Tag Archives: Owen Paterson

Gloucestershire badger cull called off

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Great news that the badger cull in Gloucestershire is being abandoned after marksmen failed to kill enough badgers to meet their greatly reduced targets.

The collapse of the trial means that the controversial cull is to end three weeks earlier than planned. Also, according to a document seen by the BBC, the licence will be revoked early by Natural England (NE).

The NE document says: “It is recommended that the daily removal rate of badgers is monitored closely and if the rate falls below projections (such that a significant reduction in badger numbers may not be achieved) then we should consider terminating culling operations (by revoking the licence) as in this scenario there is unlikely to be a net benefit from continued culling.”

The pilot culls were testing whether shooting free-running badgers at night could kill sufficient numbers of the animal to reduce TB in cattle herds and the one in Gloucestershire was tasked with killing 70% of all badgers in the area in a maximum of six weeks.

However,  just 30% were killed in that time, leading to an eight-week extension. A revised target  of 58% was set but shooters have failed to kill enough badgers on any night and several night saw no kills at all. The extended cull was due to end on 18 December.

Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, had wanted to roll out the culls across the country, but will have to wait for the verdict of an independent panel of experts, which will judge whether the culls have been effective, safe and humane.

Mark Jones, Executive Director of Humane Society International-UK said: “I am much relieved the government’s badger cull fiasco is finally over, for the time being at least. We hope the government will now do the decent thing and admit that killing badgers to control TB in cattle is a ludicrous and inhumane idea.”

Dominic Dyer, of Care for the Wild, said a protest against the cull in Bristol today would now turn into a celebration. “We’ve already learned lessons about culling – that it doesn’t work,” he said. “We know that there is another way – an improved cattle management system, in conjunction with volunteer-led badger vaccination.”

Ban bee-harming pesticides, MPs urge

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Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images

The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, must end Defra’s “extraordinary complacency” and suspend the use of pesticides linked to serious harm in bees, according to a damning report from a leading group of cross-party MPs.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has told the UK Government they were wrong when they chose not to support a two year ban on the three neonicotinoid pesticides most dangerous to bees and should change its position.

Members of the EAC concluded that by the start of 2014 the UK Government must enforce a moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, as well as support a similar proposal at a European level.

“The environment department seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy,” said the EAC’s chair, Joan Walley. “We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action.”

The Committee also called for data on the environmental safety of pesticides to be made public and highlighted the urgent need for a wild pollinator monitoring programme, which would show where pollinators need our help the most.

Friends of the Earth has written to the Government asking it to ban the worst bee-harming pesticides, and is now asking you to add your name to the letter, which tells Ministers to ban the most bee-harming pesticides and accept the EAC’s recommendations.

The charity said: “If enough of us add our names we can persuade the Government to accept the EAC’s recommendations – and follow the lead of the DIY stores and garden centres that have already taken some of the most dangerous pesticides off their shelves.”

England’s forests saved from private ‘sell off’

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There is a great deal of relief after the Government has shelved controversial plans to sell off England’s publicly owned woodlands to the private sector. The    u-turn was made after 500,000 people signed an online petition against the unpopular proposal.

Speaking last week, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that the nation’s public forests would remain publicly owned and held in trust for future generations by a new public body. “I want to put the future of our public forests on a clear and firm footing,” he said. “Our forests and woodland will remain secured in public ownership for the people who enjoy them, the businesses that depend on them and the wildlife that flourishes in them.”

The Forestry Commission will be given extra funding of £3.5m this year to make up for not selling forestry land and an additional £2m has been found  to help the commission deal with ash dieback.

Hen Anderson, of campaign group Save Our Woods, welcomed the Government’s response, saying it was vindication of the 500,000 who signed the online petition. “Very positive,” she said. “Two years ago they were flogging off the lot, but a half a million people kicked them in the pants.”

But some charities have criticised the lack of any timetable for setting up the new trust body and said the important work carried out by the Forestry Commission remained endangered by heavy budget cuts.

The RSPB said: “While these proposals are encouraging, they won’t help if our woodlands are starved of funding and effective management in the long term.”

 

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.”

Experts warn that most UK ash trees will be diseased within a decade

Over 100,000 trees have already been destroyed to try to prevent the spread of ash dieback, but experts now believe the disease could be far more widespread than initially thought.

Ian Boyd, Chief Scientist with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has warned ministers that the disease is likely to spread across the UK by around 20 miles a year, infecting most of the country’s 90m ash trees within a decade. Mr Boyd was speaking at a meeting of the Government’s crisis committee Cobra on Friday and warned them that trees cannot be vaccinated.

Ash trees infected with the Chalara fraxinea fungus that causes ash dieback were first detected in the UK in a nursery in Buckinghamshire eight months ago. It is now infesting trees in Scotland, East Anglia and possibly Kent. The disease was confirmed in the wild last week and the Government introduced a ban on ash seedlings from infected areas  from Monday.

The Woodland Trust has welcomed the ban and called on ministers to set up an emergency summit bringing together representatives from all areas of forestry, plant health and conservation to address the wider issues surrounding threats to our native trees and woods.

Meanwhile, the University of East Anglia has developed a mobile phone app for iPhone and Android which you can download  from Ashtag.org.  It will help you identify ash dieback and report any sitings you might find using your phone’s camera and GPS.

Most UK ash trees will be diseased within 10 years, ministers told | Environment | The Guardian.

Government to delay badger cull until next year

Government plans to cull thousands of badgers have been delayed until next summer amid growing concern about the cost and effectiveness of the controversial scheme.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the cull in the south-west of England would have to be delayed because a new survey revealed there were twice as many badgers as previously thought, making the cull too expensive. Farmers felt they could not kill enough badgers before the animals start going underground for the winter. Recent bad weather was also blamed for hampering preparations.

Mr Paterson insisted that the Government was still committed to reducing badger numbers, but said the “optimal time” for the cull had passed. The announcement was welcomed by  many leading scientists, who have expressed severe doubts about whether the cull would successfully stop the spread of bovine TB. Lord John Krebs, the architect of a  10-year badger culling trial, called it “mindless” and signed a letter with 31 other eminent scientists demanding the Government reconsider its plan.

Anti-cull campaigners believe the cull is inhumane because the method of shooting could cause suffering to many thousands of badgers. They have called for a vaccination programme along with increased levels of testing. An e-petition, launched by the Queen guitarist Brian May, as part of the Team Badger campaign, attracted more than 160,00 signatures.

RSPCA Chief Executive, Gavin Grant, said the fight to stop the cull would continue and legal challenges were being drafted. “We welcome this postponement, but this must not be a temporary reprieve, but must mark an end to all cull plans,” he said.