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


Red squirrel conservationists welcome success stats – Northumberland Wildlife Trust

One of the biggest citizen science efforts in mammal conservation in the UK has shown red squirrel populations across northern England are stable. This is thanks to over 30 community red squirrel groups which work tirelessly to protect the red squirrels on their doorstep.

Red squirrel at Hauxley. Image by: Pamela DewenerOne hundred and sixty people, mostly volunteers, completed the annual monitoring programme this spring. This is the seventh consecutive year of the monitoring programme, led by Red Squirrels Northern England a project managed by Northumberland Wildlife Trust, which creates an exciting picture of our native red squirrels’ geographical range in northern England.

Red squirrel at Hauxley. Image by: Pamela Dewener

Trevor Cooper from Grasmere Red Squirrel Group said: “Repeating these surveys, same time, same place, shows that year after year reds are still present in our woodlands around Grasmere, proving that the hard work we put in is paying off”.

Results show that red squirrels are still widely distributed across six counties in northern England, with red squirrels found in 42 per cent of survey sites and grey squirrels in 48 per cent.

The surveys take place in ‘red squirrel counties’ across northern England, where wild red squirrels can still be found: in Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, North Yorkshire, Lancashire, Merseyside and parts of County Durham.

Surveys are completed within areas where red squirrel conservation is carried out by project teams, such as Red Squirrels Northern England, and by local community red squirrel groups under the banner of Northern Red Squirrels.

Simon O’Hare, Project Manager for Red Squirrels Northern England, has hailed the result as another positive for red squirrels. He says: “This year there was a very slight drop in the number of sites with reds, down from 45 per cent in 2017. This is no cause for alarm, as slight variations over time are common in mammal populations. We have seen this pattern before, and know that we are documenting fluctuations in red and grey squirrel populations, affected by environmental factors such as bad weather and bumper natural food supplies in the autumn.”

The full report, ‘2018 Annual Squirrel Monitoring Programme Results’, can be found online here


Sustrans announces plan for first UK-wide network of traffic-free walking and cycling paths for everyone

Today (12 November) we are launching the first review of the 16,575-mile Network. In our “Paths for everyone” report, we unveil the current Image: Sustransstate of the 23-year-old Network and a long-term plan to make it traffic-free and tackle physical problems.

These include poor surfaces and barriers that prevent access for users, particularly those with adapted bikes or prams. Tackling safety, and improving access for disabled people are top of our agenda.

Image: Sustrans

  • New report sets out recommendations for UK-wide overhaul of the National Cycle Network to open up walking and cycling to more people, including children, and anyone with impaired mobility.
  • Over half of UK population lives within a mile of the 16,575-mile Network but only 54% of its paths are safe for a 12-year-old to use.
  • Sustrans warns that investment needed now to prevent the UK’s only network of walking and cycling paths from falling short of its potential. 
  • £7.6 billion in economic and local benefits can be added every year as a result of reduced road congestion and health benefits from increased walking and cycling.

Over half (57%) of the UK population lives within a mile of the National Cycle Network, but major improvements for access and safety are needed to open it up to everyone, including children, wheelchair users, those riding non-standard cycles and the less physically active.

Download the report “Paths for everyone”


The big news on Tuesday:

Review of government’s bovine TB strategy published - Defra

review of the government’s 25 Year Bovine TB (bTB) Strategy, led by Sir Charles Godfray, has been published today (Tuesday 13 November).

Image: DefraThe report, which was commissioned by Environment Secretary Michael Gove in February, aims to inform future strategies around the government’s goal of eradicating the disease by 2038.

Image: Defra

The report is now with Ministers who will consider its recommendations before publishing a response, setting out the next steps for the bTB Strategy.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “We welcome this review of the Government’s 25-year Bovine TB strategy and I extend my thanks to Sir Charles Godfray and his team for their hard work in producing the report. As a Government we are committed to eradicating bTB and have always been clear that there is no single measure for tackling it. That’s why we have pursued a range of interventions, including cattle movement controls, vaccinations and controlled culling in certain areas. Sir Charles’ report is an important contribution that will inform next steps in the strategy to achieve officially TB free status for England by 2038.”

Sir Charles Godfray, population biologist and Fellow of the Royal Society said: “The Review Panel are acutely aware of the burden this disease places on the welfare and well-being of farmers and their families, and the distress many people feel about badger culling. There are no easy answers to reducing disease levels and what is required is new drive and a concerted and concentrated effort by all sectors involved.”



Huge disappointment at limitations of Bovine TB Strategy Review led by Sir Charles Godfray – The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts' response to the Bovine TB Strategy Review.

Whilst welcoming the review's recommendations for a changed emphasis in the government’s strategy for eradicating bovine tuberculosis (bTB), The Wildlife Trusts are extremely concerned that it also recommends that badger culling should continue. This flies in the face of robust scientific evidence and we urge the government to halt their flawed policy which leads to tens of thousands of badgers being killed every year. 

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager of The Wildlife Trusts says: “The Wildlife Trusts believe that cattle and not badgers should be the focus of efforts to eradicate bTB. We support the review’s recommendation that the focus of the strategy should be shifted to addressing the transmission of bTB between cattle. This is the main route of infection. Only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers, so culling badgers is not the answer. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that culling increases the prevalence of bTB in the badger population, and results in it spreading to other areas. We believe that more must be done by both the government and farmers to improve farm biosecurity and cattle movement controls. Badger vaccination should be used strategically, with more resources invested to roll out a widespread vaccination programme. Vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB infection prevalence in the badger population, and hence bTB risks to cattle, without the harmful effects associated with culling such as increased prevalence of TB in badgers plus spreading the disease. The review highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling which The Wildlife Trusts welcomes.  The government should do more to support rolling vaccination out to more areas of the country.”


TB strategy review - NFU comment

Commenting on the publication of the report, NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said: “Bovine TB is a devastating disease. Last year more than 33,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of it and more than 3,800 farms that had been clear of the disease were affected by it. The NFU wishes to see the eradication of bTB as quickly as possible while retaining a viable cattle industry. To tackle this disease it is crucial that we use every tool available to us, including cattle testing, cattle movement controls, on-farm biosecurity, vaccination and control of the reservoir of disease in wildlife in areas where it is endemic.”


In other news:

Wetwipes are flushable? No they're not! – Marine Conservation Society

Image: MCSNew research, commissioned by the water industry but carried out independently, puts paid to the notion that wetwipes can be flushed down the loo. The findings show that, despite many wipes on supermarket shelves being commonly labelled and sold as flushable, their claims of flushability are misleading the public. All wet wipes sold as “flushable” in the UK have so far failed the water industry’s disintegration tests.

Image: MCS

Wipes cause blockages. Surprisingly the so called “fat bergs” that become lodged in UK sewers are only made up of 0.5% fats, but an astonishing 93% wet wipes. £90 million is spent by the water industry each year on clearing blocked drains alone, ultimately adding costs to customers water bills, according to Water UK. Many wet wipes are known to contain plastics such as polyester, and enter the environment.

MCS has campaigned for several years to see action on the labelling of wetwipes, as sewage contamination of waterways and beaches often results from blocked pipes, many of which are caused unnecessarily by items such as wet wipes being flushed. In 2017, MCS collected over 10,000 signatures a petition to the wet wipe industry body EDANA asking them to ensure members removed plastic from their flushable products and that flushable wipes complied with UK Water Industry standards.


CalMac encourages new awareness of wildlife - CalMac

Andy on the lookout for wildlife in the Minch (CalMac)Over the summer volunteers on CalMac ferries spotted more than 500 marine mammals across the west coast as part of the company's Marine Awareness Programme.

The Awareness Programme has involved a total of 14 conservation bodies who have partnered with CalMac to gather vital scientific data and to educate passengers more about the environment they are travelling in.

A team of more than 60 wildlife enthusiasts compiled the survey results that tracked different species on different routes as part of the programme. 

Andy on the lookout for wildlife in the Minch (CalMac)

They were supervised by resident ORCA Wildlife Officer Andy Gilbert, who, was taken on this year to increase understanding of the wealth of biodiversity that exists in CalMac's area of operations. 

“Our Marine Awareness Programme focuses on increasing awareness of wildlife in our network by gathering scientific data, facilitating conservation and engaging with the public, Andy has been central to this over the past few months,” said CalMac's Environmental Manager, Klare Chamberlain.

As well as training survey volunteers, during his time with CalMac he has also engaged with more 2200 people on board during 45 trips, explaining about nature on the islands and demonstrating techniques to find wildlife. 

“Wildlife tourism is growing on both a global and local scale and now accounts a significant amount of the total spend across the tourism sector in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage research suggests that we sail in one of the most attractive eco-tourism destinations in the world” said Klare.  

It is estimated that CalMac's area of operations contains as much as 6500 different species of plants and animals.  


Nearly half of Endangered species’ last refuges unprotected – Birdlife International

The araripe Manakin's final refuge in Brazil is protected by the state © Ciro AlbanoThe Alliance for Zero Extinction has mapped 1,483 highly threatened species that are found only at a single site. But this major new assessment highlights the urgent need for better protection of these irreplaceable places.

The araripe Manakin's final refuge in Brazil is protected by the state © Ciro Albano

Sometimes, a species’s population can dwindle so much that it can only be found in one location. Sometimes, a species has only ever lived in one location, but is now facing threats that weren’t around before. No matter the reason, protecting these sites is crucial to prevent species from going extinct.

That’s where the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) comes in – a partnership of 95 organisations from all around the world, working together to bring species back from the brink of extinction. Founding members of the Alliance, BirdLife, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) have spent the past three years pooling their science and expertise to map the last known locations of Endangered and Critically Endangered plants and animals. This year’s major update has increased the number of these ‘AZE trigger species’ to 1,483, confined to 853 ‘AZE sites’ across the world. The map is invaluable in helping the conservation world decide where to focus its efforts, and in informing developers of the places they should avoid.


Young people join together for Year of Green Action - Defra

Lord Gardiner meets with young environment advocates as part of the #iwill campaign.

Over 50 young people from around the UK have today been announced as environment ambassadors as part of the run up to the government’s 2019 ‘Year of Green Action’.

The inspiring group, which includes two teenage sisters who founded Kids Against Plastic to cut the single-use packaging, will encourage more young people to get involved in green projects through their school, youth group or local community.

The #iwill4nature initiative, part of the #iwill campaign which aims to embed social action into the lives of 10-18 year olds, was formally launched at a celebratory event at Kew Gardens. It comes as the government prepares for its 2019 Year of Green Action, a year-long drive to see more people from all backgrounds involved in projects to improve the natural world.

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner, at Kew Gardens today to congratulate the new ambassadors, said: “Our children and young people have a huge role to play in ensuring the next generation is motivated and equipped to protect the precious natural world. It was inspiring to meet this group of young ambassadors who are so passionate about environmental protection and I look forward to seeing all they achieve over the coming year.”


Reforms must prepare the UK countryside for climate change and ensure that our use of land supports reduced emissions - The Committee on Climate Change

The Paris Agreement demands tougher action to remove greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. We must, at the same time, prepare for the inevitable climate change that is already happening. In this context, current uses of land in the UK must change.

Today, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) publishes two linked reports:

‘Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change’ finds that fundamental reform is required to ensure land becomes a more effective carbon store. The critical services we receive from the land; clean water, healthy soils, wildlife, timber and food, are threatened by a warming climate. Government can address these concerns, while ensuring sufficient food production for an increasing population and space for new homes.

‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’ considers the role of biomass – wood, plants and organic waste – in the global strategy to tackle climate change. Biomass can play an important role in meeting the UK’s long-term (2050) emissions targets, and moving towards net-zero emissions, but only with stricter governance to ensure sustainable supplies. Current UK energy uses will need to change.

There is now an opportunity, especially through the new Agriculture and the Environment Bills, to define a better strategy for our land to meet the goals of the UK Climate Change Act.


UK top supermarkets flood Britain with 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging every year - Environmental Investigation Agency

The full extent of UK supermarket giants’ contribution to our plastic waste problem is exposed today by the most comprehensive analysis of the sector to date.

(image: Environmental Investigation Agency)Drawing on detailed figures disclosed by firms for the first time, our survey of Britain’s largest supermarkets and grocery chains reveals ten major retailers are placing over 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic on the market every year.

(image: Environmental Investigation Agency)

 Seven of them are putting in circulation the equivalent of some 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging – over 2,000 items for every household in the country.

Despite their huge plastic footprint, half of the supermarkets surveyed have no specific targets to reduce plastic packaging and most of those who do are moving at such a slow pace (just 5% per year) that it would take them 20 years to completely rid their shelves of throwaway plastic.

The survey by Greenpeace UK and ourselves ranks retailers based on their commitments to reduce single-use plastic, eliminate non-recyclable plastic packaging, supply chain actions and transparency. Iceland comes out slightly ahead of the pack thanks to an ambitious plan for phasing out own-brand plastic packaging within five years, while most major retailers, including Tesco and Asda, are clumped together with mid to low scores, with Sainsbury’s at the bottom of the league.

Read the special summary


Environmental charities launch urgent bid for an Environment Act for Scotland  - Joint press release from Scottish Environment LINK members (via Ramblers Scotland)

Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of Scotland’s leading environmental charities has launched an urgent campaign, “Fight for Scotland’s Nature” at the Scottish Parliament.

Together they are calling for Scotland to have its own environment act.

Fears sparked by Brexit as well as mounting evidence of the global ecological crisis also heavily impacting Scotland has prompted the charities to join forces and urge the Scottish Government to commit to a dedicated Environment Act for Scotland that protects and enhances Scotland’s nature, now and in the future.

80% of all Scotland’s environmental laws come from the EU. The combination of strong legislation and support for effective implementation has made these laws among the most effective on Earth. Further, Scotland’s nature has been a net beneficiary of the EU’s LIFE Nature fund which alone has supported conservation projects worth well over 25 million Euros to date.
Joined up legislation in the form of a Scottish Environment Act, that is fit for purpose and caters to Scotland’s unique environmental needs is required for this to be meaningful.

Joyce McMillan, President of Scottish Environment LINK said: “As guardians of our amazing environment, we have a duty to ensure future environmental legislation is not tokenistic. It must be upheld through an independent and well-resourced watchdog. Now more than ever, we need a Scottish Environment Act that builds on existing Scottish Government commitments to retain EU protections. This would send a clear message to UK and EU partners as well as the rest of the world that we are serious about protecting and enhancing our natural environment. We live in a time of increasing environmental crisis and degradation, and it is vital that Scotland remains a dynamic part of the movement towards a more sustainable future, both for our own sakes, and as a reflection of our commitment to wider international efforts to protect and cherish the natural world on which we all depend.”


New buzz around Welsh Government offices - Welsh Government

The Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn, has visited new bee hives installed at Welsh Government’s offices in Cardiff, part of a network of bee hives installed on top of the city centre’s major buildings.

ew hives have been installed on the roof of the Cathays Park offices. The hives are part of Pharmabees, Cardiff University’s award-winning project which aims to host a community of bees on buildings in the city centre. There are other hives on the roofs of the National Museum of Wales, the St David’s Shopping Centre, Cardiff University buildings and in Bute Park. 

Each hive will be home to up to 50,000 bees during the summer and will be managed by local bee keepers. The Welsh Government also has apiaries at its offices in Merthyr Tydfil, Llandudno Junction and Aberystwyth, along with other biodiversity projects on its estate. 

The initiative is part of a number of Welsh Government biodiversity projects as part of its Action Plan for Pollinators


UK’s first young people’s forest planned - Woodland Trust

A quarter of a million trees are set to be planted in a mass youth engagement project to create the UK’s first Young People’s Forest.
The Woodland Trust has teamed up with #iwill – a campaign set up to increase volunteering and social action opportunities for young people – to offer a special opportunity to youngsters across the Midlands and beyond.
The Trust is in the process of acquiring a 162 hectare (400 acre) former coal mine site close to Heanor in Derbyshire – known as Mead – which it plans to turn into a forest. 
The site provides the perfect opportunity to engage young people in a mass scale and over the coming months it is hoped young people will take a starring role in shaping its future.

Project chief Carol Honeybun-Kelly of the Woodland Trust said: “This is a really exciting opportunity as it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired land expressly for youth engagement. We want to make a really concerted effort to ensure young people feel this new wood is for them. If young people see themselves having an impact here, it will give them confidence to think they can change things in their own lives and beyond.”


Scientific Publications

Hagge J, Leibl F, Müller J, Plechinger M, Soutinho JG, Thorn S. Reconciling pest control, nature conservation, and recreation in coniferous forests. Conservation Letters. 2018  doi: 10.1111/conl.12615 (open access)


Lehikoinen, P.,  Santangeli, A., Jaatinen, K., Rajasärkkä , A. & Lehikoinen, A. (2018) Protected areas act as a buffer against detrimental effects of climate change - Evidence from large-scale, long-term abundance data. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14461 Open access


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