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Talking about Conservation

10th Jun 2021

Taking a view across the Natural History of Upper Weardale in the final chapter of this recently published book, Durham Wildlife Trust Director, Jim Cokill, asks whether we take nature conservation too much for granted. Now available as a digital download.

His question isn't new.

In 1902 a letter alerts members of the Weardale Naturalists' Field Club refers to 'the willful destruction and extermination of small birds' in Stanhope Dene.

Large parts of the Dale are now protected. Yet the State of Nature report published in 2019, the most authoritative and well researched study of the current status of UK wildlife, showed that since 1970, 41 per cent of species have decreased in abundance. Many other statistics can be quoted - the fact is that across the world wildlife is in decline and in Weardale the story is the same.

Does that mean that nature conservation does not work? No.

Jim notes that the Wear valley is a good place to look at how nature conservation works and how species can be brought back from the brink of extinction. The Wear is a Salmon river once more, and the Otter has returned as a predator (along with the less welcome Mink). Ground-nesting waders such as Curlew continue to thrive, unlike in most other areas of Britain and Ireland.

But there is uncertainty about the future of conservation, and new questions constantly arise.

How will changes in agricultural and environmental policy change land management practice?

There is an opportunity for greater collaboration between all the interested parties to develop schemes and land management that are better than what went before. Will this happen? What has to be done to bring people together? How will changes impact in Weardale?

He summarises his stock take of conservation in Weardale with an acknowledgement that none of the conservation legislation and measures would be effective without popular support and public participation.

Ultimately it is the actions of the people of Weardale, over many centuries, that have shaped the landscape and nature that we see today. The pride of those living and working in this special place is the best guarantee that the historic environment, wildlife and landscape will continue to be cared for in the future.

Copies of the Natural History of Upper Weardale are available from Durham Wildlife Trust.

Individual Chapters are being uploaded for digital reference. More soon.