New marine conservation regulations too little too late

England’s trees key to future well-being

Brown bears almost extinct in Alps

Scottish rural agencies told to work together

Miliband sets out ‘Access All Areas’ plan for English coast

Biodiversity is crucial in the fight against climate change

Conserving biodiversity is key to tackling climate change say scientists

Pair charged over dolphin actions

‘Time is right’ to bring beavers back to Scotland

China clay converted to woodland

Protect our seas - Marine Protected Areas needed now, says Natural England

Facing slaughter, the bison that battled back from extinction

New marine conservation regulations too little too late

WWF-UK News 25 June 2007

The UK's marine environment is set to benefit from new legal protection – but it will only cover a limited range of the precious wildlife and habitats in our seas.

The UK government has adopted new EU marine regulations that will allow for offshore special areas of conservation to be designated for wildlife which is considered of European importance. But the regulations will fail to provide protection for many nationally important marine habitats and species.

The EU regulations will promote protection for sites such as the Darwin Mounds, an area some 185km north-west of Scotland that has extensive ancient cold water corals, and the Rockall Bank, a rocky outcrop that rises to the island of Rockall in the Atlantic and supports over 900 species. Biodiversity in these areas will be managed against human threats, which in turn will increase their resilience to climate change.

WWF wants to see a new Marine Act that includes a duty to develop a national network of marine protected areas and a series of highly protected marine reserves. They are calling on the government to publish an ambitious timetable for implementing such a network

England’s trees key to future well-being

DEFRA News Ref: 191/07, 20 June 2007

A vision of how England’s trees, woods and forests can yield environmental, social and economic benefits for future generations was set out today by Barry Gardiner, Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs.

A new Strategy for England Trees, Woods and Forests shows how long-term sustainable management of trees, woods and forests can help people and wildlife adapt to a changing climate and how people can make the most of their local woodlands. It also highlights the way in which woodlands protect and enhance natural resources, improve urban environments, and promote better markets for sustainable woodland products and services.

The new strategy can be downloaded from

A delivery plan to implement the strategy will be produced by the Forestry Commission and Natural England in partnership with other key organisations.

Brown bears almost extinct in Alps

Reuters 20 June 2007

Brown bears face extinction in Europe's Alps with only 38 known to remain in the mountain region, environmentalists said on Wednesday, a year after the shooting of a wayward bear shocked animal lovers.

"The population is too small to ensure its survival," the World Wildlife Fund's Austria branch said in a statement.

"We don't know of a single bear in Germany any more," WWF spokeswoman Claudia Mohl said.

Brown bears are an officially protected species in the European Union but their survival has been jeopardized by habitat destruction from economic development throughout the Alpine mountain region.

Scottish rural agencies told to work together

The Herald, 20 June 2007

The nine government agencies which regulate and promote rural Scotland were yesterday told they must work together, as the new SNP administration put on hold its plans to merge the biggest two rural quangos.

Michael Russell, the Deputy Environment Minister, met with chairs of nine quangos and government agencies in Granton-on-Spey, and set them a target of becoming a single rural and environmental service within a year - Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Forestry Commission Scotland, Forest Enterprise, Cairngorm National Park Authority, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, the Deer Commission Scotland, the Crofters Commission, Scottish Executive Rural Payments & Inspections Directorate, and the Animal Health Agency. There is an expectation that local councils will also become involved in the process.

The intention is to improve regulation by the main bodies that impact on farmers, estate owners and others who work the countryside, some of whom complain of too much duplication. The new administration at Holyrood intends these agencies across rural Scotland to share more offices so that they co-ordinate their links to rural businesses.

Ross Finnie, the LibDem MSP who was Rural Development Minister for eight years, yesterday said there could be less duplication, but it would be a mistake to force together agencies that have different purposes.

Miliband sets out ‘Access All Areas’ plan for English coast

DEFRA News Ref: 187/07, 19 June 2007

Plans to open up the whole of England’s coastline to the public for the first time were set out by Environment Secretary David Miliband. At present parts of the English coastline are out of bounds to walkers who find their routes blocked and are forced to make long detours inland.

Ministers favour a strip allowing access along the full length of the coast (see option 4 below), as well as access to headland, coves and beaches so that a continuous route will always be available as close to the coast as possible. They want people to have their say on Natural England’s recommendations, to help shape final government proposals.

The consultation seeks views on four options:

  • Use existing rights of way legislation to create a footpath all round the coast.

  • Extend open access using the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to give access to types of land which are considered coastal — e.g. beach, dunes, cliffs, etc.

  • Voluntary agreements with landowners using existing mechanisms such as those for agri-environment schemes.

  • New legislation to allow Natural England to designate a coastal corridor providing a continuous route along which people can enjoy access to the coast.

The consulation documents can be found at

The deadline for responses to the public consultation is 11 September 2007

Biodiversity is crucial in the fight against climate change

Defra News Release Ref: 169/07 12 June 2007

The crucial role of biodiversity in tackling climate change was today highlighted by Barry Gardiner, Biodiversity Minister, at an international conference at the Royal Society.

Mr Gardiner launched, Biodiversity indicators in your pocket 2007, a set of 18 indicators which tracks the UK’s progress against international biodiversity targets. This is the first time that a comprehensive set of biodiversity indicators has been published for the UK. A specific indicator has been developed to monitor how changes in climate, particularly temperature, is influencing biodiversity.

Defra has also published a review of current research into climate change and biodiversity in England: “England Biodiversity Strategy: towards adaptation to climate change”. The report reviews the evidence of climate change on biodiversity in England and considers options for adapting policies to reduce these impacts.The evidence in the report on how temperature changes impact on biodiversity, also supports the findings of the biodiversity indicator on climate change.

Key findings of the Biodiversity Indicators:

There were very large declines in bird and butterfly populations in the 1970s and 80s but since 2000 these long term declines appear to have been arrested.

Since 2000, there have been improvements in the extent of protected areas, sustainable fisheries, sustainable woodland management, biological river quality and expenditure on both UK and global biodiversity.

The Spring Index shows that the mean dates of flowering of hawthorn, horse-chestnut and first sighting of the orange-tip butterfly were 10-12 days earlier between 1998-2006 compared with 1900-1947.

2) Biodiversity indicators in your pocket 2007 publication and associated data are presented on the JNCC website:

Conserving biodiversity is key to tackling climate change say scientists

Royal Society 12 June 2007

Protecting biodiversity and natural resources will be crucial to tackling and adapting to climate change, top scientists will say at an international meeting today.

The meeting at the Royal Society the UK national academy of science will bring together, for the first time, leading scientists, economists, social scientists and policy makers to discuss the role that biodiversity plays both in the climate system and with helping people to cope with the impacts of climate change.

David Read, Vice President of the Royal Society said: "We often hear about the impacts our changing climate is having on the natural environment. But biodiversity will also provide an important defence against the effects of climate change. This means it is vital that strategies to deal with climate change planting crops for biofuels or building flood defences for example protect biodiversity rather than it being the last thing to be considered."

It has been suggested that preserving pristine forests may be a win-win solution in combating climate change and conserving biodiversity. Forests play an important role in slowing-down climate change by removing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Research in the Amazon suggests that intact forests are more resilient to the drying that is expected to happen as a result of climate change than forests that have become fragmented due to deforestation.

Biodiversity can also help people adapt to the impacts of climate change. Salt marshes, healthy mangrove forests and other coastal wetlands will provide protection against extreme weather events, rising sea-levels and coastal erosion.

The meeting aims to identify key areas in which environmental, sustainable development, social and climate change policy can be coordinated to maximise opportunities for dealing with climate change and conserving biodiversity. The conclusions of the meeting will inform international negotiations on biodiversity and climate change.

The workshop is jointly funded by the Royal Society, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for International Development (DFID), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Met Office Hadley Centre and Met Office Consulting.

Pair charged over dolphin actions

BBC News Online 10 June 2007

Two men have been charged with disturbing a dolphin after Kent Police received several 999 calls.

Locals had expressed concern about Dave the dolphin - who has become a huge draw for tourists after being seen off Folkestone over the past year. Kent Police's Marine Unit has issued several warnings that anyone getting too close to Dave could be arrested.

Michael Jukes, 26, and Daniel Buck, 25, both from Folkestone, were arrested at about 0530 BST on Saturday and were charged under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. They were freed on unconditional bail to appear at Folkestone Magistrates' Court on 14 June, police said.

Animal welfare charities have previously expressed concern over swimmers, kayakers and other watercraft users possibly causing distress or alarm to Dave.

‘Time is right’ to bring beavers back to Scotland

Sunday Herald 10 June 2007

After seven years of political delays, beavers now look set to be reintroduced to Scotland. The new environment minister, Michael Russell, wants to bring the tail-slapping, dam-building, tree-gnawing mammals back. And he's prepared to risk the wrath of landowners to do so.

In one of his first acts as an SNP minister, Russell will this week ask Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to draw up new plans to reintroduce the beaver. The wildlife agency originally applied for a trial reintroduction in 2000, but was turned down in 2005 by Labour and LibDem ministers after a series of delays.

"The beaver is a part of our natural heritage which was destroyed by man," Russell told the Sunday Herald. "I think the time is right to ask SNH to make new proposals, taking into account the objections that led to the refusal, and I look forward to considering them as soon as they can be brought forward."

He pointed out that SNH's previous proposal had had "strong backing" and that beavers had been successfully reintroduced in over 20 European countries. "Given the loss of species worldwide we are going to have to learn a lot about reintroduction," he said.

"Getting more practical experience will be crucial, and a project such as this - in which we can learn from others and make our own contribution to restoring Scotland's biodiversity - seems to me to have many positive

Rhona Brankin, Labour's shadow cabinet secretary for rural affairs, and a former environment minister, said: "I welcome this issue being reopened. But I have a huge concern that public funding isn't diverted from the protection of native species which are endangered, like the red squirrel."

The National Farmers Union Scotland said it was not against a trial reintroduction, but was concerned that beavers, once released, would be difficult to control.

Sunday Herald

China clay converted to woodland

BBC News Online 8 June 2007

A £2.5m project to convert china clay waste tips in central Cornwall into native woodland has started. Species like conifers will be replaced with tree species native to Cornwall. About 340 hectares (837 acres) of native broadleaf woodland will be planted in areas which have been used by extractive industries for years.

The project between Imerys and Natural England will also see more than 400 hectares (988 acres) of woodland brought into sustainable management. The project is due to be completed in 2008.

Protect our seas - Marine Protected Areas needed now, says Natural England

Natural England News 7 June 2007

Natural England, the Government's wildlife and landscape advisor, has called for the creation of new Marine Protected Areas, and wants the Government to give it the power to identify, designate and manage these sites and have the ability to prosecute those who damage them.

Natural England's Chair Sir Martin Doughty, said: "As a nation we have let ourselves down with a system that has created only one Marine Nature Reserve in England in over 25 years. This is unacceptable; experience from other countries shows Marine Conservation Zones will help our seas recover from damage and adapt to climate change.

"Our rare, beautiful and dramatic wildlife does not stop at the coast. Hidden beneath the surface it is all too easy to forget the immense biodiversity of our seas and ignore the intensive, long-term harm it has suffered. We need to care for it as much as we do the environment on land with areas that have complete protection, some that are used sensitively and some that can be fully exploited.

"We are keen to start working with communities and industry to identify the important areas for us to notify and protect as soon as possible. If we get the responsibility and powers we are calling for we pledge to have the first Marine Conservation Zones within three years and want a fully representative network in place in England's inshore waters by 2012."

Following endorsement from its Board yesterday, Natural England will bid for the powers and responsibility to create a suite of Marine Protected Areas in English inshore waters in response to the Government's consultation on the Marine Bill.

Facing slaughter, the bison that battled back from extinction

The Times 2 June 2007

The last wild herd of American buffalo in the United States are facing slaughter from the cattle ranchers who reduced them to the brink of extinction in the 19th Century. The Board of Livestock around Yellowstone National Park in Montana has agreed to kill a group of 300 bison, including nearly 100 newborn calves, which are being blamed for spreading disease among cattle.

A public outcry has forced a stay of execution until early next week while a final attempt is made to drive the buffalo deep into the park and away from neighbouring ranch land. The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), which advocates the right to roam for wild bison, is planning to use civil disobedience tactics to stop any such killing.

Unlike other herds in the US, the Yellowstone bison are pure-bred and neither fed nor managed by park rangers. Their number has grown to around 3,800 from the 23 surviving buffalo who found refuge on the highlands of Montana a century ago.

Hunters and cattlemen had forced the bison from the Great Plains during the 19th Century where their population had once been estimated at up to 100 million.

Ms Seay (BFC) said: “The buffalo are now trying to come back and reclaim their land by roaming. This is a conflict with the cattle industry, just as it was in the 19th Century, which is once again dictating whether the buffalo should live or die.

“Most of the land around Yellowstone is publicly-owned which the ranchers get [to use] cheap[ly]. If any animals are going to be moved off, it should be the cattle.”

Mr Bodner a local rancher and the Stockgrowers Association’s natural resources director, dismisses such views as sentimental nonsense from an environmental lobby which has little sympathy or understanding of rural needs.

Montana’s fragile cattle industry is desperately worried about a recent outbreak of brucellosis, a disease known to be carried by the Yellowstone bison. Another such case would mean they lose their coveted disease-free status and force them to conduct expensive tests of any beef being exported over state lines. The disease, which causes pregnant cattle to abort, is also cited by the US Fish and Wild-life Service as a reason for its recent decision allowing hunters to kill around half the bison herd in the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.

But Ms Seay claimed that the only recorded proof of brucellosis being transmitted from bison to cattle was in artificial laboratory conditions. She added bison only became infected by the disease because they caught it off cattle.