Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Call on Cameron to stand up for wildlife in the West Country

 25th Jun 2013

Lapwings at Cattcot Lows Brian PhippsMedia release issued by South West Wildlife Trusts and RSPB

Call on Cameron to stand up for wildlife in the West Country

Over 100 conservationists, business leaders, landowners, celebrities and academics from south west England have today signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to make a public commitment to urgently address the decline of wildlife in the region.

The call follows the widely-publicised State of Nature report published in May. This report, authored by a coalition of wildlife charities, described serious declines in a wide range of species.

Tony Richardson, Regional Director for RSPB in the South West, said: “The report is a wake up call. The declines it describes are truly shocking and we need clear leadership and collective action to start to restore what has been lost.”

The letter describes the region as one that “trades on the relative quality of our natural environment” and states that the “wellbeing and prosperity of people and nature are intimately linked”.

Mr Richardson continued: “Although wildlife is at the heart of this, it’s critical to remember that here in the West Country so much of our economy and our quality of life are dependant on the state of our environment. To ignore such a relentless decline is simply wrong. Leaders, from the PM, to politicians at all levels and decision-makers in business, industry and the community, should act now on this very simple message. Leadership counts.”

The letter describes three specific actions that the government can take by:

• Accelerating full marine area protection;
• Guaranteeing support for 'High Nature Value' farming;
• Giving clear guidance to Local Enterprise Partnerships to invest in our ‘natural capital’.

Harry Barton, Chief Executive of Devon Wildlife Trust said: “First, a  well-managed network of marine protected areas including the Marine Conservation Zones proposed by the ‘Finding Sanctuary’ initiative must be designated as soon as possible. The Government should also resist lobbying from those who are in denial about the effects of over fishing and the inappropriate use of heavy gear that destroys the sea bed.

“Second, we don’t have to choose between maximising food productivity and good environmental practices. This is a false dichotomy ­ we can’t have one without the other. The government must make a clear commitment, and then deliver on supporting genuinely nature-friendly farming. Plentiful, top quality food, and a nature-rich countryside are all within our grasp but only if the government ensures that all the support schemes funded by taxpayers truly help to restore the natural environment for people and wildlife alike.

“Lastly we want to make sure that the relatively new Local Enterprise Partnerships play their part by investing in an economic recovery that recognises our direct and indirect dependency upon the natural resources. Government can actively enable delivery against a growing consensus amongst progressive business leaders that companies must deliver a net gain for nature if they are to maintain long-term value for their shareholders.”


Will Barnard, Farmer and Landscape Manager in Somerset said: “Across the south west, there are thousands of 'high nature value' farms. They look after wildlife, manage our special landscapes and provide us with high-quality food. But the farm businesses that have to succeed for this to happen, don't do well out of the current Common Agricultural Policy as it works out in England. This fails the South West. Political leads need to fix this, fast.”

Dr Matt Lobley, Co-Director, Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter: “The very many high nature value farms across the South West are at the heart of so many of our special places, like Dartmoor and Exmoor, but they can't do their business without some reasonable help from the Common Agricultural Policy. What's even more significant for the south west is that so many food, tourism and other rural businesses depend on this key strength, and can do so much better if we get nature properly factored into a rural renaissance.”

Marcus Grant, WHO, Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments University of the West of England: “I think that more nature-friendly homes, businesses, neighbourhoods and cities can do so much more for a healthier south west. This is a public health gold mine waiting to be exploited. Especially in light of ministerial commitments to Health 2020; this approach is a win for the economy and also a win for the healthy ageing and health equality agendas implicit in Health 2020. And moreover, this approach does not require any funding from stretched NHS budgets, and will in fact relieve pressure on this valuable resource.”

Dr Clare B Embling, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter: "Britain's southwest seas and coasts are one of our great glories but marine ecosystems are increasingly threatened by rapidly changing and increasing human needs. Efforts to modernise management is struggling to deliver effective protection, meanwhile the clock is still ticking and the declines continue. It is imperative that we don't let this crisis become an irreversible catastrophe for our seas."

Read more about the State of Nature in Somerset


Lapwings at Cattcot Lows © Brian Phipps