Nature Matters


    04 2017

    H E A D L I N E

    Woodland Trust Offensive

    A few years ago, I was walking through a local woodland when it occurred to me that there were very few natural nest holes for birds and no birdboxes had been put up on the site. I felt it could definitely benefit from some. I knew the wood well and that it was in the care of the Woodland Trust, so I dropped them an email. I expected a positive response, possibly suggesting that I contact a local representative who would work with me to put up some boxes. After quite a long delay, the reply I received was anything but positive:

    " Dear Mike, Thank you for your email and your interest in the Wood. It is always nice to know there are local people keen to look after the woods. [I do not feel that this was at all a genuine sentiment, given the outcome - Editor] I am sorry for my late response but the request is a little more complex than it first seems. [The woodland you mention] is a Planted Ancient Woodland Site, so in the past would have been semi natural ancient woodland which was mainly felled leaving a few remaining broadleaf trees and a now mainly conifer plantation. The Woodland Trust is now in the process of resorting the woodland back to broadleaf trees. This involves a very slow process of selective thinning. Some of which you can see has already been carried out and we have more operations planned for up and coming years. So I wouldn’t want hard work going into putting up bird boxes on trees which may be felled. Any of my contractors would have to provide insurance, qualifications, suitable equipment and risk assessments to install bird boxes at height this would be the same for volunteers. Any installations would also have to be of a design that didn’t nail into the tree.

    I replied to provide assurance:

    " Dear *, I have been putting up nest boxes for many years and, as you say, would not dream of nailing them to trees. Normally, nestboxes - even the very large ones - would be secured using unbreakable cord, so as not to affect the health of the trees and their potential future value as timber. I appreciate H&S concerns, but I am surprised when you say that, as a volunteer, I would have to provide insurance and qualifications. I have never heard of this before. Of course, boxes, especially for larger species like owls, are best sited at reasonable height (possibly at up to 15 feet). I would be happy to agree to doing the siting (and checking) of the boxes at my own risk. I have put up many nest boxes in the past and have successfully attracted species such as tawny owl, nuthatch, pied flycatcher, redstart, blue and great tit and starling. I'm not sure whether there can be a way that these issues can be overcome, but I think it could be a project that would benefit the bird life of the Wood."

    I never did receive a reply to this second email, in spite of asking for a reply on two subsequent occasions.

    I have over 40 years experience as a field naturalist. This has included putting up nestboxes at low and higher levels. In the past, I have put up lots of nestboxes (including owl boxes, sited at 15 feet above the ground) and monitored them with the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. If need be, I could have asked a few well-known local experts to vouch for my experience and safe working practices. And, while I can understand the need to stress health and safety, the suggestion that, as a volunteer, I needed to be qualified in putting up nestboxes, was quite honestly totally baffling. Clearly my suggestion was completely unwelcome. But I really did feel that this was a pretty poor show from the Woodland Trust. This is why I decided to publish it here.

  • 05 2017

    W E L S H . N E W S

    Trust very disappointed by Welsh Government’s new cull policyBadger Trust

    The Badger Trust is very disappointed at the the Welsh Government’s decision to cull badgers in attempting to reduce bovine TB on a small number of persistently infected farms in Wales. The policy was announced on Tuesday 20 June by Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs.

    Responding to the statement, Badger Trust CEO Dominic Dyer said: “The Welsh government has made significantly better progress in reducing bovine TB than their counterparts in England, and without culling any badgers. The tiny scale and precise targeting of this scheme means that it cannot have any meaningful impact on the disease in Wales. All it does is reinforce a false impression amongst a vociferous minority of farmers and vets that badgers are responsible for infecting cattle, an idea for which there is no direct epidemiological evidence.”

    “New herd incidents in Wales have fallen by 40% since 2009 with more than 95% of Welsh herds now being being free of TB. This is in stark contrast to England where despite the government spending £40 million of taxpayer’s money killing around 15,000 badgers in the South West over the past 4 years, new herd incidents of bovine TB have only reduced by 7.5%, and hardly at all in the cull areas. The English culls have been a conspicuous failure on all counts so it is a great shame that badgers continue to be blamed for what is primarily a livestock disease.”

    Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin added:

    “The Welsh Government’s success to date can be attributed purely to introducing a series of cattle based measures including tighter movement controls, improved bio security, risk based cattle trading and better TB testing. As a result, TB in Welsh badgers is also at an all time low of 6.6% nationally and around 1% in their worst hit area. The lower figure also coincides with the area where badgers have been vaccinated so introducing culling makes no sense as the chance of finding diseased badgers will be extremely low. Either way, both figures provide significant evidence suggesting badgers are simply a ‘spillover’ host.”

    “There are no magic bullets to the problem of bovine TB and especially not on farms with a long history of the disease. Culling badgers is a step backwards for the Welsh TB control policy and in the absence of proper monitoring or a published cost/benefit analysis, it is hard to see how it would bring any benefit to farmers or taxpayers.”

    “The Badger Trust is aware that many farmers remain concerned about TB in badgers but is clear that creating stable, healthy badger populations by vaccinating them will offer farmers far more peace of mind in the long term. The Welsh government’s vaccination programme is currently on hold due to restrictions on vaccine use but that does not apply to NGO’s such as the Badger Trust. We have therefore made an offer to the Welsh Chief Vet that we would be happy to work with any farmers in areas of persistent TB outbreaks in Wales, to vaccinate rather than cull badgers on their land.”

    The Badger Trust is seeking an urgent meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, to call for a postponement of any plans for the culling of badgers until the impact of the latest cattle control, trading restrictions and bio security measures in its TB Eradication Programme have been fully assessed.

  • 06 2017

    R E N E W A B L E S

    Queen’s Speech: RenewableUK welcomes Government’s commitment to Industrial StrategyRenewableUK

    Queen’s Speech: RenewableUK welcomes Government’s commitment to Industrial Strategy Responding to the Queen’s Speech, RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to a new modern Industrial Strategy. Wind, wave and tidal energy are new industries which are already creating highly-skilled, high-paid jobs, exporting around the world. Renewables can and should be the engine room of the Government’s flagship Industrial Strategy, driving our low-carbon economy. “The need to reduce energy bills for consumers was also rightly highlighted in the Queen’s Speech. Renewable energy technologies are making record-breaking cost reductions, and clean energy tariffs are now competing with traditional low-cost tariffs to provide consumers with lower bills - we should continue this trend. “It was important that the Government reaffirmed its strong support for action on climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement. President Trump’s decision to turn his back on this has been greeted with bafflement and incomprehension in the US energy sector, as the global renewable energy market is worth $290 billion a year. The UK Government is showing leadership on energy policy and environmental issues which matter to the majority of the British public”.

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