Professor John Lawton, esteemed and well-respected ecologist, Vice President of the RSPB and lead author of “Making Space for Nature” condemned the Chancellor George Osborne recently, for his outburst against the environment generally and the Habitats Directive specifically. The Guardian reported Prof Lawton’s views here – Lawton called the Chancellor “a bloody idiot” apparently.
It will be interesting to see whether Defra ministers Benyon and SoS Spelman, of whom Prof Lawton has had the ear on various matters – not least Nature Improvement Areas, will seek to distance themselves from him now. I certainly hope not.
I hear there will be an announcement on a second set of 8 NIAs being “launched” in the next few days.
But at a conference on grassland restoration I’ve just returned from, Professor Lawton admitted that the first 12 NIAs had only indicated they were offering, so far, to restore 2000ha of priority grassland habitat between them.
To be honest this is shockingly low – if we’re going to get anywhere near the new targets for restoration/expansion of grasslands in Biodiversity 2020 – NIAs are going have to step up to the mark and commit to far higher levels of restoration – that is after the all the whole point of the exercise.
The NIAs (both tranches) should be delivering well over a quarter of the entire grassland target (33000 ha), with other landscape scale initiatives (Futurescapes, Living Landscapes, AONBs, National Parks etc) delivering another quarter to a third.