Way out west

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Way out west

South west England is rich in wildlife - from the high moors to the coast and out to sea, it's one of the most wonderful regions in the UK. This blog celebrates all that's wild about the region. Here we will share insights into our work to protect
  • RSPB News: “Biggest disaster for wildlife in the West Country in our lifetime”

    The following press release was issued today by RSPB in the South West today ...

    “Biggest disaster for wildlife in the West Country in our lifetime”: This chilling statement is how the RSPB is describing the potential weakening of laws that have protected the region’s  wildlife since the late 1970s. The RSPB is today appealing to people across the West Country to help to defend these laws. This is part of a European wide campaign launched this week, co-ordinated by Birdlife Europe.

    European leaders are considering weakening the laws that protect our most vulnerable wildlife and the homes (habitats) they depend on.  If these laws - called the Nature Directives – were weakened the RSPB says this would mean that that many of our most important areas for wildlife would be vulnerable to development and threatened species could be in even more trouble.  

    The places at risk would include our magical estuaries that provide much needed ‘feeding stations’ for migratory birds on their epic journeys across the globe, our heathlands, our wetlands, our uplands and our majestic Atlantic oakwoods - all home to much rare and threatened wildlife.

    The RSPB says that this could affect many natural places where people go on holiday, or picnic with family or go for a weekend walk with friends. Unpicking these laws would be catastrophic for all the wildlife that depends on these places.

    Tony Whitehead speaking for the RSPB in the West Country says; “The Nature Directives are the bedrock of nature conservation in the West Country; providing the highest level of protection that any habitats or species currently have – and they work.

    “Our region benefits hugely from the protection the directives provide, with significant places such as the Dorset Heaths, Poole Harbour, Salisbury Plain, Severn Estuary, Levels and Moors, South West Uplands, East Dartmoor Woodlands, Exe Estuary, Cornwall Coast, Isles of Scilly and the Jurassic Coast all designated under the directives as Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. Numerous scientific studies have shown the role they play in driving conservation success.

     “Despite this, the current political climate is hostile to any regulation in the European Union and there is a general desire to see it stripped away, regardless of the consequences. 

    “Sadly, this includes the Nature Directives. Whilst the Directives may not be perfect, we believe it is critical that they are not opened up for revision. If they are, many European leaders will take the opportunity to weaken them.  If this were to happen, it would probably be the biggest disaster for wildlife in our lifetime.

     “Without a massive demonstration of public support for the Directives, it will be very hard to prevent them being weakened. The RSPB and our partners across Europe are aiming for the biggest ever response to an EU consultation - one that will leave European leaders in no doubt that the general public really cares about nature and won’t tolerate a weakening of its protection.”

    Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says; “If you enjoy the dawn chorus, full of blackbirds and robins, or the once in a lifetime glimpse of otters or bottlenose dolphins, or birds of prey circling overhead as you cycle through the countryside it’s important to remember that if it weren’t for the Nature Directives, you might not be enjoying these wonderful sights and sounds.

    “At the moment, the laws to make sure these wonderful places are protected and remain special for wildlife work.

    “But if they get weakened these safeguards would be lost with potentially catastrophic consequences for our already threatened wildlife.  Your time spent in the great outdoors could look, feel and sound very different.”

    The RSPB is asking everyone to help intervene and convince European leaders to leave these laws as they are, and instead to focus on giving nature a home across the UK and Europe by putting them into practice. Please visit www.rspb.org.uk/defendnature for more information.  

    Follow all the latest RSPB South West news on Twitter via @RSPBSouthWest

  • RSPB welcomes new Royal Bath and West Society fundraising plan for the Somerset Levels and Moors

    The RSPB has today welcomed the Royal Bath and West Society’s announcements on the newly named Somerset Levels Development Fund (SLDF), formerly known as the Somerset Levels Relief Fund (SLRF). 

    The Royal Bath and West Society has been working closely with a variety of partners, including RSPB, on developing the Government initiated Somerset Flood Action Plan (FAP). In particular, in liaison with Somerset County Council, it has been looking at areas of work it can deliver, outside the scope of statutory funds. 

    Alongside looking at catchment wide management to reduce the impacts of floods on landowners, including maintaining rivers through a programme of de-silting, the newly named fund will also be seeking money to develop a number of innovative programmes to broaden the economic base of the Somerset Levels and Moors using the environment as a “unique selling point”.

    Mark Robins, speaking for the RSPB in the South West said; “There’s a lot to be really positive about here, and it’s great to be working in partnership with the Royal Bath and West Society to help address some of the problems so tragically brought into sharp relief last winter.

    “The RSPB has always firmly believed that nature is part of the solution for this special place and we warmly welcome the proposals outlined by the Royal Bath and West Society today”

    The proposals welcomed by the RSPB include:

    • Undertaking a pilot investigation to identify the merits of an “Ecological Enterprise Zone” on the Levels, where businesses are encouraged and supported to collaborate in making more use of the economic value of the outstanding environmental quality of the Levels and Moors.

    • A scheme that encourages businesses to businesses to collectively develop the opportunities to make the most of the high economic value of the Levels by joint marketing, establishing new visitor facilities and services such as wildlife safaris.

    • Setting up a pilot Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme on one key Moor.  Currently land managers are only rewarded for some of these services by conventional markets and this can result in the over-prioritisation of one service to the detriment of others. The pilot study will investigate the range of ecosystem services provided by one Moor, examine how this might change under different land and water management, and investigate new and innovative funding mechanisms that can incentivise change and provide land managers with new income streams.

    • Conducting research into the creation of a Community Land Trust. This could provide a mechanism for the community to purchase, own and manage land on some of the wettest parts of the Somerset Levels and Moors where the most significant changes in land management are required. Such a Trust could facilitate a collaborative approach to the management of the floodplain enabling farmers to work together with their local communities.

    • Developing the current work of converting wetland biomass from nature reserves into energy by expanding the programme to farming businesses on the Levels.

    Mr Robins added; “This is just the sort of innovative thinking we need; thinking that clearly sees nature as adding value to the Somerset Levels and Moors. We’ve long thought that businesses were sitting on a goldmine in this special part of the world, and hopefully this initiative will enable people to make the most of, and trade on, the quality of the local environment and it’s wildlife riches. The RSPB is delighted to be part of this.”

  • RSPB view on Navitus Bay Wind Park in Dorset

    On the basis of the ornithological information submitted to date it is likely that the offshore elements of the Navitus Bay Wind Park will have no significant adverse impacts on bird populations. However, the RSPB requires more work to be done on gannet populations and migrant species before it is completely satisfied with this development. The RSPB also has some concerns about the onshore works associated with cabling, and with other species including Atlantic salmon and long-snouted sea-horse.

    The RSPB have engaged with the Navitus Bay project since 2010. We have attended meetings, presentations and responded to public consultations. 

    In May 2014 Navitus Bay Development Limited (NBDL)  submitted their project for consent, together with supporting information including an Environmental Statement (ES), which details the implications of building, operating, maintaining and ultimately decommissioning the wind farm on all important environmental features including wildlife. 

    It is highly unlikely that Navitus Bay if constructed would not harm some birds, much in the same way every year many birds die in collision with windows, pylons and many other man-made objects. However, birds dying in collision with objects, whilst regrettable, does not necessarily lead to negative effects on bird populations. So, the key question for us is whether this development will cause such additional and regular mortality that it will lead to long term declines.

    We have now completed our analysis of the ES, and submitted a response to the Planning Inspectorate (a version of which you can download on this page). 

    On the basis of the ornithological information submitted to date it is likely that the offshore elements of the wind park will have no significant adverse impacts on bird populations. However, the RSPB requires more work to be done on gannet populations and migrant species before it is completely satisfied with this development.

    However, we do have concerns about the onshore effects of constructing the cable route. These include potential habitat loss, due to the cable being routed in part across Dorset’s world famous heathlands and potential recreational disturbance caused by people being displaced (as a result of cabling works) into other protected heathland areas.  In both cases we will be seeking solutions with NBDL.

    In terms of other wildlife, the RSPB does have some concerns over the effect of the development on Atlantic salmon, but we defer to Environment Agency’s expertise on this matter. We also have some concerns over the effect of the Project on long snouted seahorses and black bream but will defer to Natural England and The Seahorse Trust’s expertise on this matter.

    It is important to bear in mind that our position is based on our interpretation of the ES, which in turn is based on our experience of dealing with similar planning cases. But ultimately a judgment must be made on the significance of potential impacts. Others may judge the matter differently – and we respect that. Ultimately, it is the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State that will weigh the evidence and make a decision on the construction of this Wind Park.

    Our full representation to the Planning Inspectorate is attached below.