Posted: Wednesday 19th April 2017 by BrianEversham
The Wildlife Trusts are united in our charitable purpose
The Wildlife Trusts are a movement of more than 800,000 members and 40,000 volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds and all walks of life. We are united in our belief that a healthy, wildlife-rich natural world is valuable in its own right and is also the foundation of our health, wellbeing and prosperity. People are part of nature; we depend on it, and it depends on us.
Our charitable purpose
Many organisations have animal welfare as a primary charitable purpose, and campaign for improved treatment of animals, whether domestic or wild. The forty-seven Wildlife Trusts have a different role, set out in each Trust’s charitable objects. We are held to these objects by the Charity Commission.
The main thrust of The Wildlife Trust’s work is to conserve, enhance and restore wildlife habitats and populations of species throughout our area and to help people to experience, understand and value the natural world. To achieve this, it is important for us not only to manage our own nature reserves but also to maintain a dialogue with sympathetic landowners. The Trust strongly supports the effective enforcement of wildlife law, and we will campaign to strengthen protection of threatened habitats and species when we believe this is needed.
The good we do
The Wildlife Trust movement are often one of the last lines of defence against planning decisions that would be bad for wildlife and wild places; each year the Wildlife Trusts respond to about 7,500 applications that threaten to harm the natural environment, and nearly 3,000 of these are refused or improved as a result. We directly look after more than 2,300 wild places – woods, meadows, lakes and moorland. We run more than 100 visitor and education centres and support thousands of children to learn in the outdoors through forest schools or in their own school grounds.
Together, we are working hard to ensure that our wildlife legislation isn't weakened when the UK leaves the European Union. The Wildlife Trusts are campaigning to ensure that all the existing EU laws that protect our environment are transferred into UK law, and that they are considerably improved to strengthen legal protect for our wildlife.
The Wildlife Trusts and field sports
The Hunting Act 2004 made it illegal (except under certain exemptions) for anyone intentionally to allow a dog to chase or hunt a wild mammal. This covers almost all wild mammals, including deer, foxes and hares. The law allows hunts to continue to operate which in some cases can damage important habitats or cause disturbance to vulnerable populations of wildlife; for this reason there is a long-standing presumption against field sports on Wildlife Trust nature reserves.
Beyond our nature reserves we may on occasion raise concerns about the impact of a hunt on critical habitats or vulnerable populations of species. But our long-held position on legal field sports is that we are neither for, nor against, them.
We do oppose any field sports (or aspects of them) that cause harm either to populations of plants and animals or to the wild places where they live – even when they are legal. We are vocal and take action to oppose all wildlife crime in our area.
The Trustees of each individual Wildlife Trust are elected by its members. They include people with diverse experience and from across both ends of the political spectrum. Each Trust has about 12-15 trustees, making a diverse mix of over 600 across the UK.
The Council of Trustees of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire consists of people from a range of backgrounds: practical conservationists and volunteers, ecologists and conservation scientists, business people and landowners, all with a commitment to the aims of the Trust. Trustees are required by law to uphold the interests and the objectives of the charity when making decisions in Council meetings.
Bringing people together
Most of the land in Beds, Cambs and Northants is owned by private farmers and estates: which is why we can best help wildlife by working with landowners. Landowners can provide particularly valuable insights to help us do this.
Our wildlife is too valuable for differences of political affiliation, personal circumstance and background, ethnicity or culture to get in the way. We are all part of the natural world and we all have a part to play in shaping its future.
To do this we work with schools, community groups, local authorities, businesses, universities, lotteries, charitable trusts, fishermen, divers, farmers and others. These partnerships are built on mutual trust and shared responsibility. We base our decisions on evidence and we look for solutions. We are not ashamed to be pragmatic.
Not everyone we work with will agree with us on everything but everyone we work with is contributing to our charitable aims. It is one of the strengths of the Wildlife Trusts that we bridge divides and bring people together behind a shared endeavour. The natural world needs us to do this.