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Creating 'lapwing envy' to help farm wildlife

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: May 21, 2014

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  • Keynote speaker Richard Benyon MP, below left, and a lapwing. 'Lapwing envy' between landowners is said to be one way to motivate them to encourage wildlife on their land.

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FARMERS, conservationists, policy-makers and scientists have joined forces at a research conference which has highlighted how wildlife recovery is something that all farmers should be aiming for.

The specially convened research conference, organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), was triggered by the "State of Nature" report, which showed that 60% of the species studied have suffered declines over the last 50 years and that attempts to target recovery have failed.

A packed programme delivered by GWCT scientists, with a key-note address by Richard Benyon MP, covered a range of topics on wildlife management.

Delegates heard how it might be possible to have more lapwings, healthier soil and cleaner rivers, more beneficial insects and a better outcome for many declining farmland bird species.

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Richard Benyon MP, made a passionate and very personal address to the audience.

He said: "Simply aiming to halt biodiversity loss is a mistake.

"We should be saying 'reverse these appalling declines'. Government is only part of the solution. What we need to do is to harness more 'enlightened self-interest'.

"For example, shooting delivers monumental benefits to biodiversity.

"I am a wild grey partridge nut and, because of this targeted wildlife management for partridges, I have a huge range of other farmland birds on my land.

"It's all about incentivising and enthusing people to achieve extraordinary things and I am delighted that this is now happening in spades in many areas of the country."

Key messages from the conference demonstrated that targeting wildlife recovery more accurately, together with better advice and getting farmers to work together on a landscape scale were all crucial aspects that would help to spark wildlife recovery.

Motivation was also an important factor.

Chris Musgrave, from the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area, explained: "Creating 'lapwing envy' in your neighbour is a good way to get that neighbour to do more."

Summing up at the end of the conference, Teresa Dent, GWCT chief executive, said: "It is clear from today's presentations that agri-environment funding will diminish – there will be less ability to incentivise farmers.

"So, if we are going to achieve wildlife recovery, we need to focus on motive.

"Embracing what motivates farmers will be vital – whether it is 'lapwing envy' or a love of fishing or shooting.

"It is a tough challenge but we know what we need to do in order to trigger a wildlife revival."

She echoed the 2010 report Making Space For Nature, by Professor Sir John Lawton, saying that the approach needed to be "bigger, better and more joined up".

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