National Nature Reserves readied for sell off

National Nature Reserves readied for sell off
bridgwater bay

bridgwater bay (credir: pandrcutts)

It would appear that as opposition mounts against the proposed sell off of Forestry Commission woodlands in England, England Nature is preparing to sell off 39 National Nature Reserves in the West Country. Perhaps the coalition government is going to hope to be able to sell off all of England Natures wildlife sites while attention is on the woodlands.

A report in thisissomerset has reported that 39 National Nature Reserves in the west of England are being prepped for selling off. The site includes national treasures such as the Somerset Levels, some of Wiltshire’s limestone commons and Dorset heath-lands.  The National Nature Reserves (NNR) that are to be sold are in the following counties:

  • Somerset,
  • Wiltshire,
  • Gloucestershire,
  • Dorset,
  • Avon.

Selling off endangered species and rare habitats.

The reserves that are to be sold contain some of England’s rarest habitat types and most endangered species.  Some of the reserves being primed for privatisation include:

  • Bridgwater Bay  – not just a National Nature Reserve but also a Special Protection Area and internationally designated RAMSAR site. consisting of mudflats and saltmarshes the reserve is home to up to 190 species of birds.
  • Heartland Moor – this National Nature Reserve is a rare lowland heath habitat that contains a range of rare species, both plant and animal. Rare plants include the bog orchid and marsh gentian. Rare animals include the large marsh grasshoppers and birds include nightjar and hen harrier.
  • Parsonage Down  – is a working farm that is also a National Nature Reserve. It is the farms that many people remember from their childhood days with an incredible 150 species of wildflowers – including a number of orchids - found in it’s meadows.

Funding privatised national nature reserves.

[pullquote] ’ … the greenest government ever’ I miss understood. I thought he was talking about the ‘environmental’ green. He was, of course, talking about the  ’greenbacks’ [/pullquote] The big question is who will want to buy and manage these reserves. Some charities have said that they would be interested in buying them but would need extra government resources to be able to afford them. Government resources are being squeezed so that money is not going to be available for them. The England Nature wardens are said to have support within the organisation to put together a ‘buy out’ of the reserves but they will also need to be funded.

There are not many options for financing these reserves. They are either financed directly from government through grants and tax incentives, public donations or commercial development.

Commercial developers will only be interested in those sites that they can make a profit from – either developing leisure business and hotels or through admission charges.

Public donations could be an option for those who take on the management of the reserves but with peoples pockets being squeezed with rising inflation, reducing wages and lack of full time jobs there’s going to be a lot of competition for those spare pounds that some might have. Private charitable trusts that offer grants and the National Lottery will have far greater demands on their resources as more government grants are withdrawn.

This really only leaves the government as the primary source of finance for the management of National Nature Reserves. If the government is not willing to provide direct finance then there is only one way that the nature reserves can be funded and that is through the tax system. It could be possible that the long term aims of funding the reserves is by offering landowners who can afford to buy the reserves substantial tax avoidance schemes in much the same way that forestry is treated.

‘The greenest government ever’ – David Cameron.

Perhaps this really is what is behind the selling off of woodlands and nature reserves – the ability for the coalition to offer those with money to buy land the option to avoid paying taxes. Friends and family of David Cameron and Nick Clegg will definitely do very well out of the sell off of forestry lands – they have the money to buy the land and a desire to avoid paying taxes. If  a generous tax regime is transfered to National Nature Reserves then it will prove popular with the landed gentry and super rich.

Obviously when David Cameron declared that the coalition would be ‘ … the greenest government ever’ I miss understood. I thought he was talking about the ‘environmental’ green. He was, of course, talking about the  ’greenbacks’  and the wad of bank notes he would be pushing towards the super rich. Don’t you just hate it when Americanisms get into everyday language.

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