Posts Tagged ‘The State of Nature’

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?

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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?

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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

 

 

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#HaveYouSeenHenry …. Wildlife Crime continues …. keep on badgering away?

March 29, 2015

Who was it said that a nation should be judged by the way in which it treated its animals*?  The same wisdom which provided us with the view that:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win*.

Recently, I had cause to report an incident of badger digging where the sett had been dug out.  This is the second such visit already this year I’ve made to assess damage and potential wildlife crime.  What is it which motivates people to destroy or bait such mammals and inflict unimaginable cruelty?  This sett was nowhere near livestock, the animals were no threat to anyone or anything.  Neither was the earlier incident.  Both incidents were at rural locations one on agricultural land the second on public land.

There is a reported culture that sees baiting badgers as a right of passage in some parts of our region, apparently it is seen a ‘manly’ thing to do with ‘well bred’ dogs?  Recent reports seem to indicate that there has been an increase in incidences involving badgers and there is a view that this is consequential of the governments authorisation of a badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset.  Badgers are being promoted as ‘vermin’ by some elements of the agricultural industry so it appears acceptable in some quarters that they can be used and abused in other regions for ‘sport’.

First capture your badger(s) by digging out, collect in a sack and transport to a remote area where it / they can be pitted against dogs bred for the pupose, not forgetting to pull a few of its teeth first – after all a badger against dogs needs to have the odds ‘balanced’ in favour of predicable outcome?  Is it the associated gambling which fuels the commercial practice of digging?

PENTAX Image

This badger, caught in a snare would have suffered a painful and lingering death.  This type of incident needs to be reported as well as dead raptors and dug setts etc.

What deterrent is there to any wildlife crime?  What are the chances of being caught?

It was Chris Packham who recently summed up well the issue at the excellent BAWC Eyes in the Field Conference in Buxton.  Whilst we (society) continue to allow the species which are protected in law to be killed, whilst the purpetrators continue to either evade the law or receive lenient sentences then the view that wildlife crime is not a ‘real crime’ will persist.

Whilst this attitude prevails, and laws offering protection are seen by some as “green c**p” then the loss of biodiversity will not be stemmed as reported by Lord de Mauley, who assured an audience that Natural England’s Chief Executive was confident that the ‘no loss of biodiversity’ 2020 target would be met.  Whatever happened to the much heralded “Making Space for Nature”?  It seems to be gathering dust in the Defra archive …. Whilst The State of Nature is probably a little more up to date but still in need of serious delivery not to mention a government prepared to sign up to its recommendations.  If the rate of decline is to be believed and this is mirrored across the planet, then we seriously need Noah in forty days time?

In the interim, readers are asked to be vigilant when out and about in the countryside.  Excellent advice is to be found on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime website, where they advocate the 3 Rs.  Recognise, Record and Report! 

If you witness a wildlife crime taking place then ring 999 immediately, if you recognise signs of an incident having taken place then the number to phone is 101.  In either situation it is important to record as much detailed information as you can and to then report this to the Police.  Statistics are important if we are to improve wildlife protection.

#HaveYouSeenHenry

Greenblobpride

* Mahatma Ghandi.

Defra …. King asks 14 weeks to a cull? Hedging and lanes, do they matter?

February 16, 2015

Countryside …. natural asset for quiet enjoyment, a playground or a resource for profit?

Once upon a time, seemingly in the midst of a previous era the village of Fishlake in the Doncaster district, was a quintessential rural idyll set amidst a canvas of pastoral tranquility.   As such it was a rare haven amidst the urban and industrialised areas of the Doncaster district.  It had much in common with its smaller neighbbouring hamlets at Braithwaite and Sykehouse.  The fields around Fishlake were in the main small and enclosed by wonderful species rich hedgerows with mature trees which offered nest holes for owls and other smaller tree nesting species.   This lowland landscape, part of the River Don flood plain was part of a working wetland and the farming practice that associated with pastoral farming.  It has in one lifetime changed dramatically, albeit acknowledging that ‘dramatic’ is a subjective choice of adjective?

A desirable place to live and one becoming increasingly popular, no surprise given the ease of which commuters can access motorway networks.   But it is one which sadly appears to be suffering neglect and abuse at the same time?  Sad to relate in other recent posts that there appears to be less than good hedgerow management practiced, now we learn of local people unnable to enjoy walks along countrylanes they have used all their lives because of what appears to be a ‘change of use’ which has, as yet remained unchallenged despite the fact that the lane is in fact designated as a “Restricted byway”.  Rural residents have little by way of services provided or leisure opportunities so it would seem only reasonable that they be allowed to continue to enjoy healthy and safe walks?  That wildlife have sanctuary or havens, what use of that?

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In this particular case part of the issue appears to be the access points.  As with many of these delighful lanes they can all join up via a number of routes and these access options do not all have signs or notices posted to provide visitors with their status so perhaps by virtue there is an assumption of vehicular access rights?

This issue has been raised with the local authority at the beginning of February, a response is awaited.

Campaign corner & updates ….

Of public assets, can readers remember the furore over the proposed sale of the forestry estate?  It would seem that there is a view emerging that there is renewed activity around that ambition ….

An epetition has been launched which is calling for the end of Forest Privatisation by the back door.  The case is not local but it is another such example of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that our natural environment is being inflicted with?  There was a great fanfare in 2010 with the publication of the ‘Lawton Report’ or to give it its full title Making Space for Nature …. the subsequent silence is almost deafening?  Then we had the State of Nature Report and that appeared to be a rallying cry to arms, but …. where is the ‘conservation’ party now when we need an alternative to the meagre if any offerings of the ‘mainstream’ political parties?  Master blogger Mark Avery offers an interesting series of posts which offer readers insight into the Fineshade case.  One might wonder if the series will become as long running as that of the ‘Wuthering Moors’ case?

Of other campaigning blog posts, Miles King asks of us ‘We need to talk about Defra’   His insightful analysis offers good background to the complexities of the current predicament the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.  It is interesting to read also the amount of cuts that are scheduled for Defra, so why do their agencies not secure the support of campaigning conservationists, of naturalists and grassroots communities?  Why do they not work with grassroots activists to secure local support?  The mainstream NGOs who have been the recipients of their table crumbs (project funding) may well see more commercial opportunities should they be culled in 14 weeks?

King concludes that …. none of these things will happen while politicians continue to see nature as a side-issue. Only a change in the way society views nature will lead to a shift in the position of politicians and how they view nature. This is what we all need to work on.  Read the full text of his post We need to talk about Defra.

Greenblobpride

So, we all need to play a part and not let the apathy or attrition stand in our way?  Critical mass and collective collaborative campaigning is needed …. here’s to an inspirational networking session on 21 March, a legacy event subsequent to the momentum generated from Hen Harrier Day 2014.

Hen-Harrier-Day-lg

 There are events planned for 2015 to continue to raise the profile of illegal persecution of birds of prey, notably the magnificent ‘Skydancer’.  See some after thoughts on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime website posted shortly after the events.  Mark Avery too provided afterthoughts and further comments.

 

BEES still under pressure: eBay BEE ban, to BEE or not to BEE?

March 29, 2014

Readers will be used to our posts asking people to consider signing various epetitions, writing to MPs about topical environmental issues ….

Yesterday we posted an update on the plight of bees, we encouraged readers to submit responses to the Defra consultation on a pollinators strategy.

 

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Image: Bombus lucorum (White-tailed Bumble Bee) Copyright: Tim Melling.

Today, we report on the recent issue surrounding sales of the banned chemical imidacloprid through eBay38 degrees who are working with Buglife, and are asking account holders to contact eBay to point out the issue of illegal sales.   For a more detailed explanation see the 38 degree blog post of 28 March eBay: killing our bees AGAIN. 

If you have an eBay account then please consider asking eBay to ensure that all advertising of banned chemicals is taken down and any future advertising of such products is rejected.

Badgers, bees, buzzards …. ‘The State of Nature’?  Not doing too well at the moment it seems?  Astonishing when you consider that agri-industry is dependant upon pollinators?

 

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An excellent guest blog, by Rosemary Mason and Derek Thomas on the issue of neonicotinoids can be found on Mark Avery’s ‘Standing up for Nature’ and another appearing on the same topic by Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife.  An erudite analysis of the European debate on the banning is also provided by Mark Avery.

What is evident, is that a watchful eye is always needed and clearly one of the benefits of the wonderful www is the speed at which messages can be relayed, long live the community campaigners collaborative coalition …. a network not disimilar to hyphae that run as mycelium?

Doom & gloom or a call to arms?

August 31, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 


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a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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