Now is a time for conservation to strengthen, not give up


By James Swyer, GWCT Press and Publications Manager

Earlier this month, conservationist Mick Green posted a challenging and emotive article ‘Admitting defeat: why I am quitting nature conservation’. It attracted a lot of attention from both journalists and the conservation organisations he accused of ‘not delivering the product they are selling’.

There are undoubtedly some awkward truths raised in this piece. Mick argues that ‘we have the largest NGOs in Europe but have suffered the largest losses of nature across the continent’. It is hard to challenge that claim, but it requires context. Conservation and land management are funded, organised and promoted in far different ways throughout Europe and Britain stand much more as the exception than the rule when it comes to this.

He claims that ‘everything now requires huge proposals or policy statements which are passed round and endlessly edited … not about what occurs on the ground’. I don’t recognise the GWCT in that.

In fact, the piece left me proud to represent a small organisation punching above its weight. We are not sitting back on vast sums and hoping for wildlife to recover, but working hard to educate and inform those who can make it happen. That’s why more than two-thirds of our staff are scientific researchers or the advisors who help put their findings into action.

The article raises an even more awkward truth. Conservation is not about organisations alone. Thanks to the support of our members, we have the expertise and resource to research problems, find solutions and tell policymakers what needs to be done. We can undertake practical research to find ways to make conservation work in the real world, but we are not the ones to put it in to practice.

However many millions of pounds conservation charities spend on research, monitoring and promotion, whichever celebrity chooses to champion the cause, it is those working on the ground who can make a real difference. We can provide the science, but it is only as good as the change it can drive on the ground. Our series of Working Conservationists case studies show the impact individuals can have on species recovery and biodiversity the length and breadth of the country. These remarkable stories are cause for hope and determination, not resignation.

I can’t agree with Mick’s way forward, that we should ‘take the buggers to Court and force them to apply their own laws’. We have already seen the rise of conservation by litigation. Asking the public to pay for lawyers to send expensive letters to Defra doesn’t feel like conservation to me. We have already seen curlew become collateral damage in the Wild Justice campaign to change General Licences. This shouldn’t be ‘the new conservation’ – I want us to support the farmers, gamekeepers and land managers managing the landscape they know best, not solicitors looking for their next case to fight.

Mick Green also states that organisations “feed their members saccharine drivel in their magazines rather than having the call to arms that should be there”, so let me leave you with this. Right now, in unusual and unforeseen circumstances, we are working hard to deliver conservation gains across the countryside and to provide the research, advice and policy work needed to make it happen. We have had to make difficult decisions – many staff have had to be furloughed and all others have reduced their hours – as funding is due to be down by around £1 million. If you can support our work at this time, please do so here:

Please donate to help us continue our vital work during this difficult time



at 15:10 on 28/04/2020 by Patricia Doble

You are vitally important to counteract misleading statements statements in the media.

The Conservation bodies.

at 12:21 on 28/04/2020 by Alec Swan

I remember, many years ago, and when I worked as a 'keeper, and we had those two excellent bodies, The Nature Conservancy and the RSPB. Neither body had any power to speak of, but power and control weren't needed - we worked together and to a common goal. Now we have supposed Conservation Bodies - manipulating and using public opinion, generally via blatant mis-information, and their supposed power over our political elite is disingenuous at best, and results in Gov. decisions being made which are as skewed and frankly, wrong and the parallel exists with the Governments debacle-like handling of C-19. In short - Government has no interest in remedy or maintenance, their sole concern being that they remain in office. It would also appear that our fund reliant Conservation-advisors are similarly all jockeying for position, and are all competing for the available charitable donations and are all keen to attract a celebrity who may even succeed in supplying a level of assumed but flawed credence. All so often these celebs have neither experience nor understanding of how our rural rides have arrived. Now we have supposed wildlife advisors who are called in to provide reports for our local Council Planning Departments - and one which I have to hand and will willingly share concerns the activities of bats around a barn which was being developed. Bat's live in roofs, don't they? We all know that - well this team of authorities spent 5 nights attempting to record the presence of bats. The result of their observations was that there were no bats present - well there wouldn't be, the building had no roof. We are affording credibility, all so often to groups of highly qualified idiots.

Gwct's role in conservation

at 10:47 on 28/04/2020 by Eileen Mawle

I entirely agree, now is not the time ti give up on Conservation as our cause is, to use a recently overworked phrase, a marathon not a sprint. I am sure most of us who are able to contribute, through research, on the ground or by donating much needed financial support, do so and pass the message on but I do feel that we are up against bureaucracy which does not listen to the scientific argument and personalities who are able to disseminate their views more easily than we are able to inform the public of the facts. That said,I am sure most, if not all of us will not give up- we will use our best endeavours to continue the good work. There is too much at stake to do otherwise. Eileen Mawle

Now is the time for Conservation to strengthen...

at 7:59 on 28/04/2020 by James Gray

Brilliant response to Mick Green’s article. Yet if he wants to be outspoken Mr Green should have named the charities who take vast sums by preying on people’s emotions and love of nature without delivering knowledge, awareness or action. Trouble is another person more concerned about making a name for themselves through taking a stand rather than taking a stand in order to do what is right for nature. Endangered species don’t care about likes and followers, they care about survival

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