Minsmere money is cash well spent

DAVID GREEN’s Greenwatch environmental comment column

HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds are being handed to wildlife and landscape groups at a time of cuts in the NHS, care homes, youth clubs and libraries.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has just announced receipt of a �870,000 grant to revamp visitors facilities at the RSPB’s Minsmere nature reserve.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Partnership has just been awarded �426,000 for a project to improve recreation and access opportunities and upgrade visitor facilities in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Little Ouse Headwaters Project is celebrating the award of �370,000 for landscape/habitat restoration work along the Suffolk-Norfolk border.

Hasn’t society got its priorities wrong, many people may be thinking? I understand that view.

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Of course, we should be looking after those who are ill and infirm and our young people.

However, we also have a moral duty to look after the lives of the animals which share this planet with us, as well as the landscapes which give so much succour to people, raising their spirits and helping to relive the stress of modern day living.

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There is nothing quite like a day out walking on the Suffolk coast – enjoying its wildlife and (the view towards Sizewell apart) its landscape.

But the most important point is that most of the money being handed out to finance wildlife and landscape schemes is coming from funds raised by the National Lottery, a gambling game which, in difficult economic times, appears to attract even more participation, especially from those least able to afford it – the poor.

Money for big wildlife/landscape projects is not coming from local authority funds although some comes indirectly from the national taxpayer via grants from the European Union, which gobbles up money from the UK and other member governments.

A small amount of taxpayers’ money has also been handed to the RSPB by the East of England Development Agency, itself the subject of the economic axe, for the resurfacing of the visitors’ car park at Minsmere, but by far the largest amount for the RSPB’s Discover Nature project is coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund and will pay for new visitor facilities and a better learning experience.

Let us also not forget that wildlife and landscape are also an important money generator for the East Anglian economy, bringing in many thousands of tourists and day-trippers every year – to spend money on accommodation, meals and refreshments and the goods and produce in local shops.

Yes, in this country and, certainly in Suffolk, the priorities may be wrong.

But let us not make wildlife and landscape groups the scapegoats for general unrest about how the politicians spend our taxes.


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