Take The Carrot Or, Risk The Stick?

Mike Clarke from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaking about the recent CAP reforms said: “The deal falls short of what nature needs. The Government has made its job of meeting its own environmental commitments harder. The RSPB did say though that the Government had planted the seeds for recovery of some threatened species.” (The coalition Government decided to reject the Secretary of State for the Environment’s recommendation of a full 15% rate of payment for the CAP (and go for 12% instead) after lobbying by the NFU and rural Conservative MP’s).

One could repeat a number of such quotes from wildlife organisations, all written in a similar vein with no anger, no passion. But these organisations are caught in a cleft-stick situation; should they be grateful for half measures? Should they shout from the rooftops, about the huge losses that wildlife (and the environment) has suffered over the past half century or so?  If they speak up and publicly challenge the coalition’s policies, do they risk the financial wroth of DEFRA and its now castrated puppet, Natural England? (I must qualify this last sentence in that I have found over the years that NE’s staff at the coalface, to be more than helpful and enthusiastic under the current hostile conditions that they now find themselves).

Professionals in the conservation movement and that significant proportion of the public that are sympathetic or aspire to a richer more attractive countryside, have got to find renewed zeal, passion and new ways of influencing this “greenest Government ever,” to change its hostile stance towards most things green. Longer term (excuse the pun), we need to raise the profile of wildlife and the environment within this countries’ education system, so that following generations are much better informed on such issues.

One way in which the Government could redirect their (our) limited monies would be to analyse the benefits currently being delivered under the Entry Level Scheme (ELS) part of their agri-environment scheme and transfer it to the Higher Level Scheme (HLS).  ELS seems to me, like money for old rope – something of an easy cop-out for farmers. HLS on the other hand, does seem to generally deliver real benefits to our beleaguered countryside and the plants and animals that make it up, thus encouraging sympathetic landowners and managers.


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