Amid fears Yorkshire’s natural resources are being under-valued, Sarah Freeman reports on the campaigners who are taking their fight to Westminster.
Campaigners have marched on Parliament to protest about everything from the war in Iraq, university tuition fees and The Sun’s continued use of page three girls.
In a little over a week it will be the turn of environmentalists who are heading to the capital with the aim of pushing the natural world higher up the political agenda.
The Rally for Nature is a collaboration between the RSPB, the country’s Wildlife Trusts, the League Against Cruel Sports and conservationist Dr Mark Avery and hopes to highlight the need to defend existing laws which protect sites of special scientific interest.
The event will also call for a greater emphasis on detecting wildlife crime and prosecuting those responsible and the introduction of a Nature and Wellbeing Act, which campaigners say is necessary to put nature at the heart of decision-making.
“In this part of the world, much of our natural heritage and wildlife are under threat,” says Amanda Miller, the RSPB’s conservation manager for Northern England, said: “ Harmful developments and intensive land management practices threaten to destroy some of our most precious sites and many of our birds of prey continue to be victims of illegal persecution.
“We need to show our politicians we value our local landscape and wildlife and that we want future generations to have the chance to enjoy them.”
The RSPB points to figures for last year which showed there were 164 reports of the shooting and the destruction of birds of prey, including the confirmed shooting of two hen harriers, five peregrines and 28 buzzards. It also says North Yorkshire is the worst county in England in terms of bird of prey attacks.
It is four years since more than 230,000 people signed an RSPB pledge which called for government action to put an end to bird of prey persecution. However, many believe the situation has remained unchanged and it is symptomatic of the complacency with which the natural world is often viewed.
“Nature has the potential to help solve many of our social, economic and environmental problems, yet we currently undervalue it and do not protect it as we should,” says Dr Rob Stoneman, chief executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. “Nature is fundamental to our everyday life, providing clean air, food, fuel and resources for shelter.
“For this to continue, we need a healthy environment - for nature to look after us, we need to look after nature. To do this requires public policy, which is what we are calling on the political parties to recognise during the Rally for Nature.”
With the general election looming, the campaigners are keen for all the major political parties to make firm commitments to both wildlife and the environment in their manifestos.
They claim the most deprived communities are 10 times less likely to live in the greenest areas, while fewer than one in 10 children regularly play in wild places, compared to almost half, a generation ago. They also say that if every household in England were provided with good access to quality green space it could save an estimated £2.1bn in health care costs.
Michael Stephenson, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “It’s time for politicians to stand up for wildlife. Wildlife crime is widespread across the whole of the UK, taking place in rural and urban areas with serious impact on both animals and people alike. Wildlife criminals must be brought to justice and nature and wildlife raised on the political agenda.”
The Rally for Nature will take place in Westminster on December 9. Those wanting to attend are asked to register their interest online at www.league.org.uk