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Chris Packham - What's the point of nature reserves?

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whats the point of reserves

i can see crises point,whats the point of breeding and release sites with no where for the birds to go,nature reserves are like ssi,not really worth the paper there written on,if the govt feel like they want to drive a road somewhere,or drill for oil,or any other mad idea,have you noticed that if theres any new roads or housing development its almost certanly going to be through woodland.what happened to the large forrest corridore in the south west ?the trees and man power could easily be done by tree donatons and volenteer,work to plants them,all it needs is govt go ahead.

with out these corridors,whats the pointof nature reserves.

thanks for reading my input.david

Posted on: 20 Mar 2011 21:35:05
Posted by: david

what's the point of chris packhan

for a long time now i've thought he was on the wrong side. i agree we need systems that not only pay for themselves but create wealth; and this is something i'm working towards. but to say we should not have reserves or pandas, or whatever else he thinks we don't need, he is talking nonsence.

if anyone's interested in the idea i'm working on with nature reserves creating vast amounts of wealth for conservation projects around the world, please e-mail me via cates1980@yahoo.co.uk

this idea works towards conserving wildlife and not to annililate it.

Posted on: 20 Mar 2011 16:24:39
Posted by: robert piller


The population of this and every other country on the planet rises inexorably year after year, and every year there are targets, targets for biodiversity, targets for halting climate change, targets to meet targets. The sad fact of life, even if this does not apply to all, is that money still does make the world go round and the targets get pushed aside for other more economically important issues.

I see where Chris Packham is coming from in his piece "Chris Packham - What's the point of nature reserves?" Unfortunately he is completely right and I guess this question is posed as one from a pure economic point of view and not necessarily as sweeping statement to the detriment of the passion and services to nature shown by thousands of conservationists every year.

Right now thousands of our nation's Government owned forests are teetering towards the auctioneers hammer for the sake of our 'economic climate'.

Whether a proportion of this country's population sway the event or not, it is abundantly clear that the 'financial worth' of a piece of land tends to outweigh its value on an environmental level.

It must therefore be time that we make nature pay!
For the sake of its long term survival - we all want our childrens children to enjoy the flora and fauna of our great British countryside, but our great British countryside is slowly but surely slipping through the holes in our nation's pocket.

p.s - I know this comment is a couple of years too late but I think it is still very much a current issue.

Posted on: 21 Dec 2010 22:44:40
Posted by: Chris Strickland

Devil's advocate?

Well, you may be a devil's advocate, but as with all such arguments, they hold more than a grain of truth. I think Chris Packham's take on nature reserves resonates with my own (although I have worked hard with a local charity to establish they locally). the reason our charity wanted to buy land was so that we could control access - we had carried out conservation work for years on a Local Nature Reserve - and I formed the opinion that the great British public, and including local people I know and love, really only want somewhere to empty their dog and discard their garden waste or old kitchen cabinets. Owning our own reserves means we can bring back some butterflies, kestrels and barn owls to our landscapes, and that has been great, but in the wider scheme of things - yes, Chris, a waste of time probably. Cynical but sadly we are living in an era that merits cynicism.
Faith Moulin

Posted on: 07 Sep 2009 14:49:34
Posted by: Faith Moulin

More than just bequest values Chris

Reserves are more than simply a snapshot in time, they are dynamic and can host important habitats for rare and endangered species - both resident and migratory. They are therefore important harbours for biodiversity while we shape, evolve and integrate our agricultural and urban landscape to be more wildlife freindly. It really doesn't matter how little these places are visited or known about. It matters that they are there for the wildlife which benefit from them. If the surronding landscape, be it agricultural or urban can be be managed more harmoniously; breaking down the barriers of edge effects, then they could be focal points, rather than islands for rare species and biodiversity generally.
Other responses have picked up on the money spent. Conservation NGO's such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts carry these expenses and have justified this by the many benfits to native and migrating wildlife that has been demonstrated. All this without tax payers money. We can prop up financial institutions to protect our fragile economy but not,apparently to protect the environment which supports us. Without these organisations championing the environment through their work, we would have lost many more species to extinction locally and nationally.
Post war agricultural practices have reduced or seen off much of our wildlife as well as has urban development. We now have to work hard to expand these 'islands of diverstiy' and not just for bequest values, but to restore at least some of that which we have depleted and for us to ultimately survive as a species.

Posted on: 05 Jan 2009 15:31:12
Posted by: Tim Aldous

Cosy Complacency

Full marks to Chris Packham for evidently flushing out the cosy complacency of most conservation groupies and their incredibly superficial understanding of what constitutes the conservation industry of today. It took me a couple of readings to realise how important this article was. Packham is absolutely right that enormous harm is done through the poor analytical rigor of conservation ideology and the resultant and continuing heavy handed management that seeks repeatedy to turn back the clock. If you want a monoculture heathland, then it doesn't make sense to leave a single seed bearing tree - because if you do, mother nature will reclaim the heath, and the "conservation profesionals" end up trashing the heath with machinery to cut down the trees, clear scrub, and poison all the stumps. Throw in some asulox as well to poison off the bracken.
But why conserve heaths anyway? They are not maintained by the agricultural practice of today, and most of the avian species live better lives across the channel. But then the conservation professionals make a living out of restoring heath, and it is always their choice as what species get to live and which get to die.

Posted on: 05 Nov 2008 18:51:02
Posted by: Mark Fisher


Chris, I was quite curious to know what you had to say this time but to tell you the truth I got lost and somewhat a little uninterested somewhere after the first few paragraphs. What exactly is your point of this article? What is the big deal about the cost of the UK nature reserves? And why are you concerned about it?

The nature reserves in this country surely are not maintained or funded from your pocket. With the amount of money the UK waste every year from tax evaders, people who 'can't ever seem to get a job' or who are cheating incapacity benefits. What about the millions of pounds spent on buildings etc and of course the amount of money used while occupying countries that they shouldn't be.

I think alll things considered we can afford a few nature reserves around the country Chris, and I think the vast majority of people would disagree with your rantings here.

Anyway what exactly do you purpose we do then?

Posted on: 01 Aug 2008 20:16:31
Posted by: Sammy Logan


Lucky! The network of nature reserves in this country isn't really down to luck is it? Thanks to decades of hard work and the support of loads of people we actually still have some nature to enjoy! By attacking their achievements you are weakening your own case.

I hope, I really hope, your article is trying to say we need more - if that's what you are grasping for then I think you are a bit behind the likes of the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB; their Living Landscapes and Futurescapes projects are already so much more than 'just' nature reserves.

Look at what the RSPB have done at Lakenheath - I saw cranes there this year, why not highlight what can be achieved rather attacking what has already been protected?

If you want to be an opinion leader, Chris, you need to offer some practical sugegstions. From what I read conservation is already moving on - just look at the last issue of the Wildlife Trust's Natural World.

Anyway, must go, I have an Old Master I must paint over.

Posted on: 28 Jul 2008 16:33:12
Posted by: Rose


Don't get me wrong, I find Packham's devilish rantings refreshing in this day and age of catholic-like fanaticism over conservation issues and ideologies but; didn't I read exactly the same arguments from him a few weeks ago? Exchange "heathland" with "panda" and you may see what I mean. Come on Packham, originality.

Posted on: 28 Jul 2008 03:08:13
Posted by: Gareth

Chris was putting it mildly...

Good piece of writing Chris. Try to ignore the flack from the others who are maybe missing your bigger point: that 21st centrury turbo-captalism and ecological reality are not going to be kind to nature reserves in their current form- tiny hobby farms for wildlife.
I have to object to the art analogy though- I love contemporary art and I think our boy Hirst is a genius! He mocked the pickled animals which were the cutting edge of the natural sciences 100 years ago. I'm sure its just a matter of time before a modern artist somewhere dumps a patch of turf in a swank gallery then seeks LNR status and a National Lottery Grant to manage it. It would be a sick joke, and it would also be making a strong timely point.
It makes my blood boil to see ever more wildlife consumed and makes me fear for a future when the only nature kids encounter is on TV, but the writing is on the wall for so many of these impractical parochial pockets of wildlife remnants.
Ecological science is pretty clear that for signifcant biodiversity to flourish whole landscapes need to be protected intact so natural processes can occur. These reserves which are measured by the square foot are cute places for us to spend an afternoon but they probably spell disaster for the beasts and plants marooned there, as well as being unrellenting money pits for local authorities and NGOs.
I agree with Chis that we need to 'use it or loose it'. The only long term succesful landscape (ie.practical) scale wildlife habitats that will survive into the future will be those which pay their way. And this calls for a serious change from us consumers- its no good demanding we pickle entertaining pockets of habitat at home while we all buy cheap garden furniture made from Orangutang habitat and eat soyburgers grown on former chinese wetlands. Lets put our money where our mouth is and start boycotting products grown, dug-up or gathered at the expense of wildlife. And lets make serious efforts at integrating wildlife into our economy and lives- imagine the impact if every new UK house had bat-bricks built into their walls as standard and 'natives plants only' rules for their gardens, if 'natural' burials on wild land became the norm, or if wildlife-hostile products, from clearcut rainforest timbers to plastic wine corks were taxed so sustainable products could compete. Imagine farmers who operate to the advantage of wildlife getting a real premium price for their product.
Chris sees things clearly, but I'm going to go a bit further than maybe he would. I'm going to suggest that possibly half or even more of the cash spent on conservation in the UK is wasted try to protect marginal species or habitats which occur in far greater profusion elsewhere in the world and which could be conserved far more cheaply than they can in the UK. Consider the Chough, a delightful bird which can be seen by the handful near Aberystwyth or on the occasional Scottish island. I've spent many an afternoon on clifftops near Aber' watching their antics and met many fanatical supporters of UK Chough conservation. How many British nature fans are aware that it can also be seen all over southern Europe? For many folk those Euro-Choughs don't seem to count. In one dairy paddock in North Spain I once saw a flock of Choughs bigger in number than the entire (genetically identical) UK population. In Spain there is anecdotal evidence that these birds are declining and while a little NGO money and action could go a long way to stabilising things there, little is forthcoming. Meanwhile the RSPB and others have spent literally millions on the few UK birds. I don't mean to slander the RSPB or the enthusiam of the folk who have helped the Chough cling on in the UK but I feel we are not putting our resources where they will have the biggest impacts. When we only have limited resources I'd have thought it would go without saying that we must be efficient, in this case, get maximum Choughs for our dosh- irrespective of national borders.
If the decision was taken to concentrate funding on the UKs internationally important land and species then potentially half of Scotland and Wales would be heavily protected and 99% of England could safely be concreted over (come to think of it, the latter is already happening anyway). Why are the completely unique Hebrides, home to staggering numbers of internationally important seabirds still largely unprotected while unremarkable if pretty parts of England virtually have the legal status of consecrated land? And why are we wasting so much time and effort on internationally common and supremely adaptable species like Badgers? Conservation needs to raise its game and stop being so parochial if we are to have any hope at all of significant survival of wildlife into the future.

Posted on: 27 Jul 2008 06:02:01
Posted by: Mark

What about the educational value of a natural reserve?

Hi Chris,

Jim Wilson here in Ireland. I am part of a tiny band of “geeks” who look enviously across the water at the relatively large number of nature reserves scattered across Britain and wish we had even 1% of them here. I have been trying in a small way to chip away at the national attitude to our natural heritage here in Ireland for over 30 years. We do not seem have the same level of interest as in the UK and some other European countries. The thing I dream of as a tool to change our embarrassing attitude to wildlife is a nature reserve. To put our position into perspective Ireland is internationally important for wetland birds, holding a significant percentage of the Northwest European population in winter yet we have just one wetland reserve in the whole country which has staff and has interpretation and education facilities and that is in Wexford, far away from the two main centres of population in our country. I agree fully with your point about the futility of trying to keep your finger on the natural succession pause button. To me the real value of a nature reserve is its education potential. Because of what we termed the ‘Celtic Tiger’ Ireland got very rich very fast in recent years, but did our wise leaders spend any of it on nature reserves? Not really and now (like its namesake) this tiger is in danger of extinction due to recession so my chances of seeing a nature reserve coming my way some time soon are slim to nil. Thanks to our recent prosperity I cannot walk in the countryside without putting myself in danger of being knocked down by the explosion of cars on our roads. I would be mad to bring schools kids on a nature walk. If only I had a nature reserve where I could bring a bus load of kids on a day out to get their hands muddy and learn how fascinating nature can be and how dependent we are on it.
So while I agree with your article I would ask you to spare a thought for those of us living on the planet that do not have the luxury of a good network of nature reserves which for people like me would be invaluable in my efforts to educate future generations. All the best, Hope you are keeping well.

Jim Wilson www.irishwildlife.net

Posted on: 26 Jul 2008 21:06:14
Posted by: Jim Wilson


I was once given a piece of very good advice by a former boss. He said that you should not criticise anything unless you could come up with a viable alternative.
It would appear that Mr Packham has told us about everything that's wrong (in his view), but has failed miserably to come forward with any suggestion other than chop down the big trees!
Very constructive Mr. Packham!
Could this be sour grapes because he no longer features so heavily on our TV screens and so has to make outlandish statements in order to try to win an appearance on Breakfast TV?

Posted on: 26 Jul 2008 07:53:40
Posted by: Taffy2

What's the point of Nature Reserves?

Mr Packham says' you may be spitting with rage...' actually, no. You see, Mr Packham, we understand that some people just have to be in the media limelight, no matter how they achieve it. For some people, they can only achieve it by being contravercial. Do we have a good candidate for Celebrity Big Brother here?

Posted on: 26 Jul 2008 05:27:12
Posted by: Taffy2


Chris, I am so dissapionted with your ariticle, I always thought you a bit of a Maverick but come on! How many times in your many TV series have you reported about the the exciting wild life we could see at at this reserve or that ? You have encouraged me to get involved in consevation on many fronts.
I feel you have 'used' these reserves and now you are trying to make us discard them!
So next time you do a series are you still going to report from reserves or the middle of an oil seed rape field? It would be a pretty bland show.

Posted on: 25 Jul 2008 21:55:28
Posted by: David Clarke


So whats the point of nature reserves? Well I could say whats the point of looking after Stonehenge or Whats the point of looking at distant galaxies or Whats the point of football, whats the point of life.
Shall I go on.
Everything is pointless in a way but we still want to protect old buildings and sand lizards and look at galaxies and watch sport. None of this is practical.
But if we didn't do pointless things, if we didn't save the whales or Stonehenge or look after trees or kick a ball around we'd be nothing more than robots. Mindless work obsessed robots.
Something does not have to have a purpose or be practical to be important.
Humans have always done what would be considered impractical and purposeless things.
If as chris suggests nature reserves become part of the present day working environment then they will be destroyed. We will have a monoculture. All other plant and animal life would be eliminated to get the maximum amount of profit from the soil.
This article has no doubt got the big businesses out there rubbing their hands in glee at having a conservationist on their side.
If we lose Nature Reserves and the countryside in general then we lose our souls and our spirit.
This is not said lightly.
To chris I must be one of the most impractical people around. I like to hear the birds singing at dawn, watch the bats at dusk swoop over my head, look at the stars and watch thunderstorms. I look at wild flowers and trees, watch spiders spin webs, visit stone circles, sit and watch the waves crash on the shore.
It is hard to put into words why these things are important.
But what I do know is that we share this planet with other life. I care for humans, animals and the environment and see no reason why we can not live side by side. Unfortunately articles like those written by chris will make this harder to do.

Posted on: 25 Jul 2008 21:04:36
Posted by: Amanda

What is YOUR point?

I began reading his article with hope, thinking it would make some far sighted practical suggestions. I do see the analogy between nature reserves and traditional art and contemporary art and 21st century country landscape.
I do take the point that nature reserves are artificial to some extent and do cost money to manage. It most certainly is not the case that those visiting them come from outside the area with their own "sarnies". Living close to one of the most modern towns in this country - Milton Keynes I know many local people who visit the areas maintained by the Parks Trust which is self funding from the property placed in its trust by the development corporation. In addition to these areas which may not be deemed as nature reserves but are little havens for wild life and those wishing to enjoy it, there are the lakes that were built to balance the drainage of water once so much arable land had been covered in concrete and tarmac. these too attract much wild life and those who appreciate it. We also, for a small annual fee, visit some lakes that were once used for gravel extraction, enjoying the varied bird life there. We don't take sarnies because all of these places are within a 5 mile radius of our home only 1 mile from Junction 14 on M1 so certainly within my experience the concept that the visitor is from outside the area is wrong. Certainly we have visited places like Minsmere, Slimbridge, Martinsmere but always as part of our holiday so the local economy has benefitted from from the reserve; those mentioned also have their direct commercial outlets and employment opportunities.
however to answer the question posed:
1. To provide the habitat to sustain both indigenous species and those that are beginning to make Britain their home.
2. To promote education about wild life and ecology.
3. To monitor wild life and ecology.
4. To provide a peaceful refuge for thos who enjoy wild life.
.......and many more worthwhile reasons.
I would like to know what there could be to fulfill these needs if we did not have nature reserves.

Posted on: 25 Jul 2008 17:09:33
Posted by: Sandra Oxley


Is this article a hoax?
If not, come on Chris.
I stood on the North wall at Minsmere the other Thursday morning, watching the sun rise over that vast reedbed, listening to a bittern booming. It was magical. I know the RSPB's a multi-million pound, middle class, twee sort of an operation, but what would you rather have than places like Minsmere, Cley and my local Wolves Wood? You don't actually say. Would you just let the trees and scrub take over at Minsmere and on Dunwich Heath?
You're losing me, mate..

Posted on: 25 Jul 2008 15:36:49
Posted by: Mark, Suffolk

Chris Packham - What's the point of nature reserves?

In the UK we are extremely lucky to have a fairly comprehensive collection of terrestrial nature reserves which cover a representative set of British habitats. This is a rich legacy and we have to thank a small legion of our forebears for their effort, foresight and generosity. Without them we would have nowhere to go on Sundays to meet fellow minded geeks and discuss the minutiae of our passions. We wouldn’t be able to stand hands on hips and smugly gaze at a living representation of what we imagine our green and pleasant landscape once looked like.

Click here to see the full article.

Posted on: 25 Jul 2008 10:55:03
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