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


Monday’s big political news is the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech in which Her Majesty states “environmental principles will be enshrined in law”


Queen's Speech 2019 - Cabinet Office

Her Majesty’s most gracious speech to both Houses of Parliament.

My Ministers remain committed to protecting and improving the environment for future generations. For the first time, environmental principles will be enshrined in law. Measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive. Legislation will also create new legally-binding environmental improvement targets. A new, world-leading independent regulator will be established in statute to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action [Environment Bill].


CLA responds to Queen's speech, Environmental and Agriculture Bills

Commenting on the re-introduction of the Agriculture Bill, Country Land and Business Association Director General Sarah Hendry said: “The Government’s direction of travel is robust and ambitious, and will be welcomed by rural businesses. Nevertheless, farmers will be dismayed that the Agriculture Bill has to start all over again having been stuck in the legislative process for the past year. It has been a wasted year. Farmers cannot begin to plan for their future until they know what they are transitioning towards, so Government must fast track the bill to make up for lost time, and finally give rural business owners some clarity.”

On the introduction of the Environmental Bill, she said: “There is much to welcome in the Bill which does a good job of creating an enduring framework for positive action. Long-term plans, environmental targets and embedding environmental principles will help provide the stability and clarity needed for the Government to meet its environmental ambitions.”


Response from Wildlife & Countryside Link - Queen’s speech 2019: A welcome injection of ambition, but a long way to go to get nature off the critical list

Environment and animal welfare groups welcomed the inclusion of the Environment Bill in today’s Queen’s Speech, but are calling for ambitious targets and urgent delivery to turn positive aspirations into truly world-leading environmental laws.

They also welcomed the announcement of new animal welfare laws, but warned that a new expert committee will be needed to ensure that they are effective.

With one in seven UK species at risk of extinction, just over a decade to avoid an irreversible climate change tipping point, and our oceans set to contain more plastic than fish in just 30 years, the proposed Bills must be radical enough in intent and content to tackle the scale of our nature crisis.

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “Everyone deserves a healthy environment, but many local wild places and many habitats and species are still in terminal decline. Legally-binding targets for nature are a fantastic step forward and could usher in a new era of environmental improvement, but only if the targets deliver a major dose of ambition, backed by credible plans for change—across Whitehall and across our economy. This week, we will be watching for the critical clauses needed for nature’s recovery. The Agriculture Bill must guarantee sufficient funding for greener farming for at least a decade. The Fisheries Bill must include legal limits on catches to restore our seas. The Environment Bill must match aspirational targets with ambitious action.”


In other news

1 in 10 homes built on land released from the Green Belt are ‘affordable’ CPRE

Only 1 in 10 homes built on land released from the Green Belt over the past decade are ‘affordable’ according to a new report: Space to Breathe, A State of the Green Belt Report,published today (Monday 14 October) by CPRE, the countryside charity.

Image: Liz ReynoldsImage: Liz Reynolds

The reports says that harmful development on the Green Belt, often in the guise of providing ‘affordable’ homes, is squandering this valuable asset at a time when it is needed for our own health and well-being, and to address the climate change crisis.

Key findings of Space to Breathe, A State of the Green Belt Report show that: 

  • In the past decade, only 1 in 10 new homes built on land released from the Green Belt are considered ‘affordable’, showing that building on the Green Belt is not the solution to the affordable housing crisis’;
  • This trend looks set to continue in the future as our research shows that there are proposals for a further 266,000 homes on undeveloped Green Belt land in advanced local plans, and only a third of these are likely to be classified as ‘affordable’ according to local policies3; and
  • Development on the Green Belt is inefficient and land hungry, with the average density of homes within the Green Belt just 14 dwellings per hectare, compared to an average of 31 outside these designated green areas.
  • CPRE’s recommendations include:
  • Better and existing solutions to fix the housing crisis such as building on brownfield sites;
  • Enhancement of the Green Belt so it is valued as much by local authorities, government and developers, as it is by local communities; and
  • Stronger evidence-based tests for planning proposals.

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: ‘Building homes on the Green Belt is not the answer to the housing crisis. Indeed, in terms of the Green Belt, it’s clear that we are reaching a tipping point. The increasing number of new homes proposed on the Green Belt has continued to rise since the report was first undertaken in 2012, despite the fact that these homes are not delivering promised affordable housing. We must not allow our Green Belt to be gobbled up, but instead focus on building affordable homes in which young struggling families can actually live.”

Read the report here


Action on plastics – Scottish Government

Cotton bud ban comes into force.

Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

This is the latest step being taken to reduce reliance on single-use products and protect our natural environment.

Further action is already planned with Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme expecting to capture 90% of aluminium and steel cans, glass and plastic bottles once operational.

A commitment to meet or exceed the standards set out in the EU single-use Plastics Directive means that other items, including cutlery, plates and food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene, will be banned or restricted by July 2021.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am proud that the Scottish Government has become the first UK administration to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds, with Regulations laid in Parliament on 2 September now coming into force. Single-use plastic products are not only wasteful but generate unnecessary litter that blights our beautiful beaches and green spaces while threatening our wildlife on land and at sea. This ban builds on work already underway to address Scotland’s throw-away culture, and we will continue to take action on other problematic items in the coming years as part of our efforts to reduce harmful plastics and single-use items, protect our environment and develop a thriving circular economy. We are facing a global climate emergency and must all work together to reduce, reuse and recycle to ensure a sustainable future for the current and next generation.”


Government introduces ground-breaking Environment Bill - Defra

Government introduces landmark Bill to Parliament to tackle the biggest environmental priorities of our time.

The government will today (Tuesday 15 October) introduce a landmark Bill to Parliament to tackle the biggest environmental priorities of our time, signalling a historic step change in the way we protect and enhance our precious natural environment.

The transformative Environment Bill will help ensure that we maintain and improve our environmental protections as we leave the EU. It will build on the UK’s strong track record and sets out a comprehensive and world-leading vision to allow future generations to prosper. Environmental principles will be enshrined in law and measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive.

Legislation will also create, legally-binding environmental improvement targets. A new independent Office for Environmental Protection will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities, if necessary, to uphold our environmental standards. The office’s powers will cover all climate change legislation and hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. By also championing nature-based solutions, the Bill demonstrates our commitment to tackle climate change.

The Bill also places the bold ambition of our flagship 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing and goes beyond the key government commitments outlined earlier this year by confirming powers to enhance nature and habitats and combat the devastating effects of plastics on our natural environment. Introducing charges for a number of single use plastic items will build on the success of the government’s 5p plastic bag charge, which has cut sales from the biggest supermarkets by 90% since 2015.



Woodland Trust response to the Environment Bill

Responding to the publication of the Environment Bill, Woodland Trust CEO Darren Moorcroft said:

“Our environment is the bedrock of our quality of life. It needs to be healthy, resilient and sustainable. The Environment Bill certainly has the scope to deliver that if sufficient resources are made available for those delivering on the front line and making sure we’re delivering on the ambition.

“The emphasis being placed on nature-based solutions to climate change, and the fact there will now be legally binding targets as well as a duty to protect nature is a big step forward and something we welcome.”


New report highlights extinction threat to many of Northern Ireland’s bees - Buglife

Loss of wildflower habitats, pollution and climate change are pushing many of Northern Ireland’s wild bee species to extinction, a new report by Buglife reveals.  The new review looked at bee populations in the country and found that, unless action is taken, 21 species are at risk of extinction.

(image: Buglife)There is widespread concern over the status of pollinators, as many insect groups including bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies have declined dramatically in the UK and globally both in their abundance and diversity.  Wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees) show among the most severe declines of any UK pollinators.  Northern Ireland is home to many nationally rare and threatened bee species and supports the largest population in the UK of Northern Colletes (Colletes floralis) a Priority Species for conservation action.  The Bee report is a call to action to save Northern Ireland’s wild bees.

(image: Buglife)

By examining historical and modern data, the report has found that many threatened species are declining and are facing an uncertain future, due to the loss of wildflower-rich habitats, pollution, disease and climate change. The report has also highlighted the need for better recording and monitoring of the health of our pollinator populations.

Anna Hart, Conservation Officer for Buglife Northern Ireland has said “The Northern Ireland Threatened Bee Report has sadly highlighted some extremely worrying trends in our wild bees, unless urgent action is taken we are likely to see the extinction of some of these species over the next 10 years.  However, we have a solution to the pollinator crisis – by making more space for wildlife and restoring networks of wildflower-rich habitats across the country we can reverse these declines and ensure healthy pollinator populations for future generations.”


Birdsong to sweep the country - RSPB

Over five million people will hear soothing birdsong in over 5,000 unexpected locations

The RSPB and its supporters will be playing birdsong across the UK to millions of people on Thursday 17 October to highlight the declines in UK wildlife, as the public call on their Government to address climate change and the environment as its legacy for future generations.

Credit Tom Wren, SWNSFollowing May’s surprise UK top 20 chart hit, Let Nature Sing, a music track of pure birdsong, the charity is hoping to once again bring birdsong back into everyone’s life as a reminder of what we all stand to lose if the crisis facing nature is not addressed.

Credit Tom Wren, SWNS

New research from the RSPB revealed UK citizens aged 18-44 felt addressing climate change and the environment was the number one issue for today’s politicians looking to secure the long-term legacy of their Government. When respondents were asked to choose the top three issues, across all adults surveyed, climate change and the environment (38%) polled ahead of our future relationship with the EU (36%) as a long-term legacy issue for politicians to address, coming second just behind health (44%).

And more people are waking up to the crisis facing nature. When asked how they would describe the health of nature in the UK, almost six out of ten (59%) adults felt nature was not doing well or in crisis in the UK, with less than a quarter (24%) believing nature was doing well or thriving. When asked the same question in April 29% of people were confident that nature was doing well or thriving in the UK, with today’s stats highlighting the growing public understanding of the crisis facing nature.


National Trust to return rivers to their natural path to reduce impact of climate change, flood risk and to make space for nature - National Trust

The National Trust is leading a pioneering project to revert rivers to their natural path before any human interference.

Allowing rivers to meander like ‘the branches of a tree’ rather than along a single channel will slow river flow, increase wildlife and tackle the impacts of climate change by holding water in the landscape.

It is the first scheme of its kind in the UK and aims to reduce the frequency of flooding, re-connect rivers to their original floodplains and increase wildlife by improving riverside habitat.

The project is being run in conjunction with Interreg 2 Seas Co-Adapt and the Environment Agency on the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset. 

Work has already started on a pilot project to return a tributary of the River Aller on the edge of Exmoor to a more natural state. The approach, known as ‘Stage 0’,  will revert the tributary to its original flow before human interference, allowing natural processes to be developed.

The approach could develop a more resilient landscape better able to adapt to modern challenges like climate change and habitat loss. It also allows for more water to be stored in the water table to help in times of drought.

It works alongside nature to restore ecosystems and habitat diversity, providing a suitable home for species like the endangered water vole.

Inspired by successful river projects in America, including Fivemile-Bell in Oregon, it is the first time such a technique has been tried in the UK. 


Red squirrel reintroductions move to Sutherland in new phase of groundbreaking project - Trees for Life

Conservation charities Trees for Life and Woodland Trust Scotland have partnered up to return red squirrels to a Sutherland wood.

The releases at Woodland Trust Scotland’s Ledmore and Migdale Woods are the latest phase of a successful Trees for Life red squirrel reintroduction project across the Scottish Highlands, which is now moving into Sutherland for the first time.

© Mat Larkin © Mat Larkin 

Launching a drive to help red squirrels extend their range further north, around 20 reds from thriving populations in Inverness-shire and Moray will be relocated to the Woodland Trust site near the village of Spinningdale on the shore of Dornoch Firth during October and November. Critically, the region is free of grey squirrels.

“We are reintroducing red squirrels to carefully chosen native woodlands where these iconic wild animals belong, but from which they have been lost. They will then be able to spread, safe from threats from grey squirrels,” said Becky Priestley, Trees for Life’s Red Squirrel Project Manager. “The Woodland Trust’s Ledmore and Migdale Woods are a perfect habitat for red squirrels. It’s fantastic to be helping the species return to this beautiful part of the Highlands, and to be kick-starting their reintroduction to northeast Scotland.”

Urgent action is needed to secure the long-term future of the increasingly rare red squirrel in the UK, where only an estimated 138,000 survive, including some 120,000 in Scotland. Numbers of the much-loved mammals have been decimated by reduction of their forest homes to isolated fragments, and by competition and lethal disease from non-native grey squirrels.


Spending time in forests is crucial for both people and planet - Forestry England

We’re mid-way through October and it’s becoming increasingly tempting to put the kettle on and retreat under the covers. But new research has suggested that the amount of time we spend indoors is affecting our health – which in turn is impacting the planet.
A new survey commissioned by the Forestry Commission has found that more than two thirds of people (68%) in the UK think they spend too much time inside between October and March. Almost four in five people (79%) who agreed they didn’t go outside enough said, they regretted it.
Studies have shown how exercising in forests provides a distraction from fatigue, making physical activity feel easier and more enjoyable, keeping people active for longer, and increasing their satisfaction compared to working out indoors. In addition, being among trees helps to reduce stress, improves mood, and reduces the possibility of poor mental health.
Research has also revealed that outdoor pursuits in natural settings can help people feel more connected to the natural world. Not only does this benefit individual wellbeing, it has been shown to encourage pro-environmental behaviour. Spending time outdoors is a win-win for people and planet.


It’s time to secure ‘all in’ Deposit Return Scheme to clean up countryside - CPRE

(image: CPRE)More than one in four bottles that litter our countryside may not be included in the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) if the government buckles under pressure from industry, according to CPRE, the countryside charity.

(image: CPRE)

Responding to the publication this week of the Environment Bill, which will allow for the creation of the DRS, CPRE is urging the government to continue with its ambition for all drinks containers – no matter the size or material - to be included in the system and not fold under industry lobbying. The Bill allows for the creation of the DRS but does not specify what will be included or when it will be introduced.

Evidence for an ‘all in’ scheme continues to build with the CPRE’s Green Clean, a nationwide litter pick carried out in September 2019, suggesting that millions of drinks containers would still end up littering our countryside if industry secures a limited system to serve their vested interests. Key stats from CPRE’s Green Clean, which took place right across England, include:

- A quarter (23%) of glass bottles collected were over the 750ml size limit, the current upper limit for the ‘on the go’ DRS being pushed by key industries;

- More than one quarter (28%) of plastic bottles found littering the countryside were larger than the common 500ml bottle size and could be excluded from the scheme being pushed by key industry stakeholders; and

- 10,000 drinks containers were collected during the month-long litter pick, including cans, plastic bottles of all sizes and glass bottles.

Additionally, more than 1 in 10 drinks containers collected were glass, a figure that does not include the shattered pieces of glass volunteers were unable to count. These would all be left to harm people, and the wildlife, should industry succeed in excluding glass from the Deposit Return Scheme.


The British people have spoken – and voted for their ten favourite UK parks - Green Flag Award

More than 45,000 votes were cast as the nation picks the best of British. Today Green Flag Award is announcing the winners of the UK 2019 People’s Choice vote.

With more than 1,800 sites to choose from – all of which meet the standards demanded by the international Green Flag Award programme – the public have chosen their ten favourites.

Included in this year’s list of winners for the first time are Valentines Park, managed by Vision Redbridge, and Hollycroft Park, managed by Hinckley and Bosworth Council

Paul Todd, Green Flag Award manager for Keep Britain Tidy, said: “We know that parks matter to people and that receiving a Green Flag Award brings a real sense of achievement and pride to staff, volunteers and the community. The number of people that took the time to vote for their favourite park is testament to how much these spaces are valued and we congratulate this year’s top ten.”

The ten winners of the 2019 UK People’s Choice Award are (in alphabetical order): 

Clifton Park

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Elsecar Park and Local Reservoir Nature Reserve

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Harlow Town Park

Harlow District Council

Hollycroft Park

Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council

Strathaven Park

South Lanarkshire Council

University of Essex Wivenhoe Park

University of Essex

Valentines Park

Vision Redbridge

Victoria Park (Tower Hamlets)

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Victoria Park (Widnes)

Halton Metropolitan Borough Council

Warley Woods

Warley Woods Community Trust


Funding of £20,000 has been announced for projects to engage young people with nature at an event to celebrate Scotland’s Youth Biodiversity Panel - Scottish Natural Heritage 

The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Future Routes Fund is aimed at those aged 11-26 and supports young people to connect with nature and make a positive impact on the environment in Scotland.

Future Routes aims to help young people improve their local environment, increase their knowledge and understanding of Scottish biodiversity and provide more opportunities to connect with nature. 

The ReRoute panel with SNH staff (©Young Scot)The ReRoute panel with SNH staff (©Young Scot)

A partnership with Young Scot, the fund is designed and delivered by the Youth Biodiversity Panel, ReRoute.

The latest round was announced at an event in Edinburgh to celebrate the achievements of ReRoute over the last year.

The group of young people aged 14 – 24 from across Scotland have volunteered more than 1,000 hours over the past 12 months.

Following the publication of ReRoute’s first report in 2018, the panel has been working with SNH to take forward its recommendations on environmental volunteering and jobs; outdoor learning and environmental education; junior rangers and kit libraries and urban nature parks.

Louise Macdonald, Chief Executive of Young Scot, said: “Young people always tell us that they want a bigger say in the decisions that affect their lives, and that’s why projects such as ReRoute are so important. It’s fantastic to see the young people working in partnership with staff from Scottish Natural Heritage to implement their ideas. This partnership will help to ensure that the panellists’ friends and peers engage more with Scotland’s stunning natural environment.” 


UK natural capital accounts: 2019  - The Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin.

The ONS has today published new Natural Capital figures. The aim of these estimates is to value all the UK’s natural assets – such as plants, mountains, rivers and trees.

While the figures do not yet cover all environmental goods and services, these new estimates include the impact of green spaces on house prices (which were published on Monday) the cooling of cities provided by trees and ponds and the noise reduction provided by woodland.

Today’s figures show:

  • In 2016 the partial asset value of UK natural capital was estimated to be £951bn
  • On average annually, people in Wales spend over three times longer on outdoor recreation than people in England
  • In 2018, feedstock and grazing for livestock made up 61% of UK agricultural biomass
  • The cooling shade of trees and water saved the UK £248m in 2017 by maintaining productivity and lowering air conditioning costs on hot days
  • 1,238 years of life were saved through vegetation removing air pollution in 2017
  • Renewable energy generation grew from 5% of all electricity generated in 2008 to 35% in 2018
  • Driven by Scotland, UK timber production has increased 51% between 2000 and 2018

View release and supplementary documents.


Children get to learn “Moor” as pioneering project boosted by £37k BASC legacy funding - British Association for Shooting and Conservation 

The future of the pioneering upland education initiative Let’s Learn Moor has been secured and strengthened by a grant from the UK’s largest shooting organisation.

Building on the first three successful years, the £37,000 legacy funding from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) will enable the initiative to continue to grow over the next three years and achieve its ambitious educational aims.

Let’s Learn Moor is a multi-partnership free education experience for school children in upland areas.

This summer the initiative welcomed 1,400 children to seven moorland locations in the north of England. They were introduced to and educated by more than 30 partner organisations including conservation groups, national park and AONB authorities and local produce businesses, water utility companies, the emergency services and farmers.

All of the events were hosted on grouse moors with gamekeepers and regional moorland groups acting as coordinators and one of the key attractions. Events were held at locations across Yorkshire, Lancashire, the Peak District and the northern Pennines.

At its heart, the project aims to show children the variety of wildlife on our uplands and the importance of creating a balanced and healthy moorland for future generations. The funding will allow phase two of the initiative to begin, creating further opportunities to allow local organisations to engage and educate children.

And finally

Birds put on spectacular autumnal show at Scotland’s nature reserves - Scottish Natural Heritage

Photographers have captured stunning images of wild geese and waders flocking to Scotland.

Images taken at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) national nature reserves at Forvie, Loch Leven and Caerlaverock reveal the mass migration of wild birds from Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard.

Stuart MacQuarrie, SNH’s Head of Nature Reserves, said: “To see a flock of geese as they lift off from their night-time roost is one of Scotland’s greatest wildlife spectacles. It’s such a remarkable aerial display, made even better by the chorus of their high-pitched calls. These amazing birds migrate as far as 3,400 miles to reach Scotland for their winter feeding, before returning to more northern climes in the spring. And there’s plenty of time for people to come out to one of our nature reserves over the next few months and see this marvellous display for themselves.” 


Scientific Publications 

Hannes A. Schraft, Shannon Whelan, Kyle H. Elliott Huffin’ and puffin: seabirds use large bills to dissipate heat from energetically demanding flight Journal of Experimental Biology 2019 : jeb.212563 Short Communication doi: 10.1242/jeb.212563 Published 17 October 2019


Soyeon Bae, Shaun R. Levick, et al Radar vision in the mapping of forest biodiversity from space.  Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 4757 (2019)  doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12737-x  open access


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