To save British wildlife we need to understand and appreciate those who own and manage the land, says Teresa Dent, chief executive of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
GETTING THE PSYCHOLOGY RIGHT TO SAVE BRITISH WILDLIFE
So if we want to engage land managers more actively in wildlife recovery we should get the psychology right. For instance, understand the difference between motive and incentive. Farmers are motivated to manage wildlife either through love, enlightened self-interest or pure self-interest. Relatively few have made self-interest work – but some have managed to turn wildlife into an earner. Many do it through enlightened self-interest; they enjoy shooting or fishing and the management of woodland or the river for those pursuits often has significant knock-on benefits for other wildlife sharing those habitats, such as butterflies in woodland, waders on moorland, small birds feasting on pheasant cover over winter, ranunculus in the river, clean spawning grounds.
For some it is just love – pure and simple. But the key thing to understand is that motive is powerful – it is why something gets done, and continues to be done. Incentive simply creates more. The world’s taxpayers are not rich enough, and I hope humans are not emotionally poor enough, for money to be the motivation for wildlife conservation. But, whatever the motive, we need to embrace and foster that “why”, and then use what money we can afford to incentivise “more”.
Former environment minister Richard Benyon MP is passionate about conservation and in 2008 he dedicated 1,000 acres of his farm in Berkshire to an inspiring partridge recovery programme. His results won him the GWCT’s Cotswold Grey Partridge Trophy. In just five years grey partridges increased from two pairs to 31 pairs with many other species benefiting, too. Lapwings now breed on the estate with 30 pairs counted last spring and the brown hare population is also flourishing. Nest-boxes for tree sparrows have been in-stalled and it is hoped that the local population will expand over the next few years.
At our recent research conference, Benyon highlighted what motivated him: “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 enthusing and incentivising people to achieve extraordinary things.”