Rewilding revisited – Guest Blog by Simon Phelps

Simon-PhelpsSimon is a keen conservationist, wildlife photographer and naturalist. He currently works for the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and is also an active member of A Focus On Nature (AFON). He spends much of his free time out on nature reserves around the country watching and photographing any wildlife that he can find. All the views expressed in this article are his own. You can view some of his photographs on his Flickr page, read some of his past articles on the AFON website and follow him on Twitter (@wildlifephelps).

A few months ago the Linnean Society held a public debate entitled: The British conservation model: unambitious, irrational and afraid of nature? Pitched as a debate between conservationists and rewilders, it explored the concept of rewilding and how we might apply this in Britain. The event was filmed and proved to be an extremely worthwhile watch.

George Monbiot was the first to speak and he did so very well, putting forth his views as to why conservation should embrace the rewilding model. I already knew of Monbiot’s stance on the issue; however it was interesting to hear him expand on his, at times, controversial views. I agree with him that, on occasion, the conservation sector is guilty of circular reasoning when it comes to justifying the target species that it chooses to conserve. Conservation needs to move more towards a stronger evidence-based approach. However, this is happening; you only have to look at the work of Butterfly Conservation to see how charities are using scientific evidence to support their management work. It is not as bad as he claims; many species that are the focus of conservation efforts are justified due to their rarity and often act as umbrella species, whereby conserving them improves the habitat for other species.

Much of Monbiot’s speech focused on uplands, where he feels rewilding is needed most. I fully agree with this and found it enlightening to hear somebody reveal the mismanagement of these vast areas. I enjoy hill walking in Britain and have always found it strange that in these landscapes I often see very little wildlife. Why is it that our national parks and large upland areas support so little wildlife? A large part of it is due to overgrazing. In this sense, I think rewilding could work; it would be a good idea to return some of our upland areas to nature, to allow scrub to recolonise and areas to change naturally.

fritRewilding would not work in many other habitats, however, as it requires natural systems and large areas of land, which we no longer retain. Take our lowland broadleaved woodlands; many of these are small and isolated fragments that if left to ‘rewild’ would become dark, over-shaded places, and would consequently lose many of the species that live there, such as the Silver-washed fritillary butterfly, which require light woodlands with wide open rides and glades for them to feed and breed in. The same can be said for many of our rare woodland species. These woodlands are so damaged and altered by human actions that they would not respond well to a return to a more ‘natural’ state.

Monbiot also feels that the conservation movement in this country remains trapped in the ideological belief that we have to have dominion over nature. It is afraid, he says, to let things go, to let nature take over. I disagree with this. The natural environment as we know it in this country is not truly natural anymore, and it hasn’t been so for a long time. Humans have had such a pervasive impact on the landscape that all of our habitats and species have been directed by these human pressures. We do not know how wildlife fared before we began our ‘dominion’ over it, so how can we now expect to relinquish this or restore something that we (and our wildlife!) know nothing of? These natural rules do not apply in their purest ideological form as that system has been broken and changed, in some cases beyond repair.

This leads to the issues raised by Miles King, the second speaker. He raised the apt point that we are coming to the end of an age: the age of the semi-natural. Are we now at a crossroads where we have to decide whether or not to choose nature? Our existing habitats have been under the spell of humans for a very long time. Can they now be considered natural? Do they function according to the laws nature put in place to govern them? Or have these laws been replaced by human processes? These are important questions to explore if we are to decide how best to conserve our wildlife.

beardieOne thing all the speakers at the debate, as well as myself, can agree with is that nature is slowly ebbing away. We are eroding our natural heritage, as shown so starkly in the State of Nature report and in my first article for A Focus On Nature. In the face of such loss, rewilding is most welcome and would surely do more good than harm. Our isolated habitats and beleaguered species need as much space to thrive, so as to halt the declines that seem to be relentlessly marching on. As an optimist, I can see these things taking place already. Take the Great Fen project managed by the BCN Wildlife Trust in Cambridgeshire. The project is restoring 3,700 hectares of East Anglian fen, giving it back to nature and creating a new wild area. Is this not rewilding in action? I would argue it is and we need more of it.

Third on the agenda was Clive Hambler, who, like Monbiot, criticised the current conservation sector for focusing on the wrong species and mismanaging habitats. Clive also suggests that tidiness is bad in nature, and I would generally agree with him. However at times, it is needed to protect sensitive habitats that often contain small and vulnerable populations of species. It all comes down to knowing what we have and what we can conserve. Once we know this, we can then examine how best to look after it.

Hambler states that we need to restore our wetlands and woodlands. I agree; it is rare that you get to visit a large area of one of these precious habitats, but when you do it is a special thing. These habitats are always teeming with wildlife and have such a wonderful structural diversity within which to explore, sit and gaze at the diversity of nature. However is this actually rewilding? ‘Rewilding’ a woodland would mean removing all human influence, yet this would not restore it, but rather allow it to lose a large part of its wildlife value. This is where I feel we need to define what rewilding means, as it is a concept which can be misunderstood and misapplied.

To me, rewilding means ‘to create more wild space for wildlife’. It should not mean ‘to leave an area of land to its own devices’. Our habitats are no longer truly natural and no longer exist within a natural landscape. They exist within a system that has been engineered by humans, and they now need our help to thrive as they once would have when there were large expanses of wilderness, and not as they now are: tiny fragments of degraded habitat existing within the wider desert of our countryside. Rewilding is about restoration, and restoration requires human input, which should be directed at creating larger areas of habitats, enough to contain the woodland, grassland and wetland that will allow us to conserve a wide range of species.

Last but not least it was the turn of Aidan Lonergan, from the RSPB, to speak. He provided an excellent defence of the conservation sector. It was useful to hear someone with inside knowledge of how the sector functions and to see their perspective on rewilding. His main point was that those of us that care for wildlife face a long-term challenge in reversing the spiral of decline that our wildlife is trapped in. It can often seem to be a daunting task facing conservation charities, which run on relatively small budgets and rely hugely on the commitment of volunteers. Perhaps the most significant point of the whole debate was made by Lonergan; we need to focus most on rewilding people, particularly children. There is a terrifying disconnect that exists between the majority of people within UK society and the natural world around them. If this gap is not bridged then how will people ever value what they are losing?

Lonergan cited recent rewilding success stories, such as the RSPB’s new Lakenheath Fen reserve in Cambridgeshire. Up until 1995 this site was an agricultural desert full of carrots; now it is a wonderful wetland exploding with wildlife, such as bittern, barn owl, marsh harrier, bearded tit and many other wetland specialists. The conservation sector has the ambition and knowledge to save our wildlife: it just needs the backing and resources to do it.

So, to return to the original question, is the British conservation model unambitious, irrational and afraid of nature? I can’t see how it is. Are the Great Fen project or Lakenheath Fen unambitious? Is it irrational to want to conserve our threatened plants, butterflies and birds? Does bringing back white-tailed eagles, otters and beavers show a fear of nature? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding ‘no’.

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35 Replies to “Rewilding revisited – Guest Blog by Simon Phelps”

  1. Many apologies to Simon. I hit the 'dislike' button on my small touchscreen phone by mistake when scrolling and once done it can't be undone! (I wonder if others with clumsy fingers have this problem?)

    A well written and stimulating discussion of the rewilding conundrum.

    Richard.

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    1. A thoughtful and interesting article Simon, thank you.

      In the sector I work in we are hearing more and more the words "evidence-based conservation" and I agree that all too often we make judgements based on little or no evidence. However, the corollary to that is that in many cases if we waited for the evidence then it would be too late; consequently decisions are made, and often they might be wrong, but we had to do something! A current concern however is regulators making judgements in the absence of evidence, not for conservation reasons but because they are under pressure to do so to avoid holding up or placing too high a burden on development.

      As for re-wilding.....how about the Somerset levels?! Or is that a comment too soon?!

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      1. "is that a comment too soon?!"

        Go to the Sedgemoor Auction Centre, just off J24 on the M5, where you will find lots of people who will answer that for you.

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  2. Great article Simon - a very balanced and thought-provoking piece. I think the key thing people mishear when it comes to rewilding is that it's about letting natural processes take place, so this doesn't necessarily just mean 'letting it go'. Even before man started shaping the British landscape, it's largely agreed that the wildwood was not continuous tree cover (though large-scale open areas, such as moor and heath, would have been absent), suggesting a variety of abiotic and biotic disturbance events kept ecosystems within a habitat mosaic. This is why reintroduction of keystone species and ecosystem engineers is so cosily tied with the rewilding movement - when you talk about overshaded woodlands and silver-washed fritillaries, one can already link back that problem to both the absence of large grazing herbivores such as aurochs. And of course many NGOs replicate these activities with domestic breeds in reserves, though their methods of going about it are often questionable.

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  3. The much heralded Lakenheath Fen contains a wetland of 140 hectares, or just 1.4km2. The “Great Fen” project is restoring 3700 hectares, or 37km2. Compare this to the genuinely ambitious Oostvaardersplassen in Holland (a country of significantly smaller area than England, but with an approximately identical population density) which currently covers 56km2 and is planned to extend to 150km2. Here Konik ponies, Heck cattle and white-tailed sea eagles have all been reintroduced or have colonised naturally in a fully fledged rewilding project.

    Attempts to bring back white-tailed sea eagles to England on the other hand have been stymied by our heavily subsidised farmers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10303266) and the successful reintroduction of these birds in Scotland continues to excite endless nonsense from Scottish crofters (http://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/opinion/letters/vacate-your-perch.23370337).

    Wolves are resurgent across Europe and are now found in most countries including Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Germany. They have even been seen in Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. But in zoophobic England we continue to face concerns about “scary” red kites (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-13614326). There are more than a million wild boar in France (560,000 were shot in 2009 alone; http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/19/france-wild-boar-numbers-rise), but in England we face calls for a cull of just the few hundred persecuted animals that roam the Forest of Dean and parts of Sussex. Why? Because they are a terrifying “threat” to dog walkers (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/6233185.stm). We are obsessed with controlling nature so that everything from badgers to buzzards, from corvids to cormorants, from seals to sea eagles faces calls for culls, culls, culls.

    We are not at the end of a semi-natural age; we are already firmly in the post-natural era and shifting expectations/baselines mean that conservationists in this country spend too much time tidying up the leftover debris without stepping back to consider how to reverse the catastrophe that has overtaken our country’s wildlife. I applaud the likes of the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts for their efforts, but I’m afraid that to date even their flagship projects lack the ambition needed. Evidence of trophic cascades witnessed around the world (http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/trophic-cascades-across-diverse-plant-ecosystems-80060347) shows that reintroducing keystone species such as wolves or beavers has knock on effects benefiting a diverse range of wildlife. But we have become too afraid of the powerful minority farming and shooting lobbies to dare to seriously promote such moves. Instead we are left to seek succour from nest boxes and hedgehog homes, bug houses and garden ponds.

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    1. Of course its worth noting that even in the wonderful Oostvaardersplassen, not all is sweetness or light. Controversy over whether, and to what extent, man should or not should not continue to intervene in such 'rewilding' projects still rages, as it does elsewhere. In the Dutch case it revolves over animal welfare issues. See here - http://tinyurl.com/npccgos.

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    2. I agree with most of this. When I have visited untouched forests in Scandinavia, even when I travel up to the Cairngorms, there is a sense of standing in a landscape that is bigger than us as people. I don't feel that emotion in the British uplands or most of British nature reserves. Conservationists often bemoan the disengagement of the public, particularly children, with nature. I think the fact that we are dealing with a depleted trophic diversity and the obsession with tidiness in conservation has something to do with that disinterest.

      Oostvaardersplassen is ambitious in its scale, but it's controversial to label it as a rewilding project. They've brought in herds of large, non-native herbivores without fear of predators, such that it's difficult for vegetation to establish. I've not been, but doubt there are many trees at all. This is similar to management on some reserves in Britain too.

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      1. Jake - welcome and thank you for your comment.

        There are a few trees at Oostvaardersplassen - that's where the Spoonbills and White-tailed Eagles nest, I guess.

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      2. Jake,

        Oostvaarderplassen is not too far away, south-east of Amsterdam, and well worth visiting. Flevoland, the polder upon which it is situated, although mainly given over to agriculture, is surprisingly well endowed with extensive areas of woodland that border and in some cases extend into the OP complex. Meanwhile the wetland itself is full of typical, marsh, scrubby bushes and trees and stands of trees on its firmer areas.

        As Mark suggests, this is where the spoonbills, cormorants, egrets, WTE and others nest. The surrounding woods boast golden oriole, buzzard, honey buzzard and hobby, amongst others. Meanwhile, dotterel also used to breed, below sea-level, in potato fields in Flevoland! Not sure if they still do.

        And of course Texel, another Dutch birding jewel, is within a couple of hours drive as well.

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  4. I am so glad that rewilding and large scale habitat creation/restoration is getting to the top of the agenda. It has taken massive floods to get us there but after all this is not a new idea.

    I have been very fortunate to travel to some of the great wild and wilderness areas of The World and it soon occured to me when working in conservation that we in the UK were doing things on much to small a scale. I was also fortunate to take part in early discussions on The Great Fen Project and in that Wildlife Trust there was a real understanding of what we had to do. Great credit to all involved in achieving much of it ahead of schedule.

    When I was trying to get people to think BIG I found the biggest problem was nature conservationists themselves. They were intent on dealing with detail rather than standing back and looking at the big picture. Indeed I was sacked as Chairman of The Plynlimon Project because my ideas were considered outrageous and would upset local land owners. My ideas were much in line with those of George Monbiot.

    Enough moaning! Now these issues are getting up the agenda I plead with active conservationists today to grasp the opportunites and work with anyone who can see the vision. Be brave and think big and maybe we will see a resurgence of our British wildlife. One can only hope.

    Great article by the way.

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  5. I am wholeheartedly behind evidence-based conservation. In my experience the biggest problem with this is not just the time it takes to get the evidence but actually getting a lot of conservationists to put fingers to key boards and get the case studies (evidence) out to the audience that needs it in a form that makes it useful rather than the frequent popularist articles that seem to stem from some . That's why I like www.conservationevidence.com and wish more conservation practitioners would contribute to it.

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  6. We have some wonderful semi natural vast tracts of wildernesses then Natural England engagement and access officers seek to transform them to country parks, encouraging people, dogs, horses, bikes etc. great for people but bad for sensitive species and habitats (nightjars, woodlark, cranes).

    Wonder when NE access and engagement officers will get on with dedicating or re-wilding upland grouse moors, thought those areas were supposed to be Open Access as well?

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  7. Forgot to add that we are NOT oppossed to the principle of OA , but we were astonished that NE did not consider it necessary to undertake Appropriate Assessments, rather they created a new process called Nature Conservation Assessments - has any one come across these before implementation of OA on NNRs?

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  8. I have concerns about "re-wilding." As an umbrella policy it would be a move in the wrong direction. Each habitat should be assessed on its own merits and not be subject to interference until a thorough survey has been carried out to establish what species of wildlife are on the site. It would be disastrous to eliminate some species of wildlife to accommodate others. There is no "quick fix" to reversing habitat and species decline, except in an emergency situation. I do not like the phrase "our wildlife" as if we own wildlife. We share "our island" with wildlife. The points raised are all good points in some cases but not in others. In my opinion we are at this stage of environmental care due to those people who make Environmental decisions are not qualified to assess the situation correctly. Economists can only assess from an economical stand-point. Likewise Lawyers look at a situation from a Legal perspective. People trained in the Natural Sciences are more likely to understand what is required to remedy the decline of wildlife and habitats. This is a problem that starts at Government level and is also common in Government departments, wildlife organisations, local government etc. No one expects a Government to be an expert in every possible subject, but there are many other people who can advise Government etc. the best way forward in species and habitat recovery. If only those decision makers would listen to sound science instead of the short term "how much will it cost?" The question is, how much will it cost to put right if you get it wrong in the first place? Re-wilding could be a big mistake in the long term if the proposal is not thought through to its eventual conclusion. In this case I would advise caution. It would certainly be a mistake to leap ahead just because it sounds like the answer to all problems. It is a mistake to introduce species which without natural control would themselves become an expensive problem to remove. Himalayan balsam, giant hogweed, japanese knotweed , new zealand pigmy-weed, foreign deer, wild boar, etc. are already out of control. Beavers will be next, whatever people say about them, lovely cuddly animals, like coypu? If we wanted to alter stream systems it could have been done with an excavator, without the risk of being over-run with species we have no natural control over. Unless it is the intention to introduce beaver hunts? Wolf hunts etc. Rush forward with caution. I doubt if there is one answer to all wildlife situations except perhaps more respect for native species and habitats and a bit less destruction in favour of new building in the hope that it will somehow cure the recession.

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  9. Am in favour of nature but all this rewilding talk means nothing.
    All these rewilding places if left to nature would all revert back to trees and very little wildlife that they are managed for at the moment.
    These places are not wild just managed differently.
    Typical place is RSPB Arne managed as Heathland.
    Each December 1,000 volunteers asked to pull trees up so as to keep Heathland.
    Rewilding,just a lot of tosh.
    Minority farming and shooting groups?
    Include conservation groups in that.

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    1. Dennis you seem worried that habitats might "revert back to trees and very little wildlife that they are managed for at the moment". Ok, but that is exactly the point. Our priority has become simply preserving the few species we have been left with, sometimes at the expense of the return of native species like naturally sprouting tree saplings. Yes of course there will be a few unique habitats such as Arne's heathland where we may wish to impose management to protect EDGE type species, but the worry in the UK is we manage almost all of it to protect these select species and we have very, very little unmanaged woodland that will be richest is fungi, invertebrates (beetles!), and quite possibly birds and mammals. We can still have wildflower meadows and butterflies (hopefully), but where is the English wildwood? What is left of the Caledonian Forest? Why must we have thousands of square kilometres of overgrazed, burnt, eroded and desperately impoverished grouse moor leaking carbon dioxide and sloughing water into our rivers, instead of oak, beech and pine forests like they have in Spain, home to lurking lynx, wandering wolves, lumbering bears, rooting wild boar and bounding martens? Who is sounding the clarion call for ecosystem restoration? Because if we won't do it, why should anyone else do it anywhere else? Because we don't have space? Rubbish, we have plenty - in places we have some of the lowest human population densities in Europe. Because we can't afford it maybe? What then for wildlife in developing countries? Or because farmers don't want the animals? Well, farmers across the world don't want animals on their land, least of all predators. It's a universal truth. But do you want to inhabit a world where creatures that capture the imagination and stir the psyche can only be found on television, perhaps gone from the "wild" entirely? I don't. I really don't.

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      1. I agree with Hugh. Additionally, to me, Simon's blog shows a lack of vision, ambition and expectation. He seems happy with business as usual and more of the same. The Great Fen Project had a great vision, but if you read the 'British Wildlife' magazine article on the Great Fen, (2 issues ago I believe) you will see that their vision has been reduced. Rather than a huge re-wilding project there will for the foreseable future be a series of reserves, some linked, some not. There will not be free-ranging large herbivours but rather units managed in a similar way to the smallish reserves we have around the country. i.e. in a culturally/farmy way, i.e.. This is not the fault of the Project but being realistic to the fact that many local farmers will not sell their land So the Great Fen cannot now be described a re-wilding project and I for one am quite sad about that, but Simon seems quite happy.

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  10. Who says that the 'uplands are empty of wildlife'? Someone travelling to the uplands from their garden in Warwickshire doesn't like what he sees in the hills, so his answer is that we should kick everyone off and leave it to 'Nature'. This is how Monbiot sees the uplands: their playground to be managed just the way they like it.

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  11. Here's a little thought... one day man will have more than likely caused his own extinction, the species that survive will evolve in whatever habitat is left without anybody debating what is the best thing to do for them.

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  12. One factor often overlooked is time. Humans tend to think in human time scales but developing sustainable ecologies needs hundreds, if not thousands of years. The recipe for rewilding needs big herbivores, top carnivores , lots of space and lots of patience.

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  13. Hugh,it is really the rewilding word I object to,no one used that word when re-introducing W T E.It is just some fancy mumbo jumbo thought up by some intellect no doubt.
    Problem with introducing species long gone from our shores is that things have developed along different lines and in general although people on Mark's blog will not acknowledge the fact that almost 100% of population if faced with choice of food on plate or Lynx in some remote place where they cannot be bothered to go to see one or indeed have no interest even in seeing one then food wins every time.We cannot expect majority of population to pander to our tune.
    Also where does it all stop do we get Bears back for instance.

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    1. Dennis - i don't think I like rewilding as a word very much either. But I'm not sure I can think of a better one. The trouble with lots of words - sustainable woul;d be a good example - is that they mean different things to different people.

      Your proposed choice is a false dichotomy. The choice is not between eating and Lynxes - we could have both. Or, at least we should be trying to have both.

      Surely you mean 'panda to our tune'?

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  14. Very good Mark,understand what you say but it is always complicated as now we have so many sheep in areas that Lynx would be in and would be the easiest meal for them and as the farmers in areas where lambs may be taken by W T E have had compensation then surely the farmers having sheep taken would expect similar compensation.
    Should all car owners go back even 120 years and all have pony and trap that would really be some rewilding.
    Things have seriously moved on and reintroductions have to have consent and get seriously thought through.

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    1. Dennis - who says that farmers couldn't be compensated for losses to Lynx? i think I should be compensated for the loss of Lynx in my life anyway.

      I don't think anyone is suggesting going back 120 years.

      And reintroductions are seriously thought through and requite licenses - unlike the introduction of 45 million non-native Pheasants into the UK every year.

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  15. So much going on and on such a little island, is the UK big enough for such proposed ideas? Are the politicians brave enough and committed enough for such a proposal and the negative drop in votes where interested parties such as farmers are impacted, I don't think they are.
    Lets look at George M's proposed ideas, twice by accident I caught the bloke on televison of late, the most recent being a visit to the Somerset Levels were George explained to the reporter how perhaps it was time to surrender the Levels to nature/natural events...retreating from the land I think was his phrase. Even after from a weak question from the Panoram reporter George stood firm about his convictions. It's exactly what I refer to in reagards to the politicians, strenght of conviction.
    The reporter then takes George to the pub where the landlord is busy filling sandbags ( I think his name was Jim), the landlord then asks George where do re-house the people, what jobs for the farmers who have only ever farmed and George faced with a small bit of opposition, his convictions collapsing quicker then my attempts at assembling flatpack furniture, slight paraphrasing but George say "we have to find a way to work together to prevent this occurences", so if one of the main propsers of rewilding has the strength of his convictions what do expect the elected law makers do to?
    Simply put rewilding to the extent of seeing wolves/bears/lynx roaming free will not happen.

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  16. Not writing as a Fellow of the Linnean Society.... *

    It was good to see the Society hosting such a 'debate'. If you follow the links Simon provided, you'll learn lots about the variety of past and future events presented by the Linn Soc and its work (well worth the effort). You might even consider joining.

    The debate itself, as these things generally are, was largely an opportunity for a packed audience to hear four speakers trot out personal/organisational views in the limited time each had, with a little time left over for some not very probing questions from the audience. The time passed pleasantly enough and I expect that a more or less good time was had by all. I recall seeming to catch Aidan Lonergan's eye once or twice as I tried not to pull faces at some of the statements made by the others, but perhaps he was just similarly engaged.

    The Linnean Society has managed to influence a lot of positive action over the years, and I would really like to see it follow up on this public event - perhaps in partnership with others - to invite the great and the good from the conservation world to a 2-day workshop-based event to discuss 'the British Conservation Model' and what could be done to improve it in the run up to 2020 - just as a start to making that happen.

    As a detailed or brief look at the evidence will tell you, the current BCMt isn't working. And whilst it's a good thing to try to ensure that future generations will give a damn about wildlife, there are almost certainly more effective ways of 'doing conservation' in the UK than what we have at present.

    Now, whether it is the Society with its huge history, the publication of 'Feral' or Simon's guest post that might later be identified as the pebble that resulted in
    a landslide that actually led to the 'step change' called for in the Lawton Review (still awaited, despite the piecemeal bits and pieces that resulted from the Natural Environment White Paper), it really doesn't matter. What does is the future state of nature (for all those future blog-readers/writers to give a damn about.

    Whether you're the CEO of a conservation body or simply an interested member of the public, what would you prefer to look back on come 2020, the establishment of the RSPBs virtual research centre, the billionth biological record on the NBN Gateway, the millionth mile of herp fence, the squidillionth closely-supervised mini-beast encounter or the creation of something that might actually lead to better fortune's for nature in all its wonderful, ragged, tatty, gorgeous, inspiring glory? Small victories are great. Please tweet about them all you want but just look at what we've lost despite all these different voices for nature. Do the current Defra stats inspire you with hope? Take just a moment to consider whether things would be better now if different courses had been followed in the past and whether it might just possibly be worth thinking about and discussing how they might be better in future. Too much to ask?

    *Although actually....

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  17. I am not against this so called rewilding in theory but it is really hard to put into practice in today's world,I really enjoy the W T E for example but even there problem is how long can the cost of stopping persecution go on for including even photographers disturbing nesting birds.
    Favourite one now seems to be the Lynx,what is the point as they would be in the least populated areas,hardly ever seen,conservationists would have to look into their conscience about travelling so far in the hope of a glimpse as they are always on about climate change.These round trips of hundreds of miles must count in that respect.
    I must be missing something as if they are serious the answer surely is in what everyone else seems to have to do if they really want something.
    In general whether it is a house and garden,paddock for a horse,smallholding,or a farm then you have to buy it.
    Why then do not conservationists buy somewhere,get a licence and you have your Lynx.Seeing as many conservationists who are pushing for rewilding are wealthy people it should not pose a problem.
    Just maybe there is no serious intent other than to make a packet out of lots of articles.
    My guess is Lynx would probably be the final straw in another rewilding project with Capercaillie.
    As for the Somerset Levels,is anyone even G M seriously thinking that these levels of flooding are good for wildlife.

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    1. "Why then do not conservationists buy somewhere,get a licence and you have your Lynx.Seeing as many conservationists who are pushing for rewilding are wealthy people it should not pose a problem."
      I think some already do that Dennis they're called nature reserves! But surely some land is already owned by "people" like me, National Parks for example, getting a liscense? Hmmm think their is a European Directive or Law that states we should be re-introducing certain species anyway but lets say we people do but land get a liscense for animals such as the Lynx, as a farmer do you think the released animal will approach the boundary of the purchased land and turn around?
      ",conservationists would have to look into their conscience about travelling so far in the hope of a glimpse as they are always on about climate change.These round trips of hundreds of miles must count in that respect."....zzzzzzz that response is becoming as popular as "Labour did it Guv", these people who travel hundreds of miles (I'm not sure how you know how many miles these people travel, they could be local!) it's better then them having to travel THOUSANDS, how many miles do you do in a year? How many miles travelled on your farm for example? These people that travel did they do part of their journey by train? Did they travel five in a car therefore sharing their carbon footprint anyway, that's what I do, who says someone who enjoys watching nature is a conservationist? Also you dont' have to actually see an animal to justify it's existence and place in the ecology/environment!
      "including even photographers disturbing nesting birds" sorry but number of photographers deliberately disturbing nesting birds is incredibly low, as a photographer, NO SELF-RESPECTING bird photographer will photograph nesting birds without the required liscense, anyone caught either in act or via publishing images of nesting bird does get reported by "fellow" photographers etc. Wildlife photgraphers whole point is NOT to disturb or approach a nest also as a photographer if you disturb a bird, NO IMAGE, wether it's nesting,feeding,preening or resting nevermind nesting, we have a strict code of conduct which is adhered by most...does the shooting industry and some farmers?

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  18. Ed,just to correct some of your interpretations.
    Lynx would obviously be in habitats of low human population usually said by those wanting Lynx to be out of the way in Scottish Highlands,obvious then that the trips to see them or not see them(more likely)would be long trips by car.That must be obvious.
    It really is no good you going on about photographers code of conduct as even with almost complete protection on Mull of W T E some still get through the defenses and nests have been disturbed with eggs getting chilled resulting in that nest failing that year and resulting in birds nesting in different place in following year.that is simply a fact and those people either did not know about code of conduct or did not care about it.
    Surprised you disagree with that considering lack of people worrying about the law these days.
    I do less than 6,000 miles a year and when farming simply a relatively low number of hours with a tractor(tractors are calibrated in hours).
    Of course as a retired farmer I always had to fence to keep my animals on my land and I would expect people wanting Lynx to do the same responsible thing.
    One further problem would be what to do when there were too many Lynx as they would have no top predator.

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  19. Ed,with a bit of luck this should give a link for one lot of W T E disturbance.
    raptorpolitics.org.uk/.../two-photographers-found-guilty-of-illegally-dist...‎
    There is loads of evidence this would happen quite a lot with no protection by Mull Eagle team,they go to great lengths even the ferry has car number plates on computer to find likely egg thieves etc,that is what I understand anyway,it is a big problem anyway with just over eager bird watchers upsetting the birds unless the group of protectors are around.

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    1. Firstyly the pair you refer to weren't under liscense and rightly had the book thrown at them (should've had all equipment seized to imho) I'm never going to defend photgraphing at the nest, in fact with modern tech any real purpose of being at the nest with a camera other then collecting evidence of a crime is fast disappearing, even under liscense birds get harmed and when that happens the photographer will find it hard to get a liscense granted, the fact is Dennis with bird photography/bird watching/FARMERS/GAMEKEEPERS there are bad eggs out there. I can only speak as a wildlife photographer I spend about 20 hours a week searching Photo sharing websites, presonal websites for dubious photograhers and we do weed them out.
      It helps when some site (birdguides for example) put a blanket ban on Schedule one species and rare species from being uploaded during breeding season which in turn discourages bad practise.

      p.s if I'm travelling 1000 miles I'm opting for the train not the car keys, that's say more about your state of mind when it comes to travelling then me as a birder I'm afraid.

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      1. It's fair to say that the likes of Cherry Kearton, Oliver Pike, Seton Gordon, Eric Hosking, John Markham, Mike Tomkies et al inspired a whole generation of bird enthusiasts many of whom - self included - took up bird photography, at the nest, using hides.

        This field sport, for that's what it is, is responsible for furnishing the raw material that has illustrated countless field guides, ornithological books and works of reference. And a session watching or photographing birds up close from a hide doesn't half help one understand better and appreciate fascinating aspects of bird behaviour. It can be, literally, inspirational.

        In it's latest manifestation, the likes of Gordon Buchanan, RSPB 'house' photographers and Springwatch cameramen are inspiring new generations of nature enthusiasts and bird photographers. Long may it continue.

        Modern technology does allow you to stand back further from the subject in many instances, so is less intrusive. And it's also worth noting that in order to be granted a Schedule 1 Licence for nest photography, the applicant needs to demonstrate his competence and be supported by suitably qualified and experienced referees. As Ed points out, regulation and a code of conduct govern behaviour thereafter.

        There will always be 'cowboys'out there, as in all walks of life. It is good that these 2 were caught and suitable punished, serving as a deterrent for others who may be minded to act irresponsibly.

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  20. Ed,still think you may find it hard to get a train into remote parts of Highlands where they seem to say they are likely to put Lynx if anywhere,that is why I suggest a car most likely.
    Of course responsible photographers are not going to disturb nesting birds but there are plenty of the other kind.

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    1. Still not convinced Dennis, last summer I photographed Osprey, WTE (from a boat more exciting then "bird on a nest", Short eared Owl, Curlew and Golden Plover amongst other species all done by train,mountain bike and those two things at the end of my legs...oh yeah feet!

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