National Trust returns to its wild roots

 

The National Trust is a much-loved heritage organisation in the UK that protects interesting or historic buildings, manages and conserves the site and land, and provides access to the public. But did you know it allows promises to protect plant and animal life? The commitment is even within its founding principles:

The National Trust shall be established for the purpose of promoting the permanent preservation for the benefit of the nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest and as regards lands for the preservation (so far as is practicable) of their natural aspect, features and animal and plant life. Section 4.1 National Trust Act, 1907

The organisation has arguably lost touch with the final clause of its mission statement and has yesterday vowed to play a more active role in enabling nature to thrive on its land. It aims to do this encouraging its tenant farmers on its 250,000 hectares of land to create wildlife corridors, maintain hedgerows, improve water and soil quality, install ponds, plant new wetland, and establish lowland wildflower meadows.

Considering the Trust owns 1% of all land in the UK, their decisive actions could provide necessary habitats for our most threatened native species, including natterjack toads, cuckoos, water voles, lapwings, and curlews, all of which are gradually vanishing from the British countryside when before the radical changes to agricultural practices they were commonplace creatures.

NT aims to create 25,000 hectares of new habitats by 2025 – a nice, quotable figure, but is their ambition attainable and will it be enough to reverse the devastating decline in so many of our native species as demonstrated by last year’s State of Nature report delivered by the Wildlife Trusts? Over 56% of our species have declined in the last 50 years, a significant blow and an enormous hurdle for any one organisation to tackle alone.

Indeed, is the National Trust’s goal compatible with its concessions to field sports? Read their position on field sports and shooting here. It states that it takes strong action against lawbreakers and insists that those participating in field sports do so in compliance with their codes of conduct; however, the League Against Cruel Sports has little confidence in the National Trust to protect its land and wildlife under its own terms of license conditions. It appears to lack the resources to take proper action or investigate claims of illegal hunting unless there has been a police investigation and conviction.