Do you think that the National Trust, which operates in England, Northern Ireland and Wales is a nature conservation organisation or not?
In its own words:
Conserving nature, for the benefit of everyone, is at the heart of the National Trust’s work.
We are one of Europe’s leading nature conservation organisations. The scale of our responsibility for the natural history of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is unrivalled by any other organisation.
Central to our work are caring for important wildlife sites and natural landscapes; conserving endangered and protected species; and addressing environmental issues such as pollution and the impacts of climate change on our wildlife and habitats.
Our Nature Advisors are expert in the conservation and management of wildlife and natural features.
However, there is a cost for conserving our wildlife and habitats. Around £20 million is spent on coast and countryside conservation projects each year.
That sounds pretty good, and I absolutely agree that NT Nature Advisors contain many experts. But would you say that the NT is one of Europe’s leading nature conservation organisations? Have you heard anyone other than the NT itself describing the NT in that way?
However, let’s look in just a little more detail. If the NT does spend around £20m on coast and countryside conservation projects each year (as its own website says) then that isn’t very much money to my mind considering that the NT’s income is over £400m pa and it has around £1bn of fixed assets.
This (click here) is the NT’s conservation strategy but was written in 2005 (partly updated in 2008) and although the analysis is pretty good it contains no targets for nature conservation delivery that I can see. Is the NT trying to increase nature on its large land-holding? And how does it measure its success or failure, exactly?
As one of the country’s largest landowners does the NT measure the Farmland Bird Index on its land? Are farmland birds doing better or worse on NT land compared with their fate on ‘ordinary’ farmland owned by less wealthy farmers?
How do butterfly populations on NT land compare with the national averages?
How does SSSI condition on NT land compare with national figures?
I’d be keen to hear more from the NT on how it spends its money and on how it benefits nature – and I’d like to see some figures rather than hear occasional interesting stories. How does it measure its own success or realise that it needs to do better? As a much larger land owner than either the Wildlife Trusts or the RSPB I’d like some way to assess whether my membership funds are producing more nature on NT land or not. At the moment it’s not very easy to tell from its website or annual report. And that makes me a bit suspicious, as it might mean that the NT doesn’t know itself – and if it doesn’t know then it probably isn’t managing this area very tightly.
I remain to be convinced that the NT takes nature very seriously across its land holding. But I’d very much like to be convinced.