Rachael Maskell MP attended an award ceremony in Westminster on Monday 3 July to mark the first anniversary of the Species Champions project and celebrate the recruitment of 39 MPs from across the political spectrum. The most actively involved MPs received awards from TV presenter Steve Backshall, recognising their efforts for nature conservation in Parliament and out in the field.
The Tansy Beetle is nowadays restricted to a section of the River Ouse corridor running through York. Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, has been extremely dedicated in raising awareness of the ‘Jewel of York’. This beautiful leaf beetle with a sheen of iridescent green lives amongst the Tansy plants growing along the banks of the river. Habitat loss and severe flooding have had a significant impact on its population. However, the Tansy Beetle Action Group (TBAG) have an army of dedicated volunteers creating new habitat, growing Tansy, and surveying the beetle each year to count the population. Population counts in 2016 resulted in an estimated 40,000 adult beetles being found, an increase of 63% on the figure from 2015.
The Species Champions project brings together MPs and conservationists from a partnership of 9 wildlife organisations to work on behalf of threatened species which range from the Swift to the Atlantic Salmon and the Small Copper Butterfly to the Greater Horseshoe Bat.
Rachael Maskell is working on behalf of the Tansy Beetle in York and in Westminster. This is an important time for MPs to be speaking up for wildlife. Last year’s State of Nature report highlighted the ongoing declines of over half the species studied, with more than one in ten at risk of extinction. Leaving the EU will present both risks and opportunities for the environment. During the legislative process MPs will have a critical role in ensuring the new laws work to secure a thriving natural world.
At the ceremony MPs were asked to sign the Greener UK Pledge for the Environment. The pledge which Rachael Maskell MP signed calls upon MPs to work to establish the UK as a world leader in the environment by committing to match or exceed the current protections we have in place for nature.
Rachael Maskell MP enthused “It is a huge honour to have been named as Parliament’s Species Champion, who has done the most to champion their species. I have really enjoyed getting acquainted with the Tansy Beetle, and learning so much about it, as well as using this as a means of promoting York’s natural assets and speaking up for the city in Parliament.
“The reason I became involved in this project, is from a lifelong love of nature, and the miraculous wonders it unfolds. I want all children and adults to take a little time to explore the beautiful species which are on their doorstep, whether plants or animals, or little beetles, and learn through this experience about their responsibility to our natural heritage and why it is so important to act now against the causes of climate change.
“As I continue to follow the developments of the Tansy Beetle, I will also look for more opportunities for people across the city to access natural habitats.”