Keywords: Wildlife Trusts, nature conservation, Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts
The Wildlife Trusts, collectively, are one of the biggest voluntary players in the wildlife conservation movement in the UK. Wildlife Trusts cover the whole of the UK; membership is 800,000 and growing. The Wildlife Trusts celebrate the centenary of the movement in 2012. This book by Tim Sands is part of the package of celebratory initiatives instigated by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts which acts as an umbrella body for the individual trusts. The book is in three parts. From a legal perspective, the most interesting is probably the first part, which sets out the history of the movement and its involvement in lobbying for new wildlife laws.
Just over 100 years ago, on 16 May 1912, the banker and naturalist Charles Rothschild met with Charles Edward Fagan, Assistant Secretary at the Natural History Museum, William Robert Ogilvie-Grant, Assistant Keeper of Zoology, and a close friend Francis Robert Henley to establish the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR). Their aim was to promote the concept of preserving sites suitable for nature conservation by identifying worthy wildlife sites and persuading others to buy them. The group expanded with notable worthies and produced a schedule of areas of wildlife importance in 1915. Close cooperation with the National Trust was sought and the SPNR helped the National Trust to acquire Blakeney Point in Norfolk and Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. Really close cooperation did not materialise, but the SPNR earned on and, with a number of name changes along the way, became the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.
Tim Sands has worked in wildlife conservation for over 45 years, much of it with Wildlife Trusts. In addition to his extensive political lobbying for new legislation, he has been involved in leading work on the conservation of badgers, otters, wetlands and peatlands. He is currently deputy chair of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, his local Trust. He is eminently suited to write the history of wildlife conservation in the UK. The book charts the changing fortunes of wildlife in the UK and outlines how a series of legislation spurred many more people into action. In Sands' view, the two most important Acts were the Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act passed by Private Members Bill in 1975 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Then, in 1992, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity was agreed at Rio de Janeiro and the UK Government responded by publishing Biodiversity - The UK Action Plan (BAP). This was a critical moment in the history of wildlife conservation because the BAP, a central government initiative, sought the same ends as those sought by the voluntary non-governmental movement. In 1993 a group of non-governmental organisations comprising the Wildlife Trusts, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Butterfly Conservation, Plant Life and Friends of the Earth set up the Biological Challenge Group (BCG). Sands shows how lobbying by the BCG went on to encourage the passing of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000.