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Headlines from Week Beginning 14 November


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A round up of the top stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


Monday 14 November

Rift over plan to move pine martens reported by Scotland on Sunday.

There has been an outcry at the possibility of relocating pine martens in Scotland to try and conserve the numbers of capercailliesThere has been an outcry at the possibility of relocating pine martens in Scotland to try and conserve the numbers of capercaillies

Pine martens throughout the Highlands could be captured and relocated in a radical bid to save one of Scotland’s most iconic birds from extinction.

Fears have been raised that the cat-sized predators are having a disastrous impact on the country’s dwindling capercaillie population in the Highlands.

Stewart Stevenson, the environment minister, says he would consider relocating the mammals to other areas if scientific research confirms they are threatening the survival of the largest member of the grouse family.

A relocation programme would be the second sanctioned by the Scottish Government, which gave the go-ahead to Scottish Natural Heritage in 2003 to remove hundreds of predatory hedgehogs from the Western Isles to save the eggs of wading birds as part of a £1.3 million experiment. A report this year suggested there was no evidence that that operation has had any effect.

Stevenson is keen to safeguard the endangered capercaillie, whose Gaelic name means “horse of the woods”, and would not rule out trapping and removing the bird and rodent eating martens.

He said: “If it can be demonstrated that pine martens are part of the difficulty then we would look at what we can do. One option, clearly, would be relocation. But equally pine martens are an important part of our natural environment so we would need to consider very carefully how we separated them from areas that are important to capercaillie.”


Plea to help river wildlife - Dorset Wildlife Trust

The river wildlife of one of Dorset’s iconic chalk streams needs help, according to Dorset Wildlife Trust.   The River Allen in east Dorset is one of the hidden gems of the county, home to species such as the rare native white-clawed crayfish, but not all of its wildlife is thriving.  Surveys undertaken this year by Dorset Wildlife Trust as part of The River Allen Living Landscape Project found very little evidence of water voles, once prevalent on the river.  

Amanda Broom, Conservation Officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “We knew that water voles were few and far between on The Allen, but these results are very worrying.  We are working with local landowners and fishing groups to make improvements to the habitat for a range of species and this work is clearly especially urgent for water voles.  We are urging anybody who has seen a water vole or any signs of their presence within the last year to get in touch with us.”


Native trees are fruiting earlier than ever according to Woodland Trust data

2011 set to be a 'mast year' for both acorns and beech nuts
Data recorded by the public for the Woodland Trust suggests that our native British trees are reacting to the changing climate by producing ripe fruit on average 18 days earlier than they were a decade ago.

The trend, which is consistently advancing across 12 different species suggests that the gradual increase in temperatures over recent years is having an effect on the flowering and subsequent fruiting patterns of many of our most well known species. Acorns are ripening 13 days earlier than in the period 2000-2002, beech nuts 19 days earlier and rowan berries nearly one month earlier.


Tuesday 15 November

Research into bumblebee foraging distance offers conservation potential - CEH

Common carder bee, Bombus pascuorumCommon carder-bee - photo by Claire Carvell

Researchers are closer to understanding how the foraging distances of wild bumblebees vary across landscapes. The findings, published recently in the scientific journal Oikos, are potentially important for landscape managers looking to conserve bumblebee populations and enhance pollination services for crops and biodiversity. 

Evidence suggests that many bumblebees have declined across Europe and North America along with the plant species they rely on as foraging resources. Habitat loss is considered one of the main drivers behind the decline and there is considerable interest in developing conservation options that could restore landscapes for pollinators.


MCS kicks up a stink over number of untreated sewage discharges throughout UK 

Untreated Sewage DischargesNew research shows there are thousands more of these discharges in water company ownership than previously thought

We have obtained new information from water companies and environmental regulators throughout the UK that reveals, for the first time, the full extent of the problem of discharges of raw sewage to the environment. The time has come for the water industry to clean up its act.

It was previously thought there were about 22,000 discharges – the vast majority of which are known as combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and emergency overflows (EOs). However, using Environmental Information Regulations, we have discovered that the Environment Agency uses another four terms for raw sewage discharges that are not widely understood by the public. Taking these into account, the number of raw sewage outfalls in operation in England and Wales is actually more like 31,000, instead of the usually published figure of 22,000.


the latest on the NPPF from The Telegraph

Hands Off Our Land: David Cameron’s attempts to reform the planning system are 'contradictory and confusing'

David Cameron’s attempts to reform the planning system are “contradictory and confusing”, MPs say today.

A Commons committee said controversial plans to introduce a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” to planning rules were “unsatisfactory” and open to legal challenge.

Unusually the MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee have written directly to the Prime Minister with their report, urging him to make changes.

The intervention from the committee is a significant boost for campaigners, including the National Trust, which are battling against the reforms. The Daily Telegraph is also calling for the changes to be rethought.  Ministers have stressed that they will take into account the findings of the committee before they finalise the changes in the next few months.  Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne are desperate to reform planning rules to provide a boost to the economy.  They claim that current planning rules are holding back firms from expanding, and restricting house-building, keeping prices artificially high.

Joan Walley MP, who chairs the committee, said the current draft "appears contradictory and confusing".  She said: "It pays lip service to sustainable development without providing a clear definition, potentially leaving future planning decisions open to legal challenges.”



Moorland thrives as falcons fly high for grouse - Yorkshire Post

Ralph Watt and his falcon Cirrus near Fylingdales radar stationRalph Watt and his falcon Cirrus near Fylingdales radar station

A group of falconers have been nominated for a top conservation award. Roger Ratcliffe reports from Levisham Moor

On a beautiful autumn day a speck moves at lightning speed across blue skies over the North York Moors.

Far below, some pointers are being directed through the heather with whistles in search of red grouse. Suddenly, one of the dogs comes to an abrupt halt. It stands absolutely dead still, like a statue, its nostrils sifting the crisp autumnal air, and then it sets off again to follow the scent of a bird.  Very soon the grouse is flushed from its hiding place and it rockets across the moor, well beyond the reach of the pointer. Up in the sky, however, the speck is now dropping like a stone.  With hardly a beat of its wings, the falcon meets its quarry in mid-air with laser-like precision. The grouse is killed instantly. Yet barely a feather of its plumage seems to have been disturbed when Ralph Watt picks it up and puts it into his bag. The cleanness of the kill, he says, contrasts with the mess that is often made by lead pellets discharged from a shotgun.  It is the first kill of the day for the falconers who lease Levisham Moor from its owners, the North York Moors National Park.

These are not the Eton and Harrow-educated, double-barrel-named scions of the English upper classes you might normally associate with the pursuit of game birds across moors like this, however.  They count among their number an electrician, a builder’s labourer and a salesman.   They are members of the British Falconers’ Club, who 13 years ago set up the Levisham Moor Group and took the sporting lease of a huge area of moorland on the west side of the A169 Pickering to Whitby road.

The National Park wanted the land managed in a way that would maintain the heather and traditional moorland wildlife. It was decided that shooting would not be appropriate in such an accessible and sensitive part of the North York Moors. The group’s work has resulted in a remarkable reversal of fortunes for the moor.  When the falconers took the lease in 1999 the population of red grouse was in the teens, and just about the only other creatures living there were adders.   Now, the latest grouse count estimates there are between 300 and 400 on the moor.


Not really national news but very important here in the CJS Office, it was on Levisham Moor more years ago than I care to remember that I started my ecologist's career putting in some of the baseline counts for the Park, which in those days were really quite easy because the moor was bereft of wildlife and smothered with molinia and d.flex which made the hundreds of NVC quadrants really simple - even in the middle of winter!


Wednesday 17 November

Announcement on Marine Conservation Zones yesterday (Tues 15/11)

Written Ministerial Statement on Marine Conservation Zones - defra

Environment Minister Richard Benyon today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

As part of the Government’s commitment to implementing in full the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, we are creating a network of national protected areas in British seas to ensure our underwater wildlife flourishes in years to come. We are clear that looking after the wildlife and habitat in our seas is just as important as looking after those on land.

The Government’s first step to identifying new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English waters was taken forward through four regional MCZ projects managed by the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies, who are Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The regional projects provided their recommendations for proposed sites for MCZs on 8 September. These have been reviewed by the independent Science Advisory Panel (SAP) and their advice to the SNCBs and Defra is being published today on Defra’s website.


Science Advisory Panel

The Science Advisory Panel is an independent body of expert marine scientists, which was established to support the four regional projects in selecting MCZs. It offered objective scientific assessment of site proposals and independent advice to Ministers. Panel members were drawn from a diverse range of marine scientific disciplines to ensure a balanced and comprehensive skill set.

You can find out more about the Panel and read their reports and recommendations online


Reaction from the Wildlife Trusts  Marine Conservation Zones delayed

Image: Paul Naylor

Image: Paul Naylor

 Our seas are suffering serious damage and need protection now, according to The Wildlife Trusts, in response to today’s ministerial statement on Marine Conservation Zones.

The statement announces the Government’s intention to gather further evidence on the 127 Marine Conservation Zones recommended by stakeholder groups. The recommendations are the result of consultation with more than one million stakeholders including fishermen, conservationists and businesses. The process has cost around £8.8million to date.

The groups made their recommendations based on the ‘best available evidence’ as advised by Defra in 2010. The process of gathering additional evidence is expected to delay designation of Marine Conservation Zones by at least a year.

We are disappointed that we now face a further delay of at least 12 months when more damage to marine habitats will continue to occur. Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas, The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts believe all 127 sites should be designated. Today’s statement, made by Natural Environment and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, promises all 127 sites will be consulted on. However, there is no indication of when, or how many might be designated. The Wildlife Trusts fears the delayed timeframe could put marine species and habitats at considerable risk of further degradation.

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“We welcome the commitment that Defra has announced today to consult on all 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English Waters. However, despite international evidence for the urgent need to protect our seas, the Minister’s statement will result in further unacceptable delay.


Read more from Joan on her blog: Marine Conservation Zones hang in the balance

It’s make or break time for the UK’s marine life. Looking back over my career I’ve never experienced a time of greater concern for the future of our seas.

After years of pressure from The Wildlife Trusts and a huge amount of public support, the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 promised us an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas around the coast by 2012.

Comments on the blog are from many varying conservation organisations.


Other news today: 

Rare filmy fern at Nymans estate 'stolen by collector' - reported by BBC News

Tunbridge filmy fern The National Trust had recently completed a project to improve the fern's habitat

One of the UK's rarest plants has disappeared from a site in West Sussex, prompting an investigation.

The National Trust said the colony of Tunbridge filmy fern was removed from its Nymans estate near Handcross.

The trust, which is working alongside Sussex Police to investigate the disappearance, said it may have been stolen by a collector.

Chloe Bradbrooke, a ranger at Nymans, said: "The loss of this fern has been a hammer blow to all our staff."

She added: "We are all hoping that if the plants have been stolen by a collector, someone will see sense and return them to their natural home before it is too late.


NFU and Badger Trust work on joint TB vaccination project

The NFU and the Badger Trust have agreed to work together on an initial project to vaccinate badgers on two farms owned by members of the NFU.

NFU chief farm policy adviser John Royle and Badger Trust Director Simon Boulter have agreed a joint project in which the badgers on two farms owned by NFU members will be vaccinated. In addition, the Badger Trust has identified five other landowners around the UK wishing to vaccinate badgers and is working independently with them as part of the initial trial project.

Vaccination on all seven farms started in October after surveys were carried out to identify active badger setts and licences have been granted by Natural England. The vaccination project will run until the end of November 2011 and resume in May 2012.


 Lake District 'million pound path' repair - Lake District National Park Authority 

Two years after record-breaking floods caused havoc in Cumbria, the Lake District National Park has just spent its one millionth pound on repairing damage and restoring the rights of way network.

After the floods, an LDNPA survey indicated that some 253 bridges needed repairing or replacing to increase the resilience of the rights of way network in case of future flooding disasters.

So far 180 bridges have been repaired by local contractors under the supervision of national park teams and where ever possible the project teams utilise local suppliers and materials to develop skills and capacity within small rural businesses across the county.

The landmark million pound repair was carried out to the bridleway running from Water Side House to Finsthwaite House, near Newby Bridge and involved Commercial Groundworks from High Bentham using 90 tonnes of local stone to improve and repair paths and drains.


Thursday 17 November

UKSeaMap 2010 - predictive mapping of seabed habitats - JNCC

 The UKSeaMap 2010 project has produced a new seabed habitat map for the UK marine area. It builds on the previous work of MESH (2008), UKSeaMap 2006 and the Irish Sea Pilot (2004). Newly available data products and an enhanced predictive approach were used to prepare the input data layers.

Download full report.


 Access to wildlife should be a right, not a privilege writes Tony King, Head of Policy at Scottish Wildlife Trust, in The Guardian

Access to wildlife should be a right, not a privilegeEvidence is growing that access to a wildlife-rich environment is essential for children's health and wellbeing

Access to a green environment is essential for children's development, argues Tony King. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

No government has recognised access to nature as a right, yet it can and does deliver benefits to everyone in society. The Scottish Government is consulting on a rights of children and young people bill, to establish within law the responsibility of Scottish ministers to have "due regard" to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.The Convention – signed by every member of the UN except Somalia and the US – outlines children's fundamental rights such as the right to an identity, the right to life and development, and the right to be heard.


 Scotland’s red kite population weathers the storm - RSPB

Stormy weather during this year’s breeding season failed to blow Scotland’s red kite population off course.

New figures, compiled by RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, reveal that in 2011 there are 186 breeding pairs in Scotland, a rise of 22 on the previous year.

During this year’s breeding season, a record 314 young fledged, the highest since reintroductions began in Scotland in 1989.

The red kite reintroduction programme is arguably the most successful scheme of its type in the UK and perhaps also more widely in Europe. It is now estimated that following reintroductions the UK holds between 7 and 10% of the world red kite population.


Hands Off Our Land: Now even National Parks are at risk says The Telegraph

Restrictions on building in some of the most beautiful parts of the country could be relaxed under new Government plans, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Last night (16/11), Labour said Government's plans to give national parks authorities a new duty of "sustainable development" could give developers a “licence to build” on some of the most pristine and stunning parts of England.

England has 10 National Parks – most protected under law dating back to the early 1950s - covering nearly 5,000 square miles of the most beautiful countryside in the world, including Exmoor, the Peak District, Dartmoor, the New Forest and the Lake District.

Each park is run by its own National Park Authority, which has two statutory duties - to conserve the countryside and its wildlife, and to allow people to enjoy it.

Now ministers want to add a third duty - to “facilitate sustainable development” which campaigners say could require the parks’ authorities to allow more building.

Pressure is growing on parks authorities to find other sources of income after their funding was cut in last year's spending review, leading to concerns that many could encourage more development to bring in extra income.

According to a business plan published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ministers will “consult on whether the legislation for National Parks Authorities needs to better reflect their role in facilitating sustainable development”.

The consultation about the changes to the National Parks guidance is due to be launched next month and run to March 2012.


And reaction from defra: Myth bust: Daily Telegraph claim that planning regulations will be relaxed in National Parks

The myth: The Daily Telegraph has today said that planning regulations in National Parks could be relaxed and that Ministers want to add a third purpose of sustainable development to the duties of the parks.

The truth: This is just not true. There are no plans to relax planning laws in National Parks. They are our most treasured landscapes and will remain that way.

The Commission for Rural Communities suggested that National Parks should be given a third purpose, on socio-economic development, which would have equal status with their existing purposes of conservation and recreation. Ministers have made clear that they do not agree with this, but that we would consult on whether a change to the National Park Authorities’ duty or other changes, such as improving guidance, would help them deliver sustainable  development  as set out in the Government’s 2010 Vision. 


Conservationists call for urgent restoration of UK peatlands  - Guardian reporting on IUCN publication.

Peatland study reveals massive amounts of CO2 could be releasedNew report warns that losing just 5% of British peatland would equal UK's annual carbon emissions and risk climate targets

Peatlands, like these in the Outer Hebrides, could release huge amounts of CO2 if they are dried out. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Conservationists have called for urgent action to restore vast areas of peatland across the UK after an inquiry warned that their fate will have severe implications for the climate.

The report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has estimated that the UK's peatlands and peatbogs lock in about 3bn tonnes of CO2, and are a far more significant carbon store than the country's forests. But they are being damaged so seriously that they are putting the UK's climate targets at risk.

The new study, by an IUCN commission of inquiry, has found that losing only 5% of the 2.7m hectares of peatland in Britain, which cover large areas of the Highlands, the Hebrides, the Peak District, the Pennines, Northern Ireland and upland Wales, would be equal to the UK's entire annual carbon emissions.

Read the IUCN report


Friday 18 November

FWAG enters administration - reported in Farmers Weekly

The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group in England has lost its fight for financial survival and entered administration.  The farming charity had employed 90 advisers, who provided environment and conservation advice to farmers.  However, it has folded after the government slashed its environmental funding in the the comprehensive spending review last autumn.
A senior FWAG source confirmed: “We are officially in administration and we have begun the process of filling in all the paperwork.”


Bid for £3m Solway coast wetlands project - reported in Times and Star

A £3 million project to develop the Solway coast’s wetlands could be launched in April.

The three-year project aims to provide new wetland habitats, create visitor centres at Holme Cultram Abbey and Bowness on Solway, provide training in traditional countryside skills and run an education programme.

A joint conference of the Solway Firth Partnership and Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on Friday heard from Dr Brian Irving, manager of the AONB, who said the project would deliver 60 per cent of the organisation’s management plan.

The other 40 per cent is already being delivered by the group’s day-to-day work.

The project is being led by the AONB, in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency, Cumbria Tourism and Natural England.


Juniper berries © Andrew Gagg / Plantlife

Juniper berries

© Andrew Gagg / Plantlife

Saving the gin berry from extinction in England - Plantlife

Plantlife raises a toast as juniper regenerates for first time

Conservation charity Plantlife is toasting the success to date of its project to save juniper – the gin berry bush - from extinction in lowland England. 300 juniper seedlings are now growing at nine sites where existing juniper bushes were old and incapable of reproducing, a conservation success that has never before been achieved on this scale.

Plantlife’s juniper conservation project has involved trialling new techniques to build up the most important populations across the chalk and limestone country of lowland southern England. Tim Wilkins, Plantlife’s Species Recovery Coordinator who has led the project, says: 'More than 30 project sites were chosen for a range of conservation measures, including large-scale habitat management, experimental seedling shelters and - where colonies had all but died out – the propagation of cuttings for later replanting.'


Police investigating damage to Skye fossil site - Scottish Natural Heritage

One of the worst examples of reckless fossil collecting in recent years has been uncovered by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on the Isle of Skye.

Several tonnes of rock have been dug from the cliffs near to Bearreraig Bay in an apparent organised search for valuable fossil specimens.

Bearreraig Bay is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which includes important beds of fossils dating from the Jurassic period. The Jurassic lasted until around 145 million years ago and featured marine creatures such as ammonites, and terrestrial animals including the carnivorous dinosaur Megalosaurus and the vegetarians Cetiosaurus and Stegosaurus.

The SSSI designation highlights the importance of the site and any excavation and removal of rock needs permission from SNH as well as the landowner.

Skye is known as Scotland's dinosaur isle' and contains important fossil records. This makes it all the more serious that irresponsible collecting by a selfish minority is threatening this unique aspect of Skye's natural heritage.


Go-ahead given to look after Cornish heathland - Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Consent has been granted for Cornwall Wildlife Trust to reinstate traditional management on Rosenannon Downs, a large Cornish heathland, for the benefit of wildlife. The Trust owns the land and has been working with local Commoners over recent years on a plan to reintroduce grazing to the Downs.

The Downs is common land in the Parish of St Wenn near St Columb Major, and it comprises of 108 hectares (267 acres) of lowland heath, which is one of Europe's rarest and most threatened habitats.

Seán O’Hea, Mid-Cornwall Reserves Manager for Cornwall Wildlife Trust says, “As it is common land the Secretary of State for the Environments’ permission was needed to carry out the necessary works, and over the past two years we have been consulting local people about the proposals.”



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