Cuts Watch #371: U-turn on nature reserves
The Telegraph reports that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has given up plans (first leaked in August) to sell Natural England’s stake in the National Nature Reserves. The Department has been in discussion with large conservation groups, such as the Woodland Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which have been asked to take over the Reserves. The charities have said from the start that this would be difficult without specific funding as their income from membership and other grants is falling. (Though Jonathan Porritt has blamed these discussions for the Wildlife Trusts’ low profile in the campaign to save the forests.)
It seems that DEFRA’s position is now that Natural England is “scoping a range of options as you would expect – but Ministers have decided that the National Nature Reserves will remain in public ownership.” The ‘options’ appear to include a continued attempt to hand over management of the Reserves to environmental NGOs.