Tag Archives: nature

Get on your bike and pedal for the planet!

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It’s nearly time for the 2013 Big Green Bike Ride, which is a great way to raise funds for Friends of the Earth.

This year’s ride starts on Saturday, 27 April, and the 85 mile route will take you from the hustle and bustle of London, through the country lanes of Surrey and Hampshire, to the New Forest.

The next day will be spent exploring the heather-covered heath, farmland, ancient woodland and mudflats of the beautiful corner of the countryside. If you need any training tips, the Olympic Gold Medalist Alex Gold MBE is supporting the event and has written a blog on the Friends of the Earth website which is well worth a read.

Welsh charity hits £2m rainforest target

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Welsh campaigners have protected an area of rainforest the size of Wales (that’s 2 million hectares), after they hit their £2m target yesterday, St David’s Day.

The Size of Wales charity was launched in 2010 to bring everyone in Wales together as part of a national response to climate change, and the conservation projects that will benefit include:

  • An RSPB project in Sierra Leone’s Gola rainforest.
  • A project to help the Ashaninka people to preserve forest in Peru.
  • A new legally protected area in Madagascar. Funds here will pay for a sustainable forestry management, educating people to understand the risks of overexploitation, and strengthening land rights.

The charity will now focus on encouraging other countries to set up similar initiatives.  The Welsh Environment Minister, John Griffiths, said: “I am very proud of Wales. We are the first country in the world to help to protect an area of tropical forests equivalent to its own size and I am calling on other countries to follow our lead – for the benefit of our climate, our forests and the wildlife and people that depend upon them.”

Denmark is considering launching a tropical forest initiative equivalent to its size (4 million hectares) and Ireland has launched the Size of Phoenix Park project as a first step in improving tropical forest protection.

Campaigners take fish fight to Westminster

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Pic by PA

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led a march to Westminster on Monday to urge the Government to do more to protect UK seas.

He was accompanied by hundreds of supporters, many in fish-related fancy dress, waving banners and placards that urged ministers  to increase the number of marine conservation areas to give badly damaged habitats and depleted fish stocks a chance to recover.

The march gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has so far planned to create 31 sites by the end of this year, but the celebrity chef warns this is not enough.

“This is the sort of opportunity that may not come again,” he says. “We might not have such a vital and appropriate time frame as we’ve got right now to make real changes. If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done. It will be hard for a lot of the areas to recover.”

Struggle to save stricken seabirds continues

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The mystery substance found on hundreds of seabirds washed up on the south coast is a “mixture of refined mineral oils”, says the Environment Agency.

Wildlife experts have warned many more birds could be affected by the waxy substance. Hundreds of birds were found on beaches from Sussex to Cornwall on Thursday. Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Every effort is being made to identify the cause of this problem. I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping the seabirds affected and it’s thanks to their efforts that many have been cleaned up and now have a chance of survival.”

The total rescue count so far is 162 alive and rescued, but 200 are dead, including a juvenile puffin, a fulmar and 3 razorbills. It is thought the substance may have been dumped into the English Channel by a ship. Most birds have been found in Dorset but others are appearing in Sussex, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

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The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is back on  26-27 January, giving people all over the UK the chance to be part of the world’s biggest wildlife survey.

To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time over the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend, noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local park at any one time.  They then have three weeks to submit their results, either through the RSPB website or by post.

Now in its 34th year, the survey provides the RSPB with an important snapshot of garden bird populations in winter and has helped to highlight some dramatic declines in UK garden birds.

Sarah Houghton, RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Manager, said: ‘Everyone who takes part  is contributing to the world’s biggest wildlife survey and helping us learn more about some of our most familiar garden birds.

‘The declines of birds like starlings and sparrows over the last 30 years or so have been alarming, but Big Garden Birdwatch has helped us find out more about their numbers and distribution across UK gardens, and that has been the first step in helping to put things right.”

Some bird species have fared considerably better over the years. None more so than the woodpigeon, which has increased by a massive 800% since 1979. Sightings of popular species like blue tits, great tits and coal tits in gardens have also risen.

Once you have registered with the RSPB website they will send you  a free pack of hints and tips, some reminder emails, plus a £5 discount to use in the RSPB online shop. There’s also a counting sheet to download, which will help you to keep track of all the birds you spot.

Waitrose puts Shell partnership on ice

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Waitrose has suspended plans to expand its partnership with the Arctic oil drillers Shell, after 12 days of  intense campaigning by Greenpeace.

The UK supermarket had been considering opening new shops in Shell petrol stations across the country, but Waitrose managing director Mark Price has confirmed that these plans have been put on ice until after 2013. The supermarket has also declared its support for the creation of an Arctic sanctuary, a move that would help protect endangered species, such as the polar bear, Arctic fox and narwal, by making the polar region off limits to oil drillers like Shell.

The announcement was made after nearly 40,000 people signed a Greenpeace petition urging Waitrose to break off the partnership with Shell. Activists also sent emails, posted hundreds of messages on Facebook, and staged demonstrations in Waitrose stores, including the appearance of  a life-size polar bear in Islington.

Greenpeace, which has worked with Waitrose to develop its sustainable fishing policies, said it was “shocked” that the retailer, which prides itself on its environmental initiatives, would link itself to Shell. This summer Shell tried, and failed, to drill for oil in the Arctic, after a catalogue of disasters which included breaking the oil spill response equipment during testing.

You can support Greenpeace’s campaign to save the Arctic by visiting http://www.savethearctic.org

New action plan to tackle ash dieback disease

The Department for the Environment has unveiled a new action plan to tackle the outbreak of ash dieback, but admits it cannot eradicate the disease.

More than 100,000 newly planted and nursery trees with ash dieback have already been destroyed, but mature trees will not be burned because they are important for other wildlife and may help identify resistant strains.

Some 129 sites are now confirmed as being infected after an unprecedented nationwide survey involving around 500 people. Fifteen of these are in nurseries, 50 in recently planted sites and 64 in the wider countryside.

Cases have now been reported in Sussex, Berkshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Northumberland, Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Essex. Several National Trust sites, including Ashridge in Hertfordshire, have put up signs as an extra precaution to prevent the disease spreading.

Under the latest measures, affected new and young trees will be destroyed immediately and the search for the Chalara fraxinea fungus that causes ash dieback fungus will widen to include towns and cities.

Defra officials have worked with the Forestry Commission and other agencies to find the best way to contain the spread of the disease. The public, along with foresters, land managers and environmental groups, will be told how to spot ash dieback and what to do if they find it. Experts are also searching for trees that have a genetic resistance to the disease that could provide stock for a new breeding programme.

Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, admits it is impossible to wipe it out now that it has been found in mature trees but insists the ash can still be saved.

“If we can slow its spread and minimise its impact, we will gain time to find those trees with genetic resistance to the disease and to restructure our woodlands to make them more resilient,” he said. “We now have a window of opportunity for action because the disease only spreads in the summer.

“Wildlife and countryside groups will play a major role in minimising the impact of the disease and so will the general public, especially when it comes to spotting other areas where the disease has taken hold.”

RSPB Conservation Director, Martin Harper, said: “The plan is a vital part of stopping the spread of this disease. However, it is essential we do not divert resources away from other vital environmental services. Money must be found from central government coffers or we will simply be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”