The Countryside Alliance were one of over 110 interested parties to attend the Welsh Curlew conference held at Builth Wells on Wednesday 24th January. I will be honest with you, initially the event was pretty depressing and I shall tell you why. There are less than 400 breeding pairs of curlew left in Wales and it is estimated that the species will be extinct before 2030. We are in desperate, desperate times and action must be immediate.
Did you know that there are over 30 names for the Curlew in Welsh? My favourite is “Gog Cwm Nant Yr Eira”, the name given by the County of Montgomeryshire, and used by some of Wales’ great poets, Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins and R S Thomas. The Curlew has a hugely valuable part to play in the heritage and culture of Wales. To lose this species would be pitiful.
Galvanising so many diverse people and organisations with conflicting interests is quite some task. Introductions over arrival and coffee were without a doubt a little uncomfortable for some but within five minutes of the opening of conference those who have in the past had stark differences were nodding in agreement and giving each other an affirmative look.
Essentially for this to work in such a collaborative manner, it was stressed that there must be no using the cause to score points. We must all use our resources and expertise in a partnership that aims to increase the number of curlew present in Wales and to promote the plight of this magnificent bird to politicians and the public.
Speaking at the conference in Builth, Steve Redpath (Conservation Science at the University of Aberdeen) addressed the audience. He said “I would argue that the most fruitful way forward is likely to be through investing in building collaborative partnerships where you can deliberate and debate with those you disagree with and decide what the priorities and actions should be. Such approaches are not easy – they require energy, time, trust, a willingness to engage and debate with those you disagree with, to listen and to empathise. They also require humility.
The value of collaborative partnerships is that you can bring people with you, you can work at appropriate scales, you are more likely to garner political will, public support and financial support – and all of these are needed to tackle this long-term problem.”
And so the Alliance has pledged it’s support to the project. We will use our expertise in providing some political muscle. Our long established lobbying record at the National Assembly for Wales will be fully utilised, coupled with our support in garnering press coverage and additional data collection from our grass roots members and supporters.
We, that is you and I, are in a perfect position to offer this to preserve and promote the curlew in Wales. The clock is ticking for the curlew, and I ask you to join me unreservedly to do all we can so that we never have to say – “we used to have curlew in Wales”.
Rachel Evans – Countryside Alliance Director for Wales