Like organisations everywhere, Devon Wildlife Trust is having to rethink its plans for the coming year radically. We’re doing all we can to follow government guidance and reduce the spread of this awful disease. Here are five of the biggest challenges we are facing this year:
- Our nature reserves remain open, so local people can continue enjoying them. We are asking people not to drive to them though and car parks have been closed. Our reserves team will keep visiting the sites to check livestock and ensure they are safe and secure, but all other work on our reserves has had to stop. Fortunately, thanks to your support, our hard-working team has successfully completed vital winter conservation work.
- Almost all of our survey work and advice to landowners has been put on hold. We make exceptions where a threatened habitat or species is under imminent threat, or where crucial, time critical works can take place at minimal risk. Fortunately, many of our grant funders are being flexible and supportive, but we are still not clear what scale of impact this will have on DWT
- Our visitor centres at Wembury and Seaton have had to close and we are not able to deliver the work we usually do in schools and communities. This will be a big hit to our income. Not everything has stopped though – we are “live streaming” to schools and using social media, online learning and other means to keep this vital work going as best we can.
- One of the main reasons for DWT’s success is the size and generosity of our membership and supporter base. Current restrictions mean that we cannot recruit new members through our usual channels of venues and events. We are also expecting some members to lapse due to financial concerns. This will almost certainly have a major impact on our income.
- We will continue to fundraise through appeals, sponsorship, donations and gifts in wills. We will be doing so in a world where the safety of our loved ones is at the forefront of our minds and where some of us are facing real financial worries. So we are revising down our expectations considerably.
Despite these many challenges, we aren’t being downhearted, and I must say a huge thank you to our wonderful team of staff and volunteers who have adjusted so quickly and effectively to the lock down. We are continuing to do as much of our work for Devon’s natural environment as we can. And this is vital, because house building, intensive agriculture and so many other activities that can have an impact on wildlife are continuing much as before.
We are driving ahead with our advocacy and campaigning work as hard as ever. The Government has put progress on the Environment Bill and other key pieces of legislation on hold for the time being, but we will continue doing all we can to influence these new laws and building our vision for the Nature Recovery Network here in Devon. We are launching our Action for Insects campaign this week, focusing on what you can do in and around the home. And we continue to scrutinise and challenge new planning applications. All this work is made possible by the generosity of you, our loyal members and supporters.
The coming year is going to be tough. We will reduce costs wherever we can and access the financial help from government that is available. But the continued support of our members and other supporters is more important than ever and we thank all of you who are standing by the Trust even when you may be facing great personal challenges. The messages of appreciation from many of you about the work we do have been a real boost to team morale and I cannot thank you enough.
As stressful and difficult as this period is for many people, I am hoping there is good that can come out of it. We’ve shown how we can really pull together as a society and take concerted action when we need to. We have reminded ourselves of the great public services we have and how vital they are to us. And perhaps we’ve realised that we can reduce our travel, consume a bit less and focus on the things immediately around us rather more. For people like me who are fortunate enough to be able to experience nature first-hand through our windows, our gardens or daily exercise, it has been a joy to see the spring flowers emerge and watch the birds squabbling over the feeder. It reminds me of how important our work is and how much will be lost if we do not keep up the momentum to stand up for Devon’s amazing wildlife.
It's no great surprise that many politicians and individual people are putting the immediate concerns of health and livelihood first and foremost. But this crisis will pass, and when it does we must do all we can to make sure that our government and wider society hold on to these positives. Because the environment and climate emergencies have not gone away. That is why we have to ensure that we can emerge from this period as a strong, financially resilient organisation, and that is why your continued support is so important to us.
And finally, we may not be visible, but we are still here! Our phone lines are open and most of us can be reached by email. Do sign up via our social media channels and our regular e-newsletter to stay in touch.
Thank you once again for your support.