Suffolk Wildlife Trust appoints new head of conservation

Ben McFarland

Ben McFarland - Credit: Archant

The new head of conservation at Suffolk Wildlife Trust has spoken about what he sees as his main responsibilities at the organisation.

Ben McFarland joined Suffolk Wildlife Trust last week as head on conservation

Ben McFarland joined Suffolk Wildlife Trust last week as head on conservation - Credit: Archant

The new head of conservation at Suffolk Wildlife Trust has spoken about what he sees as his main responsibilities at the organisation. Ben McFarland joined the trust this week, replacing Dorothy Casey, and takes up the position after many years with the RSPB.

For the past year he has worked as conservation manager for the East of England with the RSPB and prior to that spent six and half years as the society’s Suffolk manager based at its flagship Minsmere reserve.

With the majority of the RSPB’s reserves being near the coast, Mr McFarland said his new role presents an opportunity to “get to know the whole of Suffolk better” as the Trust has over 50 reserves scattered across the county.

On his main responsibilities, he added:” Essentially, it’s to bring a strategic cohesion to the management of the reserves, to make sure the general philosophy of the management is aligned - and to understand the needs of managers, so they can manage the reserves in a way that best serves the needs of wildlife.”


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He also said he would be looking for opportunities to work with partners, such as local authorities, RSPB, National Trust, Natural England and private landowners.

“While managing the reserves effectively is important – those reserves are not big enough to make the significant impact we need,” he continued.

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“60% of our species are still in decline, so while in some areas we are winning the battle, we are not winning the war. You can’t create wildlife reserves everywhere, so we will look for opportunities where we can to work with landowners to soften the land management and deliver for wildlife.”

He said this joined-up approach is important to give many wildlife species the space to develop larger populations over time, and so become more sustainable, especially as they face the growing challenges thrown up by climate change.

The subject of conservation organisations working closer with landowners in Suffolk has become more pertinent as we approach Brexit, a point Mr McFarland picked up on

He said: “Irrespective of any personal views on Brexit, it does offer an opportunity to change the Common Agricultural Policy – whereby farmers can deliver land management as a public good that delivers for wildlife and helps in other areas such as alleviating soil erosion and flooding. They can also help improve access to wildlife and nature.”

Talking of opportunities, Mr McFarland described the trust’s £4m plans to expand the Carlton Marshes reserve near Lowestoft as “an amazing opportunity”.

He continued: “It’s probably one of the biggest projects the trust has taken on. It’s a huge wetland with two aspects to it - it’s the opportunity to develop a whole new wetland site for wildlife species and it will enable us to reconnect a part of Suffolk’s urban population with wildlife.

“We will be working closely with the warden Matt Gooch on the best approach to deliver for wildlife and also looking at the best place to include paths and other infrastructure at the site for the local people.

“Wildlife conservation and people engagement are part of the same thing - without people caring for wildlife there is not a long-term future for that wildlife.”

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