Phewww! It's rather blowy out there.  Most birds are keeping their heads down.

I am looking forward to the rugby this afternoon where Italy must be in with half a chance at home to Ireland.  But the racing looks a little straight forward.  I can't see past Binocular (Sandown, 155) and feel people will be raising their glasses to Oscar Whisky at new Welsh racecourse, Ffos Las (240) - but neither horse, even if winning, will pay off much of the mortgage so my money stays in my pocket.

And I see, after reading the racing pages, that today's Telegraph has an article criticising all environmental NGOs by senior environment correspondent Geoffrey Lean.  The article picks up a blog by Jonathon Porrit which gives us all a good tongue-lashing - or at least it is supposed to but I can't find it online at the moment so I am relying on Lean's article.

At least Lean spoke to us about his article - which Porritt didn't as far as I know (and I think I would know).  Maybe we are all getting soft and we ought to be fighting the government's forestry plans more actively.  Except, hang on a moment!  The plans were only published last week and we have hardly been silent on the subject.  And the plans that emerged were not as originally predicted by others anyway - it's sometimes sensible when responding to something to know what it is.  This blog, occasionally distracted by the SS, has talked of little other than forestry for the last 10 days - and that is likely to continue. 

Lean writes 'The green groups almost all respond that they have been "working behind the scenes". This is "not true", responds Porritt.'.  How Jonathon Porritt can know that we are not working behind the scenes I cannot imagine.  Is he lurking in every corridor of every government department? - not these days.  And he would have had to be tapping our phones to know of our discussions with Defra Ministers, so we can discount the possibility that Jonathon knows everything that is happening - so he must be just making that bit up mustn't he?

In fact, the RSPB has been sought out by Ministers and civil servants for discussions and we believe that our views will be taken into account not because we shout the loudest but because we know what we are talking about.  It is the RSPB that points out that the FC is doing a reasonable job for wildlife but is hardly blameless with a perfect track-record.  It is the RSPB that talks about the land managed by FC, and not just the forests, because we know that FC land management covers much more than wooded areas - and that some of the greatest wildlife gains would come from removing trees in selected places.  And it is the RSPB that points out that similar issues will arise with NNRs in the very near future when Defra consults on their fate. 

Wait for Monday for a published RSPB opinion piece on the subject - see this blog for the link then; and if the national newspaper to whom we wrote on this subject just the other day does not publish our letter then you'll find it here next week too.

Lean also writes 'As Porritt, for 12 years the government's official green adviser as chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, adds: "The inside track only works if you can show you have public support and are ready to mobilise it.'.  Please notice that our web page says that we will make our views on the consultation known in two weeks time and encourage our members to respond then.  So thanks for the advice Jonathon, but we are already doing this - and if you had spoken to us then we could have put you straight on this subject.  But I look forward to reading your blog unless you've had second thoughts on the subject? (I assume it will appear here).

The RSPB rarely sees the world in black or white - because it rarely is.  Truth lies in the grey areas.  Just as the world is not full of odds-on favourites winning by 20 lengths, the natural environment does not consist of simple issues where the details are irrelevant. 


  • petercrispin - nice kite/magoie/buzzard story, thank you

  • Red Kite,

                  As you can see I have a Saturday Off and am less grumpy than usual as I feel the tide is on the turn ! I have worked long hours on this FC Sell Off and then there's my job !

                 Let me share a story from about 15 years ago that has never gone to print before; I was Red Kite Warden in mid Wales for the Rev E Legover once of RSPB Newtown. A lot of cold and wet rain in the hills under the Black Mountain by Llyn y Fan fach; I sat through two days of Chernobyl rain unaware of the clouds that had returned from the Atlantic full of radioactivity !

                 A Spring sun was shining and John Roberts and I were in the process of adding 25 % to the Welsh Red Kite population from 28 pairs to around 38 in the parishes of Bethlehem and Gwynfe and Llandeusant. I was sitting in a camper van and there was an RK floating around nearby; but my eye was caught by this Magpie watching a pair of buzzards mating; Magpie was visibly excited by the activity on the top of this Telegraph pole. When the old male Buzz shuffled off Mrs B sat there for a little preening herself and ruffling her feathers in the sun. The magpie spotted its opportunity and tried to hop on !

                Mrs Buzzard was having none of this and threw him off before flapping slowly into the distance !

                gospel truth I swear and normally reserved for the fireside hearth with a glass of whisky !

  • Bob,

               The 100,000 acres sold at market price can we try and get any sort of commitments to a more diverse planting regime ? This is a bit naughty; again the cart seems to be running before the constitutional horse; this consultation being part of that. I am completely unclear why this is being consulted on now when I thought this all before the Lords and beyond the House of Lords 2nd reading

    Re the uplands my dream is of larch and ash and spruce and fir all sort of mixed up in upland plantations; this creates harvesting issues but is visually and wildlife strong plus soils plus watercourses; any good papers, sources as guides ? Mark can you help here ?

  • Redkite.  This issue has polarised opinion more than any subject I can remember for while.  It has brought traditional combatants together and political opponents become allies. The conservationist lobby seems to have divided over whether this a good or bad thing.

    I personally don't think there are knee jerk reactions to this.  There are legitimate concerns that the discussion paper is only one of the issues here.  Already the decision has been made and the criteria settled for a sell off of 100,000 acres at market price without any consultation and as for the Public Bodies Bill, this could be implemented by April - see Mark's comments above.

  • Bob,

            That was a good post and link; Tories are saying what I am saying too ! She's very aimiable but what a mess ? Bob, I have thought your contributions valuable. Can i refer Mark to your other posting re

              " the 100,000 acres put up for sale last month at market value outside of and not part of the discussion paper.  This area of land gets a short paragraph in the paper to point out that this is excluded but you have to dig into the FC website to find the details".

            This is of crucial importance; my view remains that the worst of the Tory proposals re Sell Off have been rolled back by a fierce and successful campaign that gives us local "charities" at least if its still throwing the Forestry baby out with the bath water in my view. In the uplands we need to have a sustainable timber industry for the future; it needs to develop and grow coming down the hill.

            I reiterate I would really like RSPB to focus on the upland sitka and what happens to them; in a way the broadleaved forests of England have shown that they are so loved that "touch them at your peril". How about a commitment for all NP's to be replanted with broadleaves, larch, fir, birch, ash, spruce mix?

            I applaud the fact that RSPB is so outspoken re the Public Bodies Bill which amongst its own goals is the abolishment of NICE which will cost the taxpayer millions; I work in the charities sector of the outsourced NHS and I have experience of "charities". I have never heard the word strike before but its cropping up and not from me ! So charities equals down grading of already low pay and conditions and lower pensions and we are nt retiring anyway; so we will work until we drop. Rough seas ahead !

           Keep the FC and remove FC economic duty from NP's and AONB's. Our focus is on the upland plantations and the 80% of private forest where stewardship, access and recreation is poorer.