Watered-Down Species Protection: A Conspiracy Theory

It can’t all be fun and games over here at Adventures in Conservation, you know. After all the irreverence and flippancy of recent posts, I thought it worth dropping a short reminder that yes, actually, I do occasionally get around to addressing serious issues. Don’t let that be a reason to stop reading, mind. I’ll try to keep it brief.

It’s entirely possible that there is a direct correlation between the first new series of the X-Files in 14 years and my current predilection for conjuring conspiracy theories out of thin air. This week I have managed to convince myself that there is something nebulous and sinister connecting three stories I have read:

Defra rows back on it’s attempt to close the UK’s wildlife crime unit

Natural England withdraws funding for Local Environment Records Centres

Defra and Natural England open consultation on new policies for European Protected Species licences

All this in the space of a couple of months. Is anyone out there having the same dark and disturbed paranoid thoughts? Or have I drifted far into the realms of the tin-foil hat-wearers of the world? Just skimming through the proposed new policies for European Protected Species licensing gave me a slightly uneasy feeling.

tinfoil hat

The authors new head-gear: Rubbish at keeping the rain out

I may get into this further at a later date, but there are a few things here that set the alarm bells ringing. Firstly, the word ‘benefit’ is used 36 times. Only once is that in relation to developers, the other 35 in relation to protected species. It surely must be clear to anyone reading the proposed policy that it is absolutely, positively for the benefit of all those Great Crested Newts out there. These policy changes are a boon for newts. And guess what? It’s a total win-win! All these proposals, by-the-by, just happen to also have great benefits for developers. Entirely a side-product, you understand. A happy coincidence…Is it conceivable that they are perhaps protesting just a teeny bit too much?

Take for example the proposal to reduce investment in excluding and relocating protected species from development sites and increase investment in the provision of compensatory habitat. Seems sensible. Though the example used here is one where a convenient, more suitable habitat just happens to exist nearby on Council Land. There’s far too much wriggle room and wooliness here for me, but then there is this very honest statement at the foot of the page:

The terms of the licence make lawful specified operations which would be expected to cause mortality of some GCN on the development site.

Jumping ahead, policy 4 concerns surveys. Natural England tell us:

We encounter some cases where the range of foreseeable impacts can be predicted with some certainty, in the absence of the normal level of survey information. In some of these cases the cost of collecting the additional information can sometimes be disproportionate to the additional certainty that it would offer.

And of course the example of where this can make a real positive for protected species (while also, of course, having a few tiny benefits for developers), is in bypassing the need for further surveys to confirm a protected species is present where the existing evidence suggests it does. Thus speeding up the whole process for the developer. There is no mention whether this could also be adopted where there is an absence of evidence for protected species for example, but is it too much of a stretch to think that this is where it is leading?

I may be joining the wrong dots here, but it all seems to add up to something a little sinister.

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One thought on “Watered-Down Species Protection: A Conspiracy Theory

  1. Pingback: It’s Started……..We’re Doooooomed | adventures in conservation

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