“My Lords, for biodiversity to be diverse and flourish in the UK, it needs habitat, species protection where appropriate, the provision of winter food for birds and animals and sensible predator control.” That was the opening remark by The Earl of Caithness last Thursday (22 April) as the Lords Grand Committee marked Earth Day by debating plans to declare a biodiversity emergency.
This clearly outlined the evolution of the GWCT’s three-legged stool approach to conservation, as pioneered by Dr Dick Potts, in which a land manager works to provide nesting cover, brood-rearing cover and efficient predator control. The addition of winter food has become a mainstay of sustainable game and wildlife management as more efficient modern farming practices often leave less ‘spare’ for the birds. The third of the original three legs, predator control, received particular attention, as it was noted that “we are increasingly bad at management, including sensible and humane predator control.”
It is encouraging to hear this approach discussed in the upper house and The Earl of Caithness went on to mention work at both our Auchnerran and Allerton demonstration farms, including our recent report on badger predation at the former. He noted:
“Take, for example, Auchnerran farm in Aberdeenshire, owned by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and managed for biodiversity. This year alone, two-thirds of the lapwing nests have already been destroyed by badgers. This is a property that is farmed for biodiversity. Similarly, at the trust’s property in Allerton, Leicestershire, there have been no hedgehogs for seven years and no waders for 10 years because of predators”.
Closing his remarks, The Earl of Caithness, a former Minister of State for Environment, called for the nation and for Government to make the right choices and that “We have a severe problem, not an emergency, but we can solve that problem if we and the Government get our policies right”. You can watch the debate here.