The working conservationists at the launch in Westminster. By Jon Farmer
THE extraordinary conservation successes achieved by private land managers has been captured in a new collection of case studies by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) titled Working Conservationists: The Land Managers Saving British Wildlife.
Last week’s launch in Portcullis House, Westminster, offered MPs, Defra and Natural England officials, conservation groups and food retailers, such Sainsbury’s and Nestle, the opportunity to meet the land managers face-to-face.
In his foreword to the publication, Environment Secretary The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP hailed the “Working Conservationists” for their successes in combining food production and recreation with an increase in wildlife against the general trend of dramatic declines across the UK.
Looking forward to bringing farming policy back in-house, he said: “When we leave the Common Agricultural Policy we will be able to follow evidence like this with even greater ambition. We will be able to incentivise the kinds of collaboration and innovation that bring the transformative, landscape-scale changes outlined in our 25-year environment plan.”
He added: “This collection of case studies provides a vision of a country of which we can all be proud.”
The 50-page booklet, featuring farmers and gamekeepers from a range of different sized farms and estates, reveals the vital, often unsung, role private stewardship plays in conservation.
GWCT’s new chairman Sir Jim Paice, who took over from long-serving Ian Coghill earlier this month, said: “The wonderful conservation work that happens on private land, on individual farms and estates is little understood. The aim of this series of publications is to highlight that and encourage the wider public to see that continuing support to the farmers that deliver these impressive wildlife gains is support worth giving.
“We need a new deal for farming; a recognition by government that without farmers the landscape would either fall into neglect or have to be maintained at taxpayers’ expense; an acceptance that maintain and enhancing it costs money and a system whereby farmers are entrusted to get on with it without a myriad of rules and inspectors getting in their way.”
GWCT’s Joe Dimbleby, who wrote the booklet, said: “These are personal stories of people, driven by a passion for wildlife, showing why land managers are best placed to deliver the environmental goods Defra is hoping to achieve post-Brexit. They make a powerful case for increased investment in agri-environment schemes as well as a more flexible, farmer-led and joined–up approach to administration.”
To order a copy of Working Conservationists, costing £3.95, visit https://www.gwct.org.uk/working
Quotes from the Working Conservationists
Duke of Norfolk, Estate Manager Peter Knight and gamekeeper Charlie Mellor from the Peppering Project, West Sussex
“From six wild birds, the team has built a sustainable population of 300 breeding pairs of wild English partridge and a wide range of other red-listed farmland species have made a spectacular recovery because of the management system put in place, including skylark up 57%, linnet up 94%, yellowhammer up 20%, and lapwing up 71%.”
James Mulleneux is a beef farmer from East Sussex restoring native woodland and wildflower meadows on his land
“We need to remind people what goes into producing food. I’m proud of what we do and want to share it. It’s incredibly important for children to understand how farming works, for example, that milk actually comes from a cow not a bottle. We have this special landscape in Britain and we must look after it.”
Kate Faulkner is an arable farmer near Selbourne, Hampshire, and is in the Selborne Landscape Partnership, which is a Farmer Cluster improving local soil, water and wildlife
“My advice for fellow Working Conservationists is that it helps to collaborate, to talk to your neighbours and to get guidance from the GWCT. It’s to do with getting advice from people who talk the same language and understand the realities of farming.”
Tom Orde-Powlett, from Bolton Castle estate in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire helping to increase rare wading birds on his land
“My step-grandfather come up here a few years ago and we drove over the moors in spring listening to the calls of the curlew and he was close to tears saying this is what his native Shropshire used to be like only 40 years ago. I don’t want to be part of the generation that loses the curlew in Wensleydale.”
Mark Chattey a beef farmer from East Devon who has dug 11 large ponds on his small family farm
“I’m inspired by birdsong and the beauty and joy I get from walking round a more varied habitat. I was interested in nature from a young age and my dad set a good example creating the House Pond to encourage swans to nest. It’s also important to think of the next generation. Two years ago, I planted a 2.5 acre woodland to celebrate the birth of our daughter and named it Evelyn’s Copse after her.”
Konrad Goess-Saurau is an arable farmer on the edge of Marlborough, Wiltshire
“The GWCT is very important. They are the first port of call on what to plant where, which covercrop mixes to use and how to manage gamebirds. If you don’t recreate the habitat, you miss out on the delight of happening upon nature, unexpectedly coming upon a deer or a bird, these encounters are magical.
David Thomas is a gamekeeper working on exciting project to restore wildlife to the hills of Powys
“We have managed to increase curlew broods on the hill, which I am delighted by. When you hear the bird’s call on the moor at the end of February, it’s the first sign of spring and I stop to admire the sound spilling from the sky, equalled only by the skylark.”
Alastair Salvesen is a mixed arable, beef and sheep farmer in Midlothian applying the latest technologies to boost nature on his farm
“We are working with GWCT to help people understand what’s realistic in farming and how nature works. The GWCT has always recognised it’s a question of balance and I believe in that strongly.”
Rupert Brewer is a gamekeeper on the Bisterne Estate, Hampshire, a partner in GWCT’s LIFE+ Waders for Real Project which aims to reverse the decline in breeding waders in the Avon Valley
“To be a successful conservationist, look what you’ve got on your doorstep, grab a species and you’ll find that your interest grows. A lot of people wouldn’t be interested in a lapwing but it does for me and, if you can sort things out for them, many other species will benefit.”
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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