For months we’ve known that the target to halt the loss of the world’s biodiversity by 2010 wouldn’t be met. This was confirmed last week in a paper in the journal Science – so now it’s official and the losses will continue unless we start to tackle the problem in a different way. This is International Year of Biodiversity – it’s lasting legacy should not be a simple recognition that the world has failed. We have a clear view of how 2010 can be remembered as the year nature finally started to be taken seriously.
In acknowledging the missed target it’s crucial to highlight what does work and to make the most of vital successes. In Europe the world-leading nature legislation put in place over the last three decades has made a real and measurable difference. The Birds Directive has helped to stem the losses of the rare and threatened. In England, Natural England working with landowners large and small (including the RSPB) have put our network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the road to recovery meeting challenging targets to get the majority into (or approaching) favourable condition.
The RSPB has been central to several real conservation success stories; bitterns, corncrakes, red kites, cirl buntings, stone curlews are just some examples – all species that are recovering because of the contribution of many individuals and organisations working alongside ourselves.
But it’s not enough.
Today we’ve launched a new programme we’re calling Futurescapes. It’s a radical approach to nature conservation founded on our knowledge of what works now and what we need to do to tackle the relentless pressures on the natural world. If we are to make a real difference it’s time to reach out beyond nature reserves and protected areas and embrace a truly landscape scale approach to restoring the fortunes of wild nature.
The good news is that we are not alone! There is a quiet revolution in thinking about how we approach nature conservation and Futurescapes is our contribution.
We’ve started by highlighting the Thames estuary where the RSPB: • Owns or manages 40 sq km of land for wildlife on the Thames.• Has spent more than £50 million regenerating land and opening up large areas for people to enjoy (the picture featues the opening of our Rainham Marshes adventure playground)• Worked with Dubai Ports to make sure the new London Gateway Port results in new habitat and a net gain for wildlife.• Forged a partnership with the Port of London Authority to produce a Conservation Management Framework that will guide the PLA in their day-to-day operations.• Joined with waste disposal firm Veolia to regenerate large areas of landfill, transforming them into wetlands and public space. • Reached agreement with local councils to take on and manage large areas of land for wildlife and people.
We will focus on areas where we have a track record of achievement and a real opportunity to make a difference. What our work on the Thames has shown so clearly is that we can’t achieve enough on our own – Futurescapes, or indeed any landscape-scale programme, is only as good as the partnerships and human relationships that sustain it.
The Thames is a great story – but one place doesn’t make a programme! We will be working in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as throughout England – you can find out more about the programme here.
The election's passed and we'll have new faces in the Commons . Maybe we'll have other new