Sunday 23 May 2010

Transparency in a digital age

A report showing that Britain is failing to halt the declines of many of its highest-priority wildlife species and habitats, from the red squirrel, the juniper and the common skate to chalk rivers and coastal salt marshes, was "sneaked out" this week by the Government with no publicity, environmental campaign groups said yesterday.

More than twice as many conservation priority species and habitats are declining as are increasing across the UK, the report says, yet to find that study is virtually impossible without special knowledge. It was posted on the website of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the Government's UK-wide wildlife advisers, on Thursday.

But it is buried deep in the site, there was no press release, and there is no reference to it or link to it on the website's front page. It is not even on the website of the relevant Government department, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The report – "The UK Biodiversity Action Plan: highlights from the 2008 reporting round" – was finished more than a year ago,
and wildlife campaign groups have accused the previous Labour government of deliberately sitting on it, and the new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition Government of actively seeking to hide it. It concerns the progress – or lack of it – of the 500-plus UK species and habitats which have been the subject of Biodiversity Action Plans, or BAPs, set up since the Convention on Biological Diversity was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.