Looking after Peak District assets

government minister
government minister

LOOKING after the Peak District’s natural assets on an unprecedented scale is the idea behind new Government proposals.

Carol Spelman, Secretary of Sate for Department of Food and Rural Affairs, told the Advertiser that Natural Environment White Paper sets out to spread an understanding of our dependence on it

“We are all nature lovers. The government’s Natural Environment White Paper sets out to harness that passion – to reconnect society with nature, and spread an understanding of our dependence on it.

Let’s take the Peak District. It offers a whole range of benefits, including healthy recreation, peace and quiet, education and appreciation of natural beauty and wildlife.

The Dark Peak in the Peak District is home to the pygmy shrew, the mountain hare and many rare bird species such as the merlin, the nightjar and the short-eared owl.

It also naturally stores carbon dioxide in its peat bogs, thereby cutting the amount of CO2 in the air.

The Peak District’s farmed areas provide food, and grouse shooting makes an important contribution to the local economy. All in all it contributes around £155 million to the region and supports over 14,000 jobs.

It also supplies 450 million litres of water a day to surrounding towns and cities.

Protecting the Peak District is protecting nature, and our own health and well-being. It’s also protecting local businesses, and the economy of the whole region. As well as having a place in our hearts, nature is the backbone of our economy.

Nature provides the raw materials for pretty much all our goods and services. But Nature is not a business woman. She doesn’t bill us for what she provides. If she went on The Apprentice she wouldn’t just be fired, she’d be laughed out the door.

Nature’s generosity has led human beings to ignore the economic value of her goods and services, prizing only her aesthetic qualities. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution we have taken from nature without giving back. It’s now crucial that we start working with nature rather than against it.

Our Natural Environment White Paper describes the actions Government will take to reconnect people with nature.

We want children to get out into the natural world. It’s good for their health and it helps them to learn. So we’ll be removing the barriers to schools taking children on school trips and teaching them outdoors.

In urban areas, poorer people are far less likely to have access to green space. We want this to change, and we want to help local authorities and developers work to give everyone equal access to green spaces and all the benefits that go with them.

The UK’s conservation charities are a national asset in themselves. If it wasn’t for these charities and their members our natural environment would be in a much sorrier state. We want more people to get involved in nature conservation work, whether it’s through the big charities or with local groups. And we want to give communities the power to protect the green spaces they care about, and to create new ones.

So far our approach to nature conservation has been piecemeal: to designate certain areas and help them flourish, ignoring the bits in between. Instead we need to adopt a ‘landscape scale’ approach, helping these islands of nature to join up with each other. We want to help councils, businesses and civil society work in partnership to protect and enhance nature on a scale that ignores administrative and other manmade boundaries.

The White Paper also describes also how Government will help connect the economy with nature. We shall be assessing the state of our “natural wealth”, alongside our GDP, so that we can put nature at the heart of economic planning.

So, if a river is at risk of pollution, we can estimate exactly how much that pollution would cost us. The cost of the loss of tourism, of healthy recreation opportunities, and the cost of the filtration system we’d need to build downstream, in order to make the water fit for use in our homes.

What can we do in our day-to-day lives? Challenges on this scale can feel daunting to individuals. But as consumers, together we have enormous power. By choosing items produced without harm to the environment, that have little or no packaging, and that can be recycled, we influence the decisions of manufacturers and retailers. At home we can use less energy and less water. We can also make a big difference in how and where we travel. We can join conservation groups, help to monitor wildlife, and get involved in community action. As gardeners we can help plants and insects thrive. We can also stop using peat, a resource which is invaluable for its carbon and water storing properties, but which is running out. If we run out of peat that’s it: we can’t get any more.

We all love nature – now it’s time for us to show it. Let’s be the generation that leaves the natural environment in a better state than we inherited it.”