Controversial conservation (I)

Maybe I’ve only recently started paying attention, but it seems like British conservation has a lot on its plate at the minute. The conflict between ‘them’ and ‘us’ feels like it’s intensifying, with issues such as rewilding, driven grouse shooting, predator control and farming all boiling over in recent weeks / months / years.

There are strong opinions on both sides, and strong opinions are probably bad when it comes to conservation conflicts, for which there’s not necessarily a correct answer. I think an injection of nuance and pragmatism is needed before we alienate the people in whose hands (or on whose land) the fate of our wildlife sits.

This isn’t a uniquely British problem, but maybe the fact that we live on a fairly densely populated island with hugely inequitable land ownership doesn’t help. It’s not a uniquely contemporary problem either, though I wonder how much it’s been exacerbated by keyboard warriors and 140-character bickering (maybe if I got out a bit more I’d find that things aren’t as bad as they seem on Twitter?).

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A proper English Partridge

Anyway, I wanted to get my thoughts together on some of these ‘controversial’ issues. Not to persuade anyone, but to figure out – for a start – what my thoughts even are*.

There are a bunch of issues, which I’ll probably tackle in separate posts:

  • Non-native species
  • Lethal control
  • Rewilding
  • Farming
  • Habitat

The underlying theme (I think) is that the British landscape has been hugely transformed – we’ve lost, gained and changed species and habitats, and altered the chemistry, climate and hydrology too – so any non-interventionist reliance on natural processes might result in ‘undesirable’ outcomes. There are obvious issues to do with baselines and targets – what might a ‘desirable’ outcome look like – which I’ll touch on too.

Stay tuned?


*I could do this in my head, but I find it much easier to think as I write. I could keep it private, but then there’d be no incentive to make my arguments vaguely robust, and no opportunity for discussion (maybe if I got out a bit more..). I’ll probably raise more questions than I’ll answer.

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