It must have been a whole three months since I was last updating you on our wildlife-friendly farming campaigning! It’s been a long haul, but we’re nearing the point at which the outcome for our countryside will become clear. You may have seen us elsewhere around the RSPB website asking you to Vote for Nature again. That's because around the UK, Governments are making key decisions on our farming for the next seven years.
The Government are now asking us all in England how the c£2 billion of public money available each year from the agricultural budget should be spent in our countryside until the end of the decade. Because farmland makes up the majority of our countryside, the RSPB believe that it’s right that everyone has their say.
Because our farmland is so important for wildlife, this is the government’s biggest opportunity to act to halt the shocking declines illustrated by the State of Nature report earlier this year, and our big chance to tell them to. By investing in the countryside and boosting support for farmers who give nature a home, our government could help wildlife thrive again. And it's not just wildlife that benefits - a healthy environment underpins our farming and is essential for sustainable food production into the future.
This is a public consultation - have your say too, and ask the government to re-build a countryside richer in nature today.
Once you've sent your email, don't forget to Vote for Nature too! - You'll be directed to our poll from the campaign thank you page.
Of course, those of you outside England will have noticed this consultation is rather country-specific. Watch this space for more on Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which will follow soon. And in the meantime, visit www.rspb.org.uk/VoteforNature to have your say in our poll.
Carly Jones, Assistant Advocacy Officer for RSPB Cymru, explains why we're concerned about the M4 relief road, and how you can help to speak out for the Gwent Levels. To read this blog in Welsh, visit our 'We Love Wales!' community pages.
The Welsh Government are asking the public for their views on draft plans to build a new motorway around Newport (see image below). The preferred route would cut through five nationally important site for wildlife (SSSIs) and destroy the beautiful Gwent Levels.
The Levels, which stretch from East Cardiff to Chepstow, are home to an astonishing array of special birds and other wildlife including lapwings, otters, water voles and one of the UKs rarest bumblebees, the shrill carder bee. The area also hosts a number of specialist plants including frogbit, arrowhead and wolffia – the smallest flowering plant in the world.
RSPB Cymru has serious concerns with the Welsh Government’s draft plan to build a new seven-mile stretch of motorway through the Gwent Levels. We believe it contradicts the Welsh Government’s commitment to sustainable development and puts the wildlife that live in the area under serious threat.
You can help - write to the Welsh Government:
We can only persuade decision-makers to re-think their plans to build a new motorway across the Gwent Levels with your support.
Please take just a few minutes to email the Welsh Government urging them to drop the proposal for a new motorway across the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) on the Gwent Levels. Below are a few points you might like to include in your email.
You can send your email to the consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org - copy in email@example.com to let the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport know this matters to you too. Make sure you write before December 16th 2013, when the consultation closes.
If you have time you could also send a copy of your email or letter to your local Assembly Members to show them you think this is important. You can find out who your constituency and regional representatives are here: www.assemblywales.org.
Importance of the site for wildlife and plants:
If you’ve visited Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve, you’ll be familiar with the Gwent Levels. The area is of national importance for wildlife. The Levels are Wales’ largest and most important coastal and floodplain grazing marsh and home to scarce plants and wildlife, and are special for their unique “reens”; special drainage ditches which provide a home to many invertebrates and small plants.
The Gwent Levels is an unique landscape.
A new road would cause major irreversible damage to the wildlife of the Gwent Levels. The path of the motorway would run directly through a number of protected areas that are nationally important for their wildlife (including 5 SSSIs).
Damage caused by a new road would not be limited to the direct loss of habitat where the road is being constructed. The new motorway would effectively cut the levels in half and create a lethal barrier for wildlife. The lack of water movement between the two sides and increased local pollution from higher traffic volumes would dramatically affect these fragile wetlands. Furthermore, building a new road through this beautiful area, could make the land between it and Newport vulnerable to further development.
The Gwent Levels is an important home to the rare and shy water vole (above right)
High public cost of the project:
The cost of the new motorway would be astronomical - over £1billion. What’s more, the new motorway wouldn’t be fully operational until 2031, whereas more sustainable and cheaper alternatives could be implemented in the next few years.
No need for a new motorway across the Gwent Levels:
The traffic modelling which has been carried out in relation to the new road has been based on out of date data and assumptions we believe are incorrect. The Welsh Government’s own traffic figures show that the M4 traffic volume (having fallen after 2007) has now stabilised, and there is no robust evidence to support a significant rise in the future.
Instead, the Government must look at sustainable alternatives. It must take account of the most recent traffic and population data available, and realise the full environmental value of the Levels to the wildlife and people of Wales.
You can help us to keep track of the progress of our campaign by sending a copy of your email and any response you receive to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to know more? Join us at RSPB Newport Wetlands Visitor Centre Sunday 3rd November between 11am – 2pm
To round off our party conference season we shall be heading up to Manchester (a city I’m very fond of) this weekend to the Conservative conference for our final RSPB ‘Question Time’ fringe event.
Do join us if you are town – we’ll be in the Whitworth Suite of The Palace Hotel on Oxford Road (M60 7HA for those who like a postcode) and would be delighted to welcome you. Doors open at 6pm for a 6.15pm start, with the debate running for an hour. Entry is free, and there will be light refreshments available too.
As Kim said in her opening blog, the publication of the inaugural State of Nature report in May means our focus is serious. The report, compiled by a collaboration of 25 conservation organisations, highlighted the dire state of most of our much-loved wildlife and wild places. With 60% of the species studied declining over the last few decades, and 1 in 10 under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether it has never been more important to have the environment at the heart of decision-making.
We welcome to our panel this week:
The Rt Hon Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment
Guy Newey, Head of Environment and Energy, Policy Exchange (@guynewey)
our own Mike Clarke, Chief Executive, RSPB (@mike__clarke)
and in the Chair we have Charles Clover, columnist for The Sunday Times, author of ‘The End of the Line’ and Chairman of the Blue Marine Foundation (@CRHClover).
If you can’t make it to us in person, you can still follow events as they happen on Twitter – I’ll be taking up Kim’s action station and tweeting live from the room. You can follow me @StephLandymore and the full debate using #rspbqt.
Looking forward to seeing you there!