GovToday conference

GT representatives participate in major conference on managing the natural environment.

An important conference was held on 12th June in London, that brought together all interested parties from government, academia and the environment sector to look at implementation of the new White Paper on the environment, The Natural Choice.  Organised by GovToday, the communications channel for UK government policy, the conference was well-attended, especially by biodiversity organisations and influential individuals, yet our vastly outnumbered geoconservation contingent made their mark!  This is GT Chairman Martin Whiteley’s report of the day:

Balancing Nature, Society and the Economy – Conference Report

This was the theme for the inaugural Natural Environment Conference that took place in London on 12th June 2012. It was organised by GovToday, the Government’s media website, and supported by many of the major conservation organisations such as the Countryside Alliance, WWF, RSPB and Wildlife Trust. The aim was to explore the White Paper on the subject – ‘The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature’ that was launched a year beforehand.

The papers delivered during the morning session were primarily concerned with describing the evidence base that underpinned the White Paper, namely the UK National Ecosystem Assessment and the influential Lawton Report ‘Making Space for Nature’. The White Paper itself is, of course, now well established and whilst it does nothing to promote geodiversity it is generally well received among the bioconservation community. The way in which its aims will be realised and the role that local authorities have to play in their delivery was also discussed.

Subsequent sessions were rather more narrowly focused and dealt with sustainability issues relating to eco-towns, wind farms, water resources and biodiversity offsetting. Rounding off proceedings were contributions from The Land Trust, the Forestry Commission and Natural England, the latter providing a description of England’s new Biodiversity 2020 strategy.

Among the 300 delegates who attended the conference geoconservationists were in short supply. The Geology Trusts had been offered free exhibition space at the last minute when a sponsor had to pull out, so we scurried around and were able to produce an informative display that described the role of local geoconservation groups and showcased some of their successes. The display was manned by Martin Whiteley (Geology Trusts) and Moira Jenkins (Herefordshire & Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust) and we were pleased to be joined by Tim Holt-Wilson (Geo-East) and Tom Hose (GCUK) at various times in order to help fly the flag for geoconservation.

What was perhaps surprising, given that the conference focused on biotic nature and sustainability, was the degree to which our efforts were recognised and appreciated. Not overtly by the keynote speakers, but by many of the delegates who were aware of our ambitions through networks such as LGAPs, ‘Champions’ projects and geodiversity partnerships. That said, it’s clear that the scale of our work, which is often small and site-specific, struggles to find recognition among landscape-scale initiatives such as the 12 Nature Improvement Areas currently being championed by Defra. Here the mantra is ‘more, bigger, better and joined’ and if the geoconservation community also wants to move in that direction it will certainly be a challenge.

Martin Whiteley, Chairman, The Geology Trusts,

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