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Wildlife Trust calls for help to defend nature - and raises funds for Great Fen

Caroline Fitton, of the Wildlife Trust BCN, writes for the Cambridge Independent.

Anger remains high over plans to change nature and climate laws - nature as well as the economy has taken a battering in recent weeks, with the UK government announcing the proposed removal of laws that protect nature, help to provide clean water and reduce pollution (through the Retained EU Law).

The proposed introduction of a new Planning and Infrastructure Bill, as well as Investment Zones as part of the growth plan, will weaken protections for wildlife, and along with the scrapping of plans to reward farmers for managing land in a nature and climate-friendly way all go against promises in the Conservative Party 2019 manifesto.

Great Fen. Picture: Wildlife Trust BCN
Great Fen. Picture: Wildlife Trust BCN

Brian Eversham, CEO of the Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, says: “This remains a very worrying time for anyone who cares about nature and our countryside. Weakening planning rules, treating wildlife and a clean safe environment as a 'burden', threatening habitat protections and raising questions over the future of one of the most important changes to the way farmers are paid to protect nature, soil and the climate – these would be signs of a government throwing away its plans to protect the environment.

"So-called 'Investment Zones' and 'Freeports', covering over half of England, would remove local accountability for development planning and give more power to big business. In our region we are already hearing that our members and supporters are angry and are writing to their MPs to make their views known - and we back them 100 per cent. We all need a healthy, thriving environment and nature cannot defend itself so we must stand up and speak loudly and clearly on this issue.”

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Nature is under attack from a raft of dangerous decisions by government and we know people are furious at the new threats. Vital legal protections for wildlife are at risk, fossil fuel extraction is being favoured over renewables, and the government is going back on plans to reward farmers for managing land in a nature-friendly way.

The Wildlife Trust is calling on people to defence nature
The Wildlife Trust is calling on people to defence nature

“The government’s Food Security Report 2021 identified climate change and biodiversity loss as the biggest threats to food production in future – so farming in harmony with nature must be encouraged – yet the government wants deregulation that’ll lead to yet more poo in rivers, less wildlife and land that’s unable to adapt to climate change.

“We are calling on the public to contact their elected representatives and share just how concerned they are. These actions will affect us all – the communities where we live, our wild places, food security, and our futures.

“The climate and nature crises pose monumental challenges, and recent proposals by this government will only make things worse.”

The Wildlife Trust, along with many other conservation organisations, are keen to maintain the pressure on government: send a postcard to your MP asking them to help #DefendNature - visit wildlifetrusts.org/defend-nature-postcard-campaign and www.wildlifebcn.org/take-action/defend-nature.

Landmark moments at the Great Fen

A bitter. Picture: Wildlife Trust
A bitter. Picture: Wildlife Trust

There have been various recent landmarks in the conservation timeline at the Great Fen.

This month marked World Bird Migration Day and the tiny stonechat has benefited from the best ever breeding year, with several pairs of birds rearing many young, at multiple locations. It’s been such a good year for this species that this success won’t be just confined to the Fen - a significant step forward in the colonisation of the new land being managed for wildlife.

Cattle egret have been recorded - an increasingly common sight in Cambridgeshire, these small, white egrets with yellow bill hang around cattle - as opposed to the little egret which have a black bill and tend to fish in ditches. It’s not the only member of the heron family, seen stalking around the restored land: there have been sightings of bitterns outside Woodwalton Fen - a male was heard booming in the north of the Great Fen.

All the invaluable data is gathered by a team of Great Fen monitors who are out weekly, and who helped this year with the first, full scale glow-worm survey at the Great Fen, recording hundreds of these stunning beetles.

As Henry Stanier, Great Fen monitoring officer, says: “While we knew that they were on site, the ‘where’ and the ‘how many’ was poorly understood; now we know a lot more, thanks to the volunteers in particular. Next year we will be sharing some of these memorable wildlife encounters, and will be running glow-worm walks next summer.”

A glow-worm. Picture: Alistair Grant
A glow-worm. Picture: Alistair Grant

It's clear that restoring more of the Fens provides the right conditions for nature to reclaim one of our greatest, lost wildernesses.

The work at the Great Fen demonstrates that great opportunities can be turned into reality for wildlife to thrive via restoration work. And now is the time to seize an opportunity to link the pivotal northern and southern parts of the Great Fen, with the purchase of 120 hectares of land at Speechly's Farm; a landmark in the wildlife conservation in this country.

All donations to the £400,000 Landmark Appeal will help by protecting the peat, supporting native wildlife, and helping our shared environment.

Read more about the fundraising appeal at wildlifebcn.org/landmarkappeal.

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