Following the announcement earlier today by the Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, I took confidence in our system of democracy, and said so, and also the fact that, with a bit of effort, one could make a difference. I now have to admit that the warm glow lasted little over five hours. I ought to have known better!!
With a "lobby free" afternoon I idly began to surf various sites, explored a wide variety of sources, put a few entries on odd forum sites and even made a respectful reference to Mr Benyon being willing to stand up for wildlife, or something similar.
How wrong could I have been!
The first revelation came from the article within today's Independent newspaper relating to the Walshaw Moor Estate controversy (Upland estate controversy. ), a subject that is being very ably pursued by past colleague, Mark Avery within his Blog, Standing Up For Nature ( see here ). The various FOI requests will hopefully expose the truth behind the climb down by Natural England and the cancellation of intended court proceedings against the Estate accused of damaging a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Given that Natural England, under DEFRA, is the agency advising Government and , thereby, ultimately responsible to Richard Benyon, the likelihood of him being unaware of a major case they were dealing with is highly unlikely given its potential political implications. His role within the mechanics of this decision is being increasingly enquired about with , as yet , nothing coming forward from his Department.
And then I just wondered! Was the announcement today about Buzzards a hurried climb down in order to draw attention away from the above exposure and attempt to curry favour?. No, surely not, and then I came across the next revelation, which made me feel more strongly that deviating attention away from damaging SSSI's was perhaps becoming more of an imperative than questionable control measures against Buzzards!
I confess I had missed the feature below due, I suspect, to being involved in things to do with Hen Harriers, another subject area Richard Benyon appears lukewarm about! On 20th April George Monbiot, that natural scourge and exposer of environmental stories close participants would doubtless prefer not published, put out a very revealing story on events associated with said Minister's own estate (Benyon's Inclosure. ). Basically, the Minister responsible for the protection of SSSI's within our fair and pleasant land has apparently sanctioned the destruction of part of one located on his Estate! 217 acres of ancient woodland will be trashed, sand and gravel extracted from beneath its former location and the restored area turned over to commercial forestry ( with appropriate grants one hopes! ). In this case the reward is not thirteen pieces of silver/gold, but £2million!
I almost hope this story isn't true, but I have to confess a Minister advocating the prosecution of others for destroying a site of conservation value whilst, at the same time , apparently doing something similar, is sailing a bit close to the wind, particularly when the collective protection of the nation's war-chest of sites falls under his aegis. It's got to be wrong, surely!! Certainly the continuing reticence towards revealing the Walshaw Estate details would make some sense if judged against the above. If it's not true, why not come out and reveal all the necessary details associated with both sets of circumstances and clear the air.