The dangers of dimwits, developers, politicians and ‘habitat banking’

25 April 2013

Creating wetlands is not an easy task (Photo: Bill Harding)

Creating wetlands is not an easy task (Photo: Bill Harding)

One of the greatest potential threats to biodiversity, especially where wetlands are concerned, is the notion that effective ‘offsets’ can be created somewhere else, such that a developer can trash a piece of the environment that was created over millenia.  This notion extends to the concept of habitat banking – which has some merit in a few cases, for example where a small fragment of already-impacted environment can be sacrificed where significantly-larger areas of the same type exist in nearby proximity (not in the next province though).

Trouble is, to the inexperienced (read politicians wanting to suck up to developers), the concept sounds absolutely marvellous – and this is where the danger comes in:  laws get passed that allow the environment to be trashed at the cost of political expediency and short-term, short sighted gains.  As I have said before, the notion is largely “ecosystem” based rather than “ecosystem” and conflicts with the tenets of strategic environmental protection and ecological restoration.

One such case is currently playing out in England:

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The report in yesterday’s The Telegraph observes, correctly, that

offsetting failed “to recognise the complex way in which wildlife systems are sustained and thrive”.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “You can’t wipe out wildlife habitats and expect to be able to create on that can achieve the richness and diversity of wildlife sites that have evolved over decades and centuries.

In my book this is a dangerous approach that constitutes a harmful development incentive.  There are already too many ‘specialists’ making money out of developers by making them believe that they can re-create natural systems somewhere else.

 

 

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