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Threats to wildlife - local and national

Posted: Tuesday 12th July 2016 by EvanBowenJones

Curlew in flight (Jon Hawkins/ Surrey Hills Photography)

Threats to our Herefordshire wildlife come from a variety of sources and at a variety of scales from local to national & international.

On the more parochial side of things: a couple of weeks ago I stood watching one of the last pairs of nesting curlew in the county. The adults were taking it in turn to actively mob any passing gulls and buzzards - both they clearly viewed as potential predators of their offspring. They seemed to be holding their own. 

Then a pair of springer spaniels bounded right into the centre of the meadow whilst both adults wheeled around. The owner had walked down a footpath that openly crosses the floodplain meadow where the birds apparently had their chicks hidden in the long grass.

Half expecting one of the dogs to emerge with a chick in its mouth I shouted across the river and suggested (as politely as one can when shouting) that the owner in question put her dogs on a lead. However, she was too distracted trying to take photos of the adults on her phone!

What a weird paradox seeing someone who was obviously interested enough in wildlife to want to take a picture of it being oblivious to the fact that she was disturbing (and indeed threatening) it. The simultaneous distraction of both parents creates opportunities for other predators - such as those the adults had been previously driving away. And, there are so few curlew chicks being successfully reared in the county now that every one counts.

Disturbance is an issue that we'll be working to address throughout the Lugg Living Landscape over the next few years in order to try to avoid losing the curlew as a breeding bird - as so many other counties in England have already done! But, this all depends on securing the resources to need to do this work.

However, as the dust settles on Brexit we're seeing EU funding streams (some of which we already have applications in on) and national policies including the 25 year Environment Plan being put on hold, whilst there is uncertainty over whether/ if various pieces of EU-derived regulation that have been positive for wildlife will apply/ be adhered to.

In theory we have an opportunity to improve on what we've currently got on various fronts e.g. to come up with a better agri-payment system that better addresses the needs of both landowners and conservation, whilst providing longer-term surety around this. But, as per the financial markets, it's the current uncertainty that throws up most of the immediate problems. The latter will, most likely, impact negatively on HWT's cash flow and, therefore, the speed at which we're able to deliver our Business Plan with its central tenant of increasing our conservation impact.

Plus, at a time when the regulatory regime is unclear there's a definite worry within the conservation sector that some parties may seek to take advantage of the situation to the detriment of the wildlife. We're, therefore, clearly going to have to be more vigilant and involved than ever. This necessitates finding innovative ways to replace lost or delayed income - something that we're going to have devote a lot of effort towards with immediate effect.

In the meantime, as members of the Trust/ people who are concerned about the natural world, you can work at the local level to make others aware of how their individual behaviour can be more wildlife-friendly whilst lending your voices to the call for improved protections for wildlife now that we're outside the EU.

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