Tag Archives: conservation

How can Lib Dems help bees right now?


I’m a videogame developer with a distinct love for wildlife and conservation, I am a big fan of bees and beekeeping. Whilst we already have some groundwork put in place for strategies to protect bees and other pollinators I thought it would be nice to list a few suggestions for what we as Liberal Democrats can do to improve the environment for these creatures right now in local government.

If possible it would be beneficial to ensure that specifications given to council contractors for gardening and landscaping include flowers well known for attracting bees and other pollinators such as English Lavender or Sweet William. It would also be wise to allow areas such as roadside verges to grow in such a way that wildflowers bloom there naturally, this could be done by changing how often or to what extent verges are mowed.

We should continue to avoid and attempt to eliminate the use of neonicotinoids and review the use of pesticides wherever possible. Producing open publications on use of pesticides and herbicides by local government and encouraging local businesses such as landscaping companies to do the same would also contribute towards improving the environment for pollinators.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Is protecting wildlife a political issue?

Viewers of BBC’s Winterwatch last week were treated to some wonderful coverage of the private lives of key Scottish Highland predator species such as the golden eagle, fox, and pine marten and a species of particular interest here, a non-predator, the mountain hare. Mountain hares as their name suggests live in upland areas and this includes grouse moors. A grouse moor is an odd environment that at first sight looks natural but is in fact intensively managed in favour of a single species, the red grouse. The perceived villains here are the predators such as the crow, fox and weasel that take a share of the grouse eggs and chicks earmarked for a demanding clientele during the shooting season, and many such predators are routinely removed by gamekeepers in order to maintain artificially high numbers of grouse. However it may come as something of a surprise to learn that the inoffensive mountain hare is also high on the gamekeeper’s hit list. The mountain hare’s crime is to be a warm blooded mammal and therefore a potential host for the ticks that transmit louping-ill disease (don’t ask) to the hapless grouse.

Because the mountain hare is believed to transmit disease to the grouse it is intensively culled. In December 2014, Scottish National Heritage alarmed by the destruction, led calls for grouse moors to exercise ‘voluntary constraint’ on excessive mountain hare culling and last year a group of ten conservation groups in Scotland called on Scottish National Heritage to upgrade this to an immediate three-year ban to allow a breathing space for the conservation status of the species to be accurately determined. And this is the point of the story, the grouse moor manager is entitled to cull the mountain hare without restraint on little evidence other than supposition, whereas the conservationist has to scientifically prove beyond reasonable doubt that protection of the species is justified. The dice are therefore loaded; the jury is rigged. A far higher burden of proof is required to protect wildlife than that needed to destroy wildlife.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 13 Comments

Failed flooding policy finds a scapegoat

Whenever a government loses control of the situation there has to be a scapegoat, and on the issue of flooding it’s not Sir Philip Dilley the Environment Agency chairman who resigned on Monday.  After his PR blunder of refusing to interrupt his holiday to visit the flooded areas he gave up his £100k position on the grounds that what had started out as a part-time non-executive post was now looking suspiciously like actual work. No, this winter’s devastating floods we are asked to believe, weren’t so much the result of government failings, but of an over concern for the protection of wildlife! “If we have to choose between people and wildlife, we will always, of course, choose people,” Sir James Bevan Chief Exec of the Environment Agency told the BBC at the turn of the year.

Like me, you may have been puzzled by this message and couldn’t quite see its relevance to what was happening across the North on that day, and the plot thickened to Bisto consistency a few days later when Liz Truss announced in a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference that Defra will be allowing farmers to dredge ‘ditches’ without seeking permission from the Environment Agency because they ‘know their land best’. Her own experts say that dredging is useful for improving navigation and land drainage, but has little value in flood prevention. So again, what was going on?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Nature conservation: a liberal legacy

2015 was a strange year for me, as it was a strange year for the party; an odd, jarring mixture of losses and new hopes. In my case, one especially sad loss was that of my grandfather, Ted Smith, a pioneer of nature conservation across the UK, and especially in his native Lincolnshire – and also a Liberal and Liberal Democrat since the 1930s (one of the last few times I saw him, I helped him fill out his ballot for last year’s leadership election). He was a kind, quiet man, relentless in his pursuit of good causes; but others now have to lift that flag, and as such I thought this might be a time to reflect on how we think about conservation as a party.

We know that the natural world is under threat, perhaps more so than ever given the threat of climate change, and we have been the party most committed to strong science-led efforts to tackle that threat. The green agenda, however, must not be simply reduced to a question of climate alone. We owe it to future generations to conserve and protect Britain’s biodiversity, green spaces and habitats.
Liberal Democrats have to take the lead on the politics of nature conservation. Firstly, we must because nobody else will do so effectively. The Tory agenda for rural areas is one for corporations and landowners, protecting vast mismanaged estates and failing to provide effective solutions to rural issues. Labour’s agenda for rural areas is all too frequently non-existent. We can do better, and we must.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

LibLink: Catherine Bearder: There will be no 12 days of Christmas if we lose the turtle dove

This year the turtle dove officially became an endangered species. Psssionate conservationist Catherine Bearder MEP, who’s been made the dove’s species champion by the RSPB, has written tot the Guardian about what we stand to lose:

Hunting is affecting turtle dove populations across their European breeding grounds. Every spring, hunters in Malta shoot and trap thousands of migratory birds as they fly over the island. Malta is now the only country in the EU that allows spring hunting of turtle doves. EU conservation laws ban the killing of endangered birds, but Malta still has a derogation to do so during the spring period. Several other countries also allow the hunting of turtle doves in the autumn.

Ever since he took office, I’ve been piling the pressure on the EU’s environment commissioner Karmenu Vella to demand that laws protecting turtle doves from illegal hunting are strengthened and properly enforced. These migratory birds belong to the whole of Europe. That is why we need strong EU laws to ensure they are protected at each stage of their journey. So I’m pleased that following this pressure the EU is taking Malta to court for breaking rules that protect birds.

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