Testing times for wildlife

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Martin Harper's blog

I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t

Testing times for wildlife

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Nature is in trouble.

[I know this is not the most cheerful way to start a working week - but I had a difficult weekend - including a disappointing hour spent wildlife-watching in the garden for Make Your Nature Count.  Where were my goldfinches?]

The statistics (particularly from the UN but also from Defra) tell us what we probably don't want to hear - species populations a cross the world have crashed (on average, by 40% over the past 40 years); habitats are fragmented; protected areas are not being managed as they should (or, as is the case in the marine environment, not even in place); rainforests are being lost at the alarming rate of 6 million hectares a year and our marine environment is being degraded by human activities. 

We also know that the problems facing nature are set to get worse - with climate change compounding many of the 'traditional' threats of habitat destruction and overexploitation.  The UK National Ecosystem Assessment confirmed as much last week.

This is why I am eagerly anticipating tomorrow's publication of the UK Government's Natural Environment White Paper.  It should give us an indication of the UK Government's plans to bring to life its coalition agreement ambition to "protect wildlife ... and restore biodiversity" (and thereby meet its EU and international obligations).  We expect it to cover England, the UK Overseas Territories and the contribution that the UK plans to make to global conservation efforts.

We have great hopes for this document and have invested much time and effort in offering our best ideas to government.   I outlined some of our thinking in an article in the Guardian last week.

We'll be judging the document against seven tests.   I'll tell you tomorrow how well we think they have done.   Am hopeful that, after I've read the White Paper, I'll have cheered up a bit.  We'll see. 

Here are the tests...

1. Recognition that we have a moral obligation to conserve wildlife

2. Clear leadership, a plan for success and a commitment to track progress toward measurable outcomes

3. A commitment to make the most of existing legislation and meet existing targets for protecting our finest wildlife sites and recovering threatened species

4. The introduction of new ways of working which allow more people to do more for wildlife close to where they live

5. A convincing funding strategy for the natural environment

6. Proof of shared responsibility across government

7. Demonstration that govenment is prepared to intervene to tackle longstanding environmental problems by committing to end the use of peat in horticulture.

  • Hi Martin,crikey after reading that I hope that after the White Paper Report I will be a bit more cheerful.Reading your very good blog made me think what a big job yourself,Prof Bob Watson and others have.Read somewhere that by the end of century which in the big scheme of things is a very short time that 75% of land will be urbanised into big cities.

    Cynical me thinks MPs will care more about claiming every penny of expenses by new ways than be concerned with wildlife and seems even new P M is more concerned with overseas aid than our own environment and wildlife,please do not get me wrong I have nothing against aid but experience shows us it goes to wrong people and is generally wasted.