Imagine you are watching the final of the cricket World Cup or perhaps the last Ashes Test, it is a little way short of the end of the first innings and the scoreboard goes completely blank. The game continues but no one records how many runs are scored or how many wickets are lost. It isn’t clear how far short of setting a reasonable target the first team is or what the next team has to do to better it.
What has this got to do with wildlife conservation? Well this is more or less the state of play with biodiversity conservation in England. Our first innings trying to stop biodiversity loss finished in 2010, and, yes, it was even longer than a game of cricket, but the last progress report for threatened species and priority habitats was in 2008! There was no official scorecard published at the end of 2010. We know we fell short of our target, but where is the expert analysis of how we could do better?
We now have a new(ish) team at the crease captained by Mrs Spelman. We are right behind her, keen to be part of the team striving to meet the 2020 target to halt biodiversity loss and restore as much of what we have lost as possible. Funding cuts and a reduction in support staff mean that we have a sticky wicket to play on but she is ready to launch not one but two new game plans in the Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) and the England Biodiversity Strategy (EBS). But we must remember to keep the score!
We do have a list of priority species from the greater horseshoe bat to the field cricket (alas not the cricket field!) and their conservation represents a huge challenge. But with the red backed shrike and wryneck already ‘lost from home ground’ we can’t let anymore slip through our fingers. Monitoring and reporting is a vital part of the conservation game and therefore we are looking to the NEWP and the EBS for a clear commitment to specific measurable outcomes including:
- The state of wildlife overall and threatened species in particular- The health of wildlife habitats including the extent of priority habitat that is restored or re-created- The condition of special sites for wildlife.
We don’t just need the close of play score for these, we need to track progress so that we can redouble our efforts (increase the run rate) where necessary.
As far as I am concerned in conservation at least, it is the result that matters not just taking part.
The chance of any of these targets being met are minimal because they all depend (now more than ever) on public support for there implementation and realisation. No one feels malice toward their environment, but very few actually feel invigorated to act because of a variety of reasons to do with disconnection and personal priority.
We all missed a rare chance during the forest sell off to push the snow ball of public reaction toward the protection of our wildlife. While people were interested and their feelings roused the big conservation org's should have been educating and publicising to further fuel the fire and help build the social passion for conservation which does exist, but which people need reminding of.
Where can people find the details of these new proposals please? What do they mean to people and what mechanisms are in place to include them in the process? Furthermore how does an under-funded and under-staffed proposal expect to succeed where previous (better supported) ones failed? The sustainability of these proposals are lacking one fundamental factor, and thats a complimentary campaign of social inclusion which is as strong willed and stark as the issue is important and desperate.
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