Looking back over 2015 it is easy to find the bad news for nature, finding the good news not so. Wildlife seems to be in trouble everywhere, whether in forests, oceans, wetlands or deserts.
Good news though to start. In February Natural England decreed that the beavers living on the river Otter in Devon could stay, subject to a five year monitoring programme. So, after a gap of 500 years, these endearing and useful animals are again living wild in England.
The general election campaign gave us little cheer about in the spring. The environment in general, and the natural world in particular, received short shrift from candidates and commentators alike. Nobody could see past the economy to the natural resources which underpin it. Even the Green Party failed to raise the environment’s profile.
Politicians also failed to deal with the pressing issue of pesticides , especially neonicotinoids, which continue to do demonstrable harm to bees and other insects vital for the pollination of many food crops. The Government is against the temporary ban on their use in the European Union and has allowed a lifting of this in relation to some of our oil seed rape crops.
The shooting season starting in August reminded everyone of the illegal persecution of birds of prey, especially hen harriers. In the autumn the legal, but entirely misguided, persecution of badgers resumed in south western counties, including Gloucestershire.
In September the World Wide Fund for Nature reported that a global study of marine animals, birds and fish showed that their populations had declined by a half between 1970 and 2012. Just think about that, a half! This means that the planet depends on now damaged marine ecosystems.
The Government has done one positive thing. In October it began framing a 25 year plan for better management of the natural environment. This will take account of both its intrinsic worth and its benefits to us, such as clean air and water, pollination and healthy recreation. Twenty five years may be too long for our butterflies: in December Butterfly Conservation reported that three quarters of British butterflies had declined in both numbers and distribution since 1975.
Not much to cheer about then, but many people and organisations are doing sterling work to address the problems. Please support them if you can.