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Devon Wildlife Trust's Manifesto


									Devon Wildlife Trust’s Manifesto


     Our Vision

     Our Values

     The history

     What Devon will look like

     The role of DWT

The Devon Wildlife Trust has a vision of a Devon in which:

•   Wildlife is plentiful, varied and widespread

•   The future of wildlife is secure

•   The benefits of wildlife are valued and enjoyed


•   wildlife is life and that, without it around us in abundance, human life is at risk

•   globally, the continued decline in the biodiversity of the planet is approaching critical

•   wildlife is the tangible evidence of the health of natural systems on which all life,
    including human, depends

•   responsibility for those natural systems lies with those who exploit them

•   the County of Devon has a global responsibility to maintain its local contribution to
    biodiversity and protect the health of its natural systems

•   the social and economic wellbeing of the County is dependent on its natural assets,
    which are in decline

DWT Manifesto app by Council Nov 08                                                         1
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Manifesto

•   The health and wellbeing of humans depends on the natural world

•   Wildlife is infinitely fascinating and rewarding

The Devon Wildlife Trust uses the term ‘wildlife’ to mean all living things (other than those
domesticated by Man) from the highly visible, like birds, butterflies and wild flowers, to the
organisms which live unseen in soil, water and air.

The Earth’s biodiversity – the variety of all living things on the planet – has evolved in
response to, and in balance with, the conditions and resources which have prevailed. This
collective symbiosis is lost when one species – Man – uses its ingenuity to exploit the
available resources and in so doing limits the options of all other species. Since these
species collectively contribute to the natural systems which sustain all life on the planet,
their erosion reduces their capacity to provide and brings nearer a dangerous tipping point
beyond which life on earth will begin to break down.

Natural systems are what holds life on this planet together. They regulate the basics of
life – the conditions in which we all live. They capture energy from the sun as the basis for
all food chains. They contribute to soil fertility, water purity and air quality. They recycle
the components of life through ‘cycles’ (such as the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle)
which have a fixed carrying capacity. They manage floods, keep ‘pests’ under control,
remove wastes – in short, they are the loom on which the fabric of life is woven.

Devon is not wilderness, and has not been for 4,000 years. If it were, then the land would
still be largely covered by oak woodland, though this would be broken by glades, bogs,
wetlands, rocky outcrops and the like. This is where wildlife not suited to life in oak
woodland would be found; a mosaic of habitat islands in a sea of oak trees.

Since Man intervened, this pattern has changed. Most importantly, we cut down most of
the trees, and woodland life was pushed back. At the same time, we created grasslands,
heaths, hedgerows and open areas of fresh turned earth. Into these spread the wildlife
once confined to small spaces in the wood, where they flourished. In pre-industrial rural
Devon, wildlife was still plentiful, widespread and varied, even though the habitats of that
time could at best be described as ‘semi-natural’.

Not all of Devon can be equally rich in wildlife, but every area – even its cities - can play a
part in making sure that it is as widespread as possible. Each habitat, from the rarest to
the most common, can optimise its potential to sustain wildlife, so that it is plentiful.
Wildlife tends to be at its most varied in Devon’s ‘traditional’ habitats – its ancient
woodlands, its heathlands, its flower-rich grasslands, and these will need particular care to
ensure that their variety is maintained.

DWT Manifesto app by Council Nov 08                                                         2
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Manifesto

Though the land has been managed for millennia, Devon does still have a forgotten
wilderness – the sea. It is one of its richest natural assets. Its two coastlines are quite
distinct; the one exposed to the open Atlantic, the other a suburb of the English Channel.
And it lies between two marine ‘zones’, so that its wildlife is a rich mixture of species
associated both with the colder seas to the north and the warmer ones to the south.

The twentieth century was not kind to Devon’s wildlife. The figures for losses on land are
compelling; over 100 years, Devon lost 95% of its species rich grassland, 30-65% of its
heathland, 12,400 miles of its hedgerows. It is harder to compute the impact on its seas.
It is safe to say that the inshore seabed which had hardly been scratched for thousands of
years is now regularly trawled and dredged, that Devon’s estuaries have been developed
intensively for the first time in their histories, that fish stocks are at an all time low since we
first began to exploit them and sightings of the once common dolphins, porpoises and
seals that grace our coast are rarer and rarer.

It is hard, in a county which still appears to have such a rich and varied natural
environment, to think in terms of crisis. Even more so when, for the last ten years or so,
the effort which has been made to address the problems and successes have been so
trumpeted: the otter is back, peregrine falcons are flourishing, our rivers are superficially
clean and healthy and the sunfish and little egret have arrived. The reality, however, is
starkly negative. By any measure, the health of Devon’s natural environment has
plummeted over the last 100 years.

In the second half of the twentieth century, sixty years into the process of pushing the
plentiful, widespread and varied life of the Devon landscape towards being rare, confined
and limited, a movement developed which demanded that something must be done. That
movement called for a Devon in which wildlife would once again be at its richest, set in a
landscape in sympathy with human life and providing it (as it has always done) with a host
of benefits, from services to all which can be reckoned in financial terms to individual
benefits of health and wellbeing.

For most of that time, conservationists were fighting a rearguard action, trying to slow the
rate of loss. Agricultural improvement went on apace to satisfy a production-volume based
industry; development was routinely allowed on patches of ‘waste’ heathland, wetland and
scrub; landings at Devon’s fishing towns continued to grow as fishing methods got ever
more highly mechanised.

However, there is still no clear picture of what a Devon in which wildlife is once again
plentiful, widespread and varied might look like in a modern context. There can be no
going back to a pre-industrialised model; Devon must map out a new future for itself in
which the needs of all life, human and wild, can be met.

The original wild Devon provides a model. The dominant ‘land use’ was woodland; it
provided the habitat for the bulk of the wildlife, which would have been widespread and
plentiful throughout. It was in the islands of other habitat that the variety was added; it
was not widespread, but was plentiful within its limited scope and full of variety.

DWT Manifesto app by Council Nov 08                                                             3
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Manifesto

The dominant land use today is agriculture. Human development - settlements, transport
infrastructure, commerce – is also prevalent. Scattered throughout this farmed and
developed landscape are islands of habitat (including woodland) which add the variety.
Overall, the wildlife is nowhere near as plentiful, widespread and varied as it once was.

Rebuilding the biodiversity of Devon will be a challenge. It will require an agreed blue
print, it will need the ability to monitor progress and it will demand investment in habitat
enhancement and creation. But it can be done, by creating wildlife havens, by reweaving
the broader fabric of the countryside and by creating corridors, particularly through areas
of high development.

Although the process of Rebuilding Biodiversity in the County will be a difficult one, the
principle is disarmingly simple. It involves establishing large, wildlife rich areas throughout
the County, based on the best of what is left of the richness of a century ago. In these
areas, all landowners and managers should be supported in optimising the biodiversity of
their land for the common good. At the same time, the remainder of the County should
seek to achieve ‘connectivity’ between the large areas, by establishing wildlife corridors
criss-crossing the County and containing further smaller havens for wildlife.

The need is urgent because the impact of Climate Change is beginning to be felt. Even if
we are successful in the near future in cutting back our use of fossil fuels dramatically (and
the omens are not good!), the change already in the system from past pollution of the
atmosphere will be significant – 3 degrees in 50 years is a common prediction. Wildlife
would find it hard to adapt to such rapid change at the best of times – and these are not
the best of times, with so many important sites ‘ghettoised’ within a landscape of improved
agriculture and built development.


There are still in Devon, despite all that has happened, remnants of its wildlife rich rural
past which have survived into the 21st century. This is the heart of its variety; many of the
species may not be widespread, but they should be plentiful. At present, many of them
are not. At the heart of the problem lies habitat fragmentation, the breaking up of once
extensive areas of wildlife rich countryside into a few small oases, each separated from
the next by a desert of ‘improvement’; intensive agriculture, housing and transport
infrastructure mostly.

Restoring the heartlands involves identifying areas where a significant number of rich
fragments still exist and drawing up a plan to reconnect them into a continuous whole of
wildlife-rich habitat. Small pieces of habitat are vulnerable to all sorts of threats and
stresses which extensive areas are better able to cope with.

DWT Manifesto app by Council Nov 08                                                         4
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Manifesto


Heartlands are not enough if the lifeblood of Devon cannot flow around the County. The
natural environment is an ever evolving mixture of complexity and it needs the ability to
shift and adapt – to retreat in cold winters, for instance, and make ground in warm ones.
So the heartlands must be well connected by corridors along which life can ebb and flow.
These areas may not be managed throughout to optimise biodiversity, as in the
heartlands, but they will patterns of habitat in close proximity. River corridors will be
especially important in this respect, as will hedgerows.

In these areas, good practice in the management of wildlife-rich land must be encouraged,
land managers willing to embrace the needs of wildlife in their management must be
supported, local communities helped to get involved in maintaining the important areas of
their locality and so on. The goal will be a mosaic of interconnected ‘wilder’ areas within a
working landscape also serving human needs.

Wildlife in these areas will be plentiful and widespread, but may not be as varied as in the

Reweaving the fabric of the wider countryside

There are areas of Devon’s countryside which still need to be managed primarily to meet
human needs, for food, for recreation, for transport and so on. These areas have become
very poor in wildlife, which has largely not been taken into account in planning the uses to
which they have been put. That does not mean, however, that they have no part to play in
building a sustainable future. Whatever use they are being put to, their value to wildlife
can still be consciously optimised. High production agricultural land, sports fields, road
verges, village greens, churchyards, school grounds – all of these can fulfil their function
and still find some space for wildlife.

Reinstating wild areas in our towns and cities

Human beings are the most populous and resource greedy species of mammal in Devon.
And, over the last century, it became our habit to gather together into colonies, all
designed, at different scales, to meet our needs. As a result, the proportion of green
space to be found in our towns and cities is small. This not only means that the spaces
our towns and cities occupy have relatively little wildlife, but also that most people have
very limited opportunity to enjoy contact with it.

Making best use of the space that exists to optimise its biodiversity will not only create vital
urban wildlife corridors to mitigate their ‘barrier’ effect, but also encourage people for
whom interaction with wildlife is not a natural part of their daily lives to enjoy and value it.

This last is crucial. Rebuilding biodiversity – and protecting it when it is rebuilt – will
require political will and economic leverage. The urban population of Devon represents

DWT Manifesto app by Council Nov 08                                                           5
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Manifesto

the bulk of its electorate and its consumers. Rebuilding a sense of connection and linking
wildlife to people’s sense of wellbeing will be as important as rebuilding the biodiversity

Rebuilding biodiversity in Devon will be a challenging and substantial task in which DWT
believes it has a particular role. Its status as a charity and the skills it has developed
since its founding in 1962 make it best suited to concentrate its efforts on three areas of

Firstly, it has a key role in creating Wildlife Havens – securing the management of the
existing areas of wildlife rich habitat which are at the heart of its vision. Within the areas
defined by the South West and Devon nature maps its goal will be to identify Devon’s
existing wildlife rich sites and to get as many of them as possible under good
management. Wherever possible, the size of such sites will also be increased by habitat
creation or restoration. DWT will work towards this goal by owning and managing land
itself and by extending the size of its holdings whenever possible. It will also offer advice
and support to other owners and managers of wildlife rich sites and encourage them to
extend the size of such sites whenever possible. It will monitor the sites it has identified to
be able to report on the result of all efforts being made to rebuild biodiversity in these
areas. It will also offer advice and support to owners and managers of land which falls
within the network of ‘corridors’ also defined by the Devon nature map.

Secondly, it will act as a Champion for Wildlife. Creating Wildlife Havens alone is not
enough. They could so easily become wildlife ghettos, areas set aside from the
mainstream of life. However, it is beyond DWT’s resources to extend site specific advice
to every parcel of land which has a role to play in Rebuilding Biodiversity in Devon. It will
therefore argue the case for a wildlife sensitive approach to the management of human
affairs, particularly in those areas which impact most directly on the natural environment.
By the same token, when persuasion fails, it will oppose practices which have a
detrimental effect. This will involve it in trying to persuade policy makers, decision makers
and businesses to meet their objectives with the well being of wildlife in mind, minimising
unavoidable impacts and taking every opportunity for biodiversity gain.

Thirdly, it will work to increase the value people place on wildlife. It is a simple fact that
human beings tend to protect best what most they value. The fate of wildlife is so much in
the hands of people – as voters and consumers in particular – that DWT will work to
encourage Devon’s population to understand and share its values and to enjoy and use its
natural environment in sustainable ways.

DWT is a charity. All that it achieves is dependent on support. To serve the interests of
Devon’s wildlife to best possible effect, it must secure all the support it can get. Support
comes in many forms, but by far the most important is the financial. DWT will maintain a
dedicated fundraising team to tap as many sources of funding as possible. Most important
of all, it will encourage individual supporters and offer them the benefits of membership.

DWT Manifesto app by Council Nov 08                                                         6
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Manifesto

Members not only help pay for DWT’s work but also make a statement of support which
strengthens DWT’s position as its membership rises. And, because clear accountability is
also important, DWT needs a skilled Finance team to track its income and expenditure.

Money is not the only form of support. Expertise offered freely has a real value too
allowing DWT to expand its work beyond the range of skills which it employs with the
money it raises. DWT’s Council of trustees has a policy of maintaining a full time post
dedicated to the support of volunteers.

Encouraging support is dependent on reputation – supporters are entitled to expect DWT
to be a reputable organisation worthy of their gift of time, money or goods. The charity
therefore pledges to its supporters that it will:

   •   Manage itself effectively and work to the highest standards

   •   Use its resources efficiently

   •   Raise awareness of the work it does and of its importance to both people and

DWT’s principal activities are summarised as:

The Devon Wildlife Trust works to achieve a Devon richer in wildlife and public recognition
that a healthy environment, rich in wildlife and managed on sustainable principles, is
essential for continued human existence, by:

   •   Securing the management of Devon’s key wildlife sites for optimum biodiversity
       (Wildlife havens)

   •   Promoting and supporting the sustainable use of Devon’s natural resources
       (Wildlife champions)

   •   Increasing the personal, social and economic value which the people of Devon
       place on its wildlife
       (People & wildlife)

   •   Generating public support for and appreciation of DWT’s contribution to biodiversity

DWT Manifesto app by Council Nov 08                                                       7

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