A Day in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – June 2017

A Day in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – June 2017

The dry conditions over the spring meant that it was not expected to be a bumper year for lapwing figures on the North Kent Marshes
but I am delighted to say that numbers of fledged birds have doubled on the farms I survey.
While not every farm saw success, then those that managed to hold water on the land into late May and June and have kept the vegetation short have seen a turnaround in their figures. The results show, that following the correct management regime, coupled with predator control can really make a difference.
lapwing chick at Keith StuddsHighlights for me were finding 13 fledged chicks, a flock of black tailed godwit and a spoonbill on one site early in the morning and having to return for an unheard of 5th visit to another site as more birds still seem to be born there every day.

Also this month I have worked on behalf of Natural England who are undertaking survey work as part of the preparations for the England Coastal Path. While I am in favour of raising awareness of the beauty and importance of our countryside I have concerns about increased access in sites where previously wildlife has been undisturbed.
So far it seems that the path is set to avoid particularly sensitive bird nesting areas in North Kent and I have been delighted to be undertaking marsh harrier surveys on Sheppey. Sitting on a hill for hours watching marsh harriers drift across the landscape and interact is so therapeutic it should be offered on the NHS as a remedy for stress.
The surveys, which are looking to identify nesting sites, will help inform the route of the path around this section of coastline.

At the end of the month I joined Natural England staff again for a training session onNE training course ditch surveys and wetland plant i.d. I have been undertaking ditch surveys for the River Stour IDB for 7 years so it was interesting to see how another organisation carries out the work and a useful refresher on plant i.d. before I go out to survey ditches next month.

The Dark Side

surveying

Many people want a job in wildlife conservation but not all will work to protect what they love.

Like many people when I am angry about something which I care passionately about my views can become polarised. My opinions can be black and white about ‘them’ and ‘us.’ So when I see the continuous destruction of our countryside in the current rush of development there are only two types of Environmental Consultant, those on the light side and those on the dark. Those whose love and knowledge of wildlife is used to protect species and enhance the natural world and those who use their knowledge to aid companies who wish to cover our planet in concrete. I have often spoken of people who work for consultancies whose main work involves aiding development companies to remove wildlife and destroy habitat as soulless.

This spring, however, I have a man volunteering with me who works for one of the consultancy firms I see as being on the dark side. This man has a love of wildlife, he is a better birdwatcher than me and spends much of his free time surveying wildlife for free, should I really condemn him because he wants to work full time with wildlife and there aren’t enough jobs on the light side to go round? Like so many issues it is harder to shoot down the ‘enemy’ when you meet them and talk to them.

The problem is too many people are coming out of countryside management courses and off apprentice schemes and find that the only job available is ‘dark side’ consultancy work. Maybe some of these people begin thinking that what they are doing is ok. I myself have translocated species but only when the project will have an overall benefit for wildlife. Much of the work done by consultancies has no benefit for wildlife and is ill thought out and not followed through.

If development companies were forced to provide adequate compensatory habitat for that destroyed and pay for it’s long term management then maybe I would be more in favour of translocation. Maybe if developers were made to do this then they would be more willing to renovate some of our existing empty buildings and former industrial sites instead of building new ones on wildlife rich habitat. Instead companies move species to inappropriate locations already packed to the rafters with other translocated creatures and do no follow up monitoring to understand whether their work has been a success.

But could I personally do more to help people like my volunteer by taking on staff of my own? I potentially could if there didn’t seem to be so many barriers in the way of doing so. If the Government didn’t penalise small business’s wishing to offer people paid experience by making the whole business of taking someone on such a nightmare of legal constraints, tax issues and insurances. Giving people the sort of work a small business can manage seems to be frankly illegal and way, way too complicated to bother with.

My volunteer wishes to move on from doing work for developers. He wants to work for one of the good guys and I could give him the experience he needs to do so but, while the laws regarding small business’s are so top heavy and restrictive, he will have to continue to do so in his spare time for free and, like many others, will be tempted to stay in the dark.

A Year in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – October 2015

A Year in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – October 2015

The latest update on my work as an environmental consultant.

For more information visit my website www.caroljdonaldson.co.uk

October 2015 – A pause in a busy year.

After the rush of September, then October was a time to take stock of our first year and prepare for the future.

We continued working with Medway Council and contractor, Ovendens to talk through the plans for Whitewall Drain, a freshwater channel which flows under a road and tunnel complex into the River Medway.

Bank slippage had caused damage to the headwall and a broken tidal flap beneath the road was allowing salt water to enter the drain at high tide.

tidal flow emerging from pipe

tidal flow emerging from pipe

This was causing damage to the biodiversity of the channel, as brackish water will kill freshwater fish and invertebrates and a build up of silt was reducing the capacity of the channel and could lead to flooding.

Ovendens plan to install Penstock structures, which will allow the channel flow to be controlled and should benefit the environment.

The quiet month gave time to review our first year in business and think about how we can continue to grow and improve the services we offer.

funding cuts over the last few years have prevented some local authorities and environmental charities from hiring full time staff. In addition many existing staff are now on short term or part time contracts. Although this may allow greater flexibilty it also makes staff retention difficult.

As a consequence landowners may deal with many different faces over a few years and this lack of continuity means that good relationships are not established.

Clients are now coming to us as a way to ensure that landowners will get to work with someone well qualified who they can get to know.

This is the case with our new role, which will see us working with landowners across North Kent on behalf of Natural England and the RSPB, delivering advice on managing land for breeding waders.

establishing good relationships with landowners is crucial in improving habitat for wildlife.

establishing good relationships with landowners is crucial in improving habitat for wildlife.

This flagship project seeks to turn the numbers of waders breeding on private land around from the current low and emulate the huge success of reserves in the area, which saw record numbers of lapwing this year.

While this trend of taking on fewer staff provides consultancies with opportunities it is not a sign of a healthy environmental job sector.

It is also a sad fact that, while more people than ever are coming out of college with qualifications in countryside management, entry level jobs are increasingly filled by volunteers or interns.

At Carol J Donaldson Associates we believe in helping young people get their crucial first paid steps in the industry and try to support young people in gaining essential experience. This is something we hope to offer more of as our client base grows.