We must demand environmental accountability.
Until that happens our environment, our access rights and our childrens' futures are not secure, says Steve Yandall (pictured right)
We have just discovered that agri environment schemes (ELS/HLS) are administered by Natural England, under Richard Benyon MP, but that the recipients and budget are responsible to Jim Paice MP.
Maybe not of obvious importance?
One of the key features of past initiatives has been the lack of monitoring, lack of accountability and depletion of biodiversity (public benefit loss).
The other key feature has been the declared success of NE putting money into the rural economy (a very narrow sector receiving funding with few reciprocal benefits).
The October budget review imposed severe cutbacks on NE thus reducing their ability to monitor the new (HLS) 10yr environment plan but that same review has resulted in HLS budgets being increased thus increasing the need for expanded monitoring, support, education and a guarantee that public monies achieve public benefits.
We thus have one minister with an increased budget achieving a substantially increased (£billions) injection of rural cash but the minister responsible for ensuring biodiversity/public benefits and accountability receiving a large cut to his budget.
<< Richard Benyon MP, & Jim Paice MP.
Within the above, clearly unacceptable situation, an understanding of NE's independence must be gained. When formed in 2006 conservation bodies lobbied for NE to be independent of political control. NE were given this 'gift' and we thus have to ask if actions, since, justify such a level of trust and whether, in reality, 'dotted line'responsibilities work or whether they engender unaccountability? Especially when answering to 2 budgetary masters!
The past has seen NE only being resourced to monitor schemes once every 18/36 months.Unacceptable then and worse now.
The raised management demands of HLS being 'imposed'on a paid but ill equipped group require that NE are charged with the responsibility of a prescribed return on public investment.That can only be achieved through NE being resourced properly.
Until that happens NE are unaccountable.
Until that happens HLS recipients are unaccountable and Until that happens our environment, our access rights and our childrens' futures are not secure.
All the above explains why we must demand environmental accountability and why strengthening the links between ourselves,nature and the countryside is truly at the heart of sustainability.
Only through public participation will accountability be established and only through that will we obtain the results every user group wants.
Conservation is a 'new' farming crop.It is for us to demand that the crop (including recreation) comes to fruition and,through poor central management, is not allowed to fail.
My final thoughts.
Consider whether the current fencing/grazing/public exclusion imposition is based on the false belief that environmental objectives could be delivered by a QUANGO with long range involvement?
The environment subjected to expediency NOT best practise and being managed by a scientific group that represents just one aspect of the environment.