LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - May 7, 2014) - Dumfries House - A gathering of many of the UK's principal organisations interested in squirrel issues was held at Dumfries House to discuss and promote a common British Isles approach to squirrels. It brought together interested parties from all over the United Kingdom, from governmental, voluntary and private sectors.
Grey squirrels continue to pose a grave threat to our native red squirrels and to our valuable woodlands. A fresh approach is needed that joins together efforts to tackle the threat posed by greys with those to protect and enhance red populations in the UK.
At the gathering, which was held in the presence of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, a new British Isles squirrel Accord was unveiled, a simple aspirational document that all interested parties were invited to subscribe to. The Accord, which has the endorsement of His Royal Highness, has no one author or sponsor and is a non partisan document akin to a communiqué.
The purpose of the Accord is to draw together the many UK organisations interested in both red squirrel conservation and grey squirrel control under a common aim. It will provide a focus for shared action and will promote more partnership working through the sharing of experience and provision of mutual support, and where this is already happening sustain the good progress that has been made.
The Accord highlights the need for more effective communication between organisations to build partnerships and to increase public awareness and support for action. Commitment to the Accord will mean parties across the UK working together on these issues now and in the future.
The Accord will be finalised and signed following the Symposium.
Introducing the Accord, Lord Kinnoull, Chairman of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, said "The red squirrel is a national emblem and one of our most engaging native species. I am delighted with the Accord which will assist greatly in coordinating the efforts of the many excellent people and organisations who are involved in squirrels ".
Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also addressed the gathering and took the opportunity of saying: "Red squirrels are a much loved, but threatened, part of British wildlife. I fully support this Accord and endorse the need to work together to revive our iconic red squirrel population, and encourage the planting of new broadleaved woodlands. Broadleaved woodlands not only help our songbirds but provide economic and environmental benefits for generations to come. We will publish a new Strategy later this year setting out our approach in more detail."
Scotland's Minister for Environment and Climate Change Paul Wheelhouse said:
"The native red squirrel is one of our most iconic species and any effort to help protect it should be welcomed. I'm delighted to be supporting the Duke of Rothesay's British Isles Squirrel Accord, bringing together expertise and best practice across governments, the private sector and voluntary organisations.
"Scotland has adopted a pioneering approach to protecting our red squirrel population, which involves a number of organisations working together. The Scottish Government will continue to support the Saving Scotland's Red Squirrel Project, which is working hard to maintain strongholds of this much-loved species from the South of Scotland to the Highlands and Islands.
"It is precisely because we want to continue making strong progress in protecting red squirrels that we are confirming £40,000 funding for the squirrel pox vaccination, reducing the impact of this disease carried by the non-native grey squirrel."
Among the initial supporters of the Accord were the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, the Royal Forestry Society, Scottish Natural Heritage, The Duchy of Cornwall, Defra, the Scottish Government and the Forestry Commission.
Full text of the Accord
Squirrels in the United Kingdom
The Accord records a common purpose and resolve concerning squirrels in the United Kingdom. Grey squirrels need controlling because of the economic, social and environmental damage that they cause and their adverse impact on red squirrel populations which are part of the natural heritage of the British Isles and need protection. Many different parties are involved in work to protect reds or control greys. The signatories to this Accord recognize the vital importance of both these work areas and agree the following long term aim:
Red squirrel populations protected and thriving and greys controlled through targeted and sustained action.
Long Term Nature
It is recognized that the work towards the aim is very long term and that all the many interested parties will be working together for the foreseeable future. As gains are made in supporting existing red populations and controlling greys, the focus for future action may turn towards reintroducing reds into areas from which they have been lost.
The Governmental bodies can only provide so much funding. The private and voluntary sectors will need to commit monies as well. There will naturally be debate about how funds are spent. Pragmatism and an understanding of others constraints will greatly assist the difficult process of achieving consensus. The parties' commitment to work together will also assist in making successful applications for funding from available grants or awards.
The work on squirrels must be done as a partnership between the Governmental, private and voluntary sectors. Partnership means many things but most important is an openness and willingness to share and a positive pragmatic attitude to the efforts of others. Many successful programmes of joint work already exist and these need to be sustained and added to. The signatories endorse the need for simple and effective communication between the parties to enable constructive partnership working. An effective mechanism for communication should provide an opportunity for parties to share experience and good practice, provide a degree of mutual support, and to work together on communication issues to increase public support for action. A number of initial signatories have committed to work together, and with others, over the remainder of 2014 to formalise a communication system.