4 August 2011

Common Agricultural Policy spells Cuts for Conservation

Froglife has been following the changes in the Common Agricultural Policy with interest. In a new feature covering policy issues, Public Engagement Officer Liam Atherton summarises some of the implications for our reptiles and amphibians on farmland.

The European Commission has announced its proposal for the Union’s post-2013 financial commitments, and there can be no doubt that it has failed to deliver effectively for conservation. There has been a 5% reduction in funds for wildlife-friendly farming, despite an overall increase in the EU budget, meaning that proportionally it is now much less represented in the EU’s vision for the future.

Agriculture accounts for a massive 77% of land use in the UK, and an average of 50% amongst other EU member states, highlighting the considerable implications agricultural land management can have for wildlife conservation. Through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), EU funding is the primary driver of wildlife-friendly farming via the Agri-Environment schemes- schemes which are now under threat in the advent of funding cuts. The financial incentives available to farm owners in return for wildlife-friendly farming are central to the delivery of environmental enhancements at a local scale, ultimately providing a national framework for the conservation of wildlife.

Agriculture account for 77% of land use in the UK
“Agri-environment grants have been fundamental to delivering changes in the farmland habitats about Carmunnock in the south of Glasgow; this has included the direct funding of works but also helping to attract other funding streams,” explains Keith Watson, Biodiversity Officer for Glasgow City Council. “A core aim has been to develop a network of species rich grassland and to date this has seen over 12 hectares created and in total the sympathetic management of nearly 40 hectares,” adds Keith. “Other provisions such as unharvested crops and mown grassland for birds have enhanced Skylark populations and encouraged large flocks of overwintering birds, and recently seen the return of the Tree Sparrow. Additionally works have seen over a kilometre of hedgerows planted or managed, and the creation of numerous small ponds primarily for amphibians and aquatic invertebrates.”

The hedgerows, ponds and meadows that can benefit reptiles and amphibians are exactly the frontline benefits that are now under serious threat, and wildlife needs the support of the public now more than ever before. Although welcome proposals in the Government’s recent Environment White Paper detail plans for a series of ‘Nature Improvement Areas’, specifically through farmland improvements, the fact remains that without sufficient funding to support delivery, the proposals become little more than words on paper. It should be noted however that cuts may have been significantly deeper were they not opposed by the campaigning efforts of Birdlife International and the RSPB.

Nonetheless, in the fight for wildlife conservation it simply is not enough to say that it could have been worse, when in truth it could have been much, much better. The conservation of our native wildlife now relies on the delivery of available funds in the most effective ways possible, and in farmers taking innovative steps to be part of conservation efforts.

You can find out more about helping amphibians through pond creation on farmland in Froglife’s advice booklet here
• You can find out more about Agri-Environment schemes in your area via the following links:
 - England
 - Scotland
 - Wales
 - Northern Ireland
 - Republic of Ireland
Advice on reptile-friendly farming tips is available here
Birdlife International’s report on CAP reform is available here

You can support our work conserving reptiles and amphibians and reptiles for as little as £1.50 a month. Sign up as a Froglife Friend and help save species and habitats here.

2 August 2011

See Our Blue Makeover at Green Backyard!

Froglife’s Wildlife Ambassadors have been working hard over the last 6 weeks giving a community allotment in Peterborough a watery makeover. You can pop along to the stunning site near the city centre to see what they have been up to on Sunday 14th August.

A new pond dipping platform in progress
A group of young men getting their lives back on track at the YMCA’s Timestop in Peterborough have dedicated themselves to this project, putting in many hours of hard work in blazing sunshine and torrential rain. This week the pond will be lined, filled and planted making it a wonderful home for frogs, toads, newts and invertebrates.

“It’s been fantastic to help the Green Backyard,” comments Wildlife Ambassador Project Officer Laura Brady. “Previous volunteers worked very hard to dig the mammoth pond on the beautiful site. Our Ambassadors have helped finish off their work to create a fantastic wildlife pond. I’ve enjoyed my time with this enthusiastic group and am very proud of all the work they have achieved.”

Putting the finishing touches on a bird box
You can join the team on Sunday 14th August to celebrate the completion of the pond at The Green Backyard’s regular craft fair. The Wildlife Ambassadors who have worked on the pond will be there to show off their work and will be helping people with fun activities, such as making origami frogs and snake bracelets.

As well as taking part in crafts, admiring the pond and enjoying the atmosphere of the site, you can also share some of your own tales about encountering wildlife. “We are collecting stories about the time you brought home some frogspawn, the first time you saw a snake, or when you climbed trees and built dens,” explains My Wild Life project officer Jodie Coomber. “Why not come along and share some happy memories?”

Look for Froglife in the big reptile tepee at The Green Backyard in Fletton on Sunday 14th August 10am-4pm. We look forward to seeing you there.