Reflections on: the impact of Covid-19 for BBOWT

Cowslips by Paul Lane

Estelle Bailey, Chief Executive of BBOWT, reflects on the impacts of Covid-19 on our work for local wildlife and people

These are extraordinary times, a phrase you will have heard repeated many times I’m sure. Like any pandemic, the link to nature is close, and for all of human might, we are but fragile creatures it would seem. Some say that as habitat and biodiversity loss increases globally, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) may just be the beginning of mass pandemics. 

The source of COVID-19 is believed to be a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, which sold both dead and live animals. The virus is thought to have jumped from animals to humans. Since it emerged from China at the beginning of the year, it has now spread to every country in the world, leaving hundreds of thousands dead or seriously ill. I myself have had it, but am now fully recovered.

The UK lockdown continues with schools, pubs, restaurants, cafes, gyms and other businesses, including environmental charities like BBOWT, other Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, RSPB and the Woodland Trust, under lockdown measures. 

To comply with government guidelines and restrictions, here at BBOWT we’ve closed our visitor and education centres, and car parks to nature reserves, and can only undertake essential work on nature reserves.

Our field staff are not considered to be key workers and our work is considered non-essential. Like most other businesses and charities, when we were told to stay at home, we moved our staff to home working where possible. 

The impact on BBOWT is significant. Closing services means we are losing vital income. Some members are leaving too, worried about money and the future in a post-COVID world. This is an understandable, immediate response. We would urge members who are thinking of leaving to chat to us before doing so. 

A vision of Britain in 2040

A vision of Britain in 2040, when nature has been allowed to recover through the implementation of a Nature Recovery Network. By Nik Pollard.

Our vision for nature’s recovery across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire remains resolute. The pathway to achieving this is clear. Despite a backdrop of uncertainty, we will work tirelessly to create landscapes where all wildlife can thrive and people can connect easily to nature.

Imagine a journey from mountain to sea, through farmland with hedges, woodland, rivers with more natural floodplain habitats, along road verges managed for wild flowers, past green roofs and nature on people’s doorsteps, eventually reaching the sea where beaches are clean and marine life is protected.

All of this is possible, but more so, essential to our existence. From the air we breathe to the food we eat, we rely on nature for our health and prosperity. 

But nature and climate are in trouble from human pressure. To restore the natural abundance of species, the UK needs at least a third of its landscape returned to nature. This is entirely possible with the right planning and investment. 

More nature means the chances of reducing the impact of climate change is possible. Scientists say that 30% more nature protected would stabilise climate change, and a further 20% of natural places restored would maintain it.

Restoring nature and natural systems is a solution to a global issue - a win win. Simple, right?

It starts with local action, people power, getting connected to nature. 

Volunteers hedgelaying

Faced with economic uncertainty, recession and depression, our economy could shrink by up to 25%. The impact on BBOWT will be significant. Already we are using the government's furlough scheme, whereby 80% of salaries are supported by government. Currently 40% of our workforce has been furloughed under this scheme giving us time to find our feet. 

The impact of closing visitor and education centres, and loss of members translates to hundreds of thousands of pounds of lost revenue this year alone. The longterm impact will kick in from next year. While we have financial reserves to act as an immediate buffer, forward financial planning to navigate through this challenging time is essential. This will inevitably mean a shift in how we work in the future.

Government has announced emergency support for charities. In all likelihood, funds will be channelled to people charities - safeguarding people and society is, of course, an immediate priority. 

The Wildlife Trusts often get overlooked as a people charity, but our health and wellbeing programmes, including our Nature Memories Cafe for people with dementia and their carers, and our work with schoolchildren, bring multiple benefits to people of all ages.

But, a plea for the future.

As we begin to recover, let us not forget the nature and climate emergency. Our future depends on investment to heal the natural world. It, too, needs to recover. 

Local action adds up to a big solution.

We’re in this together. Please continue to support BBOWT, we can make great things happen. Since 1960, BBOWT has worked tirelessly to deliver this vision locally.

In this difficult and lonely time, we can all find solace in nature. In the limited time we are allowed outside - go for a walk, listen to the birds, look at new leaves and flowers emerging. If you have a garden, great - there are loads of things you can do for wildlife there, we’ve got lots of tips here

Support us

Thank you for reading. If you can support us please do. If you are a member or donor, thank you so much for sticking with us through this challenging time for us all.

Bluebells

Bluebells by Josh Raper - Conservation Media