Chairman: Making a difference

Kevin Cox reflects on the RSPB's ability to tackle the threats nature faces in a challenging world.

Kevin Cox

We persevere to achieve our goals.

Since being appointed as Chair of the RSPB’s Council at last year’s AGM, I’ve had a unique and privileged opportunity to see examples of our work throughout the UK. One of the characteristics of so much of this work is that it is long-term. Nature's recovery takes time, but we persevere until we achieve our goals.

We are pressing ahead with a range of transformational work, all supported by our world-leading science. This includes peatland restoration across hills and moors throughout the UK; projects to save migrant birds such as turtle doves and swifts; and work to protect marine resources around the UK's Overseas Territories.

These are just a few of our key projects, all undertaken with the assurance that we are working on the highest priorities for nature conservation. Over the past year we have reviewed all our key priority programmes to ensure that the financial support you, our members and supporters, give us is working harder than ever.

As we focus on the areas where we intend to make a real difference, we’ve continued to forge new and exciting partnerships with other conservation and environmental organisations, businesses, industry and funders.

The Back from the Brink project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, led by Natural England and involving the RSPB and seven other organisations, is already tackling projects to restore species across England and engage people in the work to create a vibrant and long-term legacy. We’ve also joined forces with Greener UK to campaign for the best deal for nature as the UK exits the European Union. Whether we are calling for an ambitious 25-year Environment Plan for England, the need for an effective environment watchdog or the best outcome for wildlife-friendly farming, we are stronger together.

We also recognise the vital importance of inspiring future generations. Our partnership with Aldi has already given over 330,000 children the opportunity to connect with nature. Because of their support we have been able to scale-up the level of our ambition and work with 1,500 schools across 17 cities.

I am also delighted that this year we have acquired our first nature reserve in the New Forest National Park. RSPB Franchises Lodge is 1,000 acres of woodland, wood pasture and heathland, and home to a rich diversity of wildlife. The purchase was made possible partly through a gift in respect of a settlement between the previous owners and HMRC, the first time the RSPB has been a beneficiary of such a gift. We are also grateful for the financial support we've received from a generous legacy, the New Forest National Park Authority and the Friends of the New Forest.

The external environment is challenging: both in terms of the uncertain future posed by the decision to exit the European Union and the continuing squeeze on the economy that inevitably reflects on the fundraising environment faced by all charities, not just the RSPB. It is a sign of real strength that the RSPB's amazing staff and volunteers continued to deliver fantastic results whilst, at the same time, ensuring we can make targeted savings to maintain our financial reserves.

I wish to pay tribute to those staff and volunteers and to thank you, our members and supporters, who give us the confidence and financial support to continue our work. You responded wonderfully to the "Say Yes" campaign, driven by the GDPR legislation now in place, which puts us all in charge of our digital identity – 91% of those responding said Yes to hearing from us. Thank you.