Last week I found Cowslip and Small Scabious in flower. I reckon the frosts then the mild weather triggered them. Have you seen any unseasonal flowers?
Archive for the ‘biodiversity’ Category
Although it’s good news that Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) will be spared the axe of the comprehensive spending review – what about the people who administer the grant scheme?
Natural England faces a heavy budget squeeze – they’ve had a recruitment freeze for most of 2010. Delays to applications already suffer significant delays, and the expectation among NE staff is that there will soon be fewer of them… to do the same work!
Dr Martin Warren at Butterfly Conservation said “It is great news that extra funds have been found to support HLS, which is crucial for halting the decline of our farmland wildlife, including many declining butterflies and moths. But it is difficult to reconcile these cuts with the claim to be the Greenest Government ever. We will be monitoring the true impact closely as the situation becomes clearer in coming months”
Mark Avery at RSPB said, “Organisations like the Environment Agency and Natural England will be considerably smaller and there will be less money available to spend on conservation projects aimed at halting the decline in biodiversity in this country.”
People worth their salt
I hope Natural England doesn’t get rid of the teams who make Environmental Stewardship really work. NE has specialist advisors on the ground, working with farmers and landowners to help them choose the best options and pushing for best value for money in each grant aid agreement. These people are precious to England’s wildlife. (The same applies for each national agency, obviously. Sorry, I would comment more specifically on the other parts of the UK, but only want to write about what I know. )
Could pro-active change be more effective than cuts?
Defra has to consider what it’s trying to achieve. Bear in mind the UK’s failure to deliver biodiversity targets – along with everyone else floundering at the UN Biodiversity Convention at Nagoya. Why constrain Natural England at this point?
I’m all for chopping bureaucracy – and there are bound to be savings ripe for the picking – but they must be cost-effective. Some of the people I speak to over the phone are new to the job (a worrying proportion of them) and whilst I believe they should keep and invest in current staff, NE could save money by simplifying the process, and using the most knowledgeable office staff to tackle queries and problems.
In fact, a new web-based FAQ forum could ease the enquiry workload and help everyone to get things done faster.
The government could also save money by removing barriers to effective collaboration between agencies and government departments. One bloody obvious example – NE and RPA use different mapping systems and databases. Each has different field data sets for the same farm. This guarantees a particular rate of failure to get things right first time – probably close to 100% based on my experience.
Ask any ecologist or farm wildlife adviser – we can expect errors to be embedded in the application pack they produce. Field numbers, maps, contact details… everything needs checking and single errors can require replacement of the whole pack. (a kilo of paper?) Oh, and if you’re organic, you can expect your of certifying body to keep an out-of-date land schedule, with different field numbers. That in itself could delay your application, and might be worth updating with the current RLR numbers. The waste generated by dysfunctional system is massive.
According to recent news items, farmers and land managers in England’s Bovine TB hotspots might soon be able to obtain licences from Natural England allowing them to kill badgers. Bovine TB is a major problem with 30,000 cattle slaughtered in 2009 in a bid to control it.
The CLA welcomed rumours that Defra could change the rules and allow licenced badger culls in the areas of England most affected by the disease.
CLA President William Worsley said, “We are very pleased that it appears that farmers and land managers in Bovine TB ‘hotspots’ will be allowed to apply for a Natural England licence to cull badgers. Permitting a cull in the worst affected parts of England is absolutely the right decision.”
Natural England would, it seems, have to rethink its policy position in response to the latest Defra thinking.
Currently the NE website explains why badger culling for Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) has not been something for which they provided a licence. Their website says (12 Seot 2010): “Natural England accepts that badgers are a disease reservoir and their role in transmitting bTB to cattle cannot be ignored. However, the scientific evidence indicates that culling badgers can exacerbate the spread of the disease in cattle through perturbation of the badger population.”
The Secretary of State back in 2008 (Hilary Benn) announced that killing badgers would not form part of the strategy to tackle bTB – a decision reviewable in the light of any new research evidence about the potential value of killing your local badgers. Defra set up the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project.
Badger vaccinations in Gloucestershire will be featured in the next episode of BBC Countryfile 19 Sept 2010.
There has been plenty of talk during 2010 of u-turns and counter u-turns on this issue of to kill or not to kill. In July the Badger Trust challenged a cull planned in western Wales, and their campaign succeeded when the Appeal Court found the Welsh Assembly Government did not have a proper justification for the exercise. It has been suggested that all the Welsh Assembly agriculture department needs to do is reconfigure a fresh project to meet the necessary requirements and has intentions to establish another cull.
This was despite the 2009 research which showed how unhelpful killing out badgers is in practice. The same was true of both proactive and reactive culls in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) – a large scale experiment which killed 11,000 badgers.
Defra’s web pages on bTB and the badger killing question features research papers on the effectiveness of shooting, trapping, snares and gassing.
Gassing methods discussed include suffocating the occupants of a badger sett with the fumes from a badly tuned petrol engine; an easy option with death-camp practicality.
“No country has met its targets to protect nature. We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. If current levels [of destruction] go on we will reach a tipping point very soon. The future of the planet now depends on governments taking action in the next few years.”
Ahmed Djoghlaf, the secretary-general of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – The Guardian – 17 August 2010
The lead charity for flutterbyes – Butterfly Conservation – has teamed up with Marks and Spencer to launch the biggest ever public butterfly count to date.
BC says, “You can join in and help us track butterflies, so we know where they need our help the most. Find a sunny spot in your garden, local park or other open space and spend 15 minutes counting butterflies.”
For more information, to download an ID chart and submit your sightings please visit the big butterfly count website.
No matter how many dedicated organisations like Amphibian and Reptile Conservation try to halt the decline of our native species and habitats, the decline continues. According to IUCN (the…
more at ARC News >>> arc-trust.blogspot.com
Berkshire Nature Conservation Forum has launched “Have you seen me?” postcards to encourage people to send in their sightings of Stag Beetle, Hedgehog, Bullfinch and Slow-Worm.
Free to download here:
Find some astounding pictures at…