Curlew Summit, No. 10 Downing Street

Curlew Summit, No. 10 Downing Street, 8th July, 2019 – Blog by Project Manager, Amanda Perkins

In my last blog, I promised to write more about the Curlew Summit at No 10 Downing Street.  We were still very active with seasonal activities at the time of the summit.  Whilst not hot off the press, the details of the event are exciting and relevant to Curlew Country.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Sanders, RSPB

When Mary Colwell Hector started her 500 mile walk across Ireland and England, prior to writing her book Curlew Moon, I wonder if she knew where the much longer journey related to curlew recovery and the surprising politics of the conservation world, that would lead her.  She is a fantastic and effective champion for curlew and the summit, which she played a big part in setting up, certainly gave voice to much of what she has discovered over the past few years. (If you have not read Mary’s book Curlew Moon, it has been highly acclaimed at all levels – yet another friend has just texted me to say ‘I LOVED IT’).  It is much due to Mary’s endeavours, that those gathered were able to make the case for saving this threatened, but iconic, species.

Curlew Champions- Mark Isherwood, Mary Colwell, Lewis Macdonald and Jake Berry

The summit was hosted by Lord Randall, Theresa May’s Special Advisor on the environment, and attended by the three elected species champions from England, Scotland and Wales: Jake Berry MP, Lewis Macdonald MSP and Mark Isherwood, AM.  Representatives from Defra, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and English Nature were also present.  Tony Cross the consultant ornithologist to the project and I were privileged to attend the summit at No 10 Downing Street.   Tony ‘scrubbed up well’ for the occasion and rather better than I managed to.  It was an early start for the Shropshire/Welsh borders representatives, but five or so hours later the adrenalin was still kicking in.  Presentations were given on key points and Curlew Country was delighted to have the opportunity to add evidence-based contributions to the discussion, from its findings of five years of curlew recovery work on the ground.

Curlew Country has concluded the following from the five years of active trials and research in the Shropshire Welsh Borders:

  1. Current agri-environment schemes are not effective in supporting breeding non-upland farmland curlews.
  2. Predation control is essential to recovery alongside support for farmers and land managers.
  3. Once recovery is underway, research will be needed in respect of long-term curlew sustainability.
  4. Curlews are an umbrella species and managing for them will deliver multiple environmental benefits which in turn will be a cost-effective use of agri-environment funding.
  5. Farmers and land managers feel closely connected with curlew and want to help this species survive. They engage with grass roots up conservation initiatives with people that they can work with, but are suspicious of conventional top-down methodology often delivered by people who do not understand the farm business and with whom they find it hard to engage.
  6. The opportunity to deliver the benefits in point 5 is here now. Senior generations who remember abundant curlew numbers or even one remaining on their land will be lost alongside the curlew and good will to deliver good outcomes is a key to success.
  7. Headstarting is successful, but only an emergency measure. It is relatively short-term and will not bring the sustainable benefits that support for land managers and predation control will deliver for curlew recovery on farmland.

A lot has happened in politics since the summit, but as days go by and evermore species disappear, our policy makers can be left in no doubt that this is an opportunity to deliver for the environment that should not be missed.  Saving curlews for generations to come is in their hands.

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