Leadership for nature

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You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

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

Leadership for nature

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This summer, I have visited different parts of the organisation hearing about and seeing some of the great work that we are doing: from seabird protection through to moorland restoration.   And this week, I am with my colleagues in the South West of England who recently reported the fabulous news about how we have boosted the population of the little tern colony at Chesil Beach in Dorset in partnership with Chesil Bank and Fleet Nature Reserve, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Portland Court Leet, Crown Estate. As always, it is hugely inspiring talking to colleagues about the impact for nature they are having with partners.  

And last Thursday, I didn't have to go far to be inspired. I walked into the canteen at the RSPB's Headquarters to find a delegation from China on one table and one from Liberia on another. The former included six members of the Jiangsu Yancheng World Heritage Application team who were keen to explore how we can collaborate on coastal wetland conservation on the Yellow Sea to protect species like spoon-billed sandpiper. The latter was working with the RSPB tropical forest team and colleagues from TWIN to develop options for sustainable cocoa farming which as we are demonstrating in Sierra Leone can be crucial to both protecting forests like Gola and providing sustainable livelihoods for those that live there.  

It was a great reminder not only of the scale of ambition that we have but also of our absolute determination to find willing partners with whom we can work to find lasting solutions to 21st century conservation problems.  As my colleague Nicola Crockford reported on twitter last week, news from China was very, very encouraging.  While the delegation from Yancheng was flying to Britain last Wednesday, the Chinese State Council issued a Circular on Strengthening the Protection of Coastal Wetlands & Strictly Controlling Reclamation.  There's loads of great stuff in there but in short, the circular gives a massive boost to coastal wetland protection and restoration two years before China hosts the crucial 2020 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (when new global ambition for nature will be set).  It is a welcome sign that the Chinese Government is prepared to take action at home to reinforce its global leadership ambitions.

And that's what we need from more countries.  For example, we need the Scottish Government to do the right thing and reject the application for a golf course to be built on Coul Links - a site that is internationally important for wildlife.  In England, we need to save Lodge Hill (our most important site for nightingales) from development.  In Wales, we need to save the Gwent Levels from the M4 extension.  In Northern Ireland, of which 75% is farmed, we need a new agriculture policy with environment at the heart of it so that nature and wildlife can thrive in our countryside.

Leadership for nature requires strong ambition to be backed by coherent and consistent action.  The UK Government has rightly been applauded for its stated desire to restore nature in a generation and it is good to see the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, back this up with last week by helping to release of beavers in to the Forest of Dean.  Yet, bigger tests are still to come.  Governments need to grip both the detail and the big picture.  So, not only do we need to move away from granting licenses to trial brood management for hen harriers (on which we heard today that the RSPB has been granted permission for a judicial review challenging Natural England's decision), but we also need more environmental substance (laws, enforcement powers, funding etc) in the UK Government proposals for life outside of the European Union.  

I shall say more about these things next week.  

For now though, I am off to find those peregrines that distracted me while in a meeting this afternoon in Exeter.

Comments
  • Thanks for the reply Martin I hope you address the story about the guy you are employing that is a Grouse shooter, I'm supposed to go to Sheffield for the Hen Harrier Day Saturday knowing you employ a person I'm supposed to protest against..to say I'm disillusioned is an understatement.

  • Hi Alan,

    Deciding to introduce any form of predator control - lethal or non-lethal - is something we never take lightly. It’s always based on scientific evidence and guided by our Council-agreed policy. We understand this is a serious and emotive subject, which is why we do our best to be honest and transparent with everything we do, including publishing an annual blog on the predator control we do. Our use of lethal control is only ever a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.

    Here's the latest blog with the details: ww2.rspb.org.uk/.../the-conservationist-39-s-dilemma-an-update-on-the-science-policy-and-practice-of-the-impact-of-predators-on-wild-birds-5.aspx

    In case that is being promoted today, the control is needed to help save the curlew, a bird we have a global responsibility to protect and one that is likely to disappear from some places in the UK if we don’t act to save it now. The work we are doing in the Peak District is part of the Curlew Trial Management project, designed to help restore population of this rapidly declining species.

    I shall say more about this later today.  

    Best wishes,

    Martin

  • What about a response to this story Martin ww2.rspb.org.uk/.../197384.aspx