On 28 June the Romanian government announced the expansion of a measure to support corncrakes. Sounds good – but unfortunately the conditions for funding under the measure are very damaging to other wildlife; and a massive area of 500,000 ha (5,000 square km or a quarter the size of Wales) of High Nature Value flower-rich grassland and associated animal species was directly threatened. This measure would have changed the landscape forever.
The measure was proposed in response to the EU Wild Birds Directive. But the corncrakes are only there in such abundance (Romania has 27% of the European population) because of the survival of small-scale farming communities and mosaic land management – precisely what is threatened by the “scientific” rules of the corncrake measure. So this measure was using a narrow scientific argument, intended to protect a single species, in a sledgehammer-to-smash-a-nut approach which would certainly have caused severe damage to the landscape and eventually to the species itself.
Conventional conservation is littered with such failures.
ADEPT is encouraging policy-makers to escape from this trap and to find holistic answers.
During July, Fundatia ADEPT worked directly with the Romanian authorities, and with conservation NGOs, and reached a compromise under which the amount of grassland affected fell by 90%, to 50,000 ha. We will continue to work with the European Commission and the Romanian Government to improve the situation further.
This is an example of the enormous impact NGOs can have on farmers’ livelihoods and landscape conservation through policy lobbying. As a result of this lobbying, over 18,000 small scale farms and families have been protected from misguided changes to support funding, which would have rendered their farming economically unviable.
ADEPT’s underlying principle is that by maintaining small-scale farming and land ownership, this will make the farmers more prosperous and benefit biodiversity at the same time. After all, the corncrakes are only there because of sympathetic farming system over hundreds of years.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Science must be combined with a common sense approach.