservation per se. 

But, enough doom and gloom for now – let’s think positive and celebrate (albeit probably only temporarily) how about the government abandonment of the Gloucestershire badger cull as a worthy case?  Damien Carrington reports in the Guardian that Natural England have revoked the licence because of failure to kill enough badgers.  Certainly worth a celebratory pat on the back to the brave soul in Natural England who has signed the reprieve,  thank you and well done.

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But the cards are marked if the Farmer’s Weekly report is to be believed.  An interesting piece England’s Killing Fields (4) offers insight as well as providing defence of the agency who they argued would lose credibility if the cull continued.  It also praises, quite rightly some farmers, and in doing so illustrates the illogical polorisation of the contentious issue.  Will common sense prevail in the interim and ensure that science is undertaken and evaluated before the next ‘condem’nable defra debacle?

In the meantime I must spend ‘moor’ time out there enjoying what is left.  It might be winter but there’s still wildlife worth watching and certainly worthy of appreciation.

Galling

August 11, 2013

Last Monday was a rather changeable day in terms of weather.  Undeterred I arrived at Crowle Moors and parked up but then decidied that it might be wise to wear a waterproof jacket at least – by the end of the session I debated the wisdom of the action.  Despite the drizzle, butterflies appeared in moderate numbers particularly Gatekeepers or Hedge Browns if you prefer, but just to avoid any doubt Pyronia tithonus.

With the cooler weather there were not as many dragon and damsels active and the bees too were slow to appear.  There was no sign of activity at the entrance of the colony beneath heather roots alongside one of the tracks.

An interesting find were a few poor rain sodden Tansy plants, I’d noticed these in bud a week earlier and nothing unusual in that but as can be seen in the image below there are three growths protruding from the flower heads.  They are caused by the gall midge Rhopalomyia taneceticola (Dipter: Cecidomyiidae).

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As you marvel at the many intriguing and often complex relationships which all contribute to the interactions which deliver functioning ecosystems, you do wonder what of the future?  I sense that there may be a groundswell of discontent in terms of the deal that is not done in terms of the natural environment, the ongoing failure of those in Government to safeguard a healthy natural environment for our grandchildren.  The apathy at the top trickles or perhaps it floods down through the ranks of the statutory agencies and authorities charged with protecting habitats and species.

We’ve all heard of the outcome of the State of Nature, Mark Avery often blogs controvertial topics, which provoke interesting feedback.  The ongoing saga of Wuthering Moors is well worth keeping up with.  Catfield Fen another site under threat is reported on.   The Guardian newspaper published another of their offerings yesterday, Britain’s changing countryside: where next for the conservation movementSome as expected comments, but if nothing else it proves that people were sufficiently motivated to respond after reading it but whether they went that extra mile thereafter remains to be seen?

It would take a brave government to deliver on a quality natural environment which is safguarded for the future as the most important aspect of our [man’s] existence, rather than simply treating everything natural as a ‘resource’, which in the words of Iolo Williams is there to be used and abused.  Should the state take the lead and enforce regulatory safeguards?  Is it my recent reading material but there does appear to be a number of recent articles asking where the next generation of naturalists are but equally as important where are the next generation of environmental champions able to deliver tangible sustainability?

IMc Nr IM Thorne

I’m going for a walk to count the butterflies in my garden and hopefully the kingfisher will signal its presence too as it dashes along the drain ….

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.

Skylarks underfoot as ‘gates are opened’?

July 12, 2013

Sky Lark 007

 

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

Iolo for PM?

July 3, 2013
Species rich haymeadows - a thing of the past, a declining habitat?

Species rich haymeadows – a thing of the past, a declining habitat?

 

Rarely do we hear such eloquent music plead for the environment as has recently been sung by the ‘Welsh bard’ Iolo Williams and posted on u-Tube following his appearance at the launch of the State of Nature launch.

I don’t know who uploaded the film but a big thank you!  It has had an incredible number of viewers and comments and I’d certainly recommend watching or just listening to the clarity of purpose resonating in his voice, music to campaigners ears.  A call to arms.

Iolo rightly points out that the failure thus far is a disgrace.  One could be forgiven for wondering what ever happened to the much heralded 2010 “Making Space for Nature” Report?   Where are all the promised improvements?

Conversely, in an open and refreshingly honest way  The State of Nature Report certainly appears to evidence ever diminishing space that is left for nature, it is a catalogue of decline of habitats and species.  He’d get my vote to to organise a ‘cull’ of inefficiencies and surplus fat cats more bothered about their pensions than the legacy for our grandchildren.  His merciless lambasting of the politicians and the inactivity of organisations who have failed to stem the tide is sheer music.  He certainly didn’t mince his words with his interpretation of the new name given to the organisation which is pedalled as being the agency which will be looking after the countryside in Wales.  Honesty – absolutely wonderful, delightfully refreshing!

The self confessed unashamedly proud Welshman laments the loss of haymeadows and moors and being of that same era I too can recount similar losses here in the Humberhead Levels and across the wider Yorkshire.  There have been campaigners fight to conserve our precious countryside, the likes of the late Wm Bunting and the late Stephen Warburton but they are sadly no longer amongst our number and the natural regeneration is in decline.  Real campaigning conservationists are also a rare species now, these days it seems that too many are happy to take mitigation crumbs and ‘build biodiversity’ instead of conserving it.

Haymeadows with their luxuriant hedgerows – yes I’ve seen them disappear and what precious few are left here in South Yorkshire and the Humberhead Levels we’ve had to fight for, the image above is evidence of a small success.

Then take the ‘battle for the bogs’ or lowland raised mires to give them their correct name at Thorne and Hatfield Moors are another example of beleagured habitats abandoned by those charged with statutory responsibilities for their conservation.  Instead it’s been down to local communities to challenge, and like Iolo I wonder where the next generation are and what they will be left with consequential of the continual erosion and degradation of our natural environment.  Thank you Iolo for the timely clarion call reminding us of so many things that we should be doing ….

Well said cariad bach as my Grandfather used to say, and thank you too from a Yorkshire lass!

Follow the Forum’s FoI to Defra on hedgerow matters?

June 9, 2013

Some of you following this blog will be aware that as well as recording, surveying and monitoring the amazing natural history interest of the Humberhead Levels, the Forum has and will on occasions, when its Executive deem it necessary, take a ‘campaigning stance’ in such matters as hedgerow damage or removal.

We are currently awaiting responses to enquiries regarding alleged illegal removal of Enclosure Award hedgerows in the Parish of Fishlake.  Doncaster MBC as the local  planning authority are the ‘appropriate authority’ in this case.

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The Executive is also in correspondence with DEFRA about the procedure applied to an application for a drainage scheme in the same parish which would have seen nearly a kilometre of species rich ancient hedgerow removed along with substantive mature oak trees.  This scheme was only modified as a result of local challenge but it still seeks to destroy around 150 metres of ancient hedgerow.  Should we regard the saving over 800 metres as success and walk away?

The scheme was submitted by the local Danvm Drainage Commissioners (DDC) under Environmental Impact Assessment (Land Drainage Improvement Works) Regulations 1999 (as amended) (‘the Regulations’).  However, in the opinion of the Forum’s Executive and others the scheme failed to take due account of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 and the Hatfield Thorne and Fishlake Enclosure Award of 1825 and its enabling Acts of 1801 and 1811.  Defra based its decision on EIA Regulations but pointed out to the DDC the existence of other extant legislation.

So, look up our questions here and here and follow progress, the deadline for the Defra response is 5 July.  Whilst not actually part of the current casework per se and described herein they do relate to the wider issue of erosion of environmental protection and accountability and they are research which will inform another ‘project’ which is currently at development stage.

Does it matter that the landscape character of the district continues to be changed from pastoral to agri-industrialised prairie scapes more akin to that of the neighbouring flatlands that can be seen as you travel north from Fishlake along the M62 and look eastwards?  Should developers and advocates of ‘improvements’ be bound by legislation or regulations?

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We reported on the State of Nature report recently, farmland losses are discussed and larger fields have had a significant impact on the loss of natural field boundaries, that is to say hedgerows which make a significant contribution to that biodiversity mass and hedgerows can act as corridors for colonisation further afield.   But,  despite protection and regulations governing hedgerow removal there are still those who seek to act out-with procedures and regulations.

Does it matter?  Are the pastoral landscapes doomed to be fondly described as a thing of the past, lowland haymeadows awash with a fabulous flora and associated invertebrate assemblage all but childhood memories consigned to natural historians academically penned obituaries in colourful tomes such as the just published Meadows by George Peterken (British Wildlife Publishing), no mention in there of Doncaster’s fritillaries, goldilocks or other such rarities still hanging on in forgotten corners.

 

120610 Rhinanthus  Sykehouse RM hrk 996

 

The State of Nature

May 27, 2013

With the window of opportunity that a Bank Holiday Monday provided how many of you were out there benefiting from the experience of interacting with our declining wildlife?  How many of you later in the evening tuned into Springwatch to learn what many of us have been recording?  At least Chris Packham recommended viewers download and read The State of Nature Report and for that he is to be applauded.  I’d be curious to learn how many ‘hits’ the RSPB website got subsequent to his ‘plug’.

It makes pretty depressing reading, one of the report’s headlines reads …. We have quantitative assessments of the population or distribution trends of 3,148 species.  Of these, 60% of species have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly.

One might wonder what the Government response to this will be, denial or a public relations exercise rolling out case studies of funded ‘biodiversity building’?

What the report and programmes like Springwatch should encourage us all to do is to get out there and record the biodiversity then the evidence is there for those who write such ‘natural history obituaries’.  It might also encourage those who pproclaim themselves as guardians or champions to try a bit harder and actually safeguard and protect declining habitats and species.

There is certainly some stunning invertebrates about at the moment for those with patience to capture on camera.

The hoverfly Dasysyrphus albostriatus (another stunning shot captured here at Crowle by Phil Lee) is a woodland edge species and widespread throughout much of the UK.  With around 276 species known to Britain, they make a good group to study.  There is a Hoverfly Recording Scheme and more details can be found here.

Dasysyrphus albostriatus 2 Crowle Moor 12.5.13

This superb image of the wasp beetle Clytra arietius was taken by Steve Hiner on Thorne Moors recently.   A long-horn beetle whose larvae feed on the wood of deciduous trees which have an association with fungi.  The adults feed on pollen and females supplement their protein intake by taking smaller insects as well.

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One of the earliest butterflies to emerge in spring is the stunning sulphur Brimstone, another of Steve Hiner’s Thorne images.  I suppose the four peacock butterflies sunning themselves on 4 January don’t really count as they would have been tempted out of hibernation.

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So, get out there before it’s too late.  Get out there and make a difference.  Despite the depressing reading to be had, the interaction with the natural world always re-invigorates determination to challenge and change when opportunities present themselves.


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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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