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.




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19 Replies to “The Gove test”

  1. Great to see every thing is back in our court now but are we ready to give the answers? What is wildlife worth in Essex? How many jobs does it create? What is needed for it to expand? Why would any one cross the channel to come and view it? The same question to every region of Britain and I presume, few being able to answer!!

  2. Question for the Minister.....When are YOU going to enforce the laws on all wildlife crime.

  3. Is your point that the RSPB fails to mention this as it wishes not to upset a membership that voted in no small part for Brexit?

    1. Where did you find the stats that back up your statement re the voting intention of RSPB members?

  4. Step 1: Change this:

    "If we want the UK’s approach to environmental protection and enhancement to be seen as the best in the world..."

    to this:

    "If we want the UK’s environmental protection and enhancement to be the best in the world..."

    In other words, strip out the mealy-mouthed expressions that give you the latitude to fail acceptably and actually do something that makes the situation better.

  5. Erm... we spoke at length about the value of the directives and explained why we disagreed with his interpretation of the Habs Regs hence my reference to them in the blog in the context of the Thames. I think I mention the need to maintain or bolster environmental protection afforded by EU laws about every third blog I have written post UK vote to leave the EU...

    1. Martin - thanks. Errrm - all the stranger that It doesn't feature in your exam answer then. 'Answer the question on the paper in the space provided'.

      Good that you got that chat. Although Matt Ridley seems to think you are all in it for the money!

  6. I hope their answer is that everything is in place for us to have the best wildlife conservation in place in the world - all it needs is full government support...over to you Gove?

  7. Not to mention the National Trust - owner of 618,000 acres of land. Self proclaimed "the nation's largest farmer"... It would be good for them, as custodians of national heritage, placing natural heritage as something to cherish, protect and develop.

  8. Moor Trees says 'We know it gets a mixed response, even amongst conservationists, but we would like to see the concept of Re-wilding taken seriously as a way of enhancing (Gove's word) rather than just trying to hold the line.'

    Also agree with you Mark, we must keep the legal framework, though it would be helpful if NE, SNH etc were capable of imposing it.

  9. There is an excellent article in the current (June) issue of British Wildlife: 'Changes in bird populations in the UK's Special Protection Areas' by Ian Bainbridge and David Stroud. It assesses and updates the status of key species relative to the SPA network, and really usefully reiterates the whole original purpose and function of SPAs, explaining them clearly in the context of Natura 2000, Birds and Habitats Directives etc. It also reminds us of the equally important SPA status in the context of other, non-EU, environmental treaties (Ramsar and Berne Conventions etc) under which the UK has obligations regardless of EU membership. The article includes an invaluable 'SPA jargon unpacked' section, and finishes by stressing the fundamental importance of volunteer effort in the underlying survey work. This is stuff, admittedly written by 'experts', that Mr Gove and all MPs need to understand during the forthcoming parliamentary session. The article is fully cited online but not freely available, though Defra will have access. Perhaps the RSPB could find ways of assisting our MPs with this.

  10. I'm amused (yes really, because I have a strong cynical streak) at the thought of an interest in wildlife and conservation in a man who supports both fox hunting and the badger cull, both in the face of expert opinion (but 'we've had enough of experts',eh Michael?) Am I alone in thinking that rather than looking for wildlife at Rainham he might have been seeking the common spotted photo-op?

  11. ‘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?‘.

    Global: We need to acknowledge that the Paris Climate Accord does not go far enough to avoid the sixth mass extinction. Global warming mitigation and adaptation must be the centre of all government policy.
    National: We need to acknowledge that the current trajectory for Brexit will leave little enforcement capacity for environmental legislation enforcement after 29th March 2019 when we are no longer bound by rulings from the EU Commission and the European Court of Justice. Transfer of EU legislation to UK Law is worthless without enforcement capacity in place.
    Local: We need to acknowledge the damage done to local ecosystems by current agricultural and fisheries practice and implement policies that maximise biodiversity and resilience at all locations.

  12. As Paul Williams quite rightly says, enforce the existing laws. I'd probably add that it's the starting point otherwise why would we take them seriously?

    Wildlife crime is getting worse, the State of Nature is abysmal, too many re-intros instead of protecting? The gagging act has silenced the criticism from the large NGOs who are bought off with project funding to deliver PR? Nothing wrong with that but ....

    NE are muzzled watchdog (1997) and some, they are now competing with NGOs and local authorities for HLF funding certainly not cost effective project managers. Hit the dislike button even though yes, I'm sure there are still some good staff in NE somewhere.

    Gove on R4 this morning, no mention of environment but plenty on Brexit???

    Will someone remind me of Gove's green credentials please ....

  13. minimum requirement is keeping the birds and habitats directives, all SSSIs sacrosanct with utterly no development on them or adjacent if it is going to be damaging ( so the current route for the vanity project that is HS2 is a No No. In our uplands NO BURNING of blanket bog all moor grips blocked at owners expense. No use of brood management of Hen Harriers in SPAs for the species unless the designation is exceeded by at least 25%. No agricultural enhancement grants for grouse moors, unless they have rewetted all blanket bog and have a full suite of protected avian predators expected in that habitat. Large areas of our uplands are given over to nonprofitable sheep rearing to the detriment of that habitat, some/much of this land should be rewilded and some of that should be left to entirely natural processes. No more high density stocking of pheasants, red legged partridges or in important water bodies none native carp or trout.Nor should water bodies in SSSIs or in SPAs be fenced to keep out native predators (otter) or be subject to control of piscivorous birds unless they are important native fish populations at risk.

  14. Go back to understanding that nature contributes to quality of life in ways other than benefiting the economy, and that QoL is what really matters to most of us so long as our basic economic needs are met. A government that put life ahead of finance would be a government worth voting for.

  15. The real problem is the kind of people we have in power, what the hell does Gove know about the environment?? We stick individuals in posts they are completely ignorant about. Take defence, the logical people for this post would an ex. generals, admirals etc., but no we put some party arse kisser in power with the usual disastrous consequences. It`s the same with the environment, Truss and Leadsom set an amazing example in how to do it right!!!!


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