Posted: Wednesday 24th August 2016 by ColinsBlog
Eades Meadow sunrise (c) Andy Bartlett
Our Director's comments on the way forward for nature conservation in Worcestershire and the UK following the EU Referendum vote...
Timing, they say, is everything. Whilst I had a notion that this blog would be a vehicle for celebrating and sharing all the best bits of being a Wildlife Trust Director – the reserves, the wildlife, the volunteers and supporters, the great projects we run with all sorts of people - I realise that I can’t really start with anything other than the vote to leave the EU. But now that the dust has started to settle and we have all begun to get used to the idea – although Owen Smith has now decided that we should reconsider - I agree that we really must see this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a new approach for nature conservation in this country, perhaps our greatest challenge for many decades.
But how, I ask myself, does a small organisation with many existing commitments and limited resources make a difference? My deliberations have led to two key approaches: Focus and Partnership.
So where should we focus?
We have a responsibility to promote a bold and visionary approach to nature’s recovery in Worcestershire
We have a responsibility to promote a bold and visionary approach to nature’s recovery in Worcestershire, one that provides benefits not only for wildlife but also for people – an enhanced environment, reduced flood risk and so on. But in the short term, the UK will be deciding how to re-construct the regulatory and funding regimes, derived from EU directives and policies, many of which have been a positive force for nature conservation.
Perhaps the most urgent will be reform of agricultural policy and funding. The Common Agricultural Policy, and the £3.6bn that is spent on it each year in the UK, drives the management of around 70% of our land. I’m sure the % figure in Worcestershire is even higher. Yet only around 16% of that is spent on environmentally beneficial activities. We shall be campaigning for a new regime that minimises the negative impacts of agriculture and better rewards farmers for doing those things that benefit wildlife and society.
The EU has provided strong legislation for the environment and has invested in schemes that have helped to reduce and reverse the declines in our wildlife. At a time when there is real pressure for de-regulation, we must make sure that these are consolidated and wherever possible, strengthened.
And in the marine environment the priorities are to continue to press for more Marine Protected Areas, better offshore development planning and improved fisheries management.
Our natural modus operandi has always been to work in partnership, starting, of course with our own federation – The Wildlife Trusts. Together we shall be planning our approach to a post-Brexit UK at a conference to be held in early September.
In Worcestershire we are starting to plan a campaign that is likely to span several years and will necessarily identify opportunities for collaboration with a variety of partners. There will be times when we shall be asking members and supporters to join us in campaigning and lobbying but I suspect a good deal of progress will come from developing our relationships with key decision-makers and influencers, locally, regionally and nationally. Already we have contributed to the Environment Audit Committee’s current consultation on the future of agriculture and we have offered to host a meeting with them at Lower Smite Farm.
I am planning to use this blog to look at some of these areas in more detail over the next few months and to react to topical events and issues such as the imminent announcement on further culling of badgers and the publication of the latest State of Nature report.