Don't cut the life from our countryside - the sequel

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Martin Harper's blog

I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t

Don't cut the life from our countryside - the sequel

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Last summer, the RSPB fought to save farmland wildlife from public spending cuts.  We wrote briefings, lobbied ministers, our members bombarded the Cabinet with 90,000 emails and farmers put placards up their fields urging the UK Government not to cut the life from the countryside.  We were ultimately relieved that Caroline Spelman managed to secure some growth in the higher level stewardship scheme. 

But now, rumours are circulating in Brussels that a greater th reat has emerged.  The threat has surfaced in the run-up to the latest EU budget, which is due to unveiled on June 29.

President Barroso has to oversee a tough budget round, but leaks suggest a leaning towards cutting the CAP budget, by toppling the so-called Pillar 2, which provides funding for measures to improve Europe’s countryside, including: wildlife conservation.

This would be a disaster for wildlife and for many farmers (particularly in the uplands) whose businesses are increasingly dependent on these schemes. 

Many species are entirely dependent on agri-environment schemes which reward farmers for protecting threatened wildlife.  If the schemes are lost, in the UK, it is not farfetched to say that some threatened species, including the turtle dove and cirl bunting might lost from our countryside.  Across Europe, from Portugal to Cyprus and from Ireland to Finland, a wide range of wildlife will be affected, including the great bustard, which is already facing the threat of global extinction.

The irony is that last year the European Union, under President Barroso’s leadership, pledged to halt the decline in wildlife and begin its restoration by 2020. The UK has reinforced its commitment to the Natural Environment White Paper.  And today the EU Environment Council is meeting in Brussels to agree a Biodiversity Strategy for the EU.  Without a bolstered agri-envionment package, there is not a cat in hell's chance of countryside wildlife recovering.

If Barroso approves a budget without a CAP with nature at its heart, the President risks erasing wildlife from the map of Europe, breaking promises and undermining decades of conservation effort, which has spared the greatest wildlife losses. Cuts to agri-environment funding would be totally unacceptable.

We are not going to take this lying down.  We have to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.   What else can we do?  We'll work closely with our BirdLife International partners to lobby the President and the European Commission to remove these potentially devastating cuts from the budget.

But you can help as well.  Please join our campaign.  We need to demonstrate the public support for sustained investment in wildlife-friendly farming. 

  • Just read and commented on Marks blog,do not know if he will publish but think it shows why farmer relations with RSPB are terrible overall even those of us RSPB friendly farmers will be shocked at such a farmer bashing blog but of course he can say what he likes,it would be nice if he got it all in perspective and did not exagerate.What makes it worse is he really knows the truth but perhaps in his new life he has to keep articles flowing.He always said he was farmer friendly well the old saying is with friends like him we certainly do not need enemies.Think actually his constant carping about his taxes going to farmers has had some effecton the E U considering these cuts at end June.My biggest concern is that his attitude may influence yourself and as much as Mark did with some things for RSPB a great relationship with farmers was not one of them,no wonder,perhaps he is now showing his true colours.

  • Yes seems to have accepted O H,lets hope it all has some effect.

  • Well done Martin,have joined your campaign,wonder if it will let O H do so as well,sometimes comes up with already joined or such like suppose it is the same email address.