Are environment groups doing the government’s dirty work?

I was interested to read the article by Nicholas Milton in the Guardian here about how the wildlife organisations who are part of the umbrella group Wildlife and Countryside Link, are, by implication, doing the governments dirty work by looking for ‘efficiencies’ (aka cuts) in the environment budget.

I declare an interest here: I’m a Trustee of  Wildlife and Countryside Link, Pond Conservation is a Link member and, as part of the process Nicholas complains about, I’ve made suggestions about some things that could be done differently, and better.

Actually our ideas are one of 9 suggestions that the wildlife movement has put together to do things differently or better. I’ll reproduce the watery suggestion in full here which is under the heading of Focus on upstream solutions (warning – this stuff is often in impenetrable language!).

So our proposal is:

“Increase the focus of water management policies and agri-environment spend on upper catchments and smaller waters (headwater streams, ponds, ditches) to deliver freshwater ecosystem services, biodiversity and statutory gains. Inclusion of smaller waters offers the potential to re-establish clean, unpolluted water as a common feature across many landscapes.”

Translated, what this means is: make a lot of new high quality ponds – 80% of those still existing being degraded – and do something to protect little streams which are in a similarly parlous condition. And the resons for doing this? It’s an easy win compared to fixing huge rivers and big lakes, both little ponds and little streams are very important habitats (ponds support more species than rivers or lakes) and above all, its do-able.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say it, but it’s cheap too. For the cost of one desalination plant in London we could make 100,000 clean water, unpolluted, ponds – roughly what England has lost over the last 50 years.

Getting a lot of  high quality watery habitat back into the countryside would be a great thing, and a remarkable achievement – especially given that we’re not likely to see much change in the quality of bigger rivers or lakes in the near future. If a lot of new top notch ponds and more clean headwater streams are an outcome of the cuts, I’d be quite happy.

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