06
Dec
19

‘New Deal for Nature’ report is good but could be stronger

Green Party press release (5 Dec 2019)

Lucas launches New Deal for Nature

Caroline Lucas, Green parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavillion, has today (5 December) launched a New Deal for Nature, an independent report commissioned to inform the Green Party’s policies on nature and stimulate debate on the future of UK wildlife.

The report, which has been written by a group of leading UK conservationists and nature writers, focuses on eight areas, including farming, schools and young people, urban wildlife, the marine environment and biosecurity. Among its 80 recommendations are suggestions for new national parks, with a goal of designating 20 per cent of Britain as a national park, and for all farmers to be paid to devote a minimum of 15 per cent of their land to nature.

With regard to schools and young people, the report suggests that all primary schools should deliver one hour a day outdoor learning and each primary school in the UK should be twinned with a farm.

Launching the report at The Linnean Society in central London, Lucas also outlined the Green Party’s commitments on nature, explaining that the party’s manifesto has more than 70 proposals dedicated to nature and wildlife.

[Report launch panel. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The party’s pledges include a 10-year transition to agro-ecological farming, more outdoor learning and the introduction of a GCSE in Natural History to encourage better knowledge and understanding of nature.

The manifesto also includes proposals for a new Sustainable Economy Act, which will set legally-binding targets for biodiversity, soil health and water quality.

With the 2019 State of Nature report revealing that 41 per cent of species in the UK have declined since 1970, Lucas stressed the urgency of the situation: “We are not only running out of time on the climate emergency, there’s also little time left to reverse the catastrophic decline in nature and wildlife. This election has to mark a turning point and the moment when people vote for nature.”

Other parties still ignore the fundamental economic and infrastructure changes we need to truly protect the natural world. We’re looking ahead to what’s being called the ‘2020 super year’ for nature and climate with crucial international summits taking place.

Yet we’re also looking at a Johnson Brexit deal that is even worse for the environment and nature than the May hard-Brexit deal. Now more than ever, we need more Green MPs to stand up for wildlife and put the wellbeing of people and nature first across all policy making.”

Commenting on the report, Michael McCarthy, Former Environment Editor at The Independent and author of ‘The Moth Snowstorm – Nature and Joy’, said: “The terrible destruction of British wildlife over the last half century has only just begun to dawn on the public in the last five years, and it has still barely touched the political agenda.

So it is hugely heartening to see the Greens commission a report which explicitly addresses this tragedy, and suggests the political measures necessary for the recovery of our lost birds, butterflies and wild flowers, as well as the other steps needed for our part of the natural world to regain its health. This issue affects us all, every citizen, indeed every voter. It may not decide the election, but thank God the Greens are pushing it up the agenda, which is where it needs to be.

ENDS

You can download the report here: A New Deal for Nature

Overall, this is a strong set of proposals, many of them influenced by the Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife, coordinated by Chris Packham et al and published in 2018. This influence has been acknowledged by the report’s authors and Rob Sheldon has also blogged about it this morning.

And as Mark Avery noted yesterday, a lot of the proposed policies in this report will find favour with many in the conservation and environmental sector but probably not with the likes of the Moorland Association, BASC, GWCT or the Countryside Alliance. One of the report’s co-authors, Jake Fiennes, a former gamekeeper and now General Manager (Conservation) at Holkham Estate can expect to be at the receiving end of some nasty abuse for daring to put his name to some of these proposals.

Of particular interest to us was the section on Hunting and Shooting, as follows:

Interestingly, despite what could be described as some hard line policies (e.g. banning the release of non-native game birds), a proposal to ban driven grouse shooting is notably absent. There’s a bit of tinkering around the edges of grouse moor management, e.g. banning medicated grit and licensing of all game shoots, but no mention of heather burning and no explicit suggestion of an outright ban on driven grouse shooting.

A question was posed to the panel about this obvious omission and the response went along the lines of, ‘We have suggested a ban but we’ve just been a bit cleverer about doing it’. It was argued that the ban on medicated grit would effectively cause the artificially-high density of grouse to diminish and thus driven grouse shooting would become unviable.

Unfortunately this simplistic argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Even if medicated grit was banned, there’s still the practice of direct dosing where red grouse are captured at night to have oral anti-wormer drugs forced down their throats but even without direct dosing (assuming that too, was banned), some grouse moors are still able to maintain high densities of red grouse, as discussed by grouse shooting ‘guru’ Mark Osborne here. All that would happen if medication was banned would be a return to the cyclical ‘boom and bust’ years where periodically the grouse stocks would fall to the effect of the strongyle worm but would then recover for shooting to resume all over again.

There’s no question that medicated grit should be banned, not least because it’s been identified as an emerging environmental contaminant of acute and chronic toxicity in studies elsewhere, as well as being implicated in the rapid spread of disease (via grit trays on grouse moors), but to consider a ban to be an effective way of bringing down driven grouse shooting is just naive.

It seems strange that a report that’s so radical in some ways has gone out of its way to avoid explicitly calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. That’s disappointing and a bit of a missed opportunity, to be honest.


14 Responses to “‘New Deal for Nature’ report is good but could be stronger”


  1. 1 Rob Bonner
    December 6, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I am encouraged as you are by most of the approach taken by the Green Party but I do not think it goes far enough. While the shooting industry is allowed to continue with its illegal practices, both birds and mammals will suffer the consequences. Whether it be mammals in illegal traps, to poisoned and shot raptors. Until there is a total ban on releasing 50 to 60 million non indigenous birds there cannot be the progress needed. While large organisations like RSPB think that licensing is the answer, and BTO will not interfere then we will make little progress.

    • 2 Rob Sheldon
      December 6, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      Rob – the report does call for a ban on releasing non-native game birds. In the actual manifesto itself it refers to outlawing the use of snares.

    • 3 Iain Gibson
      December 6, 2019 at 10:48 pm

      I agree with Rob, but despair yet again that the list of species put forward for full protection consists of only two: Common Snipe and Woodcock. Why is Jack Snipe not included? In my experience studying this species over fifty years, I have encountered many individuals being shot by wildfowlers and ‘marsh cowboys’ alike. This bird is the only one I have managed to stalk and pick up with my bare hands on a number of occasions! As far as the shooters are concerned it is acceptable to kill a bird which literally rises from their feet and tends to circle around the flusher before dropping into the marsh a short distance away. It is sad that such a beautiful and relatively scarce bird from Northern Europe should migrate to our country to risk being shot by some sadistic human being.

  2. 4 alancranston
    December 6, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    I agree that it is a missed opportunity, and rather a strange one. However (as I have argued elsewhere) grouse shooting will die as it bcomes uneconomic – by the time it is banned there may be little left to ban. Stopping the use of medicated grit on its own will not be enough but in combination with licensing, control of burning etc may be enough to tip the scales. Not that I’m going to stop campaigning to ban driven grouse shooting any time soon but we should not dismiss incremental measures as they become politically achievable. The edifice will topple sooner than we might sometimes fear.

    • 5 Les Wallace
      December 6, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      I’m pretty certain Mark Avery has said with DGS we could have a Berlin Wall type situation, all of a sudden with little warning the whole thing comes crashing down. If behind the scenes they’re starting to sweat about the long term future of grouse moors then confidence in keeping them could collapse. I believe you’re absolutely right and the more attacks/criticisms coming at them simultaneously will be the killer – that they’re based on cruelty AND they’re terrible for most wildlife AND they drive away better activities that create more jobs AND muirburn is particularly bad for salmonid fish AND grouse moors are an artificial creation that facilitates ‘wild’ fires AND they do nothing to reduce flooding of homes, businesses and better quality farmland downstream, in fact they probably make flooding worse…..We just need more individuals and organisations saying so publicly.

  3. 6 Les Wallace
    December 6, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    Yes the report makes a bit of a fudge of the DGS issue, banning medicated grit is good, but I wouldn’t have thought a killer blow. Given that no matter how much money is spent on it DGS is only a ‘hobby’, it could have been more fruitful to make it mandatory for grouse moors to be assessed for potential to reduce flooding naturally not only with peat bog restoration, but also targeted tree planting, insertion of woody material in waterways and the not so far off return of the beaver. Who could argue that stopping homes, businesses and good quality farmland from being flooded is less important than maximising grouse bags!?! It was also really interesting to see a reference to licencing of gamekeepers. If that means a full vetting procedure to ensure that people who might be attracted to the position because of potential to indulge in criminality especially cruelty to animals for pleasure are kept out of the profession that would be a significant step although not a fail-safe one, it never is. The police and army are supposed to have strong procedures in place to weed out wannabes thugs in uniform, there isn’t even that with gamekeepers a group who are allowed to carry firearms (if there is one it’s not very effective). Maybe this would be a good subject for a future Scotgov petition – official vetting and licencing for gamekeepers?

  4. 7 Roderick Leslie
    December 6, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I have been very impressed by the Labour green manifestos – their take on nature is thoughtful, sensible and wide ranging. Their ‘Green Deal’ focusses heavily on the almost hidden issue of housing stock – responsible for nearly half our emmissions, and vigorous Government action could be effective for both climate change and the poorest and most deprived in society at the same time – what’s not to like ? Probably just one thing – it doesn’t make money for big business the way highly-trailed ideas like carbon capture would (and for those of you who still believe the polluter ever pays, actually when big business is concerned its the polluter who gets paid).

    And for the uplands we should be working back from outcomes, not up from where we are now and, surely, for the vast majority of city dwellers and the future of the planet carbon and water look like the key deliverables from the uplands. Where that leaves DGS I’ll leave you to work out (probably not too difficult if you’re a reader of this blog.)

  5. 8 Guest
    December 6, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    “But we also realise that in some situations, hunting and shooting lead to land management practices that benefit nature.”

    How does it benefit rooks, jays, crows, magpies, ravens, stoats, weasels, badgers, foxes and raptors? This is pretty dreadful spin, no doubt influenced by Jake Fiennes. There is absolutely nothing intrinsic about shooting wild animals that benefits nature. If you’re going to say less impactful, that’s one thing, but this is just a fallacy. Creation of habitat and wild spaces, where food chains can function independently, benefits nature.

    “We also may need to occasionally kill certain species, to protect other, rarer species” – they need to be very careful with this type of centrist posturing, because that is exactly the type of nebulous reasoning which has enabled the current status quo to take root, along with the industrial killing of wildlife on the general license.

  6. 9 Keith Dancey
    December 6, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    I notice a glaring omission. Habitat loss is considered to be the single biggest contributor to the loss of bio-diversity and the loss of bio-abundance, especially here in the UK. Habitat loss is driven by one thing: human population increases. Earth Overshoot Day for 2019 was July 29th! That indicates that human beings are already consuming the annual sustainable biological resources of two planet Earths.

    If the whole planet lived as we do in the UK we would need about two-and-a-half planet Earths.

    If the UK were to maintain its current level of consumption sustainably, we would need a land mass equal to 3.8 UKs to do so.

    As a veteran of many space missions to measure atmospheric chemical species and global sea-surface temperatures, I would say that there is no chance of avoiding global climate catastrophe with the current human population, let alone an increasing one.

    I have written to every political party on the essential need for population control to help mitigate the worse effects of climate change and the loss of wildlife.

    Unfortunately, the Green Party are not in favour of limiting human population growth for the UK. Namely: PP106 The Green Party holds that the number of children people have should be a matter of free choice, and PP111 The Green Party has a liberal migration policy and wants greater global justice and equality, so people who migrate can do so on the basis of choice, not economic hardship.

    But in the UK we can barely supply 50% of the food we require! Green Party policies effectively endorse increasing the number of people we need to feed whilst simultaneously building over productive agricultural land in order to house and employ them.

    One day, the Green Party may realise that you cannot eat bricks.

  7. 10 Francis Morgan
    December 7, 2019 at 8:53 am

    The report (Section 3.7) does also call for the banning of intensive moorland management in designated areas (i.e. National Parks, NNRs, SSSIs), which, with a commitment to increase the amount of land designated and in conjunction with a ban on grit and other measures (e.g. (4.3) enhanced support for upland farmers) would all help to reduce the extent of if not wholly eradicate DGS.

    I certainly see where you’re coming from RPS, but feel any moves in the right direction have to be celebrated in the current political context – and if in some future dreamland a majority of the report’s recommendations were actually implemented …

    (Apologies for veering off topic, but while I’m here and despite having dogs myself, I was delighted by the paragraph in section 3 recommending control and even banning of dogs in protected areas. I spent a few hours at Kenfig National Nature Reserve on Monday this week – the first time I had been there for about 20 years and – I exaggerate only a little – it was hard to move without having to greet some friendly mutt, running around off lead whilst their ‘owners’ tried vainly to get them back. 20 years ago I saw short eared owls and this remnant of wild south Wales’ sand dunes was an oasis of restorative peace. This time between the light aircraft continually buzzing overhead and the dogs around your ankles the term ‘Nature Reserve’ had never seemed so inadequate. (There was at least a peregrine sitting on the beach for five minutes or so before it flew off to torment the waders along the strand which provided some relief! But no harriers or SEOs.))

  8. 11 sog
    December 7, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    There is an article in today’s ‘National’, behind a paywall. It covers Grouse Moors acting to reduce climate change. An un-named spokesman is quoted…

    “Healthy and well-managed peatlands are a key part of the Scottish landscape and are an internationally important wildlife habitat, home to rare birds, mammals and plant species. They also help improve water quality and play a vital part in reducing flood risk.”

    … so is that them open to allegations that badly-managed moors increase flood risk?

    Either way, the timing can hardly be hardly co-incidental.

    • 12 Iain Gibson
      December 7, 2019 at 11:46 pm

      It strikes me that natural peatlands do not require any management by man. If left to nature they remain as rich peat bogs for centuries until woodlands take over. Grazing by mountain hares and other small mammals greatly slows down this evolution, as do grazing sheep at low grazing density on the uplands. If society were to disallow excess management by farmers and/or grouse shooting interests, the habitat would require minimal management, except where adverse changes (e.g. excess drainage or burning), would require more positive conservation management. Grouse killers try to justify their behaviour by pretending that their forms of mismanagement are seen as well-managed moorlands, and that “neglected” moorlands are badly-managed. I believe that most ecologists familiar with peat moorland and its natural wildlife will tell you this is simply not so.

  9. 13 Nonie Coulthard
    December 9, 2019 at 11:59 am

    well said Iain – it’s the ecological illiteracy that is a big part of the problem – accidental or deliberate (and within conservation too sadly – the idea that we (people) need to ‘control’ everything instead of allowing natural, successional change). Also bit alarming to see beavers listed under ‘pest’ species when we’ve been fighting so hard to get them back as native ecosystem engineers too – and now trying to get Scotgov. to agree translocation first (across Scotland) and killing (under specific licence) only as last resort . (I personally think ‘pest’ and ‘vermin’ etc. language needs to change and not be used for foxes, stoats, weasels etc. either – they are all wildlife and parts of ecosystems – it’s only where they come into conflict with people’s wants and perceptions that we invent justifications for killing them).


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