Is the government missing out the wood for the trees?

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The adage missing the woods for the trees describes a situation where the focus on the big picture is lost by one's short sighted preoccupation with relatively less important small details. The UK government's decision to sell national reserves, forest land and withdrawal of grants to British Waterways which manages 2,300 miles of canals and rivers as part of the 40% cut in the budget of the Department for Environment , Food and Rural affairs seems to be a typical example of this syndrome.
The proposed cut threatens to impact the environment in two ways. A cut in welfare expense to 1/3 of the present outlay to Natural England the principal nature conservation agency responsible for the country's waterways, air, soil, pollution control, waste control and river protection will have a degenerating effect on all of these vital conservation activities. On the other hand such a step would also set back nature conservation by many years and hinder the creation of new marine nature reserves.

While granting over key nature reserves to big business would ring the death knell of eco protection and natural heritage, we can be prosecuted by the EU for not complying with the European birds and habitats directive. Leading conservation groups have made a joint statement to the government on the profound and irreversible consequences for wildlife, landscapes and people and have cautioned how short term savings would translate into huge long term costs for the economy and national well being.

These groups have highlighted that the countryside and environment are not in the pink of health today and a cut in cost could take things to a point of no return...

1. Reedbeds already dry and clogged with brambles

2. Heath lands have vanished and scrubs taken over their place

3. Wetlands have dwindled with rivers and canals being clogged by invasive plants

4. Farmland birds are on the verge of extinction

5. Meadows and the country's bat population are vanishing

6. Uplands have become degraded and their ability to provide clean water drastically reduced

A budget cut would mean the end of coastal habitats like salt marsh and saline lagoons, reefs and other marine systems so vital for flood control and prevention of erosion. If paths and bridleways are not kept open huge swathes of the famed English countryside and the coast would be closed to millions permanently

The Secretary General of the UN Council of Biological Diversity has warned that it would be very short sighted to cut biodiversity spending. There cannot be a more emphatic caution than what the Secretary General has conveyed in the following words 'You may save a few pounds now but you will loose billions later, biodiversity is your natural asset, the more you loose it the more you loose your cultural assets too. There could not have been a better way of putting across the perils of neglecting nature. We could only hope that it makes the powers that be realize what they are doing to the natural heritage of this country in the name of cost cutting and they realize the gravity of their actions before it is too late.

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