The Gove Test – some thoughts

By Policy Exchange [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘Gove test’ for the environment is ‘If we want the UK’s approach to environmental protection and enhancement to be seen as the best in the world, what does that mean and what does it look like at a local, national and global level?‘.

I’m offering a wide range of organisations the opportunity to publish their answers here on this blog.  I wonder whether anyone will take up the offer – they should, in order to stimulate a public debate.  The RSPB has already published its views.

Here are some initial thoughts from me:

  • site protection: maintain the existing protections afforded by the Birds and Habitats Directives, complete viable network of marine protected areas in all UK waters and upgrade 20,000ha of local wildlife sites in England  (approx half of total area) to SSSI status thus increasing SSSI area to approx 800,000ha.
  • species protection: maintain current levels of species protection as set out in Wildlife and Countryside Act etc, Birds and Habitats Directives.  There may be a need for some rationalising of these species lists and that should be done under a modified version of the Red Tape Challenge (to be known as the Green Ribbon Challenge) where any species which is proposed for lower protection must be accompanied by two named species which should be given enhanced protection.
  • climate change: meet the challenges of the Climate Change Act and the Paris agreement.
  • resource use: nationalise the UK fishing fleet and then control fishing effort so that catches increase in the long term thanks to restraint in the short term.
  • invest in ecosystem services: transfer existing CAP funding to producing better water quality, lowering flood risk, greater soil health and more biodiversity.
  • structural changes: make agriculture a BIS responsibility and make consumers and taxpayers Defra’s main concern, merge some functions of NE and FC so that we have a Forest and Wildlife Agency which delivers biodiversity and public recreation on public land.
  • rewilding: let’s have some large new national parks based on rewilding (Salisbury Plain, Somerset Levels and The Fens for a start?)
  • funding: invest in public ownership of biodiversity-rich land and use public funds to deliver the recommendations of the Lawton report as a public benefit infrastructure project (c£1bn, cf £52+bn for HS2).




A thunderclap for the Inglorious 12th

Findlay Wilde has set up this thunderclap to go out on the Inglorious 12th.

Please support it if you can.


News from my patch, Stanwick Lakes

Mediterranean Gulls at Stanwick Lakes Photo: Bob Bullock


There is a colony of Black-headed Gulls on the lake next to the A45 which forms part of my local patch of Stanwick Lakes. And this year, some of the gulls with black heads really did have black heads because they were Mediterranean Gulls, a pair of which nested among the brown-headed Black-headed Gulls.  These are the first nesting pair of Med Gulls for Northants: the full story is here.

This has been on the cards for quite a while but I and the very local birders, all rather expected that Summer Leys would get the first county record for breeding Med Gulls.

It’s a sign of the times that in central England we now have breeding gulls that were national rarities in my youth.  Quite nice.  I wonder what will be the surprising species that might be nesting at Stanwick Lakes in 40 years time?


The Gove test

By Policy Exchange [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Michael Gove visited Rainham Marshes on Thursday and had a chat with the RSPB. That looks good and is good.

He set the RSPB a little bit of homework which was ‘If we want the UK’s approach to environmental protection and enhancement to be seen as the best in the world, what does that mean and what does it look like at a local, national and global level?‘.  That’s a good question and one to which Defra must already have an answer drafted, as it is sitting on its 25-year plan for Nature.

The RSPB’s answer to this exam question fails to mention the need to maintain, or, even better, enhance (as promised by other political parties) the environmental protection given to wildlife by existing EU legislation such as the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.  It’s going to be difficult for the UK to lead the world if it starts dismantling the existing levels of protection for species and habitats. It hardly needs to be said, but actually it does need to be said.

So here is an offer to any conservation or rural organisations. What is your answer to Mr Gove’s question?

I’d love to hear the Wildlife Trust’s answer, and the NFU’s answer, and Plantlife’s answer, and the Countryside Alliance’s answer and the CLA’s answer – just for starters.  I really would.

All serious responses will be published here.

And I’ll give you some of my ideas tomorrow morning.





Oscar Dewhurst – Lesser Kestrel

Oscar writes: This is another photo from my time in Spain. During our first 3 days we were staying in Extremadura, near Trujillo, so spent an evening at the bullring on the edge of the town to watch the Lesser Kestrels that breed there. Here’s one of the males as it flew over my head.

Nikon D800, Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR lens, Nikon 1.4x TC