It might feel that we are surrounded by wildlife, but the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Over the past 70 years 56% of the UK’s species have declined with 1 in 10 species now threatened by extinction. In Gloucestershire, we have lost 70% of our traditional orchards and only tiny fragments of wildflower meadows remain. Conserving the remaining wildlife is not enough. We must restore what has been lost.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has a vision for a Wilder Gloucestershire, where each year there is more wildlife, more wild places and more people becoming closer to nature. We can only achieve our vision by working in collaboration with all those who can make a difference.
GWT looks after nearly 60 nature reserves, including some of the county’s most important wildlife habitats. However, most nature reserves in the UK are too small to ensure the long-term survival of the species they were intended to protect. New nature reserves become available haphazardly and land ownership is seldom defined by ecological boundaries.
If we are serious about restoring wildlife and creating a Wilder Gloucestershire (and we are) then GWT must work with a wide range of other landowners, including developers, farmers, gamekeepers, estates and Local Authorities. Inevitably this will sometimes mean working with people or organisations who we might not always agree with and who might have different values to us. This can be difficult for us and them, but it is right thing to do if we want a Wilder Gloucestershire.
With 71% of the land in Gloucestershire being farmed it will be impossible to deliver nature’s recovery without working with farmers and estates. I know that some GWT supporters have strong views on certain farming practices. GWT doesn’t necessarily condone these practices and has, for example, been a long-term opponent to the badger cull. But unless GWT works with more farmers to enhance, restore, create and connect wildlife habitat on their land, we will fail to restore nature which will ultimately be to the detriment of all wildlife. It is important to remember that most farmers are passionate about wildlife.
Of course, GWT would love to operate in a world where we have no differences with our partners. But too few people take action for wildlife, so if you have an ambition to see nature’s recovery it means working with a wide range of people who hold different views.
GWT tries to base its decisions and actions on what is ultimately best for wildlife. This is rarely clear-cut. However, working with other landowners is essential and this sometimes mean accepting our differences. At times we may disagree, and this can lead to difficult discussions and decisions. We believe that the best way to get people to love wildlife is to work with them, rather than ignore them.
Wildlife conservation is tricky, and conservation organisations sometimes make decisions that seem difficult to understand. At GWT we always have what is best for wildlife at the heart of our thoughts.