ARC is engaged in a range of conservation activities, some of which are more obvious than others. In this article we want to highlight aspects of our work in the farming sector which might not be apparent at first glance, but is equally important to our more high profile work.

Influencing policy and legislation

We engage across numerous policy areas, including land-use policy, conservation policy, agriculture and forestry sectors, through our work with Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link),  Wales Environment Link (WEL) and Scottish Environment Link (SEL), but also independently. Feeding into relevant policies and legislation is essential to protect wildlife; without such advocacy, policies and laws could change without the appropriate regard taken for wildlife and the environment. We add our support alongside the other organisations involved with the country Links (Link, WEL and SEL), to comment on the numerous governmental consultations to give wildlife a voice.  A response coming from one of these partnership has more influence than the organisations could achieve on their own – and also gives all organisations involved a greater capacity to feed into a larger number of consultations.

Here is a small subset of responses we have supported in the last twelve months. We contributed to the Link response on the England Tree Strategy in September 2020, with comments also sent to Defra independently- due to the importance of the consultation. With the rush to plant trees as we begin to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises, it is important not to overlook that open habitats are important for a range of species, including herpetofauna and to only plant trees where it is appropriate (“the right trees in the right places”), otherwise we could, unwittingly, lose further biodiversity through these measures. It is also important to note that other habitats are good at storing carbon, not only trees. These messages were also part of the Link response to the Tree planting and woodlands Inquiry (EFRA) in October 2020.  

The Planning for the Future white paper consultation was also very significant, due to the worrying proposals to reform the planning system in England, and highlighted these concerns to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in October 2020, through Link and in our own response. We have also contributed via Link, to a number of papers which are being used to inform and influence agricultural policy and the new agri-environment schemes.  

Farm Wildlife

Farm Wildlife is a partnership project including several wildlife charities, including Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation, the Wildlife Trusts and ARC, led by RSPB, coming together to provide best practice management advice on a range of habitats in one place  The aim is provide a single source of conservation advice to farmers, other landowners- and their advisors, as we believe “Good conservation management is about understanding the locally important wildlife, choosing the right measures and managing them in the right way.”

The advice covers six key elements –existing habitats, field boundaries, wet features, flower-rich habitats, seed rich habitats and the farmed area, with each section providing more information about these features and how farmers can improve them for wildlife. Case-studies are also available on a range of topics such as buffer strips on intensive grassland and managing hedges for pollinators to help provide guidance on how it is achieved in the real world. 

Nature Friendly Farming Network

We have been involved with an inspiring group of farmers called the Nature Friendly Farming Network since their launch in 2018. In essence, this network was formed to bring together farmers who want to work together to influence policy, raise awareness of sustainable farming with wildlife in mind, and share their experiences. It is such a vital role for wildlife friendly farmers to have a voice to influence agricultural policy – and they have been very successful in such a short amount of time. The network is free to join; for farmers and the public – why not join-up and find out more – and add your voice to this growing network? We are one of a group of conservation charities (including the National Trust, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation) who support them. This year we ran an on-line training event on amphibian and reptile identification and habitat management, and look forward to running further training in the future.