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


New research shows that local housing targets are driven by over-ambition rather than need. - CPRE

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is today (16/11) calling for an overhaul of the way local authorities set housing targets in order to stop countryside being lost unnecessarily.  Extensive research commissioned by CPRE has shown that local authorities are in effect being asked to base their plans on aspiration rather than need, which is resulting in ever higher housing targets and the consequent, unnecessary release of countryside for development  – without resulting in an increase in overall housebuilding. 

Among a large number of problems with how the targets are calculated, the research found a lack of clear guidance in the process, a lack of objectivity in the calculations, and a lack of concern for land availability and environmental impacts.  The research demonstrates that the unrealistic targets are putting undue pressure on the countryside. Setting targets far higher than what can be realistically built just means that developers have more sites to choose from: as static building rates show, higher targets do not mean faster delivery. The disastrous consequence is that when these unrealistic targets are not met, councils have to identify even more sites for housing, and ever more countryside is released for more lucrative development while brownfield sites go unused.

To illustrate the unrealistic nature of the housing targets, CPRE has analysed the local plans passed in the past two years that have contained a new housing target. In those 54 local plans, the average housing requirement is 30% above the Government’s household projections, and 50% above the average build rate. Only seven of the 54 targets take environmental factors into account .

To ensure that we build the homes we actually need in the right places, CPRE is calling for community surveys to play a far greater role in determining true need; for available brownfield land to play a leading role in developing targets; and for planning guidance to include a clear definition of housing need that is designed to support those who lack housing, and to ensure local plans specify what kind of homes will meet this need.

Read the report: CPRE, Set up to fail: why housing targets based on flawed numbers threaten our countryside, November 2015 Here.


Climate change: a hot topic for the UK's wildlife and public - RSPB 

Climate change is therefore a factor in the 70 per cent decline in kittiwake populations in the UK in recent decades.

Kittiwake pair displaying at nest, Image: Andy Hay, RSPBImage: Andy Hay, RSPB

A new report published today (16 November) by the RSPB shows that Europe's wildlife is already being affected by climate change and these effects will only intensify over the course of this century.

The report, The Nature of Climate Change, reviews and compiles the existing evidence and shows that some of Europe's best-loved wildlife, from birds to bees, is already at risk from a changing climate and this will increase over coming decades.  The report brings together the most compelling examples of how Europe's wildlife is already being affected by climate change.

Also, a new poll of the British public has also found that Britons are more worried about climate impacts on UK wildlife than any other aspect of climate change.

Martin Harper, RSPB's Director of Conservation, said: "Climate change is the greatest long-term threat to people and wildlife. We are already seeing its impacts and, alongside other pressures on land and at sea, our wildlife is increasingly at risk." 

A recent survey commissioned by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) shows that 79 per cent of Britons are worried about climate impacts on UK wildlife, making it a greater concern than flooding (72 per cent), heat waves (50 per cent), or increased variability and prices of food (60 per cent).

Richard Black, Director of ECIU, said: “It’s quite a surprising finding because you’d think people would be more concerned about potential impacts to their homes, their larders and their wallets.

"Instead it shows that Britain’s long-standing love affair with birds, flowers and animals shows no signs of abating, and that recent studies demonstrating climate change impacts on animals such as puffins, bumblebees and frogs have raised the alarm."

This poll is supported by a similar one conducted by the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI).

Download the full  report or summary

The nature of climate change (1.6Mb)

This report presents the evidence that wildlife in the UK and beyond is already facing a more challenging time due to the climate change that has occurred; and that things are, for the most part, only likely to get worse.

The nature of climate change - summary report (990Kb)

This report presents the evidence that wildlife in the UK and beyond is already facing a more challenging time due to the climate change that has occurred; and that things are, for the most part, only likely to get worse.


The verdict is in: Europe’s nature laws are fit for purpose - BirdLife

The first findings are out from the European Commission's review of key European nature laws - and it says they deliver far more benefits than they cost.

A study carried out by international experts for the Commission has published its initial findings of the Fitness Check, or ‘REFIT’, process on the Birds and Habitats Directives.  It’s feared the laws, also known as the Nature Directives, could be re-opened, merged or weakened as part of President Jean Claude Juncker and vice-President Timmermans’ drive for ‘better regulation’.  But the evaluation study, compiled by a panel of technical experts, has found no reason for merging the directives and says they are also coherent with other EU policies and laws.

Further, it spells out the huge benefits provided by the laws when compared with how much they cost. The Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which the laws are responsible for, costs an estimated 5.8 billion EUR per year, but generates benefits in ecosystem services running to 200-300 billion EUR per year and a further 50-85 billion EUR per year for local economies. Overall, the directives make positive contributions to sustainable development and allow economic development which is compatible with maintaining biodiversity.

Ariel Brunner, BirdLife Europe Senior Head of Policy, said: “The Fitness Check evidence is crystal clear - the Birds and Habitat Directives are fit for purpose and there is no case for ‘merging and modernising’ them. The evidence also clearly shows where the real problems lie: poor and uneven enforcement, lack of funding and the impact of perverse policies such as the CAP.”

The 'Emerging Findings' report has been prepared by a consortium led by Milieu Ltd, and also comprised of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEЕР), ICF  International and Ecosystems Ltd. for the European Commission’s Directorate General Environment. It is available to view here.

A separate report on the public consultation on the Nature Directives is available to view here


Confirmation of Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest - Natural England

Natural England has confirmed the extension to the boundaries of Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI in Cumbria. The Board of Natural England has given its approval to confirm the notification of Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Cumbria.

Two people standing on the peatlands at Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest in north Cumbria, Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI © David Hirst/Natural England  Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI © David Hirst/Natural England   

The decision was agreed by the Natural England Board meeting in open session on 4 November 2015.

Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI in Cumbria covers a large area of lowland raised peat bog - a nationally rare and threatened wildlife habitat - of which nearly 95% of the original area has been lost or significantly damaged in the United Kingdom.  The site is of national and international importance for the evidence of environmental change recorded in its peat deposits, and for the range of rare wildlife which the habitat can support, including:

  • a wide range of insects
  • specialist plants that have adapted to living in bog habitat, including the insectivorous sundew
  • birds such as snipe, merlin, curlew and lapwing
  • small mammals, amphibians and reptiles

Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells, said:  The evidence clearly shows that the lowland peat bog habitat and associated vegetation give this site real national importance and tremendous potential for further restoration and enhancement. Natural England’s Board has agreed that extending the boundary of the SSSI will make a significant difference towards that aim.

Cumbria’s peatbogs provide a unique historical environmental record, an archaeological treasure-trove and have an important function as a carbon store. Lowland raised peatbogs such as Bolton Fell Moss and Walton Moss have formed over many thousands of years through the growth and decay of sphagnum mosses, which are vital for the active formation of peat.Lowland raised bogs can provide a haven for rare wildlife as well as an important carbon store to help tackle climate change. Designation will help to ensure the restoration of this internationally important site.


Numbers of rare breeding bird fall in Scotland - RSPB

Pair of corncrakes among horsetails, Tiree, Scotland (image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)Pair of corncrakes among horsetails, Tiree, Scotland (image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)

One of Scotland’s rarest breeding birds, the corncrake, has suffered a poor season this year (2015) with numbers dropping by nearly a fifth.

In an annual RSPB Scotland survey, the number of calling males (1) recorded fell by 17 per cent compared to last year, with only 1,069 being counted. In 2014, there were 1,289 calling males counted - the highest total in at least 45 years.

The Isle of Tiree holds the most corncrakes with 333 calling males counted in 2015. Nearly all parts of the country that corncrakes occupy witnessed a drop in numbers this year, except for a few places like the islands of Islay and Iona which both had a slight increase, and the Isle of Mull which stayed the same.

Corncrakes also suffered a decline in Scotland back in 2013 – with a 23 per cent drop compared with the previous year – but they did recover in 2014. It is thought that the exceptionally cold, late springs in 2013 and 2015 is the reason behind the reduction in the number of males calling.


A far from positive milestone for Circuit of Wales - Gwent Wildlife Trust

A new milestone for Circuit of Wales is set as Welsh Government give final approval for the development on common land but is it the right one for people and the environment? The simple answer is no.

GWT join with many other organisations and individuals in firmly opposing the development of the Circuit of Wales in Rassau, Ebbw Vale. Over 200 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat will be completely destroyed. The compensation offered by the developer is not equivalent to the value of the wildlife that will be lost, and we have serious doubts as to the success of their proposals for enhancing and creating new habitats. The land of the proposed development would degrade and erode the natural environment, increase CO2 emissions and ultimately damage our own well-being as well as the environment.

We understand that there is a need in the local area for jobs and economic regeneration; we actively participate in this ourselves but we have to hope that the job creation figures and financial benefits outlined by the developer are accurate, given the substantial and permanent environmental effects.

Gemma Bodé, Living Landscape Manager for the Gwent Levels said, "We are appalled at the decision by Welsh Government to move forward with this development on common land, especially as the Planning Inspectorate clearly acknowledged the hugely damaging effect the development will have on the environment. We really hope that the socio-economic benefits outlined by the developer are completely accurate and evidenced-based. The decision to move ahead with the development in light of widespread opposition sets a worrying precedent for how proposed developments on common land are approved in the future." 


Seal pup born at South Walney Nature Reserve for first time - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

The first ever grey seal pup born at South Walney Nature Reserve, Walney Island, has been discovered by staff from Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Seal pup at South Walney Nature Reserve (image: Cumbria Wildlife Trust)Seal pup at South Walney Nature Reserve (image: Cumbria Wildlife Trust)

Despite seals using the protected beaches to haul out and rest at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s South Walney Nature Reserve for decades, there has never before been a seal pup recorded on the island.

Sally Tapp, one of the two Marine Trainees who discovered the seal pup whilst conducting a seal survey, says: “This is an incredibly exciting and unusual sight as the colony at South Walney Nature Reserve has previously been thought to be a non-breeding colony. Usually, the seals found here are older bulls no longer able to control a harem on the breeding beaches and younger, sexually immature males and females, so this is a wonderfully encouraging sight showing that seals are thriving on Walney Island.  The pup was approximately three to four days old when we first spotted it. The mother is likely to be an inexperienced, first-time Mum who regularly uses the beaches at South Walney as a haul-out site and has come back to pup here. Unlike harbour seal pups, grey seal pups are born with thick white fur and are not able to swim very well at first. Therefore, the pup was almost certainly born on the island.”

During the 1970s and 80s seals were seen only singly around Walney Island and gradually over time their numbers have increased with up to 100 individuals now on and around the island at certain times of the year.

The mother will stay with the pup for only a short time, feeding it with fat-rich milk, until it is weaned and then she will leave both the pup and the area. During this time, the pup will gradually moult its thick white fur revealing its adult coat with its own individual markings. After weaning, the pup may remain on the island for up to another few weeks or so before it is ready to head out to sea to forage for itself.

Due to the young age of the seal, it is incredibly vulnerable to disturbance, which would cause the mother to abandon it and the pup to starve. For this reason, there is strictly no access to the area of the nature reserve. 


New direction for UK energy policy - DECC

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd has set out her vision for an energy system that puts consumers first, delivers more competition, reduces the burden on bill-payers and ensures enough electricity generation to power the nation.

  • Consultation on ending unabated coal-fired power stations by 2025
  • New gas-fired power stations a priority
  • Commitment to offshore wind support completes commitment to secure, low-carbon, affordable electricity supplies
  • Move towards a smarter energy system

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd has set out her vision for an energy system that puts consumers first, delivers more competition, reduces the burden on bill-payers and ensures enough electricity generation to power the nation.

Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London today (18/11/15) the Energy Secretary revealed her policy priorities and her strategy for putting them into action.

Amber Rudd set out the challenges facing the country’s energy system, saying:  “We now have an electricity system where no form of power generation, not even gas-fired power stations, can be built without government intervention. And a legacy of ageing, often unreliable plant. Perversely, even with the huge growth in renewables, our dependence on coal - the dirtiest fossil fuel – hasn’t been reduced. Indeed a higher proportion of our electricity came from coal in 2014 than in 1999.  So despite intervention we still haven’t found the right balance.”


Reaction from Friends of the Earth - Amber Rudd sends energy policy in wrong direction

Reacting to Amber Rudd’s climate and energy speech, Friends of the Earth’s senior energy campaigner Simon Bullock said: “Amber Rudd is certainly taking UK energy policy in a new direction: unfortunately it’s backwards to the 20th century." 


Reaction from RSPB Phasing out coal-fired power stations: welcome news

The Government has announced plans today [Wednesday 18 November, 2015] to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025 and restrict their use by 2023.

Martin Harper is the RSPB Conservation Director. Reacting to the announcement, he said: “Phasing out carbon-rich coal is a welcome step on a journey towards a lower carbon economy and honours the tireless efforts of those campaigners seeking to protect our planet from the ravages of excessive climate change. But shifting to gas does not solve the problem, and locks us in to reliance on other fossil fuels. Moving rapidly to renewable energy and energy-efficiency measures should be the aspiration of Government energy policy if we're to limit climate change to a rise of 2C.


Success: the UK will phase out coal by 2025 - WWF

Today the UK Government has announced that it will phase out unabated coal power by 2025.

WWF-UK Chief Executive David Nussbaum said: "Today the UK Government has become the first major economy to announce that it will phase out coal from its power sector. This is particularly significant with only days to go before the negotiations on a new international climate change deal begin in Paris. By phasing out coal between 2023 and 2025 and the government has recognised the serious environmental impacts of dirty coal – and its potential to bust the UK's climate commitments.”


Fines for Stanage fly-tippers - Peak District National Park Authority

Waste dumped at Stanage (Image Peak District National Park)Waste dumped at Stanage (Image Peak District National Park)

Two Sheffield men who drove to the Peak District to dump waste have been ordered to pay fines and costs of £735 each after pleading guilty to fly-tipping.

Chesterfield Magistrates' Court heard on November 16 that Zubair Kahn, of Wostenholm Road, and Richard Mansell, of Rockingham Street, dumped waste at Sheepwash Bank, Stanage Edge, in the Peak District.

Prosecuting, Derbyshire Dales District Council stated that the pair drove from Sheffield to commit the offence in an area that has the highest level of environmental protection.  But their van was seen by an off-duty police officer who lives locally.  Suspicious of their intentions, he called a Peak District National Park ranger working below Stanage Edge who tracked the van using binoculars.  When the vehicle stopped, the ranger called back the off-duty officer, who immediately contacted police colleagues and drove to the scene, challenging Kahn and Mansell as they unloaded kitchen units from a van.  
Each of the defendants was fined £320, and also ordered to pay costs of £383 and a victim surcharge of £32.


Use your loaf to save British wildlife - University of Reading 

Farmers can maintain high yields and boost nature by signing up to a wildlife-friendly scheme, new research has found.

A team of researchers, led by the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research (CAER) at the University of Reading, found that farms signed up to Conservation Grade's ‘Fair to Nature' farming scheme supported 20% more species of butterflies , while still producing the same amount of crops as conventional farms.

Growers using organic methods had higher levels of biodiversity than conventional farms - but wheat yields were significantly lower.

Farmers who sign up to the non-organic Fair to Nature growing protocol gain a premium price for their crops, in return for setting aside and actively managing at least 10% of their land as wildlife habitat. This must include at least 4% of farmland managed as pollen and nectar-rich habitat for insects and 2% for growing food for wild birds.

The Fair to Nature scheme offers a way for consumers to shop for more nature-friendly products, without having to buy fully organic goods.

Chloe Hardman, the University of Reading ecologist who led the research, said: "Farmers have a difficult but vital job to do. They are being asked to conserve wildlife while also feeding a rapidly growing global population.

"Organic farming can be great for wildlife, but if British farming abandoned conventional methods and went organic, levels of food production would fall and national self-sufficiency would plummet.  Our research suggests that looking after wildlife and feeding the world are not incompatible goals."

Read the paper here: Hardman, C. J., Harrison, D. P.G., Shaw, P. J., Nevard, T. D., Hughes, B., Potts, S. G., Norris, K. (2015), Supporting local diversity of habitats and species on farmland: a comparison of three wildlife-friendly schemes. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12557


Tackling wildlife crime - Scottish Government

Review group’s report recommends increases to wildlife crime penalties.

Scotland’s Environment Minister Aileen McLeod today (19/11) welcomed the publication of a report examining the penalties available for wildlife crime offences.

The report, drawn up by a review group chaired by Professor Mark Poustie, an Environmental Law expert at Strathclyde University, sets out ten recommendations. As well as increases to the maximum available penalties, the report also recommends greater use of alternative penalties such as forfeiture, systematic use of impact statements in court, new sentencing guidelines, and consolidation of wildlife legislation.

The report concludes that penalties for wildlife crimes have fallen behind those for other types of environmental crime, and that fine levels for many of these crimes have not kept pace with inflation.

Dr McLeod, who is also Chair of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, said: “Wildlife crime poses a real risk to our natural heritage and has a detrimental effect on the people of Scotland who want to enjoy seeing Scotland’s wildlife on their doorstep, but also more widely to Scotland as a whole. It is vital that the available penalties are an adequate deterrent and properly reflect the impact these crimes can have on Scotland’s environment and wildlife tourism industry. The Scottish Government has already taken action to put an end to the illegal poisoning and killing of birds of prey, and I will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to see an end to these unacceptable activities, targeting our wildlife, which continue to take place. This report is one of a number of actions taken by the Scottish Government to tackle wildlife crime and ultimately provide better protection for Scotland’s environment and wildlife. I will carefully consider all the recommendations and will make a further announcement on how we intend to take this work forward.”

The full report can be accessed on the Scottish Government website.  


Reaction: RSPB Scotland welcomes the publication of the Scottish Government's Review of Wildlife Crime Penalties

Adult goshawk image: Mark Hamblin, RSPBImage: Mark Hamblin, RSPB

RSPB Scotland Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson, said: “Scotland has some of the best wildlife protection laws in Europe, but in our opinion, these need to be effectively enforced and there need to be meaningful sentences imposed on those convicted of wrong-doing. We need to learn from the experiences in other similar countries where we are aware that sanctions available to the courts act as a real deterrent. In recent years, the penalties imposed by the courts, when prosecutions have been successful, have been inconsistent for similar offences. They have also largely failed to reflect the actual or potential conservation impact of the offences, and whether the offending was carried out in the course of employment, often with the aim of financial gain. We commend the work of the Review Panel in producing a comprehensive report that acknowledges and reflects many of the concerns we share. We wholeheartedly support the recommendations made in this Review, and hope that these are implemented in full by the Scottish Government.”


Reaction: SCA response to the wildlife crime penalties review group report - Scottish Countryside Alliance

The Scottish Countryside Alliance has responded to the report of wildlife crime penalities review group, commissioned by the Scottish Government, which was published today.

Jamie Stewart, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance said: “As an active member of PAW Scotland the Scottish Countryside Alliance welcomes the wildlife crime penalties review group report and particularly the ministerial comment acknowledging the reputation of Scotland’s country sports sector and the work carried out to reduce criminal act against wildlife. 

“Scotland has some of the best wildlife protection laws in Europe and has a robust legal framework that protects birds of prey and their nests, including vicarious liability provisions and the most recent restrictions on the use of General Licences. We do not believe that the introduction of emotive personal victim statements will aid consistency of sentencing and therefore warrant inclusion in this type of crime.  Whilst we agree that the outdated, barbaric and criminal practices of a few may put at risk the conservation status of some of our most magnificent wildlife and must be eradicated, we must also address the causes that drive individuals to such activities. When a species reaches an imbalance and impacts on another the general rationale is to rectify that imbalance; demonstrable in the Scottish Government’s thoughts on deer control. The same rationale needs to be applied across species allowing for fair access and application to the legal framework that currently exists." 


UK Government taken to court over unprotected wetlands - Fish Legal, via Freshwater Habitats Trust

Today WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal take the Government to the High Court accusing it of dragging its feet over the protection of England’s most precious rivers and wetlands.

The Government legally committed to ensuring these sites were healthy by 2015. The three organisations claim that ministers stifled action to address harmful pollution from farms.

David Nussbaum, Chief Executive, WWF-UK, said: “Places like Poole Harbour in Dorset and the River Mease in the Midlands are among England’s natural “crown jewels”. It is shameful that these places as well as cherished species like the kingfisher, Atlantic salmon and avocet have been put at long term risk due to ministerial interference.”

In 2009, the Government publicly committed to using Water Protection Zones (WPZs). They had previously been identified as the most appropriate and cost effective solution to tacking agricultural pollution affecting these specially protected sites alongside voluntary steps by farmers. This decision was set in law after an extensive consultation process.

Investigations by WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal have revealed that, in January 2011, Defra Ministers and the Environment Agency decided to put the brakes on the use of  WPZs, except as a ‘last resort’. This was despite overwhelming evidence that other measures to tackle the pollution problem would not be sufficient. The decision was not made public and no WPZs have been put in place to tackle this pollution.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal, said: “We cannot let the UK regain its title as the dirty man of Europe – urgent action must be taken. Salmon populations have declined by 40% in the last 30 years, and agricultural pollution is one of the most significant causes of this.

“This is why, today, we are seeking the help of the Court to ensure the Government takes the action that is needed to provide these special places with the protection to which they are lawfully entitled.”


Keep Scotland Beautiful consultation reveals significant concern about climate change

Keep Scotland Beautiful presented Climate Change Minister, Aileen McLeod, with a report containing the views of more than 800 people across Scotland in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference which takes place in Paris in December. 

Our consultation showed:

  • 93% of respondents were concerned about climate change
  • 85% of respondents said they would like a new, legally binding international agreement to emerge from the Paris talks
  • 84% of respondents agreed that action on climate change will improve people’s quality of life
  • 83% of young people responding said they are worried about their future if the pace of action on climate change does not increase

The document ‘Conversations About COP21 Summary Report’ concludes the findings of an eight week consultation. During this period we worked to increase the Scottish public’s engagement and participation in the global conversation taking place on climate change and to share information with the Scottish Government in advance of the Paris talks.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Aileen McLeod said: “Our future, and that of generations to come, depends upon a successful outcome at the climate change negotiations next month. This consultation will help to ensure that the views of the public will be heard prior to those talks in Paris.  Climate change affects all of us, and there is a responsibility on each and every one of us to take action. I very much welcome the efforts being made across Scotland so far – although we all must continue to do more to encourage action on climate change.  

Further information and the document can be accessed online here.


IUCN and WWF announce new partnership to expand and strengthen protected areas - IUCN

IUCN and WWF have joined forces to enhance and promote the role of protected and conserved areas in achieving sustainable development over the next ten years.

Under the new partnership, WWF and IUCN will:

  • Expand the number of protected areas reaching IUCN Green List quality standards to at least 1000 protected areas in 50 countries, by ensuring that these areas meet the Green List criteria;
  •  Seek the application of $2 billion of new investment finance in the enhanced performance and sustainability of these protected areas;
  •  Generate at least 20 new ambitious protected area commitments for biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from communities, governments and other organisations.

“This partnership will help ensure that critical forests, wetlands and marine habitats are protected for future generations," says Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.. "Stronger efforts to create and maintain protected areas are crucial to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals and securing a climate resilient future.” 

The 10-year partnership aims to make the case for direct investment in protected areas and protected area systems that demonstrate enhanced conservation outcomes. The partnership will look at how challenges faced by protected areas such as poaching, illegal logging and other destructive activities can be addressed through new financing and investment.


Massive fines for illegal tipping offences - Environment Agency

Three businessmen have been ordered to pay more than £262,000 in fines, proceeds of crime payments and costs for illegally dumping more than 60,000 tonnes of waste on two farms near Callington, Cornwall.

The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

Farmers David Stroud and Darren Pearce and waste haulier, Andrew Duncan, who runs haulage company Dunchaul Limited, were caught following a detailed investigation by the Environment Agency that revealed how they had deposited tonnes of demolition and construction waste in the Cornish countryside.

Anyone who deposits waste on land needs to do so with the permission of the Environment Agency and comply with the conditions of an authorisation. When waste is transferred, there is a legal requirement that it is accompanied by Waste Transfer Notes and that these are correctly completed, distributed and retained by all the parties involved.    Truro Crown Court heard that as an experienced haulier, Andrew Duncan and his company Dunchaul Limited would have been well aware of these conditions.   Between June 2010 and September 2012, Stroud and Pearce were involved in the tipping of construction, demolition waste and soil at two different farms near Callington in Cornwall, operated by the two men. They were known locally as ‘Dunchaul’s tips.’  Nearly 66,000 tonnes of waste was deposited between the two farms, and both were only eligible for 1,000 tonnes of sub-soil and 5,000 tonnes of concrete, rubble and bricks. The waste deposited by Dunchaul Ltd was sub-soil from development sites, therefore the 1,000 tonne limit applies.

Judge Carr said legislation was there to ensure waste was deposited in proper landfill sites but this case was ‘a long term avoidance of rules and regulations’.   Substantial amounts of waste went to two farms which were paid to receive the waste. This was obviously done to increase the profitability of the company over a significant period of time and was well organised. Judge Carr added the only purpose for Duncan was for financial gain through winning contracts by undercutting legitimate hauliers. He wanted the fines to reflect there is no profitability in illegal activity.

Sophie Unsworth for the Environment Agency said: " Waste crime can cause serious pollution to the environment, put communities at risk and undermines legitimate business and the investment and economic growth that goes with it. We take tough action against poor performing companies and those who commit waste crime."


Mice to make homes in tennis balls at RSPB Dee Estuary thanks to local club - RSPB

Harvest mouse eating blackberries (image: Ben Andrew, RSPB)Harvest mouse eating blackberries (image: Ben Andrew, RSPB)

One of Europe’s smallest mammals has been given a helping hand by staff at the RSPB’s Dee Estuary nature reserve – thanks to a kind donation from a local tennis club.

Since the discovery of an empty harvest mouse nest, found during recent grass cutting, alerted reserve wardens to the fact these tiny creatures are living on the Cheshire site, the team have been getting creative with an unlikely source - old tennis balls - to help give nature a home.

Harvest mice are not common this far north, so the team were interested to discover how many are living on the reserve and in which areas. Being tiny and secretive creatures, it can be difficult to survey their distribution, but thanks to an idea to use tennis balls as homes for the mice, the reserve staff will next year be able to gain a better idea.

Alasdair Grubb, warden at the RSPB’s Dee Estuary nature reserve, said: “Sadly harvest mice numbers are falling in the UK due to changing farming practices and other pressures on our countryside, so we were delighted to discover they had made a home at Burton Mere Wetlands and were eager to find out how many and whereabouts they were living.  “Tennis balls might seem like an odd solution, but it’s actually a trick that’s been used with balls from Wimbledon for years.  As well as allowing us a means of surveying the numbers, the tennis balls also protect the mice from predation and bad weather, and provide extra homes by giving them chance to nest in areas where there might be ample food, but not quite the right conditions.”


Getting the best from our land - Scottish Government 

Views sought on draft Land Use Strategy.

A consultation has been launched on the future of land use, aimed at getting the most from our land in an integrated and sustainable way.

The consultation on the draft Land Use Strategy 2016 -2021 sets out a range of policies and proposals including:

how we manage our natural resources, including continued use of an ecosystems approach to land use decisions;

developing and implementing activities to promote climate friendly farming and crofting;

an exploration of the relationship between ownership, use and management of land including consideration of the potential advantages of a single policy statement about land;

encouraging regional land use partnerships to bring a range of interests together to consider land use at a local level

Over the next ten weeks, all those with an interest in land use and management, will be invited to make their views known.

 This second Strategy, covering the five year period 2016 -2021, has been prepared following a period of review. More information on the review can be found here.

The land use strategy consultation runs until 29th January 2016 - more information on how to respond to the consultation is available here.


More support pledged for birds of prey - Moorlands Association 

Leading land management and conservation organisations are stepping up their efforts to boost bird of prey populations following disappointing results from the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative.

The five-year project aimed to increase the breeding populations and breeding success of raptors in the Dark Peak and surrounding areas but the targets agreed by the five organisations involved have not been achieved. The reasons for the declines are not fully understood and probably vary for the different species, but important factors are likely to include illegal persecution, disturbance and availability of key prey.

Peregrine falcon (image Moorland Association)The organisations involved – the Peak District National Park, Moorland Association, National Trust, Natural England and RSPB – set targets to restore breeding populations of merlin, peregrine falcon and short-eared owl in the Dark Peak to previous levels known within the last 25 years.

Peregrine falcon (image Moorland Association)

The target of 15 pairs of breeding peregrine in the Dark Peak has not been achieved and in fact has declined from six pairs to four pairs since 2012. For short-eared owl the numbers are more positive: 16 breeding pairs have been recorded but many more birds were recorded hunting, so local experts consider this figure to be very conservative. It is therefore unclear if the target of 25 breeding pairs has been met.

For merlin the results show that the population is stable with around 18 breeding pairs in the Dark Peak. Whilst not meeting the Initiative’s target of 32 breeding pairs, it is bucking the national trend of a reported slow decline in merlin numbers. Encouragingly, the breeding success has nearly doubled in the Dark Peak since 2012, from 32 to 58 chicks, from known nests and all were ringed and tagged with the help of local gamekeepers.

The Initiative is focusing on working more closely with landowners and gamekeepers to stop illegal persecution, and is now looking to the future with renewed commitment from the director of the Moorlands Association and the new chief executive of the Peak District National Park. Derbyshire Constabulary are also now part of the Initiative.


Scientific Publications 

Tollington, Simon, Turbé, Anne, Rabitsch, Wolfgang,  Groombridge, Jim J., Scalera, Riccardo, Essl, Franz, Roy, Helen & Shwartz, Assaf.  Making the EU legislation on invasive species a conservation success. Conservation Letters. DOI:.1111/conl.12214


Petr Keil, David Storch & Walter Jetz. On the decline of biodiversity due to area loss. Nature Communications.  doi:10.1038/ncomms9837 


Hardman, C. J., Harrison, D. P.G., Shaw, P. J., Nevard, T. D., Hughes, B., Potts, S. G., Norris, K. (2015), Supporting local diversity of habitats and species on farmland: a comparison of three wildlife-friendly schemes. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12557


Mickaël Henry, Nicolas Cerrutti, Pierrick Aupinel, Axel Decourtye, Mélanie Gayrard, Jean-François Odoux, Aurélien Pissard, Charlotte Rüger, Vincent Bretagnolle.  Reconciling laboratory and field assessments of neonicotinoid toxicity to honeybees. Proc. R. Soc. B 2015 282 20152110; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2110.

Jordan Rebecca et al  Studying citizen science, adaptive management, and learning feedback as a mechanism for improving conservation. Conservation Biology  DOI:  10.1111/cobi.12659

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