Conservation and crag management is the theme of this week's Green Friday.
The BMC works hard to negotiate access to areas of high conservation as well as high recreational value in England and Wales, and manages access in a way that is of mutual benefit to recreation and conservation.
Check the BMC Regional Access Database in advance and take account of any restrictions when planning which crag you are going to visit. If there are signs or leaflets at the approach to the crag, please take note of the information these provide and follow advice given. Restrictions are put in place to protect rare species of plants and birds. However, if it becomes clear that there are nesting birds at an unrestricted site, please contact the BMC.
Various conservation laws are in place to protect our wild plants and animals. These include:
Protection of Animals Act
Wildlife and Countryside Act
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act
Natural Habitat Regulations
It is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to intentionally uproot any plant from the wild without the permission of the landowner or occupier. There is a list of plants that receive special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act which includes many rare flowering plants, some ferns, mosses and liverworts and numerous lichens. Under the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994, it can also be an offence to deliberately pick, collect, uproot or destroy a wild plant of a European protected species.
For more information visit www.defra.gov.uk
Nesting bird restrictions
The BMC publishes an annual list of agreed climbing restrictions in England and Wales to protect nesting birds. It is vitally important to adhere to these. These are seasonal and if they are ignored, conservation bodies may want to impose more severe and legally-enforceable restrictions. Lack of an agreed restriction does not necessarily mean that there are no nesting birds. If unsure, contact the BMC who have local Access Representatives with up to date local knowledge.
Wild birds are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, revised every five years. This lists the birds that qualify for special protection. It is against the law to take birds, their eggs or other protected wild animals from the wild and intentionally kill or injure birds or other protected wild animals or to destroy birds’ eggs. Climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers have an excellent reputation for respecting bird nesting restrictions – better than most other groups. It is essential that this is maintained. For a full list of over 500 records of climbing restrictions in England and Wales visit the BMC Regional Access Database (RAD)
Conservation in Scotland
In Scotland, conservation laws are slightly different. In addition to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, there is the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. This strengthens the legal protection for threatened species. The species protection afforded to wild birds, animals and plants is extended to include ‘reckless’ acts. All birds are protected in this way and certain threatened bird species benefit from protection when they are ‘near’ a nest in use.
For more information on the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004
see the website of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
Crag & habitat management
Many once-popular cliffs have become neglected, overgrown and inaccessible for reasons such as changes in climate and climbing trends. Many of these crags could benefit from being ‘opened-up’. Sensitive management work such as scrub clearance or managing invasive plants can be very beneficial for wildlife, but ill-informed actions can be destructive and even illegal.
The BMC has produced a guide to crag and habitat management, which gives essential guidance for people wanting to restore the climbing at their favourite crag without damaging its wildlife features. This handy 'how to' guide for conservation work at your local crag was produced in collaboration with conservation bodies - Natural England, The National Trust, The Forestry Commission and The Countryside Council for Wales.
The guide gives useful information on the important planning stage of any management work, explains scientific designations and conservation law and lists useful consultees. The guide also contains examples of work carried out by BMC volunteers together with nature conservation bodies.
Download the Crag & Habitat Management guide.
The BMC has also produced a Lakes Green Climbing Guide and a Yorkshire Dales Green Climbing Guide which illustrate the local conservation features, crags, and habitats. A Coastal Green guide is currently in production.
That's all for now, tune in next week for another Green Friday!
Until then, other sources of useful documents include the BMC and Climate Change and the BMC Green Guide to the Uplands.