Romans Protected Areas ever done for us?
A walk in the country is a time to take in
the views, the natural history of the landscape, birds, insects and flowers.
But faced with signs proclaiming AONB, Heritage Coast, SSSI, SAC, SPA, N2K, Ramsar,
Biosphere, SNCI, World Heritage and SAM*, you’d be forgiven for retreating to
the pub and drowning your sorrows at the plethora of conservation labels. Why don’t they just leave
it alone and let nature get on with it?
Sadly, nature is rarely allowed to do so,
not least because the pressure to develop is near irresistible. Short-term gain
speaks louder than long-term public interest. Town and Country Planning balances
these interests in a democratic environment. On the liberal principle that most
things are permitted unless one can show “demonstrable harm to interests of
acknowledged importance”, it is essential to identify those interests and agree
their importance. Hence National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and
Sites of Special Scientific Interest etc were established to guide land use
planning in sensitive landscapes.
Town & Country Planning determines
broad land use but not the detail of
land management, and, in the days
before protected sites were established, they did not stop the decline of
wildlife and loss of ancient monuments and sites to farming and forestry
practices. Much of that happened because landowners and managers were
uninformed of the values attached to the land. . So, conservationists developed
criteria to evaluate the land and a series of designations (SSSI,
These protected areas continue to be a priority.
They are the crown jewels and sometimes they need a little polishing. So when
limited conservation resources are available, these are the areas that must be
considered first. Often the importance of their features is dependent on
continuing management, perhaps haymaking, perhaps re-roofing. Damage by
overgrazing, neglect or by invasive alien species often needs to be countered
and some of this costs real money.
But protected areas don’t exist in isolation. They receive material, water, energy and migrating species of various kinds over the years. If they are isolated in a sea of inhospitable ground, their interest may decline, so increasingly we are seeking ways to maintain or restore habitats at a landscape-scale and restore ecological connections.
Few would deny that there is a long way to
Without protected areas, it’s safe to say that A Living Wales would be starting from a much more impoverished position.
* Area of
Outstanding Natural Beauty, Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area
of Conservation, Special Protection Area, Natura 2000, Site of Nature
Conservation Interest, Scheduled