Dartford warbler with cricket, Arne RSPB reserve

Chairman: a year of progress

As his time as RSPB Chairman comes to an end, Steve Ormerod reflects on a successful year for conservation.

Professor Steve Ormerod

Giving nature a home is what we do

Although my time as RSPB Chairman has coincided with a period of political uncertainty, the RSPB has grown with the challenge and, buoyed by your support, is striving more than ever to save nature.

The natural world faces unprecedented threats, and yet, with your backing, and with the collaboration of like-minded organisations, the RSPB continues to win many important victories.

Our nature reserves go from strength to strength and this year we can celebrate the addition of St Aidan's Nature Park near Leeds, which is home to bitterns and bearded tits.

This follows decades of work to restore and safeguard this special place. Elsewhere across the UK, we've been adding to our nature reserve network and celebrating its role in boosting the fortunes of wildlife: 2016 broke records for a number of species on our reserves, including nightjars and Irish lady's-tresses orchids, and Dartford warblers bred for the first time on two of our reserves in southern England.

At a time when some international ties look fragile, the RSPB seeks to work across borders, to make new connections, and to reinforce long-existing ones. Nature doesn’t recognise political or geographical boundaries, and nor must saving nature.

As the UK partner of BirdLife International we have clear strategic goals for our work overseas. After three years of intensive effort, our ambitious project to collate data on all the known species across the UK's Overseas Territories is complete.

Combing through 300 years-worth of data has revealed more than 32,000 native species, over 1,500 of which occur nowhere else. This figure is an important baseline for future surveys, and for identifying conservation priorities over the coming years.

There was good news for two of our existing priority species in 2016 when, thanks to our work with partners, the St Helena plover and Montserrat oriole, were pulled from the brink of extinction.

The Albatross Task Force also had cause to celebrate as it marked 10 years of reducing the accidental catching and killing of albatrosses and petrels by fisheries in the Southern Ocean.

The State of Nature was back on the agenda during the year, with the indomitable Sir David Attenborough joining the partnership to launch this 2016 report, updating the original 2013 study. While there is clear evidence that targeted conservation action works, the conclusion is clear – more needs to be done. 

Farming is at a crossroads as we face an uncertain, post-Brexit future. So many farmers are making a real difference for wildlife – the recovery of cirl buntings being a great example. 

That's why we're making the case for putting nature at the heart of future UK farm policies, to create a farmed landscape that supports healthy wildlife populations by 2030.

Saving nature is a huge and complicated task. There is so much to be done, and we can't do it on our own. To save nature, we must increase our support from individuals, businesses, organisations and governments. We will continue work to inspire millions of people to step up and become the force for positive change that nature needs.

Whether it is standing behind our successful Defend Nature campaign, volunteering, taking part in our activities or helping us in other ways, members and supporters like you are the heart of everything we do. I have been blown away by your enthusiasm, commitment and generosity throughout my term as Chairman – thank you.

Professor Steve Ormerod, Chairman of the RSPB council