Amongst all the doom and gloom stories that we are used to hearing in the world of the environmental theatre (selling off and messing about with a national forest network that works just fine for example) there are occasional nuggets of hope, which are understandably trumpeted to the press to get them into the national conciousness for all the right reasons. One of the stories masquerading as good news last week was the growing nonsense in Somerset regarding the re-introduction of Great Bustards in the UK. What was the good news? Well the project had been given £1.8m by the EU LIFE+ project, whatever that is. Hurrah say lots of people. Boo say not many, desperate to cling onto any snippet of good news the conservation lobby has been suckered into this nonsense. Unfortunately, this grant is not good news – it is bad news. That figure (one million and eight hundred thousand pounds) is a waste of money. Pray allow me, dear reader, to deconstruct this vast sum of taxpayers money for the edification of my argument.
The EU and various wildlife partners have bought into the notion that this is a good idea. Which it isn’t. Great Bustards last bred in the UK in 1832. Well before Charlie Darwin had the Origin of Species in print or Mr Benz stuck four wheels around the corners of an engine and shouted POWER!. Yes, that long ago. Not only is the world a different place, but the countryside in Britain is a vastly different proposition that is no longer suitable for a bird so big and restricted in it’s habitat requirements like the Great Bustard. This isn’t an apology for the wasting of our wildlife since the industrial revolution, it is simply a factual observation. If the Bustards are successfully introduced, there is only one viable area for them to live, and that is the area that they are being introduced to; Salisbury Plain. There has been a modicum of success around the reintroduction program, as the birds are protected from the outside world by the simple fact that the MOD owns Salisbury Plain and uses most of it for war games and what not. Why has there been success? Mainly due to the isolation of the site, which is effectively a zoo. That’s why they are successful, they have been introduced (at what cost to the population that they are being prized from I don’t know) to an area that is completely and utterly enclosed from the reality of the rest of the UK and will have little or no hope beyond these artificial boundaries. Again its sounds like a zoo to me, and self-fulfilling in it’s remit. Bizarre.
What is more bizarre is the money being thrown at it – £1.8m? Please! This project benefits nothing that I can see beyond the selfish and misguided dreams of a the few, while there are many, many projects out there that will promote and protect biodiversity to hugely more significant degree than this little vanity press. Ranting you might say I am, but would you like an example or two? Ok, here is a brief guide to how to spend £1.8m on wildlife projects in the UK that are actually beneficial.
£100,000 to complete the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s million pound appeal to buy masses of fenland to create a huge land corridor. Biodiversity on a massive scale.
£25,000 for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to enable them to save ALL of the Water Voles in Wiltshire. Note that this is a native, extant species that is in danger.
£970,000 for the RSPB (who incredibly support the Bustard nonsense) to by 38,000 square metres of Scottish Flow country. Hugely massive amounts of vulnerable habitat saved. [Guys, if you hadn’t gone in with the Bustards, you could have nailed this one. Straight away. ]
Three examples that I found with very little effort and all of them very worthy indeed. I’ve spent £1.1m out the £1.8m and have just enough for a new Leica scope, I’ve created the biggest reserve in Eastern England, saved all the Water Voles in Wiltshire and bought most of Scotland for the future.
Now do you see why the Bustard reintroduction is ill-concieved waste of money?