Newsletter 32

Newsletter 32

January 2005

Contents

Recent News about NFBR

NFBR now has several egroups for communicating on a variety of issues:

nfbr@smartgroups.com - open to all NFBR Members - contact Craig Slawson at craig@salticus.org.uk nfbrc@wildlife1.demon.co.uk - open to NFBR Council members – contact Craig Slawson NFBRLRC@yahoogroups.com - open to all members of NFBR who work within local records centres – contact Mandy Rudd at mrudd@wildlondon.org.uk

Please use them!

NFBR has also compiled an on-line database of all known Local Records Centres in the UK, with funding from the NBN. It can be found at http://www.nbn-nfbr.org.uk/nfbr.php. Please help to keep it up-to-date by notifying Nick Moyes, the NFBR website manager (webadmin@nfbr.org.uk ) of any changes, additions, new website links etc.

NFBR are now a member of Wildlife & Countryside Link (WCL) which gives NFBR a stronger voice on many highly relevant issues. Bill Butcher (SERC) is currently representing NFBR on the draft PPS9 Working Group of WCL. PPS9 is the forthcoming Planning Policy Statement on Biodiversity & Geological Conservation which is being finalised by the ODPM as we speak. Our input into this Statement is very important as we need to see adequate recognition of the need for up-to-date reliable biodiversity information in the planning process. For a full response on the PPS9 consultation see http://www.wcl.org.uk. Bill is also assisting English Nature on the Good Practice Guide to accompany PPS9.

The next NFBR newsletter is planned for around May 2005. If you would like to send me any articles you feel would be of interest to fellow NFBR members, or just small items of ‘news in brief’ I would be very grateful to receive them.

Best wishes

Nicky Court

nicky.court.hbic@hants.gov.uk

NFBR Annual Conference 2005

"Green Spaces, Living Spaces - biological recording and conservation policies in the UK's urban areas" Date: Friday March 4th 2005 Venue: Swallow St George Hotel, 1 Ripon Road, Harrogate, HG1 2SY. Telephone 01423 561431

This conference will be of interest to recorders, local records centre staff, local authority ecologists and planners, and all those involved in urban green space design and management. A booking form is enclosed with the full programme or logon to http://www.nfbr.org.uk/html/events.html to obtain further details & download the booking form. How to get there : The conference, this year, is being held at the Swallow St George Hotel which is around 10 minutes walk from the Harrogate rail and bus stations. There is an Arriva train service from both Leeds and York, which takes approximately 30 minutes. The no 36 bus from Leeds to Ripon passes the door.

GNER offers an excellent train service from Glasgow and Edinburgh and from London Kings Cross to York. Alternatively there is an hourly service from Kings Cross to Leeds with White Rose trains offering Eurostar comfort. Contact GNER telesales on 08457 225 225. Generally from Kings Cross to Leeds there are some excellent off peak prices. (In 2004, off peak standard class was £19 return). Travellers from the west of the country can use the Trans- Pennine service to Leeds.

For road travel, from the south use either the A1 or M1 leaving at Wetherby. From the north, use the A1/ A59. The hotel can offer accommodation: telephone the above number and ask for the best deal. There is no major event at the adjacent conference centre and prices seem quite reasonable. Alternatively, telephone Harrogate tourist information on 01423 537300 for an accommodation list.

About Harrogate : Harrogate is situated at the southern gateway to Nidderdale giving access to the Yorkshire Dales. Originally part of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough, it has grown to the largest town in North Yorkshire, with 20 wells established by 1693. One visitor described the town’s sulphurous and chalybeate wells as having a strong and offensive odour. For visitors to the town, just south of the town centre is a large green space, mown to golf course standards called The Stray. This area was designated under a 1770 Act of Parliament and cannot be enclosed. Quite close to the Hotel, is the Valley Gardens. In 1770 it was then called Bogs Field and contained 36 mineral springs. The area was drained and improved in the early 19th century and eventually became the site of the Pump Room in 1842 which is now a Grade II* listed building. The gardens were developed during the 20th century and were used for many years as the site for the Harrogate Flower Show, reflecting a more recreational use rather than relying on the curative properties of the wells.

Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union : The following day, March 5th, one of our member societies, the YNU, will be holding their conference, at the same venue, on the theme “Parks and Gardens – their contribution to biodiversity in an urban-suburban setting”. Details are on the YNU web site at www.ynu.org.uk or contact me directly

John Newbould, Tel 01305 837384 or email janewbould@aol.com

 

 

NFBR; past, present and future

Charles Copp, NFBR Chairman

The NFBR Manifesto

The National Federation for Biological Recording was established in order to bring together collectors and users of biological records and to act as a forum for sharing experience and discussion of common issues. From the beginning, the NFBR was intended to be a body that would represent the biological recording community and promote the importance of biological information in nature conservation, planning, research and education.

Membership has always included a cross-section of individual naturalists, national organisations and recording societies, local records centres, museums, wildlife trusts, local authority ecologists and a few commercial consultants. The NFBR has always been open to both individual and organisation memberships. Twenty years on we still have this mix of members and our conferences continue to provide a key meeting point where issues can be discussed from different points of view.

I believe that in the past twenty years NFBR has been a key influence in bringing about many of the outstanding developments, such as the National Biodiversity Network, that we now almost take for granted. However, the vision is not yet fulfilled and there is still much to do in establishing the requirement for reliable wildlife data in legislation, ensuring a secure future for record centres, and giving proper recognition to the voluntary recording community. The work of creating systems and standards for data management and protecting intellectual property relevant to the age of global electronic communications is ongoing. The NFBR needs to be deeply involved in these processes, as the representative voice of the people whose efforts form the bedrock upon which the grand edifices are being constructed.

I have been a member of the NFBR since the start, in fact I was chairman of the committee to establish it, back in 1985. Despite having been more or less permanently on the council since that time, this is my first stint as chairman. My job this year has been to help re-examine the vision of the NFBR and bring a new focus to its activities. After twenty years, we need to re-state the agenda.

Some of the items on the agenda were aired during 2004, especially at the NFBR Conference in Cardiff (June), at the special NFBR LRC conference in Birmingham (November) and at the NBN Conference in London (November). These issues included;

  • Re-stating the importance of collections and voucher specimens
  • Addressing the long-term preservation of data and the means whereby records can be checked and authenticated
  • How to support and encourage the recorders and ensure they are not forgotten in the scramble to create national and international information systems
  • How to complete and fund a viable network of local and regional LRCs that meet the needs of the greatest audience
  • How to take forward the development of professional status for LRCs and their staff
  • How to develop NFBR’s role in representation of the interests of recorders and biodiversity data managers
  • How to raise the profile of the NFBR in a way that attracts new members

This paper is my attempt to put the present into context and a personal attempt to put some shape to ideas of where we might go from here.

The Past

I first became involved with local record centres (LRCs) in 1976 when I became Assistant Curator of Natural History at Bristol Museum. I discovered, that Bristol Museum had been proposed, by the previous curator, as a biological record centre and despite having nothing more than a few record cards, it appeared as such in a list of centres published by Flood & Perring in 1978. This was my first introduction to the concept of record centres, although in those days, there was not much guidance as to what a record centre was or what it was for, in fact there were very few working examples of record centres active at that time.

The late 70’s and early 80’s were exciting times, with many new developments in documentation and recording, such as the formation of the Museums Documentation Association (MDA) and the Federation for Natural Science Collections Research (FENSCORE). At the same time the Biological Curators Group (BCG) was filling more of its newsletter and meetings with Biological Recording related topics. We already had the BSBI Atlas of the British Flora and other ‘provisional’ atlases were beginning to appear from Monkswood, the national Biological Records Centre. Creating local atlases and getting the public involved were ‘all the rage’, particularly among natural history curators becoming increasingly frustrated with lack of resources for collections management and the new ‘political correctness’ against collecting.

One of the good spin-offs of the grim years of Thatcher’s Britain was Job Creation Schemes, which provided both money and un-employed graduates to get many of the nascent LRCs going and we began to ‘feel our way’ in the process of finding a role for them. At Bristol we set up the Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC), which is still going strong today, and a good number of those who worked there in the early years are still in the business and influencing its development, including illustrious names like Lawrence Way and Philippa Burrell.

Job Creation Schemes, under their many and various names, came to an end with the 80’s which put a brake on some of the activities aimed at local support for recording and public participation. A number of LRCs had, however been able to make progress in establishing funding agreements with local authorities, which helped them to become established in the role of providing information for planning purposes. The establishment of the National Lottery in 1994, with its distribution of funds to ‘good causes’ has helped to make occasionally substantial funds available for the dissemination of wildlife information and the encouragement of public participation. Other valuable sources of funds have come through European projects and oddities such as the land-fill tax. The big change came when biodiversity began to rise up the political agenda, which helped with some of the lottery grant applications and attracting funds from statutory agencies.

Arguably the pivotal point in the 90’s was the signing of the Rio Convention on Biodiversity in 1992. The Convention committed governments to take account of sustainable development and to the preservation and enhancement of biodiversity. We can be cynical about the extent of the commitment but it did provide a new opportunity and one which coincided with work on a major report on biological recording in the UK outlining proposals for its future development. The report was commissioned by the Coordinating Commission for Biological Recording (CCBR) in 1991 and was eventually published by the DoE in 1994. The NFBR played a major part in setting up the CCBR and the report was written by NFBR members (including me).

The CCBR report included a vision for a network of local, regional and national record centres working to link collectors of data to users at different scales of need. There was also a proposal for a system of data sharing through the new and little understood Internet and world wide web, which has since been realised in the National Biodiversity Network (NBN). I remember when I wrote my first draft of the section envisaging the use of the web that it came back from one reviewer with ‘gobbledegook’ written on it. Much of what was outlined in the CCBR Report has since been realised, although we are still attempting to complete the coverage of local and regional centres.

Not everything proposed was adopted, in fact the appearance of the report was delayed, partly to allow a rewrite to take account of the developing National Biodiversity Action Plan and partly because the first version suggested that we needed legislation to put the funding of LRCs on a sustainable basis. Apparently you cannot tell politicians in an official report that legislation is needed, nevertheless many of the problems we currently have in establishing a sustainable and complete network of centres stem from that need.

Biodiversity was the ‘word’ throughout the last half of the nineties. The need for reliable wildlife information was highlighted by the avalanche of biodiversity action plans that Rio inspired and some action plans, such as in Hampshire, were instrumental in the establishment of partnership funded LRCs. In other areas, unfortunately, there has been competition for resources between biodiversity action plan projects and LRC development projects, which has hindered developments. However, what ever way you look at it, huge investment has been made in biodiversity and wildlife information systems in the post-Rio years, money which has seen the establishment of the NBN, funded the development of standards and guidelines, built software and generally shaped the situation we now find ourselves in.

The Present

Throughout the past twenty years the NFBR has been influential, partly as an organisation and more so through the activities of its individual members. The council has had the long-term services of many skilled and knowledgeable people, who have given much of their own time to developing thinking about biological recording and biodiversity information delivery and to influencing the course of events and this continues now. Long-term members such as Paul Harding, Bill Butcher, Trevor James and Nicky Court, each with a different background, are innovative leaders in their respective fields whose views are respected by decision makers. This is the key to the way the NFBR works, by linking practitioners and policy makers together and providing a two-way conduit for discussion and information.

NFBR is active in its role of representative and pressure group. We are routinely consulted by DEFRA to comment on proposed legislation such as the imminent PPS 9 and the Environmental Information Regulations. NFBR is represented on the NBN board of trustees and as a member of Wildlife Link, we are able to keep up to date and comment on a wide range of environmental issues. It must be remembered, however, that all of this activity stems from the efforts of individual members who are already busy in other ways. NFBR could be much more effective if we had at least one officer able to give their full-time attention to the cause!

NFBR has found its own niche, which I think is unusual and properly reflects the term ‘Federation’ in its name. We represent both individuals and organisations whose individual interests may be served by more specialist groups, for instance, ALGE represents local government ecologists and individual naturalists may belong to a variety of national schemes and societies. As a federation, I believe we have done well in pursuing issues of common interest and promoting standards relevant across the special interest boundaries. Our close links to the NBN have been particularly fruitful because many of our ‘agenda items’ have been taken forward through NBN staff and NBN money. For instance, Trevor James has been able to do much work with the National Schemes and Societies through his NBN post and amongst other things this has enabled us to increase the number of conferences held in a year that are of direct interest to our members.

The NBN does not, however, replace the NFBR. NBN is mainly funded and strongly influenced by statutory agencies and their needs and interests could well take it on a rather different course than that envisaged by the authors of the original CCBR Report. NFBR is the united voice of recording and data management practitioners that is needed to represent our interests and as such must remain independent and active. As it happens, numerous NFBR members and sympathisers are involved with the development of the NBN and we must work to ensure it stays that way.

Among major, long-term projects, the development and promotion of Local Record Centres continues to be a dominant item on the NFBR agenda. The drive to establish LRCs, sharing knowledge and promoting standards was there from the start and pre-dates the NBN. Although the NBN is concerned with completing the national coverage of LRCs and has funded a number of projects of direct benefit to LRCs, it is not able to function as their professional organisation. Some important LRC related projects have fallen by the wayside, including accreditation, and are unlikely to be revived because the over-arching interests of those involved with the Gateway, do not see LRC accreditation or even LRCs as critical to its functioning. Even organisations, such as English Nature, that have position statements on LRCs may be swayed by more regional interests and imminent changes to their own constitutions to revise those positions. It is critical, therefore, that NFBR maintains its high level of engagement with LRCs and continues to promote the wider service vision that we started with, in the face of pressures to become either solely an adjunct to the planning process or a mere conduit to the NBN Gateway.

Signs of our continued vitality come from the very successful and well attended NFBR LRC conference held in November 2004, which provided the opportunity for many to have their say through the workshops and also demonstrated an overwhelming majority in favour of setting up an association of LRCs. The NFBR LRC email group continues to be a forum for these discussions. I am hopeful that this can be the start of the move towards establishing the professional status and accreditation for LRCs and their staff that we have been discussing for many years now.

The NBN Conference held at the Natural History Museum in November 2004, and attended by many NFBR members, brought together recorders, scheme organisers and others to look at data quality. I spoke about technology and data management issues but most of the day’s discussions were firmly on topics, such as the need for critical validation of records, that have hardly changed in 20 years. For me this was an important reminder that we must not forget the basic skills and practices necessary to generate decent data in the scramble to deliver it in novel technological ways. I suspect there is a strong under-current of feeling amongst traditional naturalists and recorders that all of the talk and most of the money is about metadata and websites and not much at all about taxonomic skill and science. Maybe its time to redress the balance a bit.

The Future

So what should be the agenda for the future? I have already listed some of the issues in the first section of this article, but for me the most important fall into two vital areas.

The first is the scientific validity and value of records. By this I mean the ability to trace any record back to its source and to be able to evaluate it or re-determine it at any later date. It emphasises the importance of collections (both as vouchers and for identification purposes) and archives of original data. Electronic records copied to a remote cache database are a convenience for users but are only as good as the trust we put in them, a trust which is all too easily lost and of course the old adage about rubbish in, rubbish out was invented for databases. In an age that is queasy about collecting and where people think you can identify anything from a photograph on the web, being able to publish records around the world in the blink of an eye, can be a mixed blessing. NFBR can definitely play an important part in promoting some of ‘the old values’ as the foundation for the new. The message is not restricted to any single interest group and is equally valid for recorders and users of wildlife data. We need to be promoting good recording methodologies, learning identification skills, promoting the use and support of collections and promoting the care and longevity of both original records and electronic media. In this connection I think NFBR should be seeking to build closer links with other organisations that have interests in this area, such as the Natural Science Collections Association (NatSCA) and working together to promote our common interests.

The second area is the need to put LRCs and biological records management on to a secure and professional basis. Of course, most LRCs are working in a professional manner already but every one of them has to continually justify their existence and expend prodigious energy in maintaining the flow of financial contributions from ‘partners’. It is so easy to write a list of all the advantages of LRCs and all the many services they could provide (I do it often in LRC development plans) but we are still looking for that opportunity to make it a statutory duty of the main beneficiaries to pay for such a service. I have even put considerable study into the possibility of running LRCs on a commercial basis and at regional scales but without that recognition, the sums still don’t add up. We may even have reached a stage where some people question whether we need the original envisaged network of LRCs at all – I am convinced that we do and that campaigning for the proper funding of LRCs must be high on our agenda for action.

In addition to the proper funding of LRCs we must concentrate on the need to make environmental records management a profession. There are no professional qualifications for records management, no professional training courses and no career path. There is no accreditation system for LRCs and their services. All of these things need to be in place or under development as part of the effort to get LRCs accepted as an essential part of our conservation, planning and education infrastructure. All of this development will take enthusiasm and money – I think we have the enthusiasm and we need to be looking at the costs. Some of this can be raised amongst ourselves, members of other professions pay to belong to their professional associations and to use their qualifications, we should do likewise. I have great hopes that the newly formed LRC sub-group will be a catalyst in taking these projects forward.

Among other things that I would like to see on the agenda is more contact with the membership. Contact is improving markedly, thanks to Nick Moyes, with the development of our excellent and informative website and the various email groups managed by Craig Slawson. I have also mentioned the greater number of conferences, which has proved very successful. Clearly, we are already working at the limit of what can be achieved through the voluntary efforts of the council and willing helpers. We have been very fortunate that several of the key council members have been able to put so much time in through their jobs and others, now retired, are willing to commit so much, but these circumstances could change. We undoubtedly will find the resources to pursue some of the major projects, such as establishing the association of LRCs but to broaden our activities and do a proper job of keeping the membership involved and informed, we need staff. Unfortunately, that means raising a substantial amount of money, and whether this can be done through grants or some other means, I am not sure but feel we must try.

Summary

I believe that the NFBR has done well in achieving many of its initial goals. Where we have not done so well is in extending our membership (it has always hovered around the 200 mark – although three quarters of memberships are organisations) and the services we can give to members. The real problem is that everyone is over-committed in their own work and in their involvement with the ‘big projects’ such as the various NBN committees and initiatives. We have barely managed to maintain the flow of newsletters and conferences and not been able to develop services to attract new members or promote the unique position that we have. In particular, in the worthwhile concentration of effort on the development of LRCs, we have not been able to put more effort in on behalf of the volunteer naturalists or tackle the gradual drift away from science and collections. Our agenda should be to tackle these issues. This really highlights the need for some paid officers, a need that will become greater if we are to pursue the formation of an LRC Association with any success.

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 Debate

Trevor James, NBN Development Officer & NFBR Council

It will not have escaped the notice of many of you over the last few months that there has been a hot debate over the forthcoming (as I write – December 2004) introduction of the Government’s Environmental Information Regulations and whether or not or how much they might impact on both voluntary natural history organisations and local records centres etc.

Why all the fuss?

The EIR have been brought in as part of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 requirements, as a response to the EU Council Directive 2003/4/EC (d) on public access to environmental information. The Regulations themselves were laid before Parliament in mid-2004, and the Code of Practice on their implementation, along with sections of the Guidance being issued on their interpretation, have been put out to public consultation in stages during the autumn, with a view to the Regulations coming into force in England Wales and Northern Ireland on 1st January 2005. The problem was partly that not many organisations firstly realised that the Regulations had already gone forward (in fact, in Scotland, their separate version of them has already been implemented), or that the Guidance was being consulted on. At the same time, those bodies that did know had failed to realise that, with the changes in approach of the new Regulations, as contrasted with their 1992 (1998) predecessors, it is possible to interpret them legally in a way that would effectively catch almost all voluntary recording societies and schemes, as well as the public utility companies that they are especially aimed at.

The aim of the EU Directive was intended to broaden the scope of access to environmental information to encompass as much environmental data as possible, including data in private hands access to which could be regarded broadly as being in the public interest. In the EIR, this has been quite carefully developed so as to ensure that information held by, say, privatised utilities companies and the like, such as water quality data, emissions data etc., would be readily available to all. The “public interest test” would be the key, and there would be a presumption that data and information is in the public domain unless they can be demonstrated not to be. At the same time, anyone in the world would have a right to access them, at a “reasonable cost” or free; they would not have to state why they wanted access to them; and holders of information would have to proactively assist them to gain access.

In drafting the EIR in this catch-all way, however, the Government possibly failed to realise that, potentially, any voluntary charitable natural history or wildlife organisation, or any other similar organisation that might have had financial support from a public authority in their work, or which had supplied data to a public authority, could conceivably be interpreted as falling under the scope of the Regulations, along with all the data they hold. Only if an organisation had had no dealings whatsoever with a public authority, or was not a charity, would they apparently definitely be outside the scope of the Regulations. This was the carefully assessed reading of the Regulations and especially the draft Guidance that the National Biodiversity Network Trust’s solicitors gave to the Trust in early October.

Needless to say, the NBN Trust was concerned. Not only did the Regulations appear to indicate that the Trust is pretty definitely a “public authority”, and therefore is responsible under the Regulations for making all the data it holds available on demand, but also, most of those organisations that have signed up to supplying data to the Biological Records Centre and through the NBN Gateway, as well as to local records centres and wildlife trusts etc., would also find that, whatever they said, their data would be in the public domain as well. This, of course, undermines everything the NBN Trust has been trying to build, in terms of gaining access to information through agreement and through trust, by assisting organisations to manage their own data, and to support their work.

The NBN Trust therefore alerted the recording community to the apparent problem, with a view to getting the Government to re-consider the precise way the Regulations are to be interpreted.

The NBNT is not against making information publicly available as much as possible. However, it firmly believes that data and information should remain under the control of the contributing organisation (or individual), where that organisation or individuals is not fully publicly-funded, and that gaining access to data should be through agreement.

As a result of the furore that broke when the problem was made plain, Defra have approached the NBN Trust to discuss how to get round the issue, while adhering to the overall spirit of the EU Directive. The approach has been firstly to clarify which organisations, and in what way, would be regarded as de facto “public authorities” under the Regulations. If the interpretation could be limited to only those private bodies which had specifically been contracted to carry out public functions in relation to the environment, we might be mostly OK. At the same time, the EIR exemptions make it plain that, if an organisation has passed down information to a public body, but could not be required to do so under the Regulations, then that information should not be regarded as falling under the EIR. Because this appeared to be in conflict with other parts of the regulations that said any information “held” by a public body, whether their own or not, would be public, then we also need to clarify this aspect. In addition, there are also points needing clarification concerning the precise interpretation of environmentally “sensitive” data (and how this may legitimately be used as an exemption under the EIR); and also the extent to which an organisation’s “interests” might be said to be compromised by the supply of data.

A meeting was held on 8th December at the Defra offices in London between the NBN Trust and Defra officers. This was a constructive discussion, and the Trust is now working with the Department to clarify the way the Regulations are to be interpreted. A note of the meeting is available on the NFBR website at http://www.nfbr.org.uk/html/defra . As I write, this process continues, and the results will be made public as soon as possible. The EIR are still coming into force on 1st January 2005, but the final Guidance on their interpretation will be a bit late. We are assured this should not present a problem, because Defra wants the current processes of making data available to continue, not to be drastically altered by the EIR, and so any challenge to a data holding organisation would be interpreted in this light.

There remain issues to do with ensuring that local records centres in particular are not damaged by the changes, because it is likely that most, if not all, could be regarded as a “public authority” under the EIR, even with these safeguards sorted out. However, much of the data they hold would not be fully in the public domain. It might, however, give urgency to the need for LRC’s to sort out their data access agreements with private suppliers, to clarify which data they are able to make fully public, which are “sensitive” and why, so that they can meet any challenge on their decisions to refuse access to information, should the need arise. It will also be imperative to ensure that their funding agreements with sponsoring authorities clearly cover any duties under the EIR they may have as a “public authority” devolved to them because of their contractual position in relation to other authorities.

The NBN Trust will be producing some more focused guidance of its own on these kinds of issues as soon as possible, once it know the details itself.

Meeting the Biodiversity Information Challenge

A brief report on the first LRCs Forum held in Birmingham on the 3rd November 2004.

Nicky Court, Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre

The Forum was well attended by some 60 plus LRC staff from across the UK.

N32 ajr.jpg

Adam Rowe from the South-East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre set the scene for the day by outlining the various challenges currently facing LRCs : -

  • Meeting the evolving needs of funding partners & providing value for money
  • Obtaining adequate and sustainable funding
  • Regionalisation
  • Supporting LBAP Partnerships
  • The NBN Gateway
  • Engaging with national partners
  • Working with volunteer recorders
  • IT issues
  • NBN & LRC communication
  • Environmental Information Regs!


There then followed three concurrent workshops in the morning followed by a further three in the afternoon which expanded on some of the above topics. Each workshop had the aim of identifying what the issues were and coming up with a set of actions and recommendations for improving the way LRCs operate in the future. A full report of the workshops will be written up but for now here are some of the key recommendations:

  • Develop supporting materials to assist LRCs in securing funding from potential partners
  • Set up an internet forum for LRC technical issues to discuss RECORDER, MAPMATE and GIS related topics that are common to many LRCs. [contact Charles Roper at Sussex BRC]
  • Develop a ‘menu’ of core and enhanced services to promote the work of LRCs to LBAP Partnerships. Core services to include: species & habitat distribution mapping, species audit, & co-ordination of a Recorders Forum. Enhanced services to include: habitat analysis for targeting habitat recreation, assistance with survey planning and advice on survey methodologies.
  • Establish an Association of Local Records Centres (including the employment of a national officer), to take forward representation of LRCs, liaison with existing and new national partners, raising professional standards and LRC accreditation. A working group has now been set up to progress this.

The Forum was also very pleased to welcome Martin Capstick, Head of Europe & Wildlife Division at Defra, to specifically talk about “future relationships between LRCs and Defra”. Martin started by acknowledging that Defra are “data hungry” - to inform policy development, populate indicators and facilitate good decision making by others. He also recognised the need to avoid duplication of effort and for more high tech ways of talking to each other. He mentioned the SW Pilot Project which had been very well received by the Rural Development Service and that a bid has been made in the current Spending Review to extend this Project. He emphasised that Defra are in a difficult position at the moment with the forthcoming merger of EN and the RDS – maximum uncertainty yet maximum opportunity. If Defra were to provide funding for LRCs then something else would have to give. At the moment 90% of his budget goes to EN (900 staff & £75 million) with the rest supporting his own staff of c50. The new Integrated Agency may well be in a better position to help - with the added budget of RDS (2000 staff and £100’s of millions). However he would prefer to start supporting LRCs sooner rather than later with regard to RDS work and will know more this March.

Summary of results of NFBR Survey of Local Records Centres 2004

Bill Butcher, NFBR

The Survey

The National Federation for Biological Recording conducted a questionnaire survey of all known Local Records Centres in the UK in the summer of 2004. The questionnaire related to activity in 2003 or the 2003/2004 financial year. The results are compared with a similar survey in 2002.

The questionnaire was in two parts: the first relating to the status of the LRC and the second to the uses to which LRC data were being applied. This preliminary draft report covers status only.

The results have been analysed using spreadsheets and GIS, the latter to obtain area statistics. The results are presented in terms of totals of all LRCs responding and averages of all LRCs responding. Response

30 LRCs responded to the questionnaire. This compares with 24 returns in 2002. 22 of these were in England (20 in 2002), 6 in Scotland (2), 1 in Wales (1) and 1 in Northern Ireland (1). Legal status

Of the 30 LRCs 9 are part of local authorities, 9 are part of Wildlife Trusts or their trading companies, 7 are independent trusts or companies, 3 are legal partnerships operating under a local authority host and 2 have other status. Human Resources

The 30 LRCs employ 128 professional staff (79), of whom 62 are full-time permanent, 29 part-time permanent, 19 full-time contract and 18 part-time contract. In addition the LRCs employ 4 full-time and 99 part-time voluntary staff. The 30 LRCs received data from at least 5000 voluntary recorders in 2003. The average LRC employs 2.7 full-time professional staff and 1.6 part-time professional staff, 3 part-time voluntary staff and received records from 170 voluntary recorders in 2003.

Expenditure

The 30 LRCs had a total expenditure of £2.51 million in 2003 (£1.81 million from 24 in 2002).

The average LRC had expenditure of £83,722 in 2001 (£93,000). (This change might not be significant in like for like terms as it appears that a higher number of smaller LRCs responded to this survey). Income

54% of LRC funding comes from local authorities (£1.32 million in the 30 LRCs responding).

24% of income comes from statutory agencies (£0.59 million).

12% of income comes from commercial users (£0.29 million).

9% of income comes from conservation bodies (£0.23 million).

1% of income comes from the public, community groups, educational users and landowners (£0.03 million).

These proportions appear to be substantially unchanged since 2002 (77% from "decision makers for the public benefit", 13% from commercial sources and 10% from conservation bodies).

Recording Britain’s butterflies and moths

Richard Fox, Surveys Manager, Butterfly Conservation

Introduction

Lepidoptera are the most intensively recorded insect group in Britain with thousands of people actively recording both butterflies and moths. The wealth of distribution and population data for butterflies has led to them being used as ‘flagship’ invertebrates for many conservation projects and as national biodiversity indicators, although their popularity has also helped! Although moths have lagged behind their close kin, particularly in cultivating a good public image, there is a substantial amount of information about the status and trends of moth species dispersed around the country. This article presents an update on the national recording scheme for butterflies, the Butterflies for the New Millennium (BNM) project run by Butterfly Conservation and the Biological Records Centre, now in its 10th year, as well as reporting on efforts to draw together disparate moth data to provide an overview of national trends and priorities.

Butterflies for the New Millennium

The success of the first five years of the BNM survey (1995-99) has been reported previously in this newsletter and elsewhere. Over 1.6 million butterfly records, the fruit of the labours of an estimated 10,000 recorders, were collated, verified and computerised by the project’s network of local co-ordinators. The resultant Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland (Asher et al. 2001), State of Britain’s Butterflies report (Fox et al. 2001) and papers in the scientific literature (e.g. Warren et al. 2001) generated extensive publicity and raised the profile of butterflies and their plight amongst the public and policy makers alike.

As a national recording scheme, the role of the central database is to provide national or regional perspectives and not to service local data needs. Of course, the records collected are put to many uses locally by Butterfly Conservation branches, local records centres, wildlife trusts and many others to promote the conservation of butterflies and their habitats. At the larger scale, BNM data has been used to:

  • Provide the first national comparison of trends in an insect group with those for birds and vascular plants (Thomas et al. 2004). This showed that the proportion of butterfly species with declining distributions (71%) was greater than that for birds (54%) or plants (28%). Butterflies also had a greater median decline and a greater proportion of extinct species. The most rapidly declining butterflies were faring worse than the most rapidly declining birds and plants and even the butterflies that were doing well and expanding their ranges had been less successful than their bird and plant counterparts.
  • Investigate the past effect of climate change on butterflies in Britain and predict future impacts (Hill et al. 2002). This ongoing research has provided strong evidence that butterfly range expansions in Britain are being driven by climate change but that the butterflies are lagging behind the changing climate because of the fragmentation of suitable habitat in the landscape. There is also a suggestion that northern species might be retreating to higher altitude in the facing of warming conditions and dire predictions for northern butterflies (such as the Large Heath) across their entire European ranges in the face of future climate change.
  • Inform the biodiversity action plan process. Butterfly Conservation has used the BNM data to produce a series of national and regional action plans, designed to feed butterfly priorities and supporting data into the Local Biodiversity Action Plan process. BNM data are being used currently to review priorities for the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and new species, such as the Grayling and Wall Brown, will be put forward for Priority Species status on account of their severe distribution declines.
  • Develop landscape scale conservation projects. It is now widely accepted that in the fragmented landscape of lowland Britain, many specialist species cannot be conserved in the long-term on individual nature reserves. Butterflies have been used as model organisms in much of the research in this field and are now being used by many organisations to pioneer a new landscape approach to biodiversity conservation. The BNM data are the foundation for many of these projects, for example a regional forestry project in South-east England designed to target grants and management to best benefit early-successional woodland species such as the Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

N32 pbfrit.jpg Pearl-bordered Fritillary (by Robert Thompson)

The Pearl-bordered Fritillary is one of the most rapidly declining butterflies in Britain today. Butterflies for the New Millennium data (corrected for recording effort bias) show that the distribution of the species decreased by 49% between the 1970s and late 1990s. Ongoing recording is vital to monitor this conservation priority species.

Meanwhile, recorders and co-ordinators have got on with the continuing task of butterfly recording. The Atlas showed that the distributions of most resident butterfly species had changed rapidly and dramatically in the final decades of the twentieth century. With so much change going on, much of it for the worse, and a greater need from conservationists, planners and policy makers for up-to-date and spatially accurate distribution data than ever before, there was little sense in stopping recording and losing all of the momentum built up by the Atlas survey.

So now, thanks to the efforts of many thousand recorders and scores of organisations, a second five-year BNM survey has been completed (2000-04). This will form the basis for new distribution maps and analysis of species trends.

Amazingly, the total for this second survey broke through the 1 million record mark during 2004 and now stands at just under 1.1 million butterfly records. This is a fantastic achievement and a great credit to all of the local co-ordinators and many thousand butterfly recorders. It is very unusual, unique perhaps, for a project to maintain such a high level of recording after the completion and publication of an atlas.

The new data cover 3489 10km squares (over 93% of the number recorded in the Millennium Atlas) and there are some local data sets still to arrive, which will further improve both the records total and, more importantly, the coverage. The new data clearly show the continued rapid expansion of some generalist species, such as the Comma, Peacock, Essex Skipper and Speckled Wood, which are benefiting from climate change. Many new colonies of conservation priority species have also been located as a result of diligent searching of under-recorded areas. Over 100 new 10 km squares have been added to the distribution of the Large Heath in Britain and Ireland in the last five years, simply due to increased recording effort in the peat bog habitats of this butterfly (which is classified as Vulnerable in the European Red Data Book).

Many other species continue to decline, including rarities such as the High Brown Fritillary and Marsh Fritillary, showing the need for increased resourcing and conservation action under the auspices of the UK BAP. It is obviously a prime concern that data are current and comprehensive for the most threatened species and to ensure this targeted recording was undertaken in 2004 to revisit known colonies of national and regional priority species that had not been recorded since 1995-99. Species such as the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Dingy Skipper and Grizzled Skipper were targeted in different parts of the country. Once all of the data for 2004 are added to the central database, it is hoped that the overall coverage will compare very favourably with that in the Millennium Atlas.

The aim is to produce a new State of Britain and Ireland’s Butterflies report at the end of 2005. This will provide new distribution maps and transect monitoring data for all resident species as well as a detailed review of species trends, recent research and the implications for conservation policy and practice. Butterflies for the New Millennium will continue, of course, to support and motivate local recording and data capture as well as providing the national overview necessary for policy development and scientific research.


N32 peacock.jpg Peacock (by Robert Thompson)

The familiar Peacock butterfly has continued to expand its British range northwards in recent years. Butterflies for the New Millennium data for the last five years show many new 10 km square records in north-east Scotland and along the islands of the west coast, including the first ever record for Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Planning a National Macro-moth Recording Scheme

There is more interest in moth recording now than at any other time. There are thousands of active recorders, good field guides, easily available equipment and a network of County Moth Recorders acting as local focal points for moth recording. The County Moth Recorders do an admirable job in collating data at the county level and some work in conjunction with local records centres, but it is ironic that, at a time of such great interest in moths and when there is mounting evidence that once common species are in rapid decline (Conrad et al. 2004), there is no national recording scheme to harness this data on a wider scale.

N32 gardentiger.jpg

Garden Tiger (by Alan Barnes)

The Garden Tiger is one of a growing number of once common moths that seem to be in precipitous decline, with potentially alarming repercussions for predators, such as many bats and birds, which specialise on moths. A new national recording scheme would help to identify such trends and act as the foundation for conservation effort to understand and reverse moth declines.

During 2003 and 2004, a detailed planning and consultation project was carried out to pave the way (hopefully!) towards a new National Macro-moth Recording Scheme (NMRS). Butterfly Conservation co-ordinated the project on behalf of a range of partner organisations, including the British Entomological and Natural History Society, the Biological Records Centre, the statutory conservation agencies and the RSPB.

The most important part of the project was an extensive consultation with moth recorders, entomological societies and moth groups, as well as other relevant nature conservation and biological recording organisations. The response to the main project questionnaire was fantastic, with over 1000 moth recorders taking part. The answers not only give a unique insight into the current status of recording, but also provide plenty of specific suggestions to help shape the future scheme.

  • 97% of moth recorders supported the proposed NMRS
  • Most felt that the main aims should be to highlight trends (81%) and to use records for conservation (80%). Two out of every three participants also supported the idea of working towards a national atlas of macro-moths.
  • Many new people are taking up moth recording. Almost a third of respondents have been recording moths for less than 4 years.

In addition to the questionnaire, three national conferences were organised, the views of county moth recorders were canvassed and meetings held with a wide range of organisations. A number of training workshops aimed at beginners were also run as part of the project, many in partnership with other organisations. These workshops, held as far afield as Exeter and Shetland, set over 200 new recruits on the path towards becoming moth recorders.

As a result of the planning project, Butterfly Conservation will continue to lead the partnership forward and try to find funding to set up a NMRS. Securing funding will not be easy, but this work is well underway. It will take time to formulate all of the details for the proposed NMRS. However, a number of essential elements will form the backbone of any future scheme:

  • The proposed NMRS should be run by a partnership led by Butterfly Conservation.
  • The existing network of County Moth Recorders should be at the heart of a new scheme.
  • Clear information must be provided about how records will be stored and used by the national scheme. As with the butterfly scheme, there is no intention that a NMRS will conflict with the interests of recorders or local recording and conservation organisations. Rather it should complement them by providing support and national or regional level analyses.
  • Training should form an important part of the NMRS. Beginners need help with moth identification and recording techniques, whilst more experienced recorders may want higher level training, for example in identification of difficult groups or setting specimens. Even some County Moth Recorders may wish to take advantage of training (e.g. in the use of computer software).
  • The proposed NMRS should include popular, mass participation moth recording projects alongside the core scheme, to encourage new recorders and raise awareness. Another approach might be to develop projects for schools to help foster a new generation of naturalists.

We need a better understanding of the distribution, status and trends of macro-moths in order to conserve declining species effectively. With thousands of active recorders, and clear potential to recruit many more, the time is right for a National Macro-moth Recording Scheme. Through the planning phase, we have done much of the necessary background work to develop such a scheme and work will continue to try to raise funds to bring it into existence in the next year or so.

Further information

The Butterflies for the New Millennium project has pages, including newsletters, on the Butterfly Conservation web site at www.butterfly-conservation.org/bnm

Alternatively, if you would like to receive the project’s twice-yearly newsletter, please contact Richard Fox at rfox@butterfly-conservation.org

The proposed National Macro-moth Recording Scheme has its own web site at www.mothrecording.org.uk with plenty of feedback on the project’s planning phase. A feedback newsletter has also been sent out to individuals and organisations that contributed to the planning phase and a mailing list is being maintained for future announcements. If you would like copies of the newsletter or to be added to the mailing list please contact Richard Fox at rfox@butterfly-conservation.org

References

Asher, J., Warren, M., Fox, R., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G. and Jeffcoate, S. (2001). The millennium atlas of butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Conrad, K.F., Woiwod, I.P., Parsons, M., Fox, R. and Warren, M. (2004). Long-term population trends in widespread British moths. Journal of Insect Conservation 8, 119-136.

Fox, R., Warren, M.S., Harding, P.T., McLean, I.F.G., Asher, J., Roy, D. and Brereton, T. (2001). The State of Britain’s Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, CEH and JNCC, Wareham.

Hill, J.K., Thomas, C.D., Fox, R., Telfer, M.G., Willis, S.G., Asher, J. and Huntley, B. (2002). Responses of butterflies to 20th century climate warming: implications for future ranges. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 269, 2163-2171.

Thomas, J.A., Telfer, M.G., Roy, D.B., Preston, C., Greenwood, J.J.D., Asher, J., Fox, R., Clarke, R.T. and Lawton, J.H. (2004). Comparative losses of British butterflies, birds, and plants and the global extinction crisis. Science 303, 1879-1881.

Warren, M.S., Hill, J.K., Thomas, J.A., Asher, J., Fox, R., Huntley, B., Roy, D.B., Telfer, M.G., Jeffcoate, S., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G., Willis, S.G., Greatorex-Davies, J.N., Moss, D. and Thomas, C.D. (2001). Rapid responses of British butterflies to opposing forces of climate and habitat change. Nature 414, 65-69.

Spiders on the web

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Craig Slawson, BAS Webmaster, webmaster@britishspiders.org.uk

The British Arachnological Society (BAS) first ventured into the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1997 with the first version of their web-site, which has built up a useful resource on spider information over the past 7 years.

This year, the BAS has totally revamped its web-site. It has still continued with the premise the data must load quickly, so there are no flashy graphics, however, it has now built a database driven site, allowing for much more information to be presented via links to a variety of online databases. The two most important are the Publications and the Library (the latter only accessible by members). In addition the BAS has linked up with the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) to enable access to the information from the recently published Spider Atlas from the NBN Gateway. The Checklist of British Spiders, held on the BAS site now links seamlessly into the Gateway, to access the online version of the Provisional Atlas of Spiders together with the Species Dictionary being developed by the Natural History Museum.

N32 spiders.jpg

The opportunities for links like this are endless, the NBN Gateway is there to be used, enabling customized links between natural history websites and the Gateway’s stored data. To create links between your website contact the NBN Gateway team at nbnGateway@ceh.ac.uk, who will be able to advise on linkages.

Links :

British Arachnological Society – http://www.BritishSpiders.org.uk

NBN Gateway – http://www.searchnbn.net

NHM Species Dictionary - http://nbn.nhm.ac.uk/nhm/

Book Review : Freshwater Fishes in Britain

New publication and dataset on NBN Gateway

Paul T Harding pha@ceh.ac.uk

The latest national ‘atlas’ from the Biological Records Centre was published by Harley Books in September 2004. Drawing on the expertise of 38 authors, this is far more than just another set of distribution maps!

Summarising the results of a joint project of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Environment Agency and Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Freshwater Fishes in Britain is the first publication on the detailed occurrence of our freshwater fishes.

Edited in a readable style, it is an essential sourcebook for conservationists, managers of water bodies and fisheries, anglers and naturalists. It brings together information on the biology, habitats and distribution of 54 species, including several that have been introduced recently and are potentially invasive. There is a drawing of each species and a colour section illustrates important habitats and survey methods. Other chapters introduce freshwater fishes in a wider context, and cover the natural and human influences on the distribution of fishes, the history of the project and the sources of the data, and the conservation and management of freshwater fishes. There are also appendices covering publications, legislation and websites, and a bibliography, glossary and index.

The dataset underlying this publication is now available on the National Biodiversity Network’s Gateway. Log on to www.searchnbn.net and use the search tools to find data on freshwater fishes in Britain, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man.

Freshwater Fishes in Britain: the species and their distribution. Compiled and edited by Cynthia Davies, Jonathan Shelley, Paul Harding, Ian McLean, Ross Gardiner & Graeme Peirson. (2004). ISBN 0 946589 76 3. 184pp. Hardback. Available by post from Harley Books, FREEPOST, Great Horkesley, Colchester CO6 4YY (£25.00 + postage). Order on-line from www.harleybooks.com; tel: 01206 271216 or fax: 01206 271182.

 

 

Book review : The natural history of Ireland’s dragonflies

Paul T Harding pha@ceh.ac.uk

Even if you are not particularly interested in dragonflies, or never intend to visit Ireland to see them, this book is worth owning; to see what can be done with 25,000 biological records in an ‘atlas’ format, and to drool over the photographs. It presents the results of the DragonflyIreland project that began in 2000, bringing together, probably for the first time, governmental agencies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to fund a biological recording project from start to finish. The book, illustrated throughout with hundreds of colour photographs, serves many needs: a distribution atlas; an illustrated guide to the species (adults and larvae) and their biology, ecology and habitats; a guide to where and how to watch dragonflies in Ireland.

Robert Thompson’s photographs are in a class of their own. In its muted colours and fine textures, the portrait of Orthetrum cancellatum is one of the most aesthetically pleasing natural history photographs I have ever seen, but with no sacrifice of detail or relevance for identification.

N32 dragons.jpg

It is both a fine illustration of a dragonfly and a work of art in its own right. However, Robert would probably comment that one wing-tip is slightly out of focus!

The Habitat Gallery section includes a photograph and short description for each of over 50 classic sites (classic for dragonflies and often much else) throughout Ireland, listing the species found at each. Every habitat photograph deserves a place in a ‘Landscapes of Ireland’ book or calendar.

The species accounts (7 to 10 pages per species) include the following sections: description, similar species, behaviour, life cycle, habitat, history in Ireland, distribution, interpretation and trends; usually with 3 or 4 photographs of adults, 1of a larva and 1 of a typical habitat. For the nomenclaturally obsessive they also include scientific, new and standard vernacular names in English.

A total of 12 chapters cover topics as diverse as the history of recording and the individuals involved, the aims and methodology of the DragonflyIreland project, conservation, field study and photography. The description of DragonflyIreland is particularly useful for anyone considering a high-profile survey with a strong element of public outreach and training.

Of course, the book is not without its eccentricities: entirely new vernacular names in English are used throughout, including ‘odonates’ as the collective for Odonata; the indexes cover species and localities, but not other topics; the text style is a bit erratic and occasionally verbose or pedantic; more technical terms could have been included in the Glossary; the photographs of larvae are superb, but possibly a bit wasted as a key would be needed to use them to identify larvae or exuviae. But these are minor quibbles. At £20 for over 450 lavishly illustrated pages, it must be the bargain of the year, but postage and packing on over 2.6kg will cost you. I congratulate the authors, CEDaR and the Ulster Museum for bringing an imaginative and successful project to fruition.

The natural history of Ireland’s dragonflies. Brian Nelson & Robert Thompson. 2004. (MAGNI Publication no.013) Published by The National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast BT9 5AB. Pp x + 454. Available from the Ulster Museum shop at £20 + p&p.

More News in brief from around the Regions

Update from the SE & London LRCs:

Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre has successfully secured additional funding from an Interreg IIIa European grant which has provided funds for an administrator and two additional support officers, bringing staff compliment to six; manager, data manager, administrator and 3 support officers

Greenspace Information for Greater London (GIGL) have appointed Information Officer in November bringing GIGL up to 2 full-time members of staff. Have also approached 250 contacts in London regarding SLAs with GIGL with some very positive responses.

Surrey Biological Records Centre have recently completed a consultation within Surrey to inform/guide a revised Business & Development Plan for Surrey BRC. The Plan has been formally adopted by the Surrey WildlifeTrust (as host) and lead partners EN/SCC as agreed way forward.

Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre now has a full team of 8 staff (6 FTE) & still not able to meet all the demand for their services - have had to contract a number of reliable local ecologists to work on fixed-term contracts. Development funding comes to an end soon and a long-term financial plan to bridge the inevitable gap is in place although many local authorities are finding it difficult to make long-term financial commitments even though they agree they need the service in the long-term.

TVERC are coming to the end of digital habitat mapping for Oxfordshire using existing data and the data capture methodology developed during the SW NBN Pilot and are starting a contract to do digital habitat mapping for Berkshire. Also developing a County Wildlife Site survey reporting database to streamline the ‘writing-up’ process for the surveyors.

Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre is working on a new development plan which will hopefully be launched in April 2005, along with further development of it’s relationships with key recorders and recording organisations through developing Memorandums of Understanding and data flow models.

Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre is coming to the end of its 3 year “establishment phase” and is trying to secure finances for next 3 years – needs a 20% increase in fees to cover annual deficit. About to start writing a new Business Plan for next 3 years and has recently submitted an application to HLF for a Project Planning Grant to investigate audience development and volunteer recorder participation. It had to contract an additional field surveyor to meet demand on LDF work and has taken on 3 part-time volunteers to help with data input. Currently planning the HBIC Recorders Forum meeting for Saturday 5th March 2005 looking at the integration of habitat and species datasets to aid further survey & research.

Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre are currently without a manager and a recent recruitment drive to appoint one was unsuccessful. Will be trying again.

Update from the East Midlands Region :

Derbyshire BRC are favourably considering a recommendation from an independant company to host a LRC Development Post for a Derbyshire and Peak District LRC, if the money can be raised their salary. They have won a DEFRA grant to aid them with this, which might help. Meanwhile DBRC has won an £80,000 Aggregate Levy grant to help install viewing and interpretation features and create new habitat at The Sanctuary Bird Reserve in Derby, launched last year – see photo on front cover.

Nottinghamshire LRC/Leicestershire ERC Graham Walley is leaving Nottinghamshire LRC to take up a post as Manager of the Leicestershire ERC – covering the historic environment as well as biodiversity.

Lincolnshire BRC Margaret Cole at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust was recently appointed as Lincolnshire BRC Development Officer, and took up her post last month.

Minutes of the 17th Annual General Meeting

Held at the National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff on 2nd July 2004 _____________________________________________________________________

Present: Chairman - Bill Butcher, Secretary – Paul Harding, Treasurer – Mike Weideli, Membership Secretary – John Newbould, six other members of Council, and fifteen other NFBR members.

1. Apologies for absence Received from: Stuart Ball, Henri Brocklebank, Richard Fox, Damian McFerran, Nick Moyes, Simon Pickles, Craig Slawson, Darwyn Sumner.

2. Minutes of the 16th Annual General Meeting held on 28th April 2003 The meeting approved the Minutes of the 16th AGM without correction, nem. con. – Proposed: Adam Rowe; Seconded: Charles Copp.

3. Chairman’s Report for 2003/2004 Chairman presented a brief summary of NFBR work over the past year.

Following discussion at last year’s AGM Council established a LRC sub-group to give greater focus to the LRC part of NFBR’s work. This sub-group, chaired by Mandy Rudd, is now meeting regularly over the internet and taking forward several areas of work.

Guidance on LRC charging policy has been issued, an LRC email forum is in the process of establishment and a new survey of LRC status across the UK has been compiled and distributed. The last NFBR survey of LRC status in 2002 has been extensively used to promote the LRC cause at national level and the results of the new survey are keenly anticipated.

NFBR Council receives regular reports from the regions and we are pleased to note over the last year the establishment of LRCs in the Thames Valley and here in South Wales as well as significant progress towards new LRCs in North Wales, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, the Peak District and Northamptonshire. The new job title award of the year must go to Mandy, now Greenspace Information for Greater London, known as GIGL manager.

With the support of the NBN Trust NFBR has compiled a database of LRCs in the UK, to be jointly managed by NFBR and a new post in the NBN Trust of England and Wales LRC Support Officer.

NFBR continues to be influential within the NBN with representation at Trustee level and on most of the key working groups. The NBN Trust position statement on LRCs, originating in an NFBR paper, was agreed and distributed to all key stakeholders around the UK.

The NFBR website has been regularly updated and continues to be a valuable source of information while the email forum for Recorder 3.4 users is also a well used service.

NFBR Council would like to increase its input to policy change campaigning and to this end it has submitted an application to join Wildlife and Countryside Link, the NGO umbrella group that has the ear of government departments. Any member with an interest and time available to contribute to this side of NFBR’s work is encouraged to join Council and represent NFBR on one of the many Link working groups. A particular area of interest currently is the draft Planning Policy Statement 9 on Nature Conservation on which we have already presented the case for explicit support from local authorities for LRCs.

Having served three years in the chair I am standing down at this AGM but, if elected, will continue to serve on Council and the NBN group. I would like to thank all members of Council for their support and extend best wishes for the next few years to the new officers.

4. Annual Accounts and Treasurer’s Report Treasurer presented the Annual Accounts for the year ending 31 December 2003 (see www.nfbr.org.uk for a full set), which had been approved by the Independent Examiner. In his report he highlighted the following points:

  • the end of year net balance was £5586.87;
  • a surplus of income over expenditure of £191.15;
  • the 2003 annual conference made a loss of £709.38;
  • some subscriptions for 2003 were still outstanding, although overall income from subscriptions had increased slightly.

The Annual Accounts and Treasurer’s Report were proposed from the Chair and were accepted by the meeting nem. con.

5. Amendments to the Constitution Chairman notified the meeting that, partly because of the scale of late booking for the Conference and AGM, it had not been possible to provide the statutory 14 days notice of alterations to the Constitution as stipulated in Clause 10 of the Constitution. Nevertheless, he sought the meeting’s approval to continue with Item 5 of the present Agenda which was given by the meeting unopposed.

Secretary presented the proposed amendments and explained why Council considered that these amendments were necessary to rationalise anomalies regarding Membership and Honorary Officers. Each amendment was considered separately, proposed from the Chair and voted upon and each was approved nem. con. Secretary agreed to prepare the duly revised Constitution for dissemination to members (see www.nfbr.org.uk).

6. Change to membership fees from 1 January 2005 Under the Constitution, Council has the power to change the annual membership fee at any time. Consequent upon Item 5 of the Agenda (Clause 3a), Council proposes to introduce two categories for membership fees - Individual and Organisational. With effect from 1st January 2005, the annual subscriptions will be £10 for Individual Members (unchanged) and £20 for Organisational Members. This change was proposed from the Chair and was approved by the meeting nem. con.

7. Election of Honorary Officers and Council for 2004/2005 The following were nominated by Council to serve as Honorary Officers for the year 2004/2005: Chairman : Charles Copp Secretary : Paul Harding Treasurer : Mike Weideli Membership Secretary : John Newbould Newsletter Editor : Simon Pickles Website Manager : Nick Moyes

There being no other nominations, their election en bloc was proposed from the Chair and was approved by the meeting nem. con.

The following were nominated by Council to serve as Members of Council for the year 2004/2005: Bill Butcher, Nicky Court, Henri Brocklebank, Trevor James, Damian McFerran, Adam Rowe, Mandy Rudd, Craig Slawson, Darwyn Sumner & Richard Fox.

There being no other nominations, their election en bloc was proposed from the Chair and was approved by the meeting nem. con.

Council gave notice that it intended to invite Stuart Ball (JNCC) to be co-opted onto Council and to continue to invite a representative of BRISC to be co-opted onto Council.

8. Any other business Chairman reported that NFBR member Tim Corner had been unable to attend the meeting due to ill-health. The meeting requested that best wishes for a speedy recovery should be conveyed to Tim.

Charles Copp (Chairman elect) thanked Bill Butcher for all his work on behalf of NFBR during his three years as Chairman, which was endorsed by the whole meeting.

The meeting closed at 1415. Paul T Harding, NFBR Secretary 2nd July 2004