30 March 2012

Nature Deficit Disorder

The Froglife team have been pleased to hear 'nature deficit disorder,' a term coined by author Richard Louv, hitting headlines this week.  This has been thanks to a report from the National Trust highlighting concerns about young people’s lack of contact with nature. Froglife's learning and social inclusion projects have been tackling this for a number of years, and it's great that this issue is getting more exposure.

Currently, our Wildlife Ambassadors, Froglife Active Conservation Team and Green Pathways projects offer opportunities for young people to explore, make things and learn about the wild creatures in their neighbourhood. We have often found that young offenders or those labelled as ‘disruptive’ in classrooms simply flourish doing practical outdoor activities.

The joys of pond dipping
Froglife’s Wildlife Ambassador project attended Natural England's conference last week, where a wide variety of projects funded through their Access to Nature programme were sharing their joys and successes.  There is some inspiring work being done to change lives through engagement with wildlife, and we hope this continues to be funded.  Excitingly, we found out yesterday that the events our Ambassadors ran teaching children about newts came second in the Community Category for the National Science and Engineering Week awards.

Froglife's My Wild Life memory-sharing project also aims to capture evidence of generational changes in contact with the big wild world. We have met some very enthusiastic young naturalists through the project.  We have also met young people who have never seen frogspawn, climbed a tree or played outdoors, in contrast with older people's memories of disappearing on their bikes for days.

The National Trust’s report highlights the benefits of nature for improving mental and physical health and well being.

Here at Froglife, we also believe that everyone has something to contribute to conservation – so the people we help engage with nature through our work can then help us conserve animals and habitats. Everyone wins.

You can find out more about Froglife’s learning programme on our website here
You can find out more about the National Trust report here
There are ideas for things you could get up to with your family outdoors on our website here – do let us know on Facebook or Twitter what you get up to

29 March 2012

Not Too Late to Help Toads

It’s starting to come to the end of the Toad Patrol season now, but there are still things you can do to help Common toads. One of them is support Froglife’s Tuppence a Toad appeal.

Can you spare Tuppence for a Toad?
Launched in 2010, we are asking people to make donations small and large to help make sure we can continue our work helping toads, and better support the hard working Toad Patrol volunteers.

If you would like to help toads, these small and unsung garden heroes, perhaps you could:

Donate online to our appeal
Collect your tuppences and other spare change at home and send us a cheque when your jar is full
Buy some of our lovely Toad Notelets to send to your friends and share the toad-friendly message
• Try some toad-friendly improvements in your garden with hints and tips from our publications Just Add Water and Urban Tails (UK editition) or Urban Tails (Scottish edition)
Find out more about the Toads on Roads project at Froglife’s website here

On behalf of the toads, thank you!

Photo: Laura Brady

28 March 2012

New Planning Laws: Update

As covered in previous Froglife Croaks, changes have been afoot in planning regulations over the last few months. The new regulations cut over a thousand pages of standards and information down to just over fifty.

The new National Planning Policy Framework was announced on Tuesday 27th March 2012 amid concerns that the door will be open to under-regulated development at the expense of the UK’s landscape and wildlife. Reactions have been mixed, with some organisations recognising that the government has made some concessions and others feeling this just hasn’t gone far enough to protect the natural environment.
Will the new Planning Framework lead to more habitat fragmentation?
Here is a summary:
• Gardens, national parks, green belt and other green spaces of conservation, heritage and community value are said to be protected from development by the Framework.
• The aims of the Framework are still pro-growth, hoping to revamp the economy through greater opportunities for businesses and developers, and provide more housing.
• However, there are a lot of unsold and empty houses out there. The Framework does say that local authorities should bring these back into use, rather than just advocating new builds.
• There is an agenda for more sustainable development, with five principles to be measured against, potentially leading to greater use of renewable and green technology in the building sector.
• Development will still need to fit in with each area’s Local Plan, with a Travel Plan in place to consider how people will move to and from new developments. Local Councils will have twelve months from the launch of the framework to put their Local Plans in place, if they have not already done so.
• The document also recognises the “character and beauty” and various functions of the countryside and open spaces.

Froglife’s concerns:
• More development will mean more roads and habitat fragmentation, leading to more conflict between wildlife and road users, such as Toads on Roads. With other planned changes for our roads, this could pose more problems.
• This framework ties in with the Government’s white paper on the environment. However, worries have been raised that this document has no funding or teeth behind it, so the commitment to tackling biodiversity loss and landscape scale conservation is potentially rather weak.
• Partnered with the weakening of Biodiversity Action Plan guidelines at local council level, it’s concerning to think that migration hotspots and habitats could have even less protection than currently offered.
• Brownfield sites will be given priority for development, unless they have high ‘environmental’ value. These sites can sometimes be real hubs for wildlife, as discussed in the last edition of our Natterchat magazine, so a rigourous process will be needed to protect them.
• Many Councils have cut their Biodiversity Officers, so who will help make assessments on the ecological impact of developments and stand up for wildlife when a decision is being made at local level?

All in all, it remains to be seen how this new legislation will work in action. As the emphasis is on local decision making, it could be that local campaigners and volunteers will need to be even more active and vigilant to inform decisions affecting biodiversity in their patch.

Illustration: Sam Taylor

26 March 2012

Froglife’s New Social Enterprise Website

We’re really excited to announce that we now have a new, separate website for the social enterprise that helps to support our charitable work – Froglife Ltd.

Froglife Ltd is an ecological services company that donates all the profits it makes to The Froglife Trust.
Froglife Ltd's new website, with photos from Dave Kilbey
The website showcases the work that Froglife Ltd has done and explains all the services that the company can offer. We hope it will be of interest to land owners and managers, architects, schools and anyone looking to find out more about the wildlife on their land, build new habitats or help to protect amphibians and reptiles when there is planned development.

Through promoting these services and getting new contracts, The Froglife Trust will gain access more funds to enable us to keep up our conservation and education work.

You can find the new Froglife Ltd website here at froglifeltd.co.uk 

A big thank you to photographers Dave Kilbey and Matt Wilson for helping with some of the stunning amphibian and reptile pictures on the site.