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A round up of the top countryside, conservation, wildlife and forestry stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


Heritage Lottery Fund announces latest round of funding in the Landscape partnership programme. 

HLF’s Landscape Partnership programme – which has now been running for over a decade - is the most significant grant scheme available for landscape-scale projects. To date, £177m has been invested in 99 different areas across the UK helping forge new partnerships between public and community bodies and ensuring people are better equipped to understand and tackle the needs of their local landscapes. Over its life-span, the LP programme has helped repair over 100 km of dry stone walls, enabled 810,000 people to participate in learning activities and helped more than 45,000 volunteers get involved – the equivalent of 64,000 working hours.The next closing date for LP applications is 1 June 2016 for decisions in October 2016. 


£6m National Lottery win for Welsh landscapes 

Three of Wales’s most distinctive landscapes – a remote mountain range, a windswept estuary and heather topped valleys – are set to benefit from more than £6m worth of investment, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced.

The Gwent Levels, Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, and the Elan Valley are the three funding recipients. All are recognised as areas of great beauty – and they all have the potential to use their natural landscapes and wildlife, distinctive buildings, local traditions and stories and even industrial archaeology to increase tourism and boost jobs through carefully planned conservation and renovation activity.

Welcoming the announcement today, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant, said: “These areas are being rightly recognised, not only for their beauty but for the significant role they play in representing the Wales people think of and love – and come to visit. The support awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund will allow these areas to flourish from an environmental perspective, but the areas will also be able to reap increased economic benefits from tourists and business too through new jobs being created and significant training opportunities.”

Clwydian Range and Dee Valley (£1,382,300)

The project centres on the landscape of the Dee Valley and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site, and is focussing on the journeys that have been, and continue to be, a key feature of the area which is cut by the canal, Telford’s A5 and the River Dee. The five-year project will invest in key visitor sites and engage communities living locally, while reinterpreting this rich landscape for a new generation.

Elan Links – People, Nature & Water (£1,713,300)

Elan lies at the heart of the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales. Its unique landscape combines remote hill land, isolated farmsteads, steep-sided wooded valleys and an extraordinary feat of Victorian engineering that brought clean water to the then rapidly expanding industrial city of Birmingham.  The project’s vision is to further develop all aspects of this special place to benefit people, as well as the environment itself.

Living Levels Partnership (£2,865,300)

The Gwent Levels is a South Wales estuarine landscape, rich in both historical and natural heritage. Reclaimed from the sea in Roman times, the land is a criss-crossed network of fertile fields and historic watercourses, known locally as reens. This unassuming yet appealing landscape of high skies and low horizons lends it its status as one of the finest examples of a ‘natural’ landscape really crafted by people in Europe; and one of the largest tracts of bio-diverse wet grassland left in the UK. Living Levels formally brings together like-minded stakeholders to work together to collectively restore, enhance and protect the historic area for all to enjoy.


£7.5million to care for Scottish landscapes 

Today, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced almost £7.5million investment in three large-scale Scottish landscapes from the remotest islands of Orkney to the rivers of Galloway.

The North Isles in Orkney, Callander’s Pass on the eastern edge of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and the Galloway Glens will benefit from this major funding package which is set to impact on 916 sq km of countryside while providing training for over 260 people, full time jobs for 13 people and a further 310 volunteering places.

Today’s awards brings HLF’s total investment in land and biodiversity projects in Scotland to over £150million helping to conserve key habitats, save rare species and reconnect communities with the natural heritage on their doorstep.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Food and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, said: "These three large-scale landscapes are amongst the most iconic in Scotland and it is great to see that £7.5million has been awarded to allow these important and ambitious projects to be realised. These projects will provide job and training opportunities, benefits for local communities, as well as, the obvious benefits for the environment." 

North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme, Orkney

£2,998,600 including £169,400 development grant

The Landscape Partnership will protect and celebrate this rich natural heritage in a way which helps support the fragile island communities, encouraging young people to stay and work on the islands. Orkney College will be involved in providing training while a new heritage trail and interpretation will encourage visitors to the archipelago.

Callander’s Pass – Mind the Gap – Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Scotland

£1,551,200, including £119,600 development funding

Ambitious plans in this community-led project include transforming the town of Callander into the 'Outdoor Capital of the National Park', developing both cultural and natural heritage, creating a cycling and walking network and enhancing visitor interpretation to encourage people to make the most of getting active in the outdoors.

Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership

£2,915,700 including £185,500 development funding

The Landscape Partnership will work with communities in conserving and restoring this fragile landscape. Practical works will allow fish to negotiate the power station, peatland will be restored and forestry restructured. There will be training for 16-24 year-olds in heritage and business skills while local businesses will be trained in promoting nature-based tourism.


Lough Erne to receive £2.9million National Lottery funding boost 

Heritage Lottery Fund to support preservation of uniquely beautiful Fermanagh Lakelands.

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has granted over £2.9million to preserve and enhance one of Northern Ireland’s greatest natural treasures, Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh.

The money is to go to the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership which is led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It will be used to conserve at risk heritage buildings; to preserve and improve wildlife species and their habitats and to better manage a 500 square kilometre area of Fermanagh’s famous Lakelands. 


Future of Northumbria’s frontier landscape secures National Lottery support

Immortalised in the Border Ballads, home to the famed Border Reivers and key military site since Roman times – the Redesdale landscape is a step closer towards major National Lottery investment.

Today fewer than 2,000 people live here, the economy is facing problems and the landscape’s incredible heritage is largely overlooked.

Natural England has set out to change that. Its Revitalising Redesdale scheme has just gained support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as well as a grant of £115,700 to develop the project and apply for a full sum of £1.8m through HLF’s Landscape Partnerships scheme.  Nearly 1,600ha of land will be restored; plans will be put in place with farmers to reduce silt build up, pollution and riverbank erosion in the River Rede and 50 volunteers will help to monitor and tackle non-native invasive species. Built heritage will also benefit thanks to repairs and management plans for Scheduled Ancient Monuments and listed buildings.  The project aims to reconnect people with the landscape’s heritage. Those who currently just pass through will be encouraged to become visitors with an awareness and engagement programme to tell the frontier story. Residents and land managers will receive training and new business and training opportunities will be developed.


Broads Landscape Partnership secures £2.6m from Heritage Lottery Fund - Broads Authority

The Broads Landscape Partnership has received an earmarked grant¹ of £2.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Landscape Partnership (LP) programme² for the Water, Mills and Marshes project, it was announced today.

The project aims to enrich and promote heritage sites in the area between Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Acle and Loddon, unlock the benefits of this distinctive landscape for local people and give them the skills to protect it as a legacy for future generations.

Development funding of £226,000 has also been awarded to help the partnership progress its plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. Work on the development phase will begin this year while the second round is scheduled for 2017. Fifty-five organisations will then be involved in implementing 38 individual projects over a five-year delivery phase. The project will be worth a total of £4.5m including match funding.


More training opportunities for biodiversity volunteers - Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council (FSC) has secured support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to start expanding its highly regarded biodiversity training work across a new region. It has received ‘earmarked funding’ for a £1.2m bid from HLF for the BioLinks project.

The project will provide more taxonomic training for underrepresented species, especially those difficult to identify. It will support, signpost and mentor volunteers to help them become more proficient biological recorders.

BioLinks aims to ‘link together’ volunteers so they can help mentor and support each other and link together the existing volunteers and those involved professionally in natural history.

FSC has been providing volunteer training in biological recording for many years and has learnt how to effectively support people, helping them to become more confident and competent so they are able to provide more accurate and validated biological information. An HLF development grant of £41,000 will help FSC to prepare to deliver this work in a new area. London and the South East has been chosen because of the number of active biological organisations in the region.

FSC aims to involve existing and new biological recorders in the project, hoping to extend not only the number of active natural history observers but also increase their age range and diversity. The Development work will get underway in January 2016 and towards the end of the year FSC will prepare its final application for the full £1.2m grant.


in other news:

All Welsh waters reach tough new EU standards - Welsh Government

New EU water bathing results published today show all identified bathing waters in Wales have met new stricter European classifications for bathing water quality.

A new system for testing bathing water across all EU member states has been introduced in 2015 which aims to improve bathing waters across the EU.  

82 of the 102 bathing waters in Wales achieved the higher classification of excellent, with 16 achieving good and 4 sufficient. No Welsh bathing water was classed as poor.

Welcoming the results, Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said: “One of the biggest attractions for the millions of tourists coming to Wales every year is our beautiful coastline.  By meeting these tough new EU classifications all visitors to the Welsh seaside can enjoy the high bathing water quality they have come to expect when visiting Wales. We now need to keep up the high standards that have been set so we can all continue to enjoy the environmental, social and economic benefits our bathing waters bring.”

The bathing water statistics in Wales are taken from samples taken by Natural Resources Wales at regular intervals during the bathing season (15 May to 30 September) and are verified by the European Commission.  There are currently 102 identified bathing waters in Wales


Bumper breeding season at Belfast Lough - RSPB Northern Ireland

It’s been another successful breeding season for threatened birds at RSPB Northern Ireland’s Belfast Harbour nature reserve, according to new figures.

Common tern hovering above water for fish, Graham Catley, RSPBCommon tern hovering above water for fish, Graham Catley, RSPB

This summer the charity carried out surveys across all three sites it manages in the bustling Belfast Harbour Estate, including the recently refurbished Window on Wildlife (WOW).  These revealed that breeding wader species, including lapwings, redshanks and snipe, were all present on the reserve – indicating that the hungry konik ponies, who munch the landscape into ideal habitat for these birds, are continuing to do an excellent job!

Meanwhile terns and gulls flocked to the man-made rafts on the lagoon. Up to 500 pairs of black-headed gulls were recorded alongside 344 pairs of common terns and 83 pairs of arctic terns. It was good news too for black guillemots, as more than 20 birds were spotted on Belfast Lough adjacent to the lagoon at Belfast WOW. Sadly, black guillemot numbers have declined in recent years and they are now amber-listed (of medium conservation concern) in the UK and Ireland, making their presence at Belfast Lough all the more important.

Other species recorded during the comprehensive surveys included duck species like teal and shoveler, as well as ‘garden birds’ like goldfinch and robins.

Peter Harper, RSPB NI’s Sea Loughs and Islands area manager, commented: “I’m delighted to see that Belfast Lough continues to be a great place for birds from all over the world to make their homes. “Now, thanks to the major refurbishment that has taken place, Belfast’s Window on Wildlife is an even better place for people to get close to wildlife.”


American invaders in Lincolnshire - Buglife

Gulf Clam, image via buglifeAn invasive non-native mollusc species has been discovered in a Lincolnshire River - posing a potential threat to our native fresh and brackish water ecosystems. The findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Conchology out today (2/11).

The 4-5cm Gulf wedge clam (Rangia cuneata), is native to the Gulf of Mexico and had never been recorded in Britain until now. The discovery was made by expert Dr Martin Willing, Conservation Officer for the Conchological Society, whilst undertaking monitoring of a rare mussel in the River Witham for Buglife and Natural England.  The species was discovered in large numbers in South Forty Foot Drains which lead into the River Witham in Boston, Lincolnshire. 

Dr Martin Willing said “Based on the size of the clam shells we think the Lincolnshire population was probably established at least 5-6 years ago. Interestingly these species are usually found in brackish (slightly salty) water but on this occasion they were in freshwater.”

Dr Sarah Henshall, Buglife’s Lead Ecologist said “This discovery comes within a month of Buglife publishing an eight prong strategy for freshwater invertebrates, one of which is improving biosecurity, eradication and mitigation measures because of the extreme vulnerability of freshwater species and habitats to damage from invasive non-native species. These species could pose a potential threat to our native fresh and brackish water ecosystems. Gulf wedge clams grow quickly and once established can become the dominant species, crowding out native species and potentially changing the structure of the ecosystem and environment.  In addition they may cause potentially adverse economic impacts, such as problems with water pipes”

There is an urgent need to establish the full extent of Gulf wedge clam presence in Lincolnshire.  Experts will use scientific techniques to more accurately assess the origin and date of arrival of this non-native species.


SNH outlines volunteer action in drive to manage stoats on Orkney

Further action to tackle the problem of non-native stoats on Orkney has been outlined by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

A report commissioned by SNH highlighted the impact stoats have on the ecology of Orkney threatening native wildlife. The presence of the non-native mammal particularly affects Orkney vole, and the hen harriers and short-eared owls which predate the vole.

Stoats are well-established on the Orkney mainland and linked isles. Sightings reported to SNH have increased from 290 in 2014 to 470 in 2015.

Eventual eradication of stoats from Orkney is expected to cost at least £500,000 over four to five years, and will require development of a large-scale partnership project. This is dependent on external funding.

Priority now is control of numbers in the parts of Orkney in which stoats are established and to minimise risk of spread to other islands in Orkney, for example in shipments of straw and hay for overwintering cattle. A single pregnant female has potential to enable stoats to become established.

Graham Neville, Northern Isles operations manager, said: “We are committed to tackling the issue of stoats in Orkney and are setting up a full-scale eradication project with a view to bid for external funding.

“Our priority is the control of the population and distribution of stoats in Orkney. Everyone can be assured that animal welfare is our top priority and is central to the project. Any animal caught will be handled and dispatched in a humane and legal manner. And we are extremely grateful for the wealth of expertise that our volunteers are able to offer to assist with this.”

Rachel Cartwright has been appointed to the Orkney stoat project team as co-ordinator of volunteer trappers’ work. This dedicated team of trappers is working hard to limit the threat posed by stoats to wildlife and domestic poultry.


Rare breeding bird found at Scottish nature reserve for first time in decades - RSPB

Two red-necked phalaropes (Image: Bjarni Thorbjornsson, RSPB)Two red-necked phalaropes (Image: Bjarni Thorbjornsson, RSPB)

A bird which is extremely rare in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, has bred at RSPB Scotland’s Balranald nature reserve in North Uist for the first time in 31 years.

Red-necked phalaropes are delicate wading birds that are well-known for their reversed sexual roles in which the small, drab male is solely responsible for incubating eggs and caring for the chicks.

Phalaropes migrate to the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland during the summer. However, they disappeared completely from the Uists as a breeding bird in the mid-1980s. Now a survey, carried out this year, has found a breeding pair at Balranald.

Jamie Boyle, RSPB Scotland’s Balranald Site Manager, said: “Balranald is already a fantastic place for wildlife with its corncrakes, bees and waders but to have the phalaropes back this year made it extra special and I hope to see them return next year.”

Red-necked phalaropes are doing well elsewhere in Scotland too, with record numbers counted in two locations. Shetland is the UK stronghold for breeding phalaropes, particularly the island of Fetlar where RSPB Scotland manages wetlands for these birds.

The number of breeding males on the reserve has increased from only six in 2008 to 36 in 2015; equalling the highest number that has ever been recorded on the reserve. Shetland as a whole was home to a total of 60 breeding phalarope males this year – 20 more than the previous record of 40 in 1996.


Every Child Wild: Making nature part of growing up - for all children – The Wildlife Trusts

Image credit Matthew RobertsImage credit Matthew Roberts

The Wildlife Trusts launch new initiative to make ‘Every Child Wild’.

Evidence has been growing for a number of years pointing to the array of health and social benefits to be derived from contact with the natural world for all ages.  However, results from a new YouGov poll, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, highlight the discrepancy between what parents think is best for children and what they actually experience.  

The Wildlife Trusts, who reach around half a million children each year through their junior membership and work with schools, are concerned about a loss of contact with wildlife during childhood. Despite the fundamental importance of nature to childhood the signs are that a generation of children is growing up at arm’s-length from the natural world. Children’s freedom to roam and time spent outdoors has shrunk disconnected from nature and with it their opportunities to discover wildlife, with just one in ten ever playing in wild places.  

Our new poll shows that:

91% of parents of children aged 18 and under think that having access to nature and wildlife is important for children, yet

78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature and wildlife

Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, said:  “We will be physically, mentally and spiritually impoverished if our children are deprived of contact with the natural world. Contact with nature should not be the preserve of the privileged. It is critical to the personal development of our children.”

However, a generation of children is growing up disconnected from nature, with just one in ten ever playing in wild places.  The Wildlife Trusts reach around half a million children each year, many with outdoor experiences through their school, but we are concerned that many more children are not getting the chance to get close to wildlife. 


CS scheme 'too complex' - survey reveals – National Farmers Union Image: NFU

Farmers and growers say the new agri-environment scheme in this country is too complex to take part in, according to a new survey by the NFU.

Image: NFU

The NFU is now urging the Government to undertake an urgent review of the scheme’s implementation and to introduce a raft of changes in order to make it more accessible to the industry.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “This scheme is an important tool in enabling farmers to continue to maintain and enhance biodiversity, water, soils and to address future challenges such as climate change and we are very clear - farmers must to be able to continue the very good work that has been achieved in agri-environment schemes. However, final application numbers for the scheme have confirmed the poor uptake that we had feared. This is bitterly disappointing especially as we do not believe it is due to lack of interest or engagement from farmers – our survey shows that 93% were aware of the scheme and that 42% looked at it in detail. The new scheme is simply just too complex for many.”


General licences restricted in wildlife crime hotspots - Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has restricted the use of general licences on four properties in two wildlife crime hotspots - one in Stirlingshire and one in the Borders - this week. The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.

Nick Halfhide, SNH Director of Operations, said:  "There is clear evidence that wildlife crimes have been committed on these properties. Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on these four properties for three years. They may though still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.  This measure should help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, albeit under tighter supervision. We consider that this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime."

General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal, including controlling common species of wild birds to protect crops or livestock.

The new measure complements other recent actions to reduce wildlife crime, including vicarious liability for offences against wild birds, which was introduced in 2011.

Restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land in question for three years. This period will increase if more evidence of offences comes to light 


Reaction: RSPB Scotland welcomes General Licence restrictions in areas of confirmed wildlife crime

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has restricted the use of General Licences on four properties in Scotland this week where they believe there is sufficient evidence of crimes against birds of prey in recent years.

In response, Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We welcome the continued commitment of the Minister and Scottish Government to tackling wildlife crime, and this is confirmation that the Open General Licence will be removed from land where Scottish Natural Heritage is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of crimes against birds of prey in recent years. The use of the Open General Licence to control what are considered by some to be “pest species” of bird, including crows and magpies, for conservation and other legal purposes, is a privilege and not a right. This activity is undertaken as derogation from the provision under the European Union Birds Directive, which affords protection to all native bird species, so it is right that the highest standards are met.


Launch of new SNH Protected Nature Sites web tool - Scottish Natural Heritage

Information on trends affecting more than 2,000 species and 3,000 habitat features in Scotland is available on an interactive tool, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed.

The ‘Protected Nature Sites’ interactive database was launched by SNH last week (29 October). It is a powerful new way of accessing and viewing this wealth of information on Scotland’s Environment Web (SEWeb).  It searches through habitat type (woodland, upland, wetlands), species (birds, plants, mammals), geographically (by local authority, national park, or by site).  And it can identify the condition of special features, associated pressures, and underlying trends within Scotland’s protected nature sites.

SNH uses Site Condition Monitoring (SCM) as its flagship dataset to record the condition of almost 2,000 sites of national and international importance for wildlife and geodiversity.  This technique is used in tracking policy delivery through Scotland’s Planning Policy, Biodiversity Strategy, Land Use Strategy and Rural Development Programme.  SCM can also inform the National Indicator in the Scottish Government National Performance Framework and in assessing the health of the environment, such as for Scotland’s biodiversity assessment 2010 and to inform policy and action towards 2020.

It is expected that the interactive website tool will mainly be used by land managers and estates, and those with an interest in land management. 

Access the tool here.


Relying on voluntary measures won't solve environmental problems - RSPB 

Regulations play a vital role in protecting nature and the environment in the UK and across Europe, indicates a new RSPB report, published today (5/11/15).  However, concerns about the costs of regulation to business have increasingly led both UK and EU policymakers to promote the use of voluntary alternatives to regulation in seeking to achieve environmental policy objectives.

To date, a lack of evidence has hampered efforts to prove the value of regulation when protecting wildlife and the environment. To fill this void the RSPB has today published a new report – Using regulation as a last resort? The report, which assesses the performance of voluntary approaches, has reviewed the effectiveness of over 150 voluntary schemes across a range of sectors and issues to determine how well they perform.

This research shows the impact of most voluntary schemes is limited. Over 80 per cent of schemes were found to perform poorly on at least one key measure. The majority of schemes set unambitious targets, with many also failing to achieve ‘unambitious’ targets.  In addition, many schemes were undermined by low rates of private sector participation and the resultant lack of a ‘level playing field’ for those participants seeking to improve their performance. The research found nothing to support the claim that voluntary approaches can be an effective alternative to regulation.

The RSPB’s Donal McCarthy is the report’s lead author. He said: “Our report is the largest assessment examining the performance of voluntary schemes. Our findings confirm that relying on voluntary action alone is insufficient to tackle the serious market failures that exist when trying to curb environmental destruction and degradation. Without environmental legislation, wildlife right across Europe would be in a far worse state, exploited for short-term gain without proper consideration of the long-term consequences.”

A key example highlighted in the report is the voluntary ‘codes of practice’ for tackling the spread of invasive non-native species – one of the key threats to wildlife. These codes have consistently failed to deliver, and new binding legislation to tackle the problem was introduced last year.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Conservation Director concludes: “The failure of the voluntary approach to site protection in the UK and Europe was a key motivation underlying the introduction of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives from the 1980s.  These policies represent the cornerstone of efforts to halt the decline of wildlife and special places. Thanks to these vital laws, the losses of important wildlife sites have declined dramatically. There are clear lessons from the success of these policies that provide a robust yet flexible legal framework for achieving sustainable development at the same time as providing a level playing field for businesses and certainty for those that want to do the right thing.”

The report can be downloaded here. (PDF)


Minke Whale Baby Boom? Highest number of young recorded since surveys began - Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

A juvenile minke whale surfaces alongside Silurian (image: HWDT)Sightings of juvenile minke whales off Scotland’s west coast increased in 2015 to the highest ever recorded within a survey season, during marine research expeditions carried out by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust – indicating either a significant increase in actual numbers or an influx of minke whales from elsewhere.

A juvenile minke whale surfaces alongside Silurian (image: HWDT)

The charity’s 2015 research season also recorded the highest annual number of common dolphin sightings since its expeditions began, with 723 individuals observed over 63 encounters. The common dolphin was once uncommon in the Hebrides, but the trust’s encounter rate with the species has more than doubled over the past 12 years, also for reasons that remain unclear.
Kerry Froud, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Biodiversity Officer, said: “These intriguing changes in Scotland’s marine life highlight the importance of long-term monitoring of cetaceans – so that we can better understand what is happening in our waters, and then make management recommendations to better protect this world-class area of marine biodiversity.”
A steady increase in the encounter rate with minke whale juveniles since 2011 was particularly marked this year, with the highest rate of young whales recorded since the trust started boat-based surveys in 2003. The 2015 surveys documented an encounter rate of 1 young minke whale per 286 km – three times the average over the trust’s entire dataset.

While an increase in the encounter rate with young minke whales is encouraging, there are still very serious issues regarding the conservation of this migratory species. To the north of Scotland, both Iceland and Norway still hunt minke whales. It remains unknown whether or not the minke whales that swim through Scottish waters frequent the waters where they risk being hunted.

The record number of common dolphin sightings – coupled with the most northerly sighting of the species ever recorded in September this year, off Tromso in Norway – suggests that changes are underway within our seas and oceans. The causes, and wider effects on the marine environment and other species, are still unclear – underlining the importance of on-going research. 


Breaking new ground on protecting our waterways - Natural England

A ground-breaking agreement between Natural England and the Canal and River Trust sets sail a new way of working to improve our inland waterways. 

Pocklington Canal © Christopher J Hubbard, Canal and River TrustPocklington Canal © Christopher J Hubbard, Canal and River Trust

Meeting on the banks of the scenic Pocklington Canal – the focal point of an ambitious £460,000 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) designed to engage communities in protecting its delicate ecology and historical features - Natural England Chief Executive James Cross and Canal and River Trust’s (the Trust) Chief Executive Richard Parry will sign a memorandum of understanding, cementing their mutual collaboration to protect England’s canals and make them more accessible to the public.

The Pocklington HLF bid - to be submitted in November by the Trust, supported by Natural England and partners, will enhance and protect the special wildlife of the canal making it more accessible to visitors. Forty years ago the canal had declined into abandonment and disrepair, only narrowly escaping fate as a dumping ground for treated sewage sludge. Thanks to the work of local volunteers and campaigners it was saved from its fate, and is now almost completely protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Designated for its rare aquatic plants, breeding birds and outstanding variety of dragonfly and damselfly, it is a success story which Natural England and the Trust hope to replicate across the canal network – as they work together to encourage communities to take a more active role in canal management.

Natural England will now begin the process of exploring an organisational licence for the Trust, which will allow the movement of protected species such as water voles, bats, badgers and native crayfish during routine canal maintenance works. Organisational licences are awarded on the basis of ‘earned recognition’ – in this case recognising the expertise and competence of the Trust in understanding how to avoid, mitigate and compensate for impacts on protected species. They have the dual function of ensuring that protected species remain safeguarded, whilst saving the time and money associated with applying for an individual licence every time one is required. The Trust currently holds a similar licence to handle floating water plantain – a European protected species. Organisational licences form part of Natural England’s efforts to cut red tape and create a more efficient organisation.


Short list released in 2015 UK National Parks Volunteer Awards - National Parks

A volunteer who has walked more than 172 miles in service of Yorkshire Dales National Park, a young wheelchair user working tirelessly to ensure access in the New Forest, and a group that has brought together two remote communities in the Brecon Beacons. These are just some of the inspiring stories that make up the short list for the 2015 UK National Parks Volunteer Awards.

The short list was revealed today and represents just a small portion of the hundreds upon hundreds of men and women giving their time, energy and expertise toward protecting and enhancing the special qualities of Britain's breathing spaces.

The annual Volunteer Awards were set up to recognise the hard work of volunteers deemed to have gone above and beyond the usual expectations of volunteer service. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the UK's 15 National Parks, putting in thousands of hours. With so many people doing so much, it is always challenging to put together a short list for the awards.

"Every year, we look at the Volunteer Awards short list and think, 'This is amazing. This is as good as it gets,'" said National Parks UK Director Kathryn Cook. "Then the next year comes along, and again we are floored by the exceptional quality of entries. All the individuals, projects and groups nominated for this year's Volunteer Awards are truly inspiring. Putting together the 2015 short list sparked a lot of heated discussion amongst our short-listing panel."

View this year's short list here.


Scientific Publications

Decker, Daniel et al Governance Principles for Wildlife Conservation in the 21st Century. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12211


Mcleod, Elizabeth et al Conservation organizations need to consider adaptive capacity: why local input matters. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12210 


Gemmell, B. J., Colin, S. P., Costello, J. H. & Dabiri, J. O. (2015) Suction-based propulsion as a basis for efficient animal swimming. Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/ncomms9790


Kilshaw, K. et al (2015) Mapping the spatial configuration of hybridization risk for an endangered population of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) in Scotland. Mammal Research. DOI: 10.1007/s13364-015-0253-x


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