Help Our Government to Help Our Pollinators

Thursday 17th April 2014

The Government is currently consulting the public on what it should do to protect our pollinators.  This is your chance to tell them how much you care about securing healthy and vibrant ecosystems and sustainable food production. 

Government has offered to “act and play a leading role” we must ensure that their approach is robust and comprehensive.  Please respond to the National Pollinator Strategy consultation.

Steven Falk

Last month Buglife launched its “Pollinator Manifesto” . This sets out 7 principles and 27 actions to arrest the alarming decline in UK pollinator populations.  In brief summary British pollinators should be:-

  1. 1. Valued and provided for by focussed plans of action
  2. 2. Monitored and understood
  3. 3. Safe from harmful pesticides
  4. 4. Provided with landscapes rich in networks of wildflower habitats
  5. 5. Saved from dramatic declines and extinction of species
  6. 6. Provided with improved nesting and feeding habitats, planned around people
  7. 7. Safe from imported diseases and invasive species 

 

There is much to praise in the Government’s draft National Pollinator Strategy.  In particular the key outcomes are sound:-

“• diverse and flower-rich habitats to support our pollinators on farmland and public land, in towns, cities and gardens, along transport networks and on land surrounding other infrastructure such as water treatment works and flood defences;

• healthy bees and other pollinators to support pollination services;

• enhanced awareness across a wide ranges of businesses, other organisations and the public of the actions they can take to support pollinators.”

More specifically there are welcome proposed commitments to:-

  1. 1. Improve the monitoring and understanding of wild pollinator populations.
  2. 2. Create a “Call to Action” package that will inspire and inform action across society.
  3. 3. Review and improve ‘Integrated Pest Management’ so that our agricultural ecosystems depend more on natural predators and less on frequent drenching with pesticides
  4. 4. Review imported disease risks to pollinators (although we believe firm action is justified now)
  5. 5. “Put pollinators’ needs at the forefront” of Common Agricultural Policy review and agri-environment spending on farmland.

 

It is also reassuring that Government is recommending that the Strategy is regularly reported on, kept under review and updated and reissued in the future. Richard Smith

 

Areas where we think the draft Strategy needs to be significantly strengthened by Defra include:-

 

Pesticide management – we believe that the evidence is sufficient to justify a full regulatory review of the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides in the UK and the UK must insist that future EU pesticide regulation tests incorporate pollinators such as moths and hoverflies and are statistically robust.  The draft Strategy fails to acknowledge or address the corrupting role of commission based pesticide sales.  We also believe that a law should be introduced preventing the un-licenced destruction of nesting wild bees or their nests with pesticides or poisons.

Species conservation – we believe it is essential for a healthy pollinator ecosystem that we focus on preventing the decline and extinction of species of moth, bee, wasps, flies and other pollinators that are protected under Section 41 of the NERC Act and that this will require new resources.

Wildflower networks – committing to develop and implement options that farmers can take up to create and manage pollinator habitat is important, but to be effective and make best use of the resources this must be done in a planned way that creates a defined network of habitat.

Conserving what we have – remaining areas of wild flowers and existing High Nature Value agriculture must be maintained and promoted.  The Strategy should recognise SSSI targets as important contributions, but designations should be revised to include pollinator populations – less than 15% mention insects as being features deserving consideration in managing the SSSI.  The Environmental Impact Assessment process should be strengthened to halt the conversion of large and small flowery meadows into green deserts.

Brownfield pollinators – the strategy acknowledges of the importance of biodiverse brownfield sites for maintaining pollinators but the action “Disseminate 'Call to Action' advice to brownfield site managers.” will not be adequate to fix the problem of habitat destruction – the Strategy should also commit to defining high environmental value sites that should not be developed, and identifying and protecting the highest value brownfield sites in local plans. Suzie Bairner

Training key advisors – there must be a training program on pollinator conservation for Natural England, Forestry Enterprise, Environment Agency and Local Authority staff so that they are empowered with the knowledge that they will need to make a profound improvement.

In addition there are two Government departments that do not appear to have been sufficiently bought into the Strategy.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is responsible for ensuring that national priorities are taken up locally.  It is essential that DCLG becomes a party to this Strategy.  Their influence and leadership will be crucial in ensuring that the spatial planning system creates new pollinator habitats and does not destroy pollinator homes.  DCLG should also have an overview of Local Authorities activities, producing pollinator plans, incorporating pollinator habitats into their local plans (especially B-Lines and brownfield sites of high pollinator value), reducing pesticide use and managing public spaces to prove pollinator habitats near people.  DCLG should monitor LA action in this regard and report on it as part of the Annual Review (enabling further action in the future if it is not happening) their commitment to the Strategy is essential and they will need to develop specific actions so as to sustain pollinators within their area of influence.

The Department of Education should commit, as part of the Strategy, to ensuring that alongside their current commitment to ensure that all children understand where their food comes, all children should understand pollination and its crucial role in food production.

I hope that this personal view of the strengths and weaknesses in the Draft Pollinator Strategy will help you to form your opinions about what action the Government should take in the future.

You have until 2 May 2014 to express your views – click here to respond to the consultation.