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. 

A love of the natural world demonstrates that a person is a cultured inhabitant of planet Earth.

  • I suspect Mrs Spelman will be too busy (rightly) dealing with wildlife disease issues to be bothered with those referred to by Mark and redkite!

    First things first!  The rest can wait!

  • Let no one doubt that the 2020 is a tough target. Our "team captain" has many other issues to cope with which may make her take her eye off the ball, such as the demands of farmers and the fishing industry, to say nothing of her colleagues in the cabinet representing other government departments. All the conservation organistions concerned with biodiversity will need to work even more closely together as a team between now and 2020 if that target is to be achieved. Additionally, that target must include not just  terrestrial apects of biodiversity in England but also our marine and coastal waters. It must also included the UK's oversease territories where the largest opportunities present themselves for biodiversity restoration and conversely the largest risks for biodiversity loss also exist. Lastly out team captain will need to work closely with the EU as the 2020 target will not be achieved in isolation from the EU, take our migrant birds for example. So it is a tough target but one for which it is  worth pushing and fighting very hard. At the same time not forgeting the wider world, especially protection of the rain forests and other important biodiversity habitats.