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Headlines from Week Beginning 21 November


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


Monday 21 November

Beavers released in Machynlleth enclosure - BBC Nature

Swimming beaverProject manager Sharon Girardi says one day wild beavers may return to Wales.

Beavers have been extinct in the wild in Wales for probably 400 years.

That's no longer strictly true as two female European beavers have been introduced into a 2.5 acre enclosure over the weekend in Cwm Einion near Machynlleth.

These beavers could be the first of many to be "set free" in as natural environment as possible.

They have a pond to live in, secure behind chicken wire, stock fencing, weld mesh and an electric fence.

According to one of the group of conservation volunteers at Blaeneinion Farm their enclosure is "like Fort Knox".

Within minutes of leaving the cage they'd travelled in from the south-west of England, both beavers were swimming and exploring their new home.

They seemed inquisitive and unafraid of the dozen or so people who were watching with interest.

Apart from a £5,000 Big Lottery grant this is a privately funded project to monitor and assess how beavers live and how they might fare as a species if moves to reintroduce them to the wild in Wales next year go ahead. The North Wales Wildlife Trust is consulting on the benefits of reintroducing The beaver enclosure is finally complete - almost 3 acres in the idyllic Welsh countrysidethis extinct species and will need the approval of the Welsh government and the Countryside Council for Wales.


The Beavers at Blaeneinion Farm 

Two female European beavers were released on 19th November 2011 into a completely secure 2.5 acre enclosure here at Blaeneinion. The project is privately funded.

The sisters were released into their lodge, and emerged a few minutes later to explore their new territory. An emotional moment, and the culmination of months of hard physical work, sensitive negotiations and fleeting moments of questioning our collective sanity.


Male skylark singing from fencepost RSPB disappointed by NFU president's biodiversity speech

The RSPB has moved to reassure farmers that their efforts to help nature are as necessary as ever after controversial comments by NFU president Peter Kendall.

In a speech this week Mr Kendall called for ministers to switch agricultural policy away from biodiversity, and concentrate more on productivity. The RSPB has responded by backing Government ambition to marry biodiversity with food production.

The NFU and RSPB are partners in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment which encourages farmers to put in place wildlife measures on their land. Mr Kendall’s latest comments threaten to undermine this approach.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “I am saddened by the words I have heard coming from Peter Kendall this week which could undermine all the hard work being done by farmers, the Government and conservationists to help our threatened farmland wildlife.


Badger cull 'will stretch police and put lives at risk' -  The Telegraph

Culling thousands of badgers in Britain could spark dangerous confrontations between armed farmers and animal rights protesters which would stretch police resources, ministers have been warned.

Sir David Attenborough has said a badger cull in England could make the problem of cattle disease worse.Research has showed culling badgers in a particular area over the long term can reduce incidence of bovine TB Photo: ALAMY

Lives could be put at risk if marksmen tasked with killing the animals clash with campaigners trying to disrupt the planned cull, Britain’s domestic extremism police chief said.

Trying to police potential flashpoints would leave many forces struggling to cope, at a time when resources are already under pressure due to major security challenges such as the London 2012 Olympics, it is claimed.

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, is expected to make an announcement within weeks on whether farmers will be allowed to control the badger population, which is blamed for spreading bovine TB to cattle. She has proposed a cull in two pilot areas next summer.

In a memo to the Government, Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, the national coordinator for domestic extremism, warned of the dangers the cull could present.  “Any option that includes farmers and landowners culling badgers with firearms has potential to place armed farm workers in the near vicinity of protesters and activists, typically during the night-time,” he wrote.


Tuesday 22 November

When speaking at the Agricultural Industries Confederation on 16 November NFU President Peter Kendall really started something!

Kendall challenges ‘deliberate misunderstanding’ - NFU

 NFU President Peter Kendall will today (21/11/11) insist that a very necessary improvement in the UK’s agricultural productivity should not be at the expense of the natural environment, and challenge the ‘deliberate misunderstanding’ of the issue that has prevailed over the past few days.  

Speaking at the Centre for Excellence in UK Farming (UKCEF) conference at Kenilworth this afternoon, Mr Kendall will highlight the efforts the farming industry has made to improve the environment, and its commitment to continue doing so in the coming years.

But he will emphasise the pressing need to lift agricultural productivity in the face of rapidly rising global demand for food, and the vital role that science will have to play in enabling British farming to achieve its ambition of ‘producing more, but impacting less’.  The challenge is more complex and difficult than just lifting agricultural productivity”, Mr Kendall will say. “We have to do it at the same time as reducing our environmental footprint, and from diminishing, and therefore increasingly costly, natural resources. There has been some deliberate misunderstanding of our position on this in recent days. When we say, as we do, that agricultural productivity must be stepped up, that does not mean that we want it stepped up at the expense of the environment.


Biodiversity Crisis: What Biodiversity Crisis? Blog from Miles King, Director of Conservation at The Grasslands Trust

NFU president Peter Kendall, speaking at a farming conference last week, claimed there was no biodiversity crisis but “what we do have is a productivity crisis”. He used this argument to lobby Government to increase public sector funding for research and development into ways to increase productivity, as well as taking a potshot at the European Commission’s proposals to reform the CAP and in particular on “greening” the direct payments landowners currently receive for owning farmland. I have already blogged about how damaging are the current proposals for permanent pasture, and Peter has implored farmers not to start ploughing up their grasslands.

Kendall’s remarks, given that they are NFU’s corporate position, came in for some pretty severe criticism from a number of people notably the RSPB’s current and former Director’s of Conservation.

I’m going to start today by looking at whether there is a biodiversity crisis or not.

Is Peter right, that there is no biodiversity crisis now? Well of course it depends on what you mean by biodiversity, and then what measures you use to assess its status. I can go into a great deal of detail on this, as it’s one of my specialist subjects, but I won’t. What I will say is that it makes sense to focus on those species and habitats that have been identified as priorities in a reasonably objective approach, that has taken 20 years to develop (this is the process for identifying species and habitats or principal importance as defined in the NERC Act). I would argue that it makes more sense to use this approach than, for example, someone deciding that the magpie or ragwort are the types of biodiversity to measure to assess whether there is a biodiversity crisis or not.


New conservation areas announced - Wildlife Trusts

As a major expansion of the European Union’s Natura 2000 sites is announced, The Wildlife Trusts are calling for more stringent protection measures to be put in place. Without them, there is a risk the network will be ineffective, says the conservation organisation.

Natura 2000* is the European Union’s network of protected areas.  It consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).   Human activities can be carried out inside the network provided they are sustainable and do not harm the natural environment.

Today’s announcement includes 13 new SACs to protect cold water corals and sand banks in UK waters.  But The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that current and proposed management measures within SACs are failing to provide adequate protection.

 short-eared owl / Rick Leche

Sussex Awash with Owls! Blogs Mike Russell (Sussex Wildlife Trust)

 short-eared owl / Rick Leche

Well short-eared owls actually! There has been an ‘invasion’ this autumn with many birds being seen across the county, and what a wonderful sight it is too! A good thing about short-eared owls is that they fly in daylight, particularly from mid-afternoon onwards and the likelihood is that they could stay much of the winter, providing we don’t get a long cold spell where the ground is frozen for a significant period.


Just 30 pairs of barn owls left in Northern Ireland - Belfast Telegraph report on a new campaign by Ulster Wildlife Trust

The number of barn owls in Northern Ireland has dropped by nearly 90% over the last 80 years, with just 30 breeding pairs estimated to be left here.   Now the Ulster Wildlife Trust is calling on wildlife lovers to stand up for nature and ensure the future of this magnificent bird is secure.

The conservation charity is embarking on a major campaign to promote the welfare of barn owls with the estimated number of breeding pairs in Northern Ireland dwindling from around 250 in the 1930s to about 30 now.   The reasons for this dramatic decline includes habitat loss, the destruction of nest sites in trees and old buildings, agricultural intensification, and consumption of pest control chemicals left to kill rodents.

Read more about the Campaign here.


Wednesday 23 November    

Battle to save red squirrel ‘must go on for ten more years’ - Reported in The Scotsman

Grey squirrels not only out-compete their red counterparts for food, but carry a pox that is lethal to the endangered squirrelsGrey squirrels not only out-compete their red counterparts for food, but carry a pox that is lethal to the endangered squirrels

A project to trap and kill tens of thousands of grey squirrels to protect their red cousins must continue for another decade or the species could vanish from Scotland, a charity has warned.

The three-year Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel (SSRS) project will run out of funding in spring, but organisers say it is crucial the culling scheme continues.

Scotland is home to about three-quarters of the UK’s red squirrels, but they could die out because of the larger grey. SSRS is hoping organisations that have backed the £1.3 million cost of the first three years of the scheme will again come up with funding, but it is worried about the impact of the current financial climate.  Dr Mel Tonkin, project manager, said: “With government budget cuts already biting, it is not yet clear what resources government agencies will be able to commit to a project continuation.”  She added that “cessation of trapping would set us back to our starting point”.

Jonny Hughes, director of conservation for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the lead project partner, said he thought another decade of trapping was needed to get to a stage where red squirrels were safe in strongholds in Scotland. “It’s very important it carries on. We need to keep the effort up,” he said.

Find out more about the project.


A new Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for Wales - Welsh Government

A new Area of Outstanding Beauty for WalesWales has a new Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) following an announcement today (Tues 22/11) by Environment Minister, John Griffiths.

The River Dee. Image copyright Denbighshire County Council

The Environment Minister has agreed that an area of approximately 230 square kilometres situated in the counties of Wrexham and Denbighshire will be made an AONB.  This will result in the boundary of the existing Clwydian Range AONB being significantly extended.

This is first time that Welsh Ministers have made a decision on the designation of an AONB and will result in Wales’ first new Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for 26 years.

The decision follows the Minister’s consideration of an order by the Countryside Council for Wales.


Deer most recognised Scottish animal, survey finds - BBC news on SNH report

Red deer stagMany respondents to the survey were worried about the hunting of deer

Deer are the type of wildlife the public associate most with Scotland, according to a survey commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Consultants interviewed 1,055 people to gather views on species, habitats and management of wildlife.

The results showed 73% of respondents associated deer with Scotland, 71% did so in a similar survey last year.

The latest survey also reported 27% associated golden eagles with Scotland, 26% grouse and 25% red squirrels.

Of respondents who expressed concern about threats to wildlife most, 37%, were worried about the fate of red squirrels.

Deer were the type of animal respondents were second most concerned about.

 Read the full report (PDF download).


Maternal behaviour in marine mammals - University of St Andrews

Grey seal mother and pup ‘nosing’. Credit/copyright: Durham UniversityGrey seal mother and pup ‘nosing’. Credit/copyright: Durham University.

Grey seals have different types of personality that affect the extent to which they guard and care for their young, according to new research.

Looking at seal colonies in Scotland, researchers from the Universities of St Andrews and Durham, found that seal mothers are often unpredictable and adopt a wide variation of mothering styles when it comes to checking on their pups. Some are very attentive while others are not, the researchers found.

The St Andrews-Durham study shows, for the first time, the extent of personality differences in marine mammals in the wild. It shows how individual animals have differing behavioural ‘styles’, and how they may be limited in their ability to respond to different environments; a concern in a world of rapid environmental change and changing resources.

The study could have benefits for future conservation policy, habitat management and reveals new information about the process of evolution.

The first results are published in the journal Marine Mammal Science and will be presented at the 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals conference in Tampa, Florida, USA (27 November – 2 December).


Thursday 24 November


Cover of The state of the UK's birds 2011The state of the UK's birds 2011 (RSPB release on behalf of the partners)

This is the 12th The state of the UK's birds (SUKB) report. It contains results from annual, periodic and one-off surveys and studies from as recently as 2010, drawing on many sources of information to give an up-to-date overview of the status of bird populations in the UK and its Overseas Territories.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, SUKB 2011 has a particular focus on waterbirds and their conservation. We review the impact of the Convention on waterbird conservation in the UK


Duck down: new report reveals changing fortunes of wetland birds - RSPB

Drake mallard swimming on pondThe report shows that the mallard - Britain's most familiar duck - has hit a new low

Signs of dramatic changes for some wetland birds, including the mallard, are reported today as some species reach their highest and lowest recorded population levels in the UK in winter.

Millions of ducks, geese, swans and wading birds escaping the Arctic winter in northern Europe, Siberia, Greenland and Canada, head for our shores, making the UK one of the most important European countries for wintering waterbirds.

However, there are signs of dramatic changes for some wetland birds with a few reaching their highest and lowest population levels in the UK in winter.

The latest population figures on wetland birds - and a host of other species are - contained in the State of the UK’s Birds 2011 report – published by a coalition of conservation organisations. The report provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the results of bird surveys and monitoring schemes and projects from across the UK from as recently as 2010.

Overall, numbers of wintering waterbirds have been in shallow decline since the late 1990s, but the underlying story is more complex.

Download the full report from BTO. (pdf)


Thousands of people say 'Save a Space for Me' - Fields in Trust

Parks and playing fields protected forever with public voter power

Friday 18th November saw the end of Save a Space for Me; a month long online campaign to support outdoor spaces nominated to be safeguarded as part of the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge. Over 20,000 people from councillors, members of the public and sports leaders showed their support for fields with over 10,000 web visits recorded on the day of launch alone. You can find out the results of the votes online with an interactive search, or Download the full list. (pdf)


Report reveals route to get the nation walking - Ramblers

With the obesity epidemic rising, and inactivity at an all time high, a report released today (24 November) reveals a successful route to get the nation walking its way to health.

The Ramblers pioneering Get Walking Keep Walking programme has shown astounding success in getting some of Britain’s most inactive people to their feet, according to an independent report¹. With only approximately 1/3 of the country reaching the recommended amount of exercise each week, it is clear the nation needs to get moving but achieving long term change has always been a challenging task.

Get Walking Keep Walking has worked in deprived areas of Birmingham, London, Manchester and Sheffield and has achieved success by focusing on helping inactive people walk within their own communities, for both transport and pleasure, and has already helped more than 87,500people take their first steps to a healthier lifestyle. A startling 70% of ‘inactive'² people who took part showed a sustained increase in activity levels and 88% of all participants reported an increase in mental wellbeing.  


EU sounds alarm for threatened freshwater species - BBC news report on publication of the latest European Red List

Biebrza nature reserve, PolandPolish nature reserve: Europe's rivers are home to many threatened species

Many of Europe's freshwater fish and molluscs are now threatened species, a new EU study shows.

The European Commission called for urgent action to preserve the diversity of Europe's wildlife.

Pollution, overfishing, habitat loss and alien species are blamed for the decline in species.

The latest findings are based on a study of some 6,000 species for the European Red List - an assessment of threats to wildlife.

The list of Europe's threatened species includes 44% of all freshwater molluscs, 37% of freshwater fish, 23% of amphibians, 19% of reptiles, 15% of mammals and dragonflies and 13% of birds.

The Commission says 467 plant species are also under threat, including wild varieties of crops such as sugar beet, wheat, oats and lettuce. Such species are "vital for food security yet are often neglected in terms of conservation," the Commission says.

The Commission has urged the 27 EU member states to adopt sustainable farming and forestry methods to halt biodiversity loss.


European Red List

IUCN and the European Commission have been working together on an initiative to assess around 6,000 European species according to IUCN regional Red Listing Guidelines.


Double honours for Forestry Commission in prestigious landscape awards - Forestry Commission.

The Forestry Commission scooped double honours for its work in North West England in the Landscape Institute’s prestigious national awards competition. 

Its transformation of Old Pale Farm at Delamere Forest, Cheshire, into a popular visitor attraction complete with an outdoor concert venue won the award for Landscape Designs Greater Than 5 Hectares (12.5 acres) in the annual Landscape Institute Awards. 

The judges’ notes said Old Pale Community woodland is “an outstanding example of a large-scale landscape. The strong design concept responded well to the historic, ecological and geological sensitivities of the site. The panel particularly liked the manipulation of views through the woodland, guiding visitors to the summit and the surprise panorama of seven counties." They added that the project had “contributed to Delamere becoming a key destination in Cheshire”. 


Wales Open Access LogoCCW To Review The Maps Of Open Country And Registered Common Land

Early notice for landowners and others with an interest….

Every ten years, the Countryside Council for Wales is required by law to review the maps of open access to mountain, moor, heath, downland and registered common land in Wales.

The process will start in mid July 2012, when CCW will issue the draft maps of open country and registered common land.Based on these, landowners and anyone with an interest will be able to make representations.

Discussions with landowners and all interest groups will be an essential part of the mapping review. CCW is looking forward to working closely with the farming unions, individual landowners, and user groups to ensure that awareness of the review is high, starting now and throughout the process until the conclusive maps are published in September 2014.

Our aim is to ensure that the process is open, transparent and gives all interested parties the opportunity to review access in their area of interest.


Friday 25 November 

Forestry Recommissioned - Quality not quantity is the key for England’s woodlands, says new Plantlife report

Woodland at Ranscombe Farm reserve. © PlantlifeWoodland at Ranscombe Farm reserve. © Plantlife

With the Independent Panel on Forestry’s first statement just weeks away, Plantlife shifts the focus from ownership with a report which shows that, despite there being more woodland than 20 years ago, our woodland flora, butterflies and birds are still declining. More woodland is too simple a response – we need better woodland.

Woodland wildlife in decline – some key facts:
• The Public Forest Estate is vital for England’s local, rare and declining wild flowers – more than a third occur on PFE land, including 95% of the UK population of military orchid
• One in six woodland flowers is threatened with extinction
• The Woodland Bird Indicator is at its lowest level since 1970
• The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme shows a 56% decrease in characteristic woodland butterflies

Plantlife’s new report ‘Forestry Recommissioned: bringing England's woodlands back to life’, published today, reveals that a lack of management has led to darker woods where plants cannot flourish and, as they have declined, so has the wildlife that depends on them.
'Over the last 50 years, England’s woodlands have become increasingly dark, overgrown and silent' says Victoria Chester, Plantlife’s Chief Executive. 'Plantlife has a vision which will bring them back to life.'

Download full report. (pdf)


Mar Lodge Review, final report published.

The Mar Lodge Independent Review Panel today (24 November 2011) presented its report to the Board of the National Trust for Scotland. The Panel has carried out a review of the management of moorland, woodland and deer at the Mar Lodge Estate, Braemar and made a total of eight recommendations.

On behalf of the Panel, the Chairman David Windmill said: “If implemented in full these recommendations will address many of the issues currently facing Mar Lodge Estate and enable the Trust to achieve its goal of successfully integrating the conservation of the Caledonian pine forest with managing a commercial Highland sporting estate.”

The Panel spent five months talking to a wide range of organisations and individuals to gain as broad an understanding as possible of the many opportunities and constraints that the Trust faces in its management of the estate. The Panel also met representatives of the Braemar Community Council to learn of the importance of Mar Lodge Estate to the local community.

David said: “We would like to thank most sincerely all those people who contributed to our review.”

Read the full report here. (pdf) 


Mar LodgeWelcome for Mar Lodge report from National Trust for Scotland

Conservation charity, the National Trust for Scotland has welcomed an independent report into its management of the Mar Lodge Estate near Braemar today.

The 29,000 hectare estate, which contains internationally important geology, flora, fauna, wild landscapes, built heritage and archaeology is the largest property owned by the conservation charity.  The independent review commenced in May 2011 and panel members were asked to consider the Trust’s approach to woodland, moorland and deer management at Mar Lodge Estate – with specific reference to deer culling and fencing – following sustained criticism from some quarters.

Trust Chairman, Sir Kenneth Calman said:  “My fellow Trustees and I are very grateful for this full examination of the complex issues at Mar Lodge Estate. Clearly, the review is informed by a wide range of views and we are grateful to everyone who has played a part in the process. The recommendations will now be carefully considered to determine how we take them forward, in the best interests of this extraordinary place.”


Scottish Wildlife Trust also welcomed the report.

Jonathan Hughes, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation said: “In our view NTS has made a real difference to conservation in the Cairngorms since taking on Mar Lodge Estate. It is fantastic to see such a big area within the Cairngorms National Park being managed for nature, heritage and public access so well. The estate is effectively now a valuable public asset and that is to be celebrated.


Did you go nuts for PTES?  Results of the 2011 Great Nut Hunt now in.

The latest Great Nut Hunt found nearly 17,000 nibbled nuts and identified 69 new dormice sites.

Nut hunts will always be a useful way of doing wide-scale searches to determine the presence of hazel dormice. Currently the method has limits in that woods and hedges without hazel are not included in these nut hunts. However there is evidence that other food sources (cherry stones and ash keys) will also bear the tell-tale marks left by dormice, though to what extent is not yet known and whether they can be used on such a large scale will need further investigation.

Even though the Golden GNH was the third national survey to search for evidence of dormice it still remained popular with the general public. Just over 1,000 people went out and surveyed following almost 4,000 people registering for packs. Even though most people didn’t undertake a survey they will still have learnt something about hazel dormice and the efforts being made to conserve them.

The third GNH was very successful in turning up new sites for dormice, but unfortunately less successful in getting people to revisit known sites to check whether dormice are still present, even though much effort was made to direct people to those woods.

Read the full report here. (pdf)



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