• A breakout of consensus

    Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be asked to give evidence to the Efra Select Committee on the Natural Environment White Paper.  Lucky because I was representing 36 members of Wildlife and Countryside Link and their 8 million supporters.  And lucky because I was sharing the panel with Pavan Sukhdev , the leading light in environmental economics and the driving force behind a seminal report published last year called the…

    • 30 Jun 2011
  • Smarter ways to spend a trillion – EU Budget Reform

    Today President Barroso sits down with his college of Commissioners from the 27 Member States to decide how to spend roughly trillion euros of EU tax payers money between 2014-2020. 

    The sensible thing surely is to ensure that this money is spent on things that the EU has said that it wants to achieve and from which E U citizens will benefit – such as reversing biodiversity loss and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.…

    • 29 Jun 2011
  • I shall be brief...

    There's a lot going on this week, so I shall be brief!

    We entertain our Council at the Lodge tomorrow for one of our quarterly meetings.  On Wednesday I will be giving evidence to the Efra Select Committee on behalf of Wildlife and Countryside Link.  The focus is on the UK Government's Natural Environment White Paper.  While I face my grilling, President Barroso et al will be deciding how to spend c3 trillion euros…

    • 28 Jun 2011
  • Rat's the way to do it

    Maybe it's because of their location – out of sight, out of mind – but UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are often overlooked.   Thirty-three bird species on UKOTs are threatened with extinction – that's more than on the entire European continent – so I don't need to tell you how important they are.

    Henderson Island is in the deepest depths of the South Pacific. It's a hotbed of biodiversity…

    • 27 Jun 2011
  • The week ahead

    Am sitting in my top room in a balmy Cambridge reflecting on a glorious end to a working week and preparing for an important week ahead.   President Barroso meets his college of Commissioners on Wednesday to discuss the draft EU Budget.  We'll probably know sometime on Thursday just how much of the 970 billion euros will be spent on wildlife.  We'll be paying particular attention to plans for the future Common Agriculture…

    • 27 Jun 2011
  • Speaking up for nature

    At times it’s felt like we’ve dominated the BBC this week! It’s been so ‘newsworthy’, today I’m going to reflect on some of our main stories from the past few days.

    We have been completely floored by the rumour circulating in Brussels that funding for wildlife-friendly farming could be axed from next week’s European budget. Unfortunately, nothing we have heard in the past 48 hours…

    • 24 Jun 2011
  • If children don't get their hands mucky how can we expect them to care about wildlife?

    I have broken with tradition today and have invited a guest blogger, our Youth and Education PR Officer, Caroline Offord, to talk about our exciting Every Child Outdoors activities:

    “Having access to discover, learn and play outdoors was an essential part of my childhood. I spent hours playing outside, pretending the tree at the end of our garden was The Magic Faraway Tree and would whisk me off to strange new worlds…

    • 23 Jun 2011
  • Rumours and speculation?

    Yesterday I highlighted the threats to Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy. The rumours that Pillar 2 may be scrapped are continuing to circulate – you may have seen me on the BBC (about 22 mins in) yesterday talking about it. Some of the journalists we spoke to approached the EU Commission for comment – no-one would confirm or deny the rumours. This is a worrying sign and the threat is so great that we simply…

    • 22 Jun 2011
  • Don't cut the life from our countryside - the sequel

    Last summer, the RSPB fought to save farmland wildlife from public spending cuts.  We wrote briefings, lobbied ministers, our members bombarded the Cabinet with 90,000 emails and farmers put placards up their fields urging the UK Government not to cut the life from the countryside.  We were ultimately relieved that Caroline Spelman managed to secure some growth in the higher level stewardship scheme. 

    But now, rumours…

    • 21 Jun 2011
  • Nature at the heart of development?

    Here’s a test. What Government minister do you think said this recently?

    “I believe our natural environment can be better cared for. Historic habitats that have been destroyed can be re-established. Species that have become trapped in isolated refuges must be reconnected. Monotonous swathes of brown masquerading as 'green belt' should be improved to live up to their name and be refilled by nature. And the green…

    • 20 Jun 2011
  • We’re not out of the woods yet


    It is good to see that the momentum generated by the forestry debate earlier this year is alive and well. The campaign to save our forests  demonstrated the huge value we place on our iconic landscapes and precious wildlife. The Government’s response was to convene the Independent Panel on Forestry in England, which is beginning to consider the various issues and options.

    The grass-roots movements that were…

    • 17 Jun 2011
  • Can England match Australia?

    For once I’m not thinking about cricket (well I am a bit because there is a test match on).  We have the Ashes safely in our possession, thank you very much - so I can afford to think of other things.

    I’m talking biodiversity strategies.  Even more exciting than a five match test series?  Certainly of great importance  to our future well being and that of the planet.

    So, as we eagerly anticipate the launch of…

    • 17 Jun 2011
  • Being Lord Voldemort


    I spent yesterday at the Cereals Show near Sleaford. Yes, I know, you envy my glamorous lifestyle. I went along to the Oxford Farming Conference debate on CAP reform and market volatility.

    After a while, I felt a little strange. Something wasn't quite right. I heard three oblique references to the RSPB (we were co-sponsoring the event), but it struck me as a little odd that the audience - and panel - seemed unable…

    • 16 Jun 2011
  • Summer pleasures

    There is nothing better than sitting out in the garden at the end of a day, glass in hand and hearing swifts screaming overhead.  It is a delight - one that I savour in my little, scruffy patch of Cambridgeshire during the precious summer months. Alas, like so many migrants, swifts are in trouble. 

    They have declined by a third in recent years, leading to them being placed on the amber list and meaning they are of serious…

    • 15 Jun 2011
  • Guilty

    Big piece of news yesterday - a Derbyshire gamekeeper has been found guilty of attempting to illegally trap and kill birds of prey.  Read about the story here and here and watch it here.  The RSPB team that carried out the investigation deserve enormous credit for their professionalism, dedication and courage.  Here's hoping that the punishment acts as a deterrent to others...

     And here is a first person account from…

    • 14 Jun 2011
  • Ever diminishing returns

    I have been thinking about where the environmental leaders of tomorrow will come from.

    I had a lovely morning on Saturday celebrating the role that one such leader - Adrian Darby - has played as Chairman and President of Plantlife over the last 18 years.   He's made a huge contribution to nature conservation over the years (including time spent as Treasurer and Chair of the RSPB Council). 

    I'll always have a soft spot…

    • 13 Jun 2011
  • Saving nature - so what does success look like?

    And now we know what the UK Government wants to achieve for wildlife.  A clear set of measurable targets by which we can judge how well they are doing.  Am very pleased.  

    I know, the money may not be in place yet, and there appears to be a general feeling that voluntary approaches will suffice, but these targets/measurable outcomes/impact measures - whatever you want to call them - do matter.  These will tell us over time…

    • 10 Jun 2011
  • Spelman Steps Up

    Caroline Spelman has made a video for us, encouraging us all to read the Government’s shiny new Natural Environment White Paper. It’s only a couple of minutes long and it looks as if our intrepid Secretary of State endured a rather blustery day on the North York Moors on the day it was filmed.


    It’s almost three months to the day since Mrs Spelman helped us to launch our Stepping…

    • 8 Jun 2011
  • Hook, line and sinker

    It's World Oceans' Day today - a time to celebrate the wonders of life above and beneath the waves.

    But, before you get too comfortable sipping your coffee and dreaming of your summer holiday at the coast, here's a stat to wake you up: 300,000 seabirds are still being killed every year through longline fisheries.

    That's the new global estimate from a study, which will be published in the science journal…

    • 8 Jun 2011
  • The Natural Choice - the RSPB verdict

    The UK Government’s Natural Environment White Paper has been launched, and, overall, it is pretty good! 

    Congratulations to Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, and her ministerial team.

    The Government has clearly listened to the concerns millions of people in this country have about the state of our wildlife and green spaces. The aims laid out in this paper could steer us towards a future where farmland birds…

    • 8 Jun 2011
  • The selfish gene at work within Whitehall

    Whitehall departments are funny beasts.  They are part of one government but equally have their own agenda.  Cooperative when they want to and selfish when they need to be - a bit like species vying for survival in the natural world.

    Here's an example.

    This morning, the Natural White Paper will be published by Defra.  It will (I expect) outline ambitious commitments about improving the natural environment.  Like all…

    • 7 Jun 2011
  • Testing times for wildlife

    Nature is in trouble.

    [I know this is not the most cheerful way to start a working week - but I had a difficult weekend - including a disappointing hour spent wildlife-watching in the garden for Make Your Nature Count.  Where were my goldfinches?]

    The statistics (particularly from the UN but also from Defra) tell us what we probably don't want to hear - species populations a cross the world have crashed (on average, by…

    • 6 Jun 2011
  • Let's get counting

    With a heatwave predicted for this weekend, I’m planning to spend most of it outside in my small, and rather imperfectly formed, Cambridgeshire garden. As well as being the perfect weather for barbecues and paddling pools, it’s also the ideal opportunity to take part in this year’s Make Your Nature Count survey. It’s a good way to keep the kids occupied for an hour as well, so why not take the opportunity…

    • 3 Jun 2011
  • It's official - nature is good for us

    The UK National Ecosystem Assessment is out today.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s a staggeringly impressive piece of work.  So please read it – there’s even an excellent one page summary on page 5 – so no excuses. 

    My view is that it fundamentally challenges the way we currently make economic decisions.

    Well done to Hilary Benn for commissioning the work when…

    • 2 Jun 2011
  • The Big Society: hug a supermodel and save the planet?

    In my early twenties, I had the pleasure of dressing up as a rhino for a fundraising event.  My reward? Small talk and a hug from the supermodel, Helena Christenson.  I was volunteering at the time with a small charity dedicated to raising funds for conservation projects around the world.  Given this experience, you can see why I have always been a fan of volunteering.

    Today is the start of national volunteering week in…

    • 1 Jun 2011