There was a lot of discussion about the EA dropping their biodiversity role because of cuts last week. Everyone squealed (see here and here) that this was a bad thing – as they were meant to do because that makes the cuts more difficult. I’m not so sure.
I’ve never really thought that the EA fully deserved the word ‘environment’ in its title – from the way it behaves. Certainly the way it behaves over the natural environment. I can absolutely recall some of those that are dismayed by EA’s proposal now, being dismayed by EA’s lack of vigour in protecting biodiversity back then.
Cuts to environmentally-orientated agencies rarely help the environmental cause so it’s clearly not a ‘good thing’ but if it means that NE has more clout on all matters to do with biodiversity then that could be good. In the past I have felt that NE and EA have tripped over each other sometimes – each wanting to be ‘in charge’ but neither wanting to do much.
I am much more worried about the lack of confidence and vigour in the statutory agencies than in their lack of budget. They could do so much more than they have recently done, with even less money than they currently have. Now that isn’t going to happen either.
When it comes to building statutory agencies back up again, as it will, let us look carefully at the roles of NE and EA to ensure they each have clear roles and are funded and motivated to carry out those roles.
I find it difficult to cry for the loss of a function that was carried out, at best, patchily.
And yes, just as there are many good farmers, and some saintly gamekeepers, there are also many EA staff who do their very best for biodiversity – I could name quite a few, but that doesn’t mean that EA as a whole has been great for wildlife conservation. We could do better.