"Sowing Seeds" Campaigns

'Sowing Seeds!' A campaign to correct policies that undermine conservation

  1. To legally protect our rarest species like the Pearl Bordered Fritillary via a urgent call to review the protected status of all species; which is long overdue.

  2. A Call for Responsible Tree Planting : The Why’s, What's and Where’s?

'Sowing Seeds!' is a germinating idea on how all the various interest groups, individuals and our public reprentatives can work together to bring this about. We have started with open letters to all those of influence see below:

1: The Case to protect our endangered species

Yorkshire branch of Butterfly Conservation would like to bring to your attention how very little protection many of our flora and fauna species actually have. Only 5* species of butterfly in the UK are currently given full legal protection under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The last proper review of this act was more than 20 years ago when it should occur every five years.

*Protected species: Heath Fritillary (1992), High Brown Fritillary (1992), Large Blue (2007), Large Copper (1992), Marsh Fritillary (1998) and Swallowtail (1992) are full protected under this act.

Full protection is as follows from Section 9 of the act:

1. Intentional killing, injuring, taking. 2. Possession or control (live or dead animal, part or derivative). 4(a). Damage to or destruction of any structure or place used by a scheduled animal for shelter or protection. 4(b). Disturbance of any animal occupying such a structure or place. 4(c) Obstructed access to any such structure or place. 5(a). Selling, offering for sale, possessing or transporting for the purpose of sale (live or dead animal, part or derivative). 5(b.) Advertising for buying or selling live or dead animal, part or derivative.

In the Yorkshire we have an example of how greater protection for our butterflies would help. The Pearl Bordered Fritillary Butterfly is down to only 2 sites and at one of these the owner intends to have a national motocross rally across the site in the coming months but we are powerless (this was put on-hold due to the COVID pandemic but is likely to be looked at again in the future).

As we know Butterflies and moths are in rapid decline in the UK and require urgent conservation action. Between 1976 and 2014, 76% of the UK’s 59 resident and regular migrant butterfly species declined in distribution and/or abundance, compared to 47% of species which increased in one or both measures. (The State of UK Butterflies 2015) A good number of species have become regionally extinct.

Butterflies are our most iconic and recognizable insects in the UK (and around the World). Conservation bodies mostly through thousands of hours of volunteer effort have been successful in slowing the decline of some of the most endangered species in their last remaining pockets but without legal protection they remain extremely vulnerable when on privately owned sites. They can be destroyed on a whim as can their habitats. If land management is going to be revolutionised by this new government with the priority of protecting the environment as they promise in the Agriculture Bill, then they need to stop the accidental and mindless destruction first. Land ownership should bring responsibility, not a licence to wreck the environment for future generations.

Successful species protection often relies entirely on maintaining a relationship with the current owners, when nature is actually owned by all of us. If we are going to be serious about nature’s recovery these ‘Noah’s Arcs’ will be fundamental, conservation is pointless without them. In this nation that created nature conservation and still lead in so many ways; we live in the one of the most nature depleted places on the planet, see European Environment Agency Report 2020. We know what needs to be done, we have the resources of a nation of passionate volunteers to make it happen but still we fail.

The first building block in this re-construction must be to protect these ‘Noah’s Arc’s’ wherever they exist. Then we need to heed David Attenborough’s clarion call to legally protect a Nature Recovery Network within the new Environment Act. The 25-year plan brings responsibility to us all to deliver a natural world at least as abundant and diverse as today.

It’s not a matter of finance or endeavour It is not lack of commitment or manpower It’s not a matter of scientific evidence or proof It’s about leadership from our legislature.....

Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation October 2020

2. A Call for Responsible Tree Planting : The Why's, What's and Where's ?

The desire to plant more trees in the UK should be applauded but it needs to be done in a manner which does not cost us any of our scarcer species of butterflies and moths, or other flora and fauna for that matter.

There is very strong public support to plant more trees to solve the climate crisis plus their additional benefits for wildlife, flood management and health and leisure. After an election containing a bidding war on how many trees, they would plant our government has an ambition to plant 30,000 ha per annum. While just 13Kha being planted last year mostly in Scotland and Cumbria would still be far less than in the 60-70’s.

The woodland minister Zac Goldsmith wants to encourage much more uptake of the current grant system of Countryside Stewardship, the Woodland Creation Planning Grant and the Woodland Carbon Fund. How will this be done and where? Sir William Worsley recently appointed chair of the Forestry Commission has been challenged in consulting how this can be achieved.

Little thought has been given to where they would be planted and whether it actually helps sequester carbon long term or the value of what that land contained and whether there will be any net increase in diversity or the range of species that would be lost which is Butterfly Conservation's particular concern. Many of our scarcer butterflies survive in small less than 2 ha sites that act as ‘feeders’ maintaining the species on a much bigger landscape hundreds of times larger. Sites less than 2 ha don’t need an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for grant planning approval. We consider they should be mandatory for every grant application. Butterfly Conservation should be involved in assessing these across the country.

Very real examples of the importance of this additional awareness was highlighted in the recent talk by David Hill on Northern Brown Argus in the Scottish Borders (Butterfly Conservation Scottish Online Gathering October 2020) This has resulted in a loss of species rich grassland, or as grazing is removed, reforestation begins. We have observed similar issues on Duke of Burgundy sites in the North York Moors.

Some advocate a ‘natural generation’ through ‘rewilding’ principles maximizing the value of those trees in terms of carbon and biodiversity. In addition, if we grow these trees, we do need to consider what happens to these trees. Presently 75% are burnt or pulped within 5 years with little long-term carbon store in construction. British planners remain wedded to bricks and mortar. In addition, science doubts whether the claims about tree carbon storage are actually net long-term benefits. Many argue we should start with our mires and bogs which can store carbon as peat at even faster rates and for thousands of years but first we need to stop burning and digging it up.

Others argue modern agricultural practice of soil management is where to start. Modern farming is unsustainable for so many reasons but certainly one reason is the 50% reduction in soil carbon in recent years. Michael Gove is well known for his clarion call to farmers ‘You only have 30 years left!’. A recent study of city soils showed they are now much richer than their country cousins and intensive farming contributes as much as aviation at nearly 25% of our national carbon footprint. It is of considerable concern as land management enters a new era under so many initiatives and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) replacement Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) and flood mitigation and water quality projects. A core proposal is the conversion of 20% of lower quality farmed lands to ‘public goods’ which will be largely forestry.

We must consider closed canopy forest excludes almost all light and therefore almost all life and the ‘darkening’ of our woodland after our woodsmen left after WW1 has led to some of the steepest declines in biodiversity in our history. We are taught in school that closed canopy is what our ancient landscape looked like but science is proving that is entirely wrong and quite similar to the wood pasture system of our ancestors. Archaeology around Stonehenge shows this system was once one of richest most diverse habitats in northern Europe. Wood meadow or pasture combines pasture and woodland as championed by Professors Peterken to Lawton into a rich ecosystem and the best way to put trees back into a landscape as a controlled rewilding, storing carbon, enriching the soil carbon, promoting as an edge habitat biodiversity plus a useful timber, pasture and leisure business; in effect mini Knepp’s. It also does not extinguish existing diversity rather enhancing it.

It can also operate at the ‘wide’ hedgerow/field margin, back garden, country park scale creating rivers of connectivity into our cities for our wildlife to move through during a critical period of ‘migration’ due to climate change. Tree planting should never reproduce our false assumptions of a closed canopy and ignore what was there beforehand or we will be adding to the current mass extinction event Trees can be highly beneficial to carbon storage mostly through the soil carbon but also through biodiversity at their edges. Critical is keeping wide networks of rides with the extra benefit these can be for public access encouraged under ELMS as a public good. We ask if 10% rides in the Forestry Commission's Manual is anywhere near optimal for biodiversity and 20% might reverse the decline in diversity in our woodlands since WW1.

Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation October 2020

Please voice your support, we can all help in pushing this up the public agenda.

If you would like to contribute ideas or avenues to raise this vital issue and bring it to public attention please contact Allan Rodda allan.rodda@yorkshirebutterflies.org.uk

We have had a positive reply Scarborough MP hopefully this is the first seed to germinate (see below) because we need many more

NB More will follow as we come out of the current national emergency

RG letter001.pdf

3. What our councils said when asked about maintaining conservation areas within their networks of road verges:

Thanks to Sophie Yeo of Inkcap journal who has been investigating how councils are managing their network of verges these last 6 months. See HERE for an interesting read and some pertinent results of her research. The quality of responses varied considerably see below! Sign up for INKCAP twice weekly summary of environmental news, always a brilliant read HERE

City of York: " There are arrangements in place where we cut 1 metre strips along the kerbside of grass verges on A and B roads, footpaths and cycleway. In addition, there are specific areas in certain wards where we have specific arrangements for leaving grass grow longer to form habitat environments for wildlife. There are some areas designated to wildflowers but this is being reviewed as part of the Council’s pollinator strategy."

North Yorkshire : "There are some known locations of special plant life within the County that, where possible, the local area office will try and delay the cuts in these locations to allow them to flower and seed successfully. However, this cannot always be done if there is a highway safety concern which means we must go in and cut roadside verge."

East Yorkshire: "We have Verge Nature Reserves that are only cut once per year to allow the establishment of wildflowers."

Bradford: " No existing conservation areas. "However, introducing biodiversity initiatives into our highway asset management operations in order to promote, protect or preserve the biodiversity of natural habitats and ecological features is being pursued/discussed."

Barnsley: "No existing conservation areas, although the council anticipates a new wildflower project this year."

Rotherham: "Bee orchids? – The area is protected from maintenance during the growing season. River of flowers – Wildflowers are sown every two years to create a corridor through central Rotherham."

Sheffield: "20% of our urban verges are set aside for wildlife/conservation areas."

Leeds+ Calderdale+ Wakefield city + Redcar+Cleveland : "No Plan"

Hull + Doncaster + Kirklees+ Dralington+ Stockton : No response

Sign up for the INKCAP twice weekly summary of environmental news, always a brilliant read HERE

Other examples:

HS2 is creating a wave of destruction through Berks Bucks and Oxon even under lockdown. The high-speed line requires the removal of the eastern edge of Calvert Jubilee reserve, including orchid-rich grassland and scrub which until recently contained Buckinghamshire's last remaining populations of European Turtle Dove and Common Nightingale, as well as all five British species of hairstreak butterfly. Butterfly Conservation volunteers have been invloved in trying to pickup hairstreak egss from destroyed blackthorn and move them to safety.