Thursday, 20 February 2014

A word from GWCT chief executive Teresa Dent

The State of Nature report, published last summer by a number of UK conservation charities, illustrated that what we need is a wildlife revival.

The challenge is how to do it. The GWCT is rooted in game conservation, which is all about managing a species to create a surplus, whether it be habitat, food supply or protection from predation. It does not mean creating a surplus of one species at the expense of the survival of others; but it does require one to think at a population not individual
level. As Mike Clark, CEO of the RSPB, said in the pages of Country Life soon after the State
of Nature report was published: ‘these declines reveal the sharp edges of nature conservation...
and provide nature conservationists with tough choices’.

So maybe the first revival we are seeing is a revival in a game management approach to conservation. Gamekeepers of course need no revival to adopt this approach. Farmers find it straightforward too – its principles mirror livestock husbandry – food, shelter and protection.

It is encouraging to contemplate. I joined the Trust 12 years ago and by then we had done the research that put game management options into agrienvironment schemes, but no-one else was of the view, or prepared to acknowledge, that game management had lessons of benefit for mainstream conservation. Since then a lot more research and many miles of corridor treading have gone into making the case. So it is good to see views changing, to find people prepared to listen to the evidence, to see more proactive polices of wildlife management adopted. Some of the time we need to manage wildlife so that we can protect it.

It will still take enormous determination and resolve to achieve a wildlife revival – so we welcome the Scottish Gamekeepers initiative on wader revival. Nature reserves are wonderful things but we will need much more done in the wider countryside, and projects like the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area, which we have been involved in since the start, give a glimpse of how that might be done in the future.

I like to think Charles Coles OBE, who ran the Trust until 1981 and died last year, would be proud of these changes, though to him it would probably simply represent a reversion to a previous era of common sense conservation.

Teresa Dent
Chief Executive
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

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