Business as usual - has the Countryside Council
of Wales lost its teeth in the face of economic pressures?
The Guardian 31 January 2007
Critics accuse the Countryside Council of Wales of being
more interested in development than the environment, of siding with
damaging developers against communities, and of shirking its statutory
responsibilities for wildlife protection. It seeks, they say, to promote
the economy first and placate the interests of landowners, developers and
its paymasters, the Welsh assembly.
CCW's relationship with the assembly is seen as crucial to
the future of nature conservation in Wales. With the assembly acquiring
increased powers under the recent Government of Wales Act, critics say it
is likely CCW will be merged into the assembly. Although it will maintain
its role as an independent adviser to the assembly, there is scepticism
about how strong it will be.
In a recent article in the conservation journal Ecos, Cyril
Trundle, a contractor to local government in south Wales, is critical of
CCW's focus on the environment as "a sustainable resource, contributing to
a better, stronger economy", and accuses it of being unwilling or unable
to challenge the Welsh assembly or development organisations when wildlife
sites are threatened.
He cites the recent offshore oil licensing round, which is
expected to bring oil prospecting to Cardigan Bay. CCW, he says, agreed
with the Department of Trade and Industry that "no areas of sea, including
special protection areas, need be off-limits to oil companies and that the
potential economic benefits of oil drilling need to be taken into
Conservationists are concerned
that an increasing socio-economic agenda has tied CCW to a "sustainable
development" that is more about sustaining development than reducing its
How freeing a few packs of wolves could enliven the Scots economy
The Times, 31 Jan, 2007
Reintroducing wolves to the Scottish
Highlands to control the rapidly growing red deer population would boost
the economy and help to protect the environment, a study suggests.
Scotland’s last wolf was shot dead in 1769.
The study, published in the journal
Proceedings of the Royal Society, said: “Model results suggest that a
wolf reintroduction would be economically beneficial for deer estates.”
The reduction would also help forest regeneration, improve forest animal
breeding rates, especially birds, and cut the number of deer ticks,
which pass on Lyme disease to people.
Landowners and conservationists have
called for the reintroduction of wolves for several years but this is
the first study to assess the potential impact. The team used computer
models based on a reintroduction of three wolf packs on the Isle of Rum.
Although the island is an unlikely release site, it was chosen because
previous research had provided detailed information on the deer
After 25 years, the wolf population
would increase to more than 150 per 1,000 sq km (386 sq miles), then
fall to about 20 per 1,000 sq km as pack sizes stabilised, similar to
the number seen in the wild today in the Bialoweiza Forest in Poland.
Simultaneously, the deer population would drop from more than twenty per
sq km to about seven.
Tim Coulson, of Imperial College,
London, said that trophy hunting of wolves could be one of the potential
economic benefits. “It would be possible for a few individuals of a
viable population of wolves to be hunted. If the wolf population was
successful there’s nothing to stop a few licences being issued,” he
The study said that, although Highland
sheep farms mainly depended on subsidies, the loss of livestock to
wolves should be considered beyond profit and loss assessments. Farmers
could be compensated for livestock losses but that their emotional
attachment to their sheep “should not be ignored”.
Much of the research was based on
studies in Yellowstone Park, in the United States, where the
reintroduction programme had been so successful that wildlife managers
were considering issuing hunting licences.
Oil exploration in
protected dolphin habitat
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
31 Jan 2007
WDCS has welcomed a decision by the
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to withhold the granting of
licences to explore for oil and gas within Cardigan Bay and the Inner
Moray Firth – two important sites designated under European legislation
to protect bottlenose dolphins. These two areas were under threat from
applications by oil companies to drill within and adjacent to the
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s) – the only two sites in the UK
designated specifically to protect dolphins. There are no sites
designated to protect any of the other 40 or more species of cetaceans
found in UK waters.
However, the DTI have not completely
withdrawn the threat of licences – this is merely a delay while a
separate ‘Appropriate Assessment’ on the potential effects of oil and
gas exploration in these sensitive areas is carried out. Oil and gas
exploration increases underwater noise levels and disturbance in an area
and may disrupt the normal behaviour of dolphins and displace them from
areas important for their survival.
Any proposed development that may
affect an SAC is required to be the subject of an ‘Appropriate
Assessment’ in order to show the proposal will not adversely affect the
designated site or its protected species. The Assessment undertaken for
the 24th licensing round clearly failed to show that the dolphin’s
protection could be guaranteed – a view held not just by WDCS, but by
many dolphin experts and the Government statutory advisors on
conservation in Cardigan Bay – The Countryside Council for Wales.
Mark Simmonds of WDCS said “Though we
welcome the fact that the DTI has belatedly recognised that both
Cardigan Bay and the Moray Firth, with their resident bottlenose dolphin
populations, deserve special treatment, we are concerned that the DTI
think they can get round European legislation by re-writing an
assessment of the potential environmental effects."
"Withdrawing licenses for exploration
in the SACs would be a good first step but we need to recognise the
importance of the entire Moray Firth and Cardigan Bay for dolphin
populations and to prohibit such potentially harmful activities in these
areas.We urge the DTI to use this opportunity to stop these disastrous
plans from going any further."
Mark Simmonds added “This clearly
shows the need for a proper network of protected areas around the UK
coast to conserve our populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises.
WDCS is calling for comprehensive legislation to achieve better
protection for whales, dolphins and porpoises and effective management
of our seas. WDCS hopes the forthcoming Marine Bill will include
legislation to provide for the designation of a representative network
of Marine Protected Area".
fined £13,000 for beck pollution
Environment Agency 30 Jan
A housing developer has been
fined a total of £13,000 after the company was accused of polluting a
West Yorkshire river.
Persimmon Homes (West
Yorkshire), based in Fulford, York appeared before Calderdale
magistrates on Friday, January 26 and admitted two charges of breaching
its Consent to Discharge permit by polluting the River Ryburn. The
company was ordered to pay £1820.48 court costs.
Officers were concerned that
silt from the site could end up draining into the nearby River Ryburn
and asked Persimmon Homes to take action to prevent this.
The company applied for a
Consent to Discharge permit which regulated the amount of effluent from
the site that could go into the watercourse.
However, in July 2005 the
Environment Agency received a report of silt in the River Ryburn, and a
sample showed that there was 48 times more suspended solids, such as
silt particles, in the water than the amount allowed under Persimmon
In interview, the company
explained that it had a number of holding tanks to prevent run-off from
the site going directly into the river. But run-off had escaped when a
stopper came loose during bad weather.
In the second incident in
May 2006 an officer inspected the site and found more pollution had
discharged into the river.
The court heard that
although Persimmon Homes had the equipment to contain the discharge
there was only limited checks to see if it was working properly.
In both incidents, the
river’s wildlife was not visibly affected, but the pollution could have
had a damaging impact.
After the court case an
Environment Agency officer Dave Tempest said: “Persimmon Homes was
warned of the risk of pollution to the river yet failed to take all the
“Rivers in West Yorkshire
are recovering from their industrial legacy and it is vital that
businesses take responsibility for their actions and ensure that the
environment is protected.”
Stansted flight path to destroy ancient woodland
Woodland Trust 30 Jan 2007
Nearly 25 hectares (50 acres – 25
football pitches) of irreplaceable ancient woodland will be lost if
many more like the vast and historic 1,000-year-old Hatfield Forest face
the spectre of degradation from pollution, if
plans to build a second runway at Stansted come to fruition.
Less than two per cent of Britain is
covered with ancient woodland, our richest habitat for wildlife. But if
Stansted’s proposed expansions get the go ahead, three ancient woods
will be razed to the ground destroying the habitats of a host of rare
and threatened species like the dormouse, bluebell, oxlip, early purple
orchid and glow worm.
Among woods directly threatened are:
Round Coppice is a 4.54-hectare
ancient woodland would be cleared for parking. Contains Oxlip, dog’s
mercury and bluebell abundant in the ground layer.
The Wilderness is a 4.76-hectare
ancient woodland would be destroyed by an apron and cargo development.
Pigeon Wood is a 1.88-hectare ancient
woodland would be destroyed by airfield development.
Priory Wood is a 7.16-hectare ancient
woodland has a very rich flora. In 1938, Priory Wood was compulsorily
purchased by the British Airports Authority to make way for airport
roads. In the process, part of it was destroyed. Thousands of oxlips
flower during April to May. Further destruction of this habitat should
Indirectly affected woodland sites
include Eastend Wood, Hatfield Forest, Pledgdon Wood, High Wood and
275, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
27 Jan 2007
Trees and forests can provide
a range of benefits that are often complementary. Some of these benefits
derive from green space in general, but forests may also offer unique
opportunities. The social and environmental value of woodland and forest
in Great Britain has been estimated to be worth up to £1 billion a year.
This POSTnote explores the issues surrounding the sustainable management
of existing and new forest in the UK.
Time is running out for irreplaceable
ancient woodland in Northern Ireland
Woodland Trust 25 Jan 2007
Ancient woods are many times
scarcer in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK, yet are still
being lost at an alarming rate, according to the results of a four-year
project carried out by the Woodland Trust.
The Woodland Trust launched
the findings of ‘Back on the Map’; a project to research and record
ancient and long-established woodland in Northern Ireland for the first
time ever. Funded by Environment and Heritage Service and the Heritage
Lottery Fund, the project gives the first ever inventory of Northern
Ireland’s woodland heritage.
The results of the project
show that Only 0.73 per cent of Northern Ireland is still covered with
woodland that was present on the First Edition Ordnance Survey maps of
the 1830s and 40s. Of this, just over a tenth – equivalent to 0.08 per
cent of Northern Ireland – can be shown with any certainty to be ancient
i.e. to have existed continuously since 1600. By comparison, ancient
woodland is thought to cover around 2 per cent of Britain. Of this tiny
area of ancient woodland in Northern Ireland, nearly a third (33 per
cent) has been replanted with conifers or a mixture of conifers and
Around 13 per cent of
ancient and long-established woodland that survived to the 1960s has
since been lost. A total of 273 ancient and long-established woods have
been cleared altogether since that time. An estimated 60 per cent of
this loss was to agriculture, 13 per cent to development, and 27 per
cent to other causes. Of the ancient and long-established woodland areas
that still remain, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) are under 2 hectares
in area, and less than one tenth are over 10 hectares in area.
The Woodland Trust is
Re-introduction of felling
Ancient woodland to be
granted the same level of protection in the planning system as Areas
of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves
Restoration of all ancient
woods that have been felled and replanted with coniferous or mixed
For further information
New pilots announced to push policy on flooding and coastal erosion
Ref: 3/07 4 January 2007
The role that trees can
play in cutting the risk of flooding is to be investigated in a new
Defra funded study aimed at pushing the boundaries of policy on flooding
and coastal erosion.
Other projects will
consider the contribution farm land can make in reducing flood risk as
well as how communities can better adapt to the pressures of coastal
Announcing the six pilots,
Minister for Climate Change and Environment Ian Pearson said:
"The pilot projects I have
announced today are testing out new and innovative approaches to deal
with flooding and coastal erosion. These pilots will see whether we can
push the boundaries of policy and test the potential of whether these
innovative ideas can form part of our mainstream policy and delivery.”
The six pilot studies will
Farming Floodplains for
the Future (Staffordshire Washland Partnership) - will encourage
economically and environmentally sustainable land use in flood plains
that addresses flood risk management through close working with the
local Drainage Board.
A Collaborative Approach
to Sustainable Coastal Land Management (National Farmers Union) - will
encourage and assist land owners on the coast to make informed and
sustainable management decisions.
Woodland for Flood Alleviation (Forest Research) - will provide
important information on the ability of flood plain forestry to
contribute to flood alleviation.
Slapton Coastal Zone
Adaptation Plan (South Hams District Council, on behalf of the Slapton
Line Partnership) - will produce a plan in liaison with local
communities for adapting in response to coastal erosion which will
affect transport links, environmental and heritage assets and the local
Initiatives for Flood risk Environments (Building Research
Establishment and Barker And Coutts Architects) - will produce guidance
on planning and designing sustainable housing and communities in flood
Development of an
Educational Tool for Sustainable Shoreline Management (Halcrow Group
Ltd) - will help us communicate more effectively with stakeholders and
improve understanding of some of the difficult long term issues to be
addressed in achieving sustainable coastal management.
The pilots form part of the
Government's Making Space for Water programme - a cross-Government
strategy, launched in 2005, which takes a long-term and sustainable
approach to flood and coastal erosion risk management. Its aim is to
manage risks through a range of approaches, which reflect national and
local priorities, and which combine a reduction in the threat to people
and their property with the delivery of the greatest environmental,
social and economic benefit.
The pilots are funded from
the Innovation Fund launched on 14 November 2005. £1.5m will be made
available to fund the projects over the next three years. Further
details can be found at:
Illegal persecution of red kites still a massive problem in Scotland
release 2 Jan 2007
persecution of red kites is still having a devastating impact on the
Scottish population, according to ongoing research by RSPB Scotland
managers welcome red kites, but some involved with game management
continue with indiscriminate and illegal abuse of agricultural
pesticides by laying poison baits. Poisoning was one of the factors that
led to the red kite becoming extinct as a breeding bird in Scotland
nearly 150 years ago.
analysis by RSPB Scotland researchers indicates that 38 per cent of the
395 Scottish birds that fledged between 1999 and 2003 were poisoned, and
a further nine per cent were either shot or otherwise killed by man.
RSPB Scotland believes that these are conservative estimates, as the
corpses of birds deliberately killed are more likely to be hidden or
disposed of than those that have died naturally, and the remains of some
recovered birds are too decomposed for a conclusive post mortem. The
overall background level of illegal activity in relation to red kites
may also be indicative of what is happening to other bird of prey
bring into sharp focus the scale of the problem throughout Scotland,
with the source of this illegal persecution remaining largely
attributable to upland areas of our country where game management takes
baits, using agricultural pesticides, are left out in the open
countryside to kill crows, birds of prey and any other species that are
judged as a threat to grouse and other game birds even though the
practice has been illegal since the early 1900s. Although red kites are
rarely the intended victims, and most shooting estates agree that red
kites are of no threat to game birds as they are largely scavengers,
illegal poisoning is still having a devastating impact on both their
numbers and their ability to expand their current range. Their carrion
feeding habit makes them highly likely to find any poisoned meat left
and 2006 there have been 49 confirmed poisoning cases of red kites in
Scotland. For all birds of prey, including red kite, peregrine, white
tailed eagle, golden eagle, hen harrier, goshawk, sparrowhawk, buzzard
and ravens, there have been 283 confirmed cases of poisoning over the
Brankin MSP, the Deputy Environment Minister, said: ‘The continuing
persecution of red kites in Scotland revealed in these figures is
deplorable, irresponsible and criminal. This will not be tolerated and
those responsible will be pursued to the full extent of the law.’