Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife Trusts’

Reflections, accountability & action?

September 5, 2015

Wednesday’s Guardian sees Chris Packham slaming “shameful silence of Britains conservation charities” and particularly asking serious questions about the disappointing performance of the large and affluent NGOs on the issue of illegal persecution of raptors, most especially Hen Harriers.  There is also much discussion about this ‘deafening silence’ in terms of organisational support on the popular blog site Standing up for Nature.

The Hawk and Owl Trust are insistent that to Ban driven grouse shooting would be counter productive, but fail to mention the amount of public money large shooting estates receive and how heather burning or predator management provides (or not) public benefit.  Inglorious on the other hand provides an excellent resume of the issue.

The September issue of BBC Wildlife magazine also sees Packham saying that “It’s shameful that some conservation charities won’t stand up for foxes, badgers and hen harriers”. 

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Perhaps their senior staff and maybe trustees will be wincing at his words?  Hopefully some of their members will, prompted by Packham ask questions about the failure of the affluent almost quasi quangoes to challenge and to champion the cause for wildlife conservation?  The National Trust too does not escape comment, partricularly in respect of the upland moors it owns and manages.  Peak Malpractice was an expose of raptor persecution back in 2007 but what is perhaps more astonishing is the fact that the situation has worsened, hence the Ban driven grouse shooting epetion as well as a range of other actions designed to raise the profile of illegal persecution and wildlife crime.  Readers will recall that Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) was a ‘community’ reaction to failure by various organisations who conservationists might reasonably have expected to champion such cause.

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One might comment that it is hardly surprising therefore that despite austere times, new conservation charities are still being created?  Simon King, the President of the Wildlife Trusts, has set up one such venture with education at its heart, the Simon King Wildlife Project.  One might wonder why after all, with a link to a network of 47 charities across the country he has done this?  It seems reasonable to assume that the county trusts ought to be able to engage, educate, enthuse and empower local actions?  The RSPB too has local member groups but their primary purpose appears to be fund raising with ocassional coach trips, nothing wrong with such aims but where do people turn when they want to protect their local woodland or heathland from threat of development?  The march of metal monsters creating rings of steel and the recent government push for fracking are other issues which have mobilised local action.

There are perhaps good reasons for the affluent NGOs to sit on the fence, but after a while the splinters must start to sting from uncomfortable squirming?  Accountability to members or to tax payers in the case of Public Bodies appears not to be a popular element of the government promoted ‘open and transparent’ or conduct in public life agenda?

How does the community, collectively challenge actions it might perceive to be at variance with the public interest?  How many of the large membership organisations offer infrastructure support for grassroots conservation?  FOE and CPRE are a couple which spring to mind, TCV offers help for groups involved in practical conservation but there appears a gap in the market?  Voluntary Action and CVS groups can help small local groups but they are more geared up to working with health or social care groups, luncheon clubs and the likes.  If local action groups as described above were ‘fundable’ then the chances are that it would be offered, but would government want to empower local action?  Local action opposing fracking has exposed the reality of the promise of local decisions on local issues when central government has over-ruled local planning authorities to approve developments and promote fracking, how do local communities challenge multi-million corporations when they have such support?

There are tools to help, there is an amazing choice of epetition options that community campaigners can use.  The government website option petition.parliament.uk is certainly worth considering, if it achieves 10,000 signatures then the department or government agency it involves is required to provide a response.  If it reaches 100,000 signatures then the issue it raises is discussed in Parliament.  2015 saw the time that epetitions are allowed to run on the site reduced from 12 to six months.  Mark Avery elected to use this option to Ban driven grouse shooting.  There are 38 degrees, Avaaz , SumofUs , Change.org and many other web options available.  They are easy to use, the effectiveness in combination with social media has been demonstrably efficient and such examples would be the government u-turn when the ConDems tried to sell off the public forest estate.  Elsewhere on this blog and on others there has been examples offered where the disposal of public forest has been achieved through other options, but that is another issue and should not distract from the value of collective and collaborative critical mass challenging for the public interest?

GOV.UK also provides information on how to make a Freedom of Information request, but another excellent tool available is the Freedom of Information website “whatdotheyknow“.  Public Bodies are required to provide responses to requests as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.  The Information Commissioners Office is also an option where requests have been declined for what might be perceived as no valid or justified reason.  FoI or EIR requests can be addressed directly to the Public Body, agency or authority through a dedicated office(r) or via “whatdotheyknow“.  This option is one by which other campaigners can benefit through open access.  It is a useful resource as researchers can gain connsiderable intelligence on topics or on particular organisations in receipt of public funds.

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Rally for Nature to Westminster & the case for Fracking in Haxey?

December 8, 2014

Readers unable to visit Westminster tomorrow to connect with the various parties and politicians and ask them to “Rally for Nature” have hopefully dropped them a line asking them that they take a little time out from their hectic schedules to listen to erudite “Conservation” party people who have, the day before the end of the inglorious grouse shooting season felt compelled to travel to London to ask them to act in matters crucial for the wellbeing of the natural environment and the wildlife which is there (or should be) for all to enjoy.

Interestingly I received a request to validate my standing as a constituent and I was provided with a link, where I was told I could find out who my MP was.  It didn’t work!  I suspect that even if it had it would offer me a neighbouring MP (someone I generally get on with ok), oh the joys of Government funded software?  Anyway, let’s see what replies or excuses we get and let’s see what the media make of the “Rally” – good luck all and I wish I could be with you!

In the interim, another reminder that what looks like an excellent film is scheduled for local screening at Haxey Memorial Hall tomorrow evening at 7pm.  As with all propoganda pedalled by private companies whose principle motivation is profit I recommend that we should look behind the promises and seek out the facts, robust scientific evidence and then – ever an agnostic, analyse it and make up our own minds on the merits of any case.  Let’s hope that there are representatives of the fracking industry present to answer questions and provide assurances, after all both sides deserve the opportunity to present their case ….

Haxey Fracking Poster

I look for information through trusted sources and the October edition of British Wildlife magazine had an excellent item in its ‘Conservation News’ columns.

Apparently, according to recent research the UK holds enough shale gas to supply its entire gas demand for 470 years, promising to solve the country’s energy crisis and end its reliance on fossil-fuel imports from unstable markets. University of Manchester scientists say that they have now conducted one of the most thorough examinations of the likely environmental impacts of shale-gas exploitation in the’ UK in a bid to inform the debate surrounding fracking.  The paper Life cycle environmental impacts of UK shale gas by Laurence Stamford and Adisa Azapagic is available via Science Direct Applied Energy as a download.

As any reasonable person would expect, there  are pros and cons.  The review of recent research also identified an American study presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society in August.  The American study raised concerns over several ingredients of fracking fluids. The scientists say that, of nearly 200 commonly used compounds in fracking, very little is known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals. Among the compounds used are gelling agents to thicken the fluids, biocides to prevent microbes from growing, sand to prop open tiny cracks in rocks, and compounds to prevent pipe corrosion. The researchers state that there are a number of chemicals, such as corrosion inhibitors and biocides in particular, being used in reasonably high concentrations that potentially could have adverse effects, and some are of known toxicity to aquatic life. For about one-third of the approximately 190 compounds which the scientists identified as ingredients in various fracking formulas, very little information was found about toxicity and physical and chemical properties. 

Ready, steady ….

July saw the opening of the bidding process for companies seeking licences to explore for onshore oil and gas, with a very large proportion of England, and lesser areas of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, on offer. The primary intention of this licensing round is to enable companies to apply for licences to explore for shale-gas extraction. The Department of Energy and Climate Change will require detailed ‘Statements of Environmental Awareness’ to be submitted with licence applications covering National Parks, The Broads, World Heritage Sites and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ‘to demonstrate applicants’ understanding of the environmental sensitivities relevant to the area proposed’ – but there is no mention of SSSls or European Protected sites. This the government should urgently review, so say The Angling Trust, National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon and Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.  Earlier this year, this coalition published a major review of the risks that shale-gas extraction could pose in the UK, which concluded that fracking includes a range of significant risks to the natural environment and that government policy to address these risks was not fit for purpose.

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In the report, Are we fit to frack? the group put forward a number of other recommendations that dealt with how the fracking industry needs to be regulated.  These include, for example, the requirement that all applicants for fracking developments undertake a statutory environmental- impact assessment, and independent monitoring of key environmental risks such as methane leakage.  Not all of these recommendations have been addressed by the planning guidance issued on the launch of the bidding round.  Thus, the ‘conservation’ coalition [as oppossed to the political ConDem coalition] is calling again for all protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks to be frack-free zones, for full environmental assessments to be carried out for each drilling proposal, and for the shale-gas industry to pay the costs of its regulation and any pollution clean-ups.  It is worth reading the coalition’s response to the government’s planning guidance.   Another report, providing the evidence base for the coalition’s standpoint Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the UK: Examining the evidence for potential environmental impacts’ is another document worth examining.

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A sceptic might be forgiven for enquiring if the failure to require full open transparent conduct of business be another item on the catalogue of concerns that we need to issue to anyone interested in our vote come the General Election in just 149 days time?

 

 

 

 

Defra …. fit for purpose following recent revised (again) bTB data?

September 14, 2014

Defra have recently released

Revisions to bovine TB statistics – September 2014

This two page document, is certainly worth scrutinising and makes quite astonishing reading with errors in Government reporting ranging from 27% to 233%.  Civil servants and Ministers might be tempted to blame IT systems but surely, ultimately it is they who were responsible for ensuring that at the start of the programme everything should have been beyond question and fit for purpose to evidence, openly and transparently, demonstrate robust methodology and professional delivery through humane practice with quality assurance in terms of reporting outcomes and outputs?  I suppose the words “should have” are sadly no longer applicable to Government Departments which are an inconvenience to the “higher politics” of political agendas influenced by industry advocates?

This is the most recent revision, released very quitely and something which appears to be an ongoing trend and something which raises the issue of a Government agency ability to provide accurate figures.  Perhaps this inability to accurately record data is one of the reasons that the new Minister Liz Truss has not reinstated the Independent Expert Panel?  No there is clear need for independence then one might reasonably expect their recall?

We can offer no better analysis that that provided by Miles King on his excellent blog posted today which concludes:

  • We obviously cannot believe anything Defra statistics say about the extent of Bovine TB breakdowns, or the trend in breakdowns.
  • Defra are trying to cover up their monumental statistical cock-up.
  • The very data used to justify the Badger Cull is so badly flawed that Natural England must reconsider whether the Cull can be allowed, given the rules that determine its legality.

One might wonder if a critical mass of correspondence were to make its way to Ministers and indeed local MPs on environmental issues then we might collectively bring about reform?

To that end I have written through my constituency MP to the Minister Liz Truss, I will keep you posted on any replies received.  If all readers were to do similar then perhaps …. just perhaps as a General Elections looms?

Thus far an expenditure of around £7.29m for just two areas and what has it achieved so far, flawed data, inhumane practice ….

The Wildlife Trusts and others are calling for more work to be done on vaccination programmes and the public have got behind that approach and made substantive donations to appeals.  Badger Vaccination Report 2011 – 13 clearly demonstrates an effective option which good science and logic would reason ought to be part of the tool kit operated to effect resolution of this problem?

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I recently tried to locate a copy of the 1997 Kreb’s Report , “Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers” via the Defra website only to learn that the full report was not available.  An executive summary page was available.  A sceptic might be forgiven for wondering why Defra would no longer wish to make that document publically available?  Their website does indicate that a full report is available in the Defra library, it does not indicate how one would obtain a copy!

Not to be deterred, Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers Report to the Rt Hon Dr Jack Cunningham MP  (1997) can still be located with persistence.

There is an epetition calling upon Liz Truss – call an immediate end to the badger cull, which readers might like to consider signing after they’ve penned some ‘poetic prose’ perhaps to their parliamentary representatives?  I suspect that sadly this petition may (no pun intended) go the same way as did Sir Brian’s, but that should not stop us campaigning?

Finally for this post …. to add the heartening news that the Badger Trust have been successful in their application to the High Court to appeal the Administrative Court decsion that the Minister Liz Truss and Natural England acted lawfully and that legitimate expectation was not binding upon the Minister or NE.


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Mark Avery

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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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