Joining the dots
Put simply, a Living Landscape joins the dots: it links up our remaining wildlife-rich sites to create a dynamic and robust landscape for wildlife in the long term. Living Landscapes moves away from a site-specific, isolated approach to looking at wildlife across the whole landscape, and asks: how much wildlife is enough to survive, say, in the next 50 years or more? How can wildlife move through such a landscape? And, how is wildlife relevant to everyone’s lives within that area?
Many methods to achieve a Living Landscape are not new. The first step is making sure that ‘core’ sites, nature reserves and protected sites, are managed in the best way for wildlife. New reserve purchases, for example the Trust’s recent acquisition at Catcott Meadow, can expand the continuous area of habitat available.
Joining up special sites, and creating more wildlife habitat means working with farmers and land managers, and helping them to access funding for wildlife-friendly land management. This advice focuses on the areas within a Living Landscape that will create links or continuous habitat between core sites, a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Smallholders also have an important role to play here, building on the excellent network of Private Nature Reserves in Somerset.
Influencing plans and policies
We can try to influence those plans and policies that either help us to promote a Living Landscape, or could prevent it. For example, the recent efforts of local authorities to put more emphasis on managing Local Wildlife Sites are excellent but planners still need to make sure these sites are protected from development. Flood and water level management issues are likely to become more acute on the Levels and on the coast, as climate change starts to bite. Again, Living Landscapes provides a geographical focus to this work.
So far, so familiar?
One of the big challenges of Living Landscapes is to work outside the ‘familiar’ conservation sector audiences and reach new parts of the community who can help to protect and manage that landscape in the long term. This means finding common ground with those who are involved in the land but may have very different aims to ours: examples are the food industry, the tourism industry, and peat producers. It means working closely in partnership with other organisations, statutory and voluntary, sharing tasks and sharing responsibilities. It also means that we can focus our education and community work to defined geographical areas within the county, inspiring new people to take defined local action with the very effective local networks the Trust already has.
A long term vision
Nature conservation isn’t a ‘niche sector’ only important to a few. Wildlife makes a tremendous contribution to Somerset’s society in all kinds of ways, from wetlands preventing towns from flooding, to the physical, mental and spiritual contribution that wildlife makes to our everyday wellbeing. To firmly place our Living Landscapes vision in the long-term, we can highlight just how important wildlife is in a particular landscape to all members of the community, and encourage this value to be recognised and enhanced over time.