Nobody really trusts politicians these days (which personally I think is sad because there are some good ones out there) but until recently we have trusted government agencies. In nature conservation, in the olden days, some of the greatest nature conservationists of their time, of any time, worked in and led the statutory agencies – and yes, I have Derek Ratcliffe in mind amongst many others.
After reorganisations and cuts our statutory agencies are shadows of their former selves – and yet the job we need them to do is just as great and just as difficult as ever.
There are many good staff in Natural England but it is a failing organisation – failing to do its job for nature, failing the public and therefore failing to retain our trust.
Our crowdfunder is to take legal action against Natural England – to make them do their job properly! I’m sad that it has come to this. It would have been hard to imagine a decade ago and it’s the consequence of political neutering of a once laudable organisation (if you consider NE, EN, NCC and NC as being one evolving body).
Just look at some of the comments that supporters of this legal challenge have attached to their donations:
- Keith £50 – Natural England are a corrupt body
- Chris £10 – We’re standing up to the nature trashers because are NGOs and Statuatory Bodies don’t have the stomach for the fight
- David £10 – Natural England has been weakened so drastically that it offers very little protection & needs to be challenged
- Brian £35 – Good luck with this Mark, Natural England have lost all credibility, in backing this proposed track with downright dodgy data!
- Chris £500 – I’m pleased to give but confounded by the fact that I’ve already paid these miscreants through my taxes – they are so compromised
- Nigel £25 – Natural England seem to be less fit for purpose than the Home Office, if that’s possible.
- Tracey £10 – Thank you for taking this ridiculous department to task.
- Mike £10 – The four countries’ statutory advisers are not fit for purpose. They need a very fundamental reform, so that they stand up for biodiversity, including objecting to damaging development proposals
- Rosemary £100 – It is outrageous that Natural England can allow a landowner to damage his land
And that is just a selection of some of the most recent bolshy comments.
Win or lose this case – and I am confident that we can win – under this government and under its recent and present leadership, Natural England has lost the trust of the public. We do not think that NE is working for wildlife and we do not think that it is working for the taxpayer.
Please help draw a line in the sand – or actually in the peat – and make NE do its job properly. Please add your support to this crowdfunder to mount a legal challenge which, if successful, will make NE do its job properly. Thank you.
The crowdfunder to support legal action against Natural England‘s failure to protect Walshaw Moor launched yesterday at 1pm – by 10pm it had already reached the first target of £5000. I’m so relieved and so grateful. This means that we can move forward with confidence and that I am not left with a big debt!
What I do have is a big debt of gratitude to you for setting off on this new journey with me – thank you very much.
This case is about two things. First, and most importantly to me, it’s about protecting our best wildlife sites. Walshaw Moor has just about every nature conservation designation and notification that a place can have – and yet it is threatened by damaging burning and by a proposed 5km track through its most sensitive habitats. This is wrong – it’s morally wrong and our view is that it is also legally wrong.
Second, it’s about making Natural England do its job properly. NE will be making over 100 agreements of a similar form with other upland landowners over this year and next – we need to make sure that they are of a much higher standard than this one. We need to draw a line in the sand – or in fact a line in the peat. If Michael Gove, Therese Coffey, Andrew Sells, James Cross and the NE Board can’t get NE to do their job properly then we taxpayers and citizens must step in. They work for us, and they should be working for nature.
If you agree then please donate here – there’s a long way to go to meet our overall target so that the lawyers can get paid, court costs can be met and in the worst case scenario, we can pay costs to the other side.
See yesterday’s blog with more information about the case and about the history of Walshaw Moor.
I’ve been writing about Walshaw Moor for years – this is my 64th blog on the subject!
But now I am asking for your help to protect this site from further damage. In fact, I am asking for your help to protect this site from Natural England who have reached a management agreement with the Walshaw Moor Estate that will allow continued burning of heather on blanket bogs and will drive a new 5km track through this site and through its ‘protected’ blanket bog habitat.
I am seeking a judicial review of the management agreement and will claim that Natural England have not carried out the appropriate assessments properly. I need to raise £5000 quickly to take this case forward and another £21,000 to be able to see it through to the end. I’ve started things rolling with £250 and I see that someone has already generously chipped in another £100 so we are off to a good start!
We have a strong case – but I can’t guarantee success. I can guarantee that taking this case will send a strong message to Natural England that they cannot cut corners because the public is watching them.
Please consider supporting the crowdfunder on the Crowd Justice website – every contribution helps protect our upland habitats.
For more information on Walshaw Moor and the mismanagement agreement that Natural England has signed see Wuthering Moors 62 – this deep!, Wuthering Moors 61 – Natural England How deep have you sunk?, Wuthering Moors 58 – Natural England fails to regulate burning on blanket bogs, Wuthering Moors 57 – Natural England paving the way, Wuthering Moors 56 – the shameful capitulation of state nature conservation.
Click here to help this legal challenge – thank you.
From now until, the beginning of July, blog posts here will be far less frequent and rather unpredictable, as I am travelling a lot – coming and going.
This might be a good time to sign up to getting new posts on this blog to be sent automatically to you. You can do that by entering your email address in the box towards the top right of this page and pressing ‘Subscribe’. You can unsubscribe any time you like and your email address will only be used for the purpose of sending you automatic notifications that a post has appeared.
Reviewed by Ian Carter
The title of this book is taken from an Irish Government report dating back to 1969 raising concerns that Ireland’s natural heritage is being gradually ‘whittled away’. The report suggests, in the understated way of the age, that this ‘could represent a serious loss to the nation’. You could imagine much the same wording in a government report today, half a century on – a bit more jargon perhaps, but the same message about the importance of stemming the losses. And yet, despite the endless reports, the relentless chipping away of wildlife continues largely unchecked, as described in considerable detail in this book.
The main topics in the book will be familiar to anyone interested in conservation though, unsurprisingly, there is a strong emphasis on the issues most relevant to Ireland. So, whilst farming is dealt with comprehensively, the focus is on pasture and livestock rather than arable. Marine issues get plenty of space and there is some impressive historical detail showing just how much has been lost from the seas around Ireland through decades of overexploitation. The sad story of Ireland’s diminished and degraded peat bogs is also set out at length.
Separate chapters deal with lost species and the culling of problematic wild animals which seems to be done with even more enthusiasm, and less public outrage, than across the water in Britain. If England and Wales lag behind Scotland in some aspects of wildlife legislation and political engagement then Ireland is perhaps a step further back still. Ireland apparently outscores the UK when it comes to adverse European Court judgements relating to protected sites and I was amazed to learn that the Basking Shark remains unprotected in Irish waters – though there is no suggestion that anyone still hunts them. The laying of poison baits supposedly aimed at (but not always hitting) foxes and corvids was legal until outlawed by legislation introduced as recently as 2010. Badger culling may be relatively new in England but in Ireland landowners have been quietly whittling away the population for decades and over 100,000 animals have already been killed.
The book contains a lot of detail and it sometimes takes a while to come around to the main, take-home points in each chapter. There is also quite a bit of repetition with core subjects resurfacing at regular intervals. Perhaps it’s a little longer than it needed to be, though it never becomes dense or dull, and repetition at least helps to reinforce the main arguments.
The final chapter offers broad suggestions for how things could be done differently in future. Reading between the lines, I sense this is a plea for change based more on hope than expectation. There is scope for small (but welcome) gains in specific areas – a reintroduced species here and there, the occasional rewilding project, and perhaps greater protection and community involvement for a few of the surviving fragments of raised bog. But to inspire more substantial change the book will have to reach the influential landowners and politicians who seem blissfully unaware there is even a problem.
Some familiarity with Ireland and the organisations involved in rural issues will help readers get the most out of this book, though the author has taken care to explain things sufficiently to make it accessible to ‘outsiders’. He has been closely involved with the Irish Wildlife Trust, serving for a time as its chairman and campaigns officer, and half of the royalties from the book will go to help the trust’s work.
Whittled Away: Ireland’s vanishing nature, by Pádraic Fogarty is published by The Collins Press.