News of devastating climate change, species extinction and dwindling green spaces around the world rolls in daily. It has never been more important that we take action to protect nature on our own doorstep.
The North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Partnership is extremely concerned by the pressure on North Devon’s world class environment from rapid development and intensive land use.
In response, we are launching Pledge for Nature! – a new local initiative to galvanise community action for nature’s recovery.
Intensive land use has led to rapid declines in the quality of some habitats and populations of some of our key species like breeding cuckoos, lapwings and curlews in our farmland, salmon, sea trout and freshwater pearl mussels in the Taw and Torridge river systems, and even commoner species like hedgehogs, swallows and house martins, wildflowers and insects.
The declines of these “canaries” of our natural systems should be a wake-up call for everyone. Immediate action is needed to help North Devon’s nature to flourish again in our farmland, gardens, rivers and open spaces.
North Devon’s local economy of agriculture, tourism, forestry and fisheries depends on the natural environment, and our natural systems are also crucial for tackling climate change and safeguarding future generations.
It is therefore essential to maintain the world class environment of the area, which was the reason north Devon was awarded UNESCO status.
Call to action
The priority is to give more space for nature and to create wilder areas – in our farmland, public spaces and gardens.
Small bands of dedicated volunteers, farmers and conservation organisations are already working hard to conserve nature – but their efforts are not enough and the problems can only be solved by galvanising many more people who know and love the area.
Each quarter the project will issue a “call to action” with 3-4 projects to engage the community in voluntary actions for nature. Examples might be: “give 10 percent of your lawn over to a wildflower meadow”; “trim your farm hedges every 3 years rather than every year”; “put up a nestbox for swifts”; “join a community tree-planting team”.
Individuals will be able to pledge their action on a map-based website, where they will also find technical advice and support from Biosphere partners.
Over three years, starting late autumn 2019, we aim to engage a minimum of 1000 volunteers, including at least 100 farmers/landowners.
Through these voluntary actions, we aim to improve nature in at least: 400ha of pasture and arable land, 50km of hedges; 200ha of woodland, 300 gardens, 30 urban spaces or schools, 20km of road verges and 20km of rivers and streams.
We also aim to deliver specific targeted actions for at least 5 priority or declining species or invasive non-native species, and encourage at least 10,000 new trees.
The total cost of this three-year project will be around £90,000. We are asking the National Lottery Heritage Fund to cover the majority of the coordination costs, but we urgently need your help to raise at least £10,000 as match funding to demonstrate that our community cares.
If you love North Devon’s nature, help us by donating here, and telling your family, friends, employers and colleagues to help too!
Tourism, forestry, agriculture and fishing – the mainstays of our local economy - depend on a thriving natural environment, which is also crucial for safeguarding us from the effects of climate change.
But nature in North Devon is in trouble: breeding birds such as cuckoos, lapwings and curlews are heading towards local extinction.
Salmon and freshwater pearl mussels in the Taw and Torridge rivers are in grave decline. Swifts, house martins, hedgehogs, bees and butterflies are becoming less and less abundant.
More than 92 percent of our flower-rich Culm grassland has disappeared over the past 100 years. These shocking statistics should serve as a wake-up call to us all.
It’s a grave situation, but with community action and support, we believe North Devon’s environmental fortunes can be given a bright future for the benefit of future generations.
Mike Moser is chair of the Nature Improvement Group at North Devon UNESCO Biosphere. If you love North Devon’s nature, help us by donating here, and telling your family, friends, employers and colleagues to help too!
Image: A_Peach, Flickr.