Nature's Heroes - Blog

Nature's Heroes

Nature's Heroes
Welcome to the Nature's Heroes group. Shout, inspire, chat or share - we don’t mind how you do it but please help us to create a world richer in wildlife by encouraging others to take small steps for nature.

Nature's Heroes - Blog

News and updates on our campaigning work and the exploits some of our top 'Nature's Heroes' from Steven (Head of Campaigns), Steph and Kim (Campaigns Officers).
  • Westminster Government announces consultation on new Marine Conservation Zones

    Guest blog by Gareth Cunningham, Senior Policy Officer

    Britain is home to over 8 million seabirds and is one of the most important countries in the world for species such as puffins, razorbills and gannets. Our rich waters provide feeding grounds for seabirds and their hungry chicks, including globally important populations of some species. Back in 2016 we called on the UK Government to protect some of England’s most important areas for seabirds.

    Razorbill. Image courtesy of rspb-images.com

    Today the government has launched a consultation asking the public for their views about protecting a new group of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) – areas at sea where wildlife is protected from damaging activities. 41 new special places have been chosen for the public to comment on, and a further 12 existing MCZs will have new features added.

    We’re pleased to see the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, wanting to provide greater protection of our marine environment, and expand the UKs Blue belt of Marine Protected Areas. If done correctly, these new sites will be a bold step forwards in not only protecting, but also recovering the marine environment important to so many of the seabirds that live and visit our waters.

    There’s some good news in north-east England where a new site for eider, Berwick to St.Marys MCZ, has been proposed. This area encompasses the Farne Islands and Coquet Island which are the main breeding areas for common eiders on the east coast of England and will provide year round protection for this species.

    Common eider. Image courtesy of rspb-images.com

    We are also pleased to see the proposal to add razorbill as a feature of the existing Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone. It is an area where razorbill numbers are in decline and we hope the proposed designation will be one way of helping reverse this decline.

    However, on the flip side the consultation does not include any additional protection for seabirds in the south west of England, including much needed protection for black-necked grebe.

    We will be reading the consultation in detail and publish our full response to the consultation in due course.

    In the meantime our friends at The Wildlife Trusts will soon be launching an action giving people the chance to have their say and support these new MCZ's. We'll let you know as soon as their action goes live.

  • Your fantastic impact so far on the future of our countryside

    The UK Government’s consultation on the Future of Food, Farming and the Environment closed on 8th May, having received over 44,000 responses. Almost 6,000 of those responses were your personal views: the responses you sent made up over 10% of the voices clamouring to tell the Westminster Government what should come next. That’s a really big deal.

    You’ve sent a clear message to Westminster’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove and his Department that you really want to see farming that restores nature alongside growing quality food, and you’re not alone. Polling by WWF just a week before the consultation deadline showed that 91% of the UK public want public money for agriculture to be spent supporting farmers to protect nature.

    Nor did your interest and impact stop at Defra’s doors, or even England’s borders. You also wrote to your MPs in your thousands to let them know this matters to you, reaching not only 517 of the MPs in England, which was where most of the UK Government consultation applied, but together getting your message heard across 92% of all constituencies across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

     

    More consultations are on their way

    That reach is important, because over the summer we expect public consultations in both Northern Ireland (with news reports suggesting it could be soon) and Wales too (here’s more about what the consultation should look at from our friends at Food Network Wales). There are vibrant and growing conversations on the future of our food systems, from field to fork, everywhere.

    And, speaking of conversations, last month we invited you to get involved in the Scottish Food Coalition’s ‘Kitchen Table Conversations’. On 23 May, they’ll be launching the report of all the conversations had across Scotland, and calling on the Scottish Government to ‘Bring on the Food Bill’ and launch the long-promised public consultation in Scotland on their proposed law for a better Scottish food system.

    We’re eagerly awaiting these chances to make sure all the relevant decision-makers hear our thoughts and to secure our wildlife and environment’s important place underpinning sustainable food and farming for the future.

     

    These debates and decisions matter wherever we are

    Come the autumn, MPs from across the UK will debate a new Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons. Whilst it won’t set agriculture policy for the whole UK as farming is devolved, it will be the first legislative proposal about our farming and countryside, determine how much funding is available for everyone (and how much of that benefits nature) and be debated and voted on by MPs from all four nations.

    It’s a chance for them to either uphold the positive environmental rhetoric we’ve heard on farming and nature from many of our Governments. Or to seek to weaken and undermine it, keeping our agriculture system as it currently stands, as the biggest driver of wildlife loss across the country, undermining our future ability to produce healthy, nutritious food.

    We know that the Bill needs to be more ambitious than early proposals are suggesting it will be. Our food production depends on a healthy environment, so this law needs to enshrine a thriving environment at the heart of its purpose. We need all decision-makers across the UK to support high ambitions for our shared environment.

     

    A series of steps that could have huge positive impacts

    These consultations on the future of food and farming, and this forthcoming Bill, are just a few of a series of decisions being made across the four nations of the UK that could have the biggest positive impact on nature for generations. Transformative change is within our grasp, and we hope you’ll join us to push for it at every opportunity we get.

    Which is why it’s so important be telling our MPs that the environment matters right now. As nature-lovers we need to keep pushing for high standards on the environment, whatever decisions are being made. We need our MPs to push that message, and through the debating and voting power they hold in Parliament hold the UK Government to account to secure an international reputation for those high standards.

    Thank you for joining us at the start of this journey. Keep an eye on your inbox and campaigns update for news of the next steps and of course, if you’re not already, sign up to be a Campaign Champion.

    In the meantime, why not swing by and see us, or visit a farm near you, and get to know a bit more about how your food is grown? Here's where you'll find us over the next couple of months:

    • Catch up on the highlights of our attendance at the Balmoral Show (16-19 May) on Twitter
    • Visit our demonstration farm, Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire, Lake Vyrnwy Farm in Wales, or a farm near you on Open Farm Sunday (Sunday 10 June)
    • Love the call of the curlew? Find out about award-winning radio and TV producer Mary Colwell’s new book, and how farming could help bring back curlews, at Hay Festival (1st June)
    • Visit our stand at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh to talk all things good food and farming (21-24 June)
    • Come and chat to us on our stand at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd (23-26 July)

  • Save the triple-protected Coul Links from becoming a golf course

    **The Consultation is still open. There is still time to make your voice heard**

    To the south of Loch Fleet, near Dornoch on Scotland’s north east coast, sits Coul Links. It’s a mosaic of interlinked different dune habitats, transitioning from mobile sand dunes right by the beach, through wild flower rich stabilised dunes and seasonally flooded “dune slacks”, to heathery heath covering ancient dunes on the inland side.

    Each habitat is individually important and all of them are increasing rare.

    Three of Coul Links' dune habitats. From right to left, small dunes near the sea, established dunes covered in yellow and purple wildflowers and established dunes with water-filled 'slacks'

    Many of the animals, birds and insects living across the Coul Links depend upon free movement between the different dune habitats.

    Coul Links, as well as Loch Fleet to the north and the Moray Firth to the east, is protected for wildlife. In fact, the whole area is so important that it’s not just a national nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest, but protected at European and global-level too. That’s three levels of protection for a place that’s special because of its undisturbed, connected habitats.

     

    Golf course threat

    Coul Links is one of the last areas of undeveloped species-rich dune habitat in Scotland – there are few other places like it in the world.

    But in spite of its special value for nature, Coul Links is now being considered for a new, multi-million pound golf course spearheaded by multi-millionaire American investors, Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock. On 29 September 2017 the developers submitted a planning application to create a course across the dunes.

    The construction of a network of tees, fairways, manicured greens and footpaths weaving through Coul Links would destroy the unique collection of dune habitats. Wildlife would no longer be able to move freely between the remaining fragmented pockets of natural vegetation. Many of the birds and other animals that currently use the site would be scared off by increased and regular human presence and be unlikely to return.

    Almost a decade ago approval was given to the environmentally damaging Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire. It’s unthinkable that lessons have not been learnt from this and now another rare duneland is in danger of being lost in the same way.

    One of Scotland’s last wildlife sites of its kind would become a ‘paper park’ – protected in writing but with no wildlife left. A biological desert painted green with perfect grass.

     

    Send your objection

    You can speak out against this atrocity – the application is open for comment.

    Please email the Highland Council at eplanning@highland.gov.uk with the application reference 17/04601/FUL in the subject line, or follow the instructions on Council’s website to submit a comment objecting to the development via its e-planning portal*.

    Here are some of the key points you might want to include in your message:

    • Coul Links is the last complete dune system that has not been dissected by human development in Scotland. We have already lost the similar dune complexes that existed elsewhere in eastern Scotland.
    • It is supposed to be protected from development by its designations as
      • a UK Site of Special Scientific Interest
      • a Special Protected Area within Europe and
      • a Ramsar site – an internationally important wetland.
    • The proposed golf course would make a mockery of this protection by destroying the linked collections of different habitats across the dunes. The wildlife living there would stranded in fragments of habitat or scared off by increased and regular human presence. The development should not be allowed to go ahead.

    If you live in the Highlands, please also send a copy of your objection to your local Councillors – find your Councillors’ contact details here.

    You can help us track the impact of the campaign – please let us know at campaigns@rspb.org.uk if you've sent an objection, and any replies you receive.

    We’re working with the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Buglife, Plantlife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and the Marine Conservation Society to defend Coul Links from this development. You can find out more on our Coul Links casework page.

     

    *Your comments will be public - the Council will publish all the comments they receive, along with your name, alongside the planning application on their website. They will black out signatures and other personal information.

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    Latest updates to this blog:

    03/05/2018 by Kim Matthews - blog republished and updated to include the name of the second American investor and to remove the previous consultation deadline as it is still running. We currently expect the Highland Council to make a decision on 5 June 2018, but this may change.