Wildlife News from RSPB South West
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News about wildlife and the environment from around south west England
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D-day approaches for farmland wildlife?

RSPB Director of Conservation Marin Harper on crucial negotiations that will have long term impacts on farmland wildlife :

 

In the week that the EU Heads of State meet to agree the amount of money for wildlife friendly farming, a new report published today suggests that we have lost 44 million birds from the UK since 1966.

 

In State of UK BIrds 2012* we have calculated that the total number of breeding pairs of birds in the UK has fallen from 105 to 83 million – a loss of 22 million pairs. Numbers have remained roughly stable either side of a substantial decline between the mid-1970s and mid 1980s. 27 million pairs of breeding birds were lost from the UK between 1975 and 1987.

 

What is really frustrating is that for many years we have had the solutions to do something about this - particularly to address the decline of our farmland birds.

 

And, in the last decade, some farmers have achieved some incredible results.

 

On Friday, I was lucky enough to visit the Duke of Norfolk's Estate near Arundel in Sussex. I briefly met Peter Knight, the Estate Manager and one of our finalists in this year's Nature of Farming awards. His story shows what can be achieved with hard work and some well targeted incentive schemes. In 2003, the Estate with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, embarked on a project to reinstate grey partridge across the 1,240 hectares that they managed. They entered into a Higher Level agri-environment scheme and 12% of the estate is now managed for wildlife. The results are staggering: 360 pairs of grey partridge in 2012 compared to 3 pairs in 2003; 300% increase in singing skylark numbers over the first three years of the agreement; 18 different species of raptor recorded, the return of rare arable flowers like cornflower and dramatic increases in butterflies like the Duke of Burgundy whose numbers were up from just 3 in 2009 to 18 in 2012.

 

The remarkable turn around has been achieved in the decade that we have been running our own commercial, conventional arable farm - Hope Farm. By using options available to all farmers in the Entry Level Scheme, we have tripled the number of farmland birds while maintaining or increasing wheat yields.

 

There are many other farmers who are doing the right thing - using these schemes to provide the habitat that wildlife needs to flourish. These are the farmers that we celebrate in our Nature of Farming Awards.

 

We know that well funded, properly designed agri-environment schemes, targeted in the right place work. But the sad truth is governments across the UK are not doing enough to encourage more farmers to do the right things for wildlife.

 

As the EU Budget proposals released last week demonstrated, the funding for these schemes are vulnerable and that if the schemes dry up then good environmental work may stop. Last week, the RSPB released the results of a survey wich showed that 96% of farmers think environmental work on their farms would be impacted if payments for wildlife-friendly farming were cut.

 

So, the decisions that Heads of State make about the EU Budget matter this week. They matter to farmers and to widllife. This is why we are asking you to tell Mr Cameron to back funding for wildlife friendly farming. You can support our campaign here.

We need the Prime Minister to use all his diplomatic powers to get the right deal for the UK and that must include a decent deal for wildlife-friendly farming.

 

I hope you can support this campaign.

 

*State of the UK Birds 2012 report is a joint report from the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the statutory nature conservation agencies (Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural England and Countryside Council for Wales).

 

http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2012/11/19/d-day-approaches-for-farmland-wildlife.aspx

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Autumn at Arne

Autumn at Arne | Wildlife News from RSPB South West | Scoop.it
It is turning cold but the sun has been shining on Arne for most of November. This has brought out lots of visitors and with them lots of interesting bird sightings. The 27th October was a particularly exciting day for seeing things ...

 

Read more here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/arne/b/arne-blog/archive/2012/11/12/autumn-at-arne.aspx

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RSPB and GirlGuiding South West launch 'Step Up for Nature' Partnership

RSPB and GirlGuiding South West launch 'Step Up for Nature' Partnership | Wildlife News from RSPB South West | Scoop.it

A partnership project between the RSPB and Girlguiding South West England got underway on the 10th November with Rainbows, Brownies and Guides grabbing their binoculars and joining RSPB experts on an Avocet Cruise on the River Exe. Read more here:

 

http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/328558-rspb-and-girlguiding-south-west-launc-step-up-for-nature-partnership-

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British birds 'need a better deal from EU farm funding'

British  birds 'need a better deal from  EU farm funding' | Wildlife News from RSPB South West | Scoop.it

Some of Britain's most threatened birds, among them the chough and cirl bunting, are at risk from cuts to the EU schemes that have helped save them, conservationists warn.

 

The RSPB and Britain's Wildlife Trusts have written to Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to fight for agri-improvement funding to continue when European heads of state meet in Brussels later this month.

 

The payments for wildlife-friendly farming, which are in their 25th year, are the largest single budget for wildlife conservation in the UK and have reversed population crashes of some species.

 

Successes have included the resurgence of the chough, cirl bunting and the stone-curlew, now largely dependent on wildlife-friendly farmers.

 

Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the South West said: "The farming industry is the biggest single recipient of funds from the EU. Here in the West Country we've received a lion's share of investment in agri-environment schemes because so many farmers here are keen to step up for nature. That money comes from you and I as taxpayers. But this vital investment is under real threat and we need our leaders to fight our corner in Europe.

 

"We know that budgets are creaking, but now more than ever we need to know that our money is being used wisely, not just to support the production of food, but to support the innumerable benefits we all derive in common when farming is done with the natural environment in mind."

 

Farmland wildlife is struggling as the populations of many species of birds, butterflies and bees continue to decline. The RSPB is concerned that the size of the budget for wildlife-friendly farming is already too small and in some parts of the UK funding for vital conservation projects has run out.

 

Mr Whitehead added: "The challenges facing wildlife are massive, and we believe an already unacceptably low share of EU funding goes to wildlife-friendly farming, especially when less than £7 out of every £100 spent on agriculture funds wildlife conservation. So, to consider further cuts is deeply misguided; we need more farmers helping wildlife, not fewer."

 

Among those farmers backing the RSPB's call for the public to ask Mr Cameron to save the funding ahead of the meeting on November 23 is Henry Edmunds, who has a mixed arable and livestock farm in Wiltshire and won the RSPB Nature of Farming Award this year.

 

He said: "I think it would be an absolute disaster if these schemes were to stop."

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A message to European Heads of State: don't cut the life from our countryside - Martin Harper's blog - Our work - The RSPB Community

Martin Harper, RSPB Director of Conservation, blogs about EU budgets and farmland wildlife ...

 

Over the past 40 years Europe has lost 300 million birds and in just the past 15 years we have lost 70% of European grassland butterflies. Farmland wildlife remains in crisis. Following proposals released yesterday, the situation will get a lot worse unless leaders show an enlightened approach to EU Budget discussions next week.

 

Yesterday, new figures were released on the proposed EU Budget for 2014-2020 and they make for frightening reading.

 

These figures aren’t the agreed budget but they will form the basis of discussion, and potential agreement, when EU leaders gather in Brussels next week (22-23 November). What has been proposed by the President of the EU Council is an out an out attack on the bits of EU expenditure which deliver real value for money. And they could have devastating consequences for wildlife across Europe and in the UK. To be fair, cuts are being applied to virtually every area of EU spend and at a time of economic austerity and creaking treasuries across the EU cuts are virtually inevitable. But cutting across the board, with no apparent interest in how well, or badly that money is being spent is not just careless, it’s wildly irresponsible.

 

I’m most concerned about the cuts that are being proposed to the Common Agricultural Policy’s Rural Development Pillar (also known as Pillar 2). This Pillar isn’t perfect but it is based on sound principles and is home to some of the best examples of value for money found anywhere in Europe. This is exemplified by well-designed agri-environment schemes, like Higher Level Stewardship in England. This provides a lifeline for species such as turtle dove and cirl bunting as well as supporting farmers to deliver environmental public goods which the market doesn’t reward.

 

As I have written here, here, here and here, rural development money is a lifeline for wildlife and a vital income stream to farmers. These facts make it all the more incomprehensible that the Council President is proposing that Rural Development funds should be slashed by an unbelievable 9.1%. And it’s worth remembering that this cut is in addition to the real terms cut of around 8% contained within the European Commission’s original budget proposal from last year.

 

You’d think this was bad enough but no, it gets worse...

 

Controversial (actually scrap that, let’s just call them indefensible) proposals to allow Member States to ‘reverse modulate’ (that is shift money from Rural Development into Pillar 1 subsidies (direct payments) have been extended from a relatively small group of countries to everyone, and the rate increased from 5% to 15%. This means that the proposed 9.1% cut could leap to over 20%.

 

All this is taking place at a time when our natural environment needs more investment, not less. If we lose funding for wildlife friendly farming, we know that the vast majority of farmers will stop doing the things that wildlife needs. And this would mean the Government's ambition to be the first generation to pass on the natural environment in a better state to the next will be shattered.

 

Some might argue that the proposed ‘greening’ of Pillar I payments will make up the environmental shortfall but this simply isn’t the case: rural development schemes are designed in a way that delivers much more than Pillar I approaches can – primarily because Pillar I has to be simple and relatively broad brush. Greening can help create a strong baseline of delivery if done well (and it’s a big if at the moment) but it can’t do the really special stuff that Rural Development can.

The EU Budget is under enormous pressure, in fact the odds for it being cut that are probably so short you wouldn’t waste the bus fare to the bookies. But EU leaders have to demonstrate that there are bits of the budget that simply must not be cut, in fact all the arguments are that they should be increased.

 

Rural Development is one such example and the proposals to cut it must be rejected. If these savings have to be applied elsewhere then there they must fall on areas of EU expenditure that cannot demonstrate value for money and do not help our farmers to become more resilient, more market orientated or rewarded for protecting and improving the environment. When it comes to the CAP, we know where savings can be made, and it isn’t Rural Development.

 

You can help us protect Rural Development funding by emailing David Cameron in advance of his meeting next week – our PM may have been ‘given a mandate’ by Parliament to cut the budget but there are some bits of the budget that need to be spared the knife.

 

http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2012/11/15/a-message-to-european-heads-of-state-don-t-cut-the-life-from-our-countryside.aspx

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Burning trees in power stations - dirtier than coal?

Burning trees in power stations - dirtier than coal? | Wildlife News from RSPB South West | Scoop.it

As winter approaches, there’s nothing better than throwing another log on the fire. The UK Government are taking this sentiment one step further though, and will soon commit to subsidising coal power stations to ditch coal and switch over to burning wood instead. Read more here:

 

http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/climatechange/archive/2012/11/12/burning-trees-in-power-stations-dirtier-than-coal.aspx

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Dear Mr Cameron, don't miss the point of how to spend a trillion Euros

Dear Mr Cameron, don't miss the point of how to spend a trillion Euros | Wildlife News from RSPB South West | Scoop.it

With a trillion Euros at stake in the EU budget negotiations, arguments about the overall sum are in great danger of missing a more crucial point; say the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and the Institute of European Environmental Policy (IEEP).

 

In a letter to the Prime Minister, all three charities urge him to focus on the quality of the spending, and ensure a high priority for the UK’s environmental ambitions as part of the overarching objective of value for money for the UK. Read more here:

 

http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/327798-dear-mr-cameron-dont-miss-the-point-of-how-to-spend-a-trillion-euros

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