March 30, 2019

On Saturday 6th April I will be speaking a conference along with other conservationists presenting personal views of the changing nature of conservation. I will argue that we need radical change, because our current conservation model isn't working.

The full line-up:

  • Sir John Lawton, keynote address: ‘Making Space for Nature: past, present and future’
  • Rob Stoneman (YWT): ‘The Wildlife Trusts: from preservation to dreams of a Wilder Future’
  • Laurence Rose (RSPB): ‘Bird conservation: from citizen science to nature citizenship’
  • Richard Baker: ‘Alien pest invaders’
  • Tim Thom (YWT): ‘Getting to grips with peat’
  • Phil Lyth (Farming and Wildlife): ‘Farming with Wildlife in a changing world’
  • Brian Walker: ‘Changing attitudes in the Forestry Commission’

I recently sent a synopsis of my talk to the conference organisers:

Bird conservation has undergone a decisive shift in recent decades, from an emphasis on preserving rare species to a realisation, about thirty years ago, that even common birds are in trouble.  This led to a shift in the way we plan, prioritise, fund and promote conservation, and made its appeal more universal. 

It also represents a step-change in the scale of the challenge:  reversing the declines in formerly common and widespread species requires an overhaul in the policies and funding mechanisms that dictate how land and seas are managed across whole industries, notably farming, forestry, shooting and fisheries.  To date, there has been no sign that a reversal is foreseeable.

Furthermore, the problems of bird conservation apply across all taxa.  The role of amateur naturalists – citizen scientists – in heralding and then quantifying the crisis has been decisive: decades’ worth of high-quality ornithological data are now being matched by clear evidence that our most familiar wildlife, from common butterflies to adders are on the same slippery slope.

Laurence Rose, who has spent 35 years in the conservation sector and will soon ‘retire’ to focus on his work as a conservation writer, looks back with a sense of unfinished business, and forward in search of radical change.  He concludes that conservation is a cultural issue, and that society needs to rethink its relationship with the rest of nature.  Our current conservation model isn’t working.

The conference fee of £10.00 per head includes coffee and tea. Participants may bring a packed lunch or use one of several places to eat in the vicinity. To book your place please send a cheque (payable to ‘PLACE’) to: Dr Margaret Atherden, PLACE Office, York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York, YO31 7EX.  For details of paying by BACS, e-mail:

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