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


New Nature Fund grant helps restore National Park landscapes - Brecon Beacons National Park

Repairs to a damaged peat bog and a popular walking route began in spectacular style earlier today (Monday 23rd February) with the airlift of hundreds of tonnes of heather brash and crushed stone to the top of Waun Fach – the highest hill in the Black Mountains.  The airlift kick starts the first phase of a unique collaboration between Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Natural Resources Wales, the Glanusk Estate and the Black Mountains Graziers Association to improve the biodiversity on the Black Mountains made possible with £200,000 from the Welsh Government’s Nature Fund.

helicopter airlift moorland managementHelicopter airlift moorland management (image Simon Powell, via BBNPA)

Today the first phase of the funding has been rolled out to fund the use of helicopters to deliver hundreds of tonnes of stone and heather brash to the affected areas on Waun Fach.  For the next two weeks it is anticipated that the helicopters will make numerous airlifts to complete the work – which is being delivered with the co-operation of the Glanusk Estate and Black Mountains Graziers Association.

At 2660 feet above sea level, Waun Fach is an area where there is no vehicle access and is viewed as one of the most remote landscapes in the National Park.  Over time, cumulative impact from walkers, as well as other factors, has contributed to the erosion of the walking route, with regular damage to the surrounding areas of peat bog.  A specialist team made up of local contractors, National Park Authority wardens, graziers and volunteers will work in sub-zero temperatures to carefully create a footpath with a stable walking surface, which will lessen the impact of trampling in the unique SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and carefully preserve the peat bog.  The eroding and exposed areas of peat will be blanketed in heather brash and the gullies will be blocked to stop further erosive damage. The aggregate has been specially selected on advice from Natural Resources Wales because of its durability and compatibility with the existing stone.

Harry Legge-Bourke, landowner of Waun Fach said of the newly funded project:  “We were delighted to learn that the Welsh Government had approved the grants to fund this unique and collaborative project between all stakeholders of the Black Mountains which looks at slowing the decline in the state of nature in this area.   For the first time the graziers and landowners are taking the lead to drive forward biodiversity restoration on Waun Fach which makes this project even more unique. ”

Brecon Beacons National Park Authority Conservation Manager, Paul Sinnadurai said: “We’re delighted at last to have the funds to make these vital upgrades to such a unique and important habitat in the National Park.  The important work on Waun Fach ensures that there’s an all-weather path requiring little maintenance in future years, which will in turn serve to protect the fragile peat bog and its inhabitants, which include European Scheduled ground-nesting birds.”

Waun Fach is not the only popular walking route to have received improvements via helicopter delivery, with the Offa’s Dyke path on Hay Bluff receiving ongoing work which included several hundred tonnes of crushed stone and heather brash in the middle of January to repair the erosion problems surrounding the paths. Offa’s Dyke Path is a National Trail and this work was funded by the Rights of Way Improvement Plan funds provided to the National Park Authority by the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and Natural England.

The work on Waun Fach is part of a much larger initiative to improve the condition of the uplands in the Black Mountains.  There are number of project partners who will be pivotal in ensuring the success of the programme. 


Illegal pesticide removal - Scottish Government

A scheme to get rid of illegal pesticides which could be used to poison wildlife, has been launched today (23/2/15).  The scheme will allow those who know, or suspect they are in possession of certain pesticides which are illegal, to dispose of them safely and confidentially.

Only selected substances will be accepted through the scheme. These include Carbofuran, the most commonly used poison in bird of prey persecution, and other illegal pesticides such as Mevinphos and Strychnine.
Environment Minister, and Chair of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, Dr Aileen McLeod said: “The illegal poisoning of wildlife cannot and will not be tolerated in a modern Scotland. The Scottish Government has made tackling wildlife crime a priority. We have the strongest laws on wildlife crime in the UK, including vicarious liability, which was recently successfully used in the courts.  There were 96 recorded incidents of illegal poisoning abuse involving wildlife in the last 5 years from 2009-2013. It is essential that we remove all substances from the countryside that could kill our wildlife, and that are a risk to people and pets who may accidentally be exposed to them, which is why the Scottish Government has introduced the pesticide disposal scheme. I would encourage people to carefully and safely check sheds and outbuildings for old stocks of illegal substances. While recent incidents have demonstrated that some people are still deliberately using these pesticides to kill wildlife, we also know that in many cases these substances may have been left forgotten and unused for years. Therefore I hope that people will come forward safe in the knowledge that handing over these pesticides will not be seen as an assumption of guilt. Those interested in disposing of illegal pesticides should contact the scheme operator on the number provided. We anticipate this will be a short-life scheme, so people should make use of it without delay.”
NFU Scotland Vice-President Rob Livesey said: "Farmers are often unsure who they should turn to should they find chemicals of concern - leading many to leave them where they are. NFU Scotland therefore commends Scottish Government for funding a straightforward and confidential scheme to deal with particularly problematic and now illegal products. I would encourage all our members to check their chemical stores. If they find any products that are eligible for disposal via this scheme, they shouldn't hesitate to take action."
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: "We fully support this move and encourage our members to use it. Not everyone knows the status of substances kept in outbuildings and their usage and status may have changed over time. It is sensible to have a safe way for people to dispose of them. The poisoning of animals is a serious offence and something which can not be tolerated. Any programme which helps remove illegal substances from being held has our full support."
Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland said: “The poisoning of birds of prey and other protected wildlife species has been rightly banned in Scotland for many years. This activity is indiscriminate and has been responsible for the illegal killing of a large number of golden eagles, red kites and other protected raptor species and other wildlife and domestic pets over recent decades. There is absolutely no excuse for this activity, with legal forms of targeted ‘pest’ control available to those who need it. We encourage anybody in possession of banned chemicals to hand these in to the authorities under this scheme.”


Shock as seven safes found among dumped items - Canal and River Trust

We've been left with a £10,000 clean-up bill after discovering seven looted safes amongst debris at the bottom of a 200-year-old lock near Leicester city centre. 

Our engineers were stunned to discover the safes along with a car engine, beer barrels, a small sunken boat and other debris when they drained North Lock on the River Soar for routine maintenance. The rubbish was revealed after the water was emptied in order to make important repairs to the lock gates and to inspect the 200-year-old brickwork.

North Lock, River SoarThe discovery of so much debris is a complete contrast to the renaissance of the city’s waterways where the cleaner water has recently attracted otters back to the city for the first time in 30 years and where kingfishers and other wildlife have become commonplace.  We are now sending a team in to clear the lock with a long-range excavator to remove the rubbish before the important maintenance works can get underway. Leicestershire Police are also set to visit the lock to examine the safes.   

North Lock, River Soar (image CRT)

Darren Green, waterway manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Leicester’s waterways are great family places, and in recent years the cleaner water has enabled newts, kingfishers and even otters to thrive in the city.  That’s why discoveries like this, albeit rare, are so shocking. To find this amount of rubbish in just one lock is pretty outrageous – whoever dumped the safes could at least have left some money in one to help us cover the costs!" 


A creature once thought extinct in Britain has been living in deep cover in Welsh Woods - Buglife

The Blue ground beetle, Carabus intricatus, a creature so rare that it was thought to be extinct in the UK until one was discovered in Dartmoor in 1994, has been found in Coed Maesmelin, in Skewen near Neath, a wood in the care of the Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw).

Blue ground beetle (Carabus intricatus) (c) John Walters (via Buglife)The Blue ground beetle is an impressive beast, a large beetle with a metallic purple blue sheen. It is the UK’s largest ground beetle and can grow to 28mm, nearly one and a half inches.  It favours moist  ancient woodlands of oak or beech, where it feasts on a diet of slugs. Besides Coed Maesmelin, it is known to live only in a handful of sites in the UK, all in Devon and Cornwall.

Blue ground beetle (Carabus intricatus) (c) John Walters (via Buglife) 

The search for this rare and elusive insect was triggered in April 2012, when Lee Beynon, a Skewen resident contacted the charity Buglife, saying he thought he had found the rare Blue ground beetle in his garage!  Discussions ensued, and following some initial surveys by Buglife in nearby Coed Maesmelin, Natural Resources Wales agreed to fund a search for the creature.  In January this year a population of the Blue ground beetle was confirmed in this wood by entomologists John Walters and Dave Boyce. It appears that the beetle found in the garage had been washed down the hill by torrential rains, and, bizarrely Lee Beynon has found another 6 in his garage and garden since the initial one.

Andrew Whitehouse Buglife’s Wales Manager says: “The blue ground beetle is an incredible looking insect! Finding  a population at Coed Maesmelin is a significant addition to Wales’ wildlife riches. It is amazing that this beetle has been living here for such a long time without being discovered. There are a few pieces of ancient woodland in the Skewen area, but Coed Maesmelin is one of handful that have not been replanted with non-native trees. If this had happened, the local population could have been lost, as this creature needs a continuity of habitat, ancient trees with thick moss growth.”


One Tree Per Child initiative launches in Bristol – Bristol 2015: European Green Capital

Bristol has been chosen as the first city in the world to rollout the launch of a new international initiative called One Tree Per Child.

Photo: Chris Bahn Photo: Chris Bahn

Co-founded by Olivia Newton-John, One Tree Per Child was launching in Bristol on Monday 23 February in partnership with Bristol City Council.

The project aims to have every one of the 36,000 children in Bristol’s primary schools planting at least one tree each.

It will also include expansive education and engagement of young people in trees and the natural world, including work to understand more about local endangered tree species and conservation projects.

Children from three different schools from across the city will be joined by CBBC TV presenter Naomi Wilkinson and Mayor George Ferguson at the launch in Avonmouth.

Bristol City Council’s Tree Pips schools project will be absorbed into the new wider ranging One Tree Per Child initiative.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said: “When I stood to be Mayor in 2012, I proposed that every Bristol primary school child should be given a tree to plant – that is 36,000 trees across 130 schools. We are now taking this concept to another level as the launch city for the global One Tree Per Child initiative. As a child’s tree grows, their commitment to the environment and their local community grows as well.”


Property industry must take “leading role” to protect and enhance natural environment, UK-GBC urges – UK Green Building Council

Image: UK Green Building CouncilImage: UK Green Building Council

The UK Green Building Council has urged the property industry to play a leading role in protecting and enhancing natural features and biodiversity in the UK’s towns and cities.

The call comes as a UK-GBC Task Group today published a new report presenting the business case for “green infrastructure”, the term used to describe natural and semi-natural features ranging from street trees and roof gardens, to parks and woodlands.

The report, Demystifying Green Infrastructure, finds that introducing green infrastructure into the built environment offers a number of business opportunities - including a potential increase in the value of land and property – in addition to social and environmental benefits.

Aimed primarily at property developers and clients, the report also identifies business risks from failing to incorporate adequate green infrastructure into building projects – such as delays in planning, increased costs and reputational damage.

John Alker, Director of Policy and Communications, and Acting CEO of the UK Green Building Council, said: “The property industry must step up and take a leading role in protecting cherished natural environments and reversing the loss in biodiversity that we have seen nationally. 

“We have to shed the image of green infrastructure as a fluffy optional extra, an additional cost or an unnecessary burden. There are a growing number of clients and developers demonstrating that green infrastructure is absolutely central to quality place-making, and that there is a clear business case for it. This has to become the norm.”

The report, sponsored by Aggregate Industries, Canary Wharf Group and Skanska, sets out a number of tools that can be used to measure the value of green infrastructure – whether economic, social or environmental.

Read the report here

Reaction Trust urges decision-makers to place more value on green infrastructure – Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Trust is urging decision-makers to place more value on green infrastructure following a new report published by the UK Green Building Council.

The ‘Demystifying Green Infrastructure’ report outlines the multiple benefits that green infrastructure can have for people, wildlife and the economy such as increased health, better biodiversity and higher house prices. A simple example of this would be the benefits derived from a neighbourhood park. It can be used by residents for fitness and well-being, but also provides habitat for wildlife and is an attractive feature for future buyers.

The Trust’s Cumbernauld Living Landscape and Edinburgh Living Landscape projects are working with planners, developers and decision-makers so green infrastructure is not a forgotten part of the process. By planning for nature at a strategic level not only will Scotland’s wildlife benefit but so will people. 

Head of Policy and Planning for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Dr Maggie Keegan, said: “The Trust’s 50 years experience has taught us that nature-rich, high-quality places – in the urban core or in the suburbs – help create attractive, vibrant, liveable neighbourhoods, attract investment and foster community pride. The Scottish Wildlife Trust would urge decision-makers to pay close attention to this report and start placing more value on the importance of green infrastructure. The Cumbernauld and Edinburgh Living Landscape projects are making inroads with decision-makers but this issue needs more attention if we are to build the best Scotland for people, wildlife and business.”


Cheers for New Forest National Park's tenth birthday but action urgently needed on Lakes-Dales National Park extension and a halt to budgetary cuts - Campaign for National Parks

The Campaign for National Parks welcomed the celebrations around the tenth anniversary of the creation of the New Forest National Park but criticised the Government for its inaction over the Lake District-Yorkshire Dales extension and the huge budget cuts facing Park authorities.
Julian Woolford, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said he was delighted that Defra had shown real interest in celebrating the tenth anniversary of the creation of the New Forest National Park.
Mr Woolford said the New Forest had provided a green lung for people living in the heart of southern England and had embraced CNP’s Mosaic Youth project, enabling scores of 16-25 year olds to get involved in a National Park for the first time. “It majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for recreation, enjoyment and discovery,” he said.
But Mr Woolford added that Defra had been particularly reticent about making any decision on the Lake District – Yorkshire Dales extension even though a Public Inquiry made its recommendations to the Department in Autumn 2013. “It is atrocious that Defra continues to say that the Inquiry report is still sitting on the desk of the Secretary of State Liz Truss nearly 18 months after it was delivered.  The final consultation showed that 93 per cent of respondents supported the extension and we believe that it is now critical that the Secretary of State takes a positive step for the environment and extends both National Parks.
The tenth anniversary celebrations come at a time when the National Parks are facing some of the most significant cutbacks in their history, resulting in job losses, cuts in ranger, volunteer, engagement, education services and rights of way work.
National Park budgets have fallen from £47.8m in 2009/10 for nine National Parks in England (1) to £35.5m in the current financial year, and Parks face a further cut in 2015/6.


World’s protected natural areas receive eight billion visits a year  - University of Cambridge

Researchers say that the first study to attempt to gauge global visitation figures for protected areas reveals nature-based tourism has an economic value of hundreds of billions of dollars annually, and call for much greater investment in the conservation of protected areas in line with the values they sustain – both economically and ecologically.

The world’s national parks and nature reserves receive around eight billion visits every year, according to the first study into the global scale of nature-based tourism in protected areas. The paper, by researchers in Cambridge, UK, Princeton, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, is the first global-scale attempt to answer the question of how many visits protected areas receive, and what they might be worth in terms of tourist dollars.

The authors of the study say that this number of visits could generate as much as US$600 billion of tourism expenditure annually - a huge economic benefit which vastly exceeds the less than US$10 billion spent safeguarding these sites each year.  Scientists and conservation experts describe current global expenditure on protected areas as “grossly insufficient”, and have called for greatly increased investment in the maintenance and expansion of protected areas – a move which this study shows would yield substantial economic return – as well as saving incalculably precious natural landscapes and species from destruction.

“It’s fantastic that people visit protected areas so often, and are getting so much from experiencing wild nature – it’s clearly important to people and we should celebrate that,” said lead author Professor Andrew Balmford, from Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area near San Francisco had the highest recorded visit rate in the database with an annual average of 13.7m visits, closely followed by the UK’s Lake District and Peak District National Parks, with 10.5m and 10.1m. By contrast, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park got an annual average during the study period of 148,000 visits.

Team member Dr Jonathan Green, based in Cambridge, points out that it is far from just exotic places and large national parks that contribute to the visitation value of protected areas. “For many people, it’s the nature reserve on their doorstep where they walk the dog every Sunday”. Fowlmere nature reserve, a few miles south of Cambridge University, receives an average of almost 23,000 visits a year. 

Read the paper. Balmford A, Green JMH, Anderson M, Beresford J, Huang C, et al. (2015) Walk on the Wild Side: Estimating the Global Magnitude of Visits to Protected Areas. PLoS Biol 13(2): e1002074. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002074


RSPB secures Peak District wildlife for future generations

The RSPB has signed a deal with water company United Utilities that will help secure the long-term future for nature in the Peak District National Park.

Dovestones Reservoir from Alphin Hill (Image: ian Roberts, via RSPB)Dovestones Reservoir from Alphin Hill (Image: ian Roberts, via RSPB)

The nature conservation organisation has taken over the tenancy of 840ha of Dove Stone (the equivalent of more than 1,200 football pitches), owned by United Utilities. This tenancy gives the RSPB the agricultural rights to the land for the next 25 years, which will enable it to deliver an extensive and ongoing programme of habitat restoration.  Since 2010, the RSPB has been working in partnership with United Utilities and their farming tenants across 4,000 ha at Dove Stone to restore water quality and help wildlife. The RSPB already had extensive management rights to around 1,100 ha of this area. This new agreement means that the RSPB now has fuller rights across around 2,000ha, helping it to further the aims of partnership.

Dave O’Hara, RSPB Site Manager at Dove Stone, said: “This new tenancy represents another major milestone in our pioneering partnership with United Utilities. By gaining the rights to manage a large area of Dove Stone we will be able to further our aims of delivering habitat restoration on a landscape-scale. In doing so, we hope to continue to make big gains for nature, for water quality and for carbon stewardship.”

Ed Lawrance, United Utilities Wildlife Warden, said: “We are delighted to be extending our partnership with the RSPB at Dove Stone. It is good news not just for water and wildlife but also the thousands of visitors that enjoy the reservoir and its surroundings every year. Working together, our two organisations recognise that managing land sustainably and in partnership can deliver lasting benefits.” 


World-leading auctions to provide major green electricity boost - DECC

World-leading competitive auctions have led to contracts being offered to 27 renewable electricity projects, which together could power 1.4m homes, comparable to the number of households in Wales.

The green energy auction has driven down prices, by as much as 58% for one technology. The projects will lead to the UK emitting 4m fewer tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere each year. That’s the equivalent CO2 savings of taking up to 2 million cars off the UK’s roads.

The auctions have successfully led to over £315m of new contracts being offered to five renewable technologies, some more established like onshore wind and solar, and also less established technologies such as offshore wind, which is seeing its costs fall as the industry grows. The contracts being offered include two offshore wind farms, which could deliver over 1.1GW of new capacity, 15 onshore wind projects and 5 solar projects. In total, over 2GW of new capacity could be built, costing £110m per year less than it would have without competition.

Energy & Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey said: “This world leading auction has delivered contracts for renewables projects right across the UK. “These projects could power 1.4 million homes, create thousands of green jobs and give a massive boost to home-grown energy while reducing our reliance on volatile foreign markets. The auction has driven down prices and secured the best possible deal for this new clean, green energy.”

Only the most price competitive projects received contract offers – helping to drive down the cost of renewables support. As a result, consumers are getting more for their money, with around 550MW more capacity than could have been funded without competition. All technologies apart from energy from waste cleared significantly below the maximum prices per megawatt hour (MWh), known as strike prices, showing competition has delivered better value for consumers. The clearing price for solar came in at up to 58% lower than the price would have been without competition, offshore wind at up to 18% lower and onshore wind at up to 17%.

More green energy investment urged, as new renewable contracts awarded – Friends of the Earth

Solar gets little in Government’s new auction system – Solar Trade Association


Cairngorms National Park Local Development Plan go-head from Scottish Ministers - Cairngorms National Park Authority

The Scottish Government has given the go-ahead for the Cairngorms National Park Authority to adopt the Local Development Plan (LDP), which the organisation submitted to Ministers in December last year for their consideration.

The LDP is the first ever development plan for the whole of the Park, with the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park extended to include Highland Perthshire in October 2010. The current Local Plan used by planners over the last five years was adopted before the boundary change so now officials will be able to work to a single development plan for the entire area, simplifying the process, bringing continuity across the Park and ensuring that the right development happens in the right place.

Scottish Government Ministers have instructed the CNPA to proceed to adopt the Local Development Plan for the Park making one change to a site boundary in the village of Carr-Bridge.


Endangered crayfish found in Yorkshire canal - Canal & River Trust

A stronghold of more than 150 endangered white-clawed crayfish has been discovered in the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, during a vital repair project on the waterway near Gargrave in North Yorkshire.

White clawed crayfish image via Canal & River TRustWhite clawed crayfish on a rock

(image via Canal & River Trust)

After draining a 50-metre section of water for lock repairs, our staff have found, rescued and relocated this rare protected species, which has seen its population plummet in recent years because of the increasing threat from invasive signal crayfish.

Following a virulent outbreak of the Aphanomyes Astaci plague in the 1970s white-clawed crayfish, the UK’s only native crayfish species, has been on a steady decline. The plague, started by the invasive signal crayfish species from North America, has spread across the UK’s waterways and is widely expected to wipe out large populations. 

Now on the endangered list, other predators include the red swamp, noble and narrow-clawed (or Turkish) crayfish. These larger, ‘meatier’ species were originally introduced to stock crayfish farms, but their escape and spread has been quick and has caused huge damage to native populations.

Phillippa Baron, ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, who discovered the colony said: “This was a really important discovery for us as we’ve done a couple of crayfish investigations and found very few. They have been depleting in numbers over the last 30 years since the American signal crayfish were brought to England as fashionable seafood. “The hidden underwater crevices which our dry stone walls provide are ideal habitats for them. It’s therefore crucial we do what we can to protect their populations and the most direct way we can help is to ensure their survival during and after our repair works and relocate them to safe sites. “Sadly, at the moment there is no known way to eradicate the non-native crayfish which have become very dominant because of their predatory instincts and the plague they’ve spread.”


Water capital grant scheme open for applications from 2 March 2015 - Natural England

£10 million available to farmers and land managers for water quality improvement works.

Farmers and land managers in England will soon be able to apply to Natural England for a water capital grant of up to £10,000 to help them carry out works that will improve water management and quality on their land.

Providing a total of £10 million worth of funding to the farm industry, these government grants will fund new projects that reduce the impact agriculture can have on our water quality.

A river in Cornwall where a Catchment Sensitive Farming grant has helped fence of farmland to stop livestock entering the river and causing pollution problemsA farmland stream in Cornwall with watercourse fencing © Kate Allingham/Natural England

Applications to the water capital grants fund can be submitted from 2 March 2015 and must be received by Natural England on or before 30 April 2015.

The water capital grants, along with the woodland capital grants announced earlier this month, make up the first phase of the government’s new Countryside Stewardship scheme. Set to be rolled out in full later in the summer, Countryside Stewardship will commit around £900 million to benefitting the environment over the next 6 years. This will help farmers and land managers develop environmentally friendly techniques and adopt initiatives such as restoring hedges, planting woodland, enhancing wildlife habitats and improving water quality.

Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells, said: "I am delighted that water capital grants will be available to land managers in many parts of England in 2015. This is good news for the natural environment and an excellent opportunity to support the work of food producers in improving water quality. This in turn benefits wildlife, secures drinking water supplies, and improves coastal bathing waters." 


And let's end the week with a success story:

Celebrating 30-year partnership to save stone-curlews in the Brecks - RSPB 

Today (Friday 27/2), farmers, landowners, gamekeepers and conservationists will celebrate 30 years of joint conservation work for stone-curlews in the Brecks, which has turned around the fortunes of this rare and iconic farmland species.

Thirty years ago, ground-nesting stone-curlews were close to UK extinction. After the loss of the majority of their preferred grassland breeding habitats, many of the remaining stone-curlews started nesting on young crops in arable farmland, where further nests and chicks were lost to mechanised farming operations.  By the late 1980s, UK’s population of stone-curlews had fallen by 85 per cent to a historic low of around 160 pairs, with nearly 100 of those in the Brecks.  Since 1985, farmers, landowners, gamekeepers and conservationists have worked together to reverse the decline of the stone curlew in the Brecks. Fewer nests have been accidentally destroyed, allowing more chicks to fledge.  Now, 30 years on, this pioneering landscape-scale conservation partnership has succeeded in nearly trebling the number of pairs of stone-curlews breeding in the area, with nearly 250 pairs recording breeding in the Brecks in 2012- around 70 per cent of them in arable farmland.

Two stone-curlews on a stone-curlew plot30 years of joint conservation work has turned around the fortunes of stone-curlews in the Brecks

(Image: Andy Hay, via RSPB)

Andrew Holland, RSPB Brecks Farmland Advisor and the organiser of Friday’s event said: “This is our chance to acknowledge the amazing work and dedication of all the people who have worked tirelessly to improve our countryside for wildlife, and to share this achievement with others in the Brecks and beyond. Long-term farmland conservation initiatives like this one show that farmers and landowners value and recognise themselves as custodians of wildlife and are keen to play and active role in conservation."

Environment Secretary Liz Truss MP, whose constituency includes a large part of the stone curlew’s range in the Brecks, will be attending Friday’s event as the guest of one of her farming constituents. Speaking in advance of the event Ms Truss said: “It is great to see the farming community working with the RSPB to support wildlife. Over the past four years I have worked closely with a number of farmers and landowners in South West Norfolk in ensuring a common sense approach is adopted in relation to wildlife on a working farm. It is therefore very positive news that the stone curlew population is growing.” 


Scientific Publication 

Ramsey, D. S. L., Caley, P. A. and Robley, A. (2015), Estimating population density from presence–absence data using a spatially explicit model. The Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.851


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