Strategic Plan

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1 Strategic Plan Protecting Wildlife for the Future

2 Introduction The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is one of the largest of the UK s Wildlife Trusts, a locally based voluntary organisation concerned with all aspects of nature conservation. Set up in 1959 by a small group of concerned experts, it has experienced considerable growth over 50 years and developed into an important voice, for nature conservation and for local people who care about the future of their natural environment. This plan defines the Trust s strategic direction for the next five years and provides a framework for the delivery of programmes within the expected available resources. Key performance measures will be agreed and revised each year, along with a three-year rolling business plan, annual budgets and income targets. The whole strategy will be revisited and, if necessary, revised in 2011 and This plan has been prepared during 2009 against the background of a global banking crisis and worldwide recession. There is much speculation as to the length and shape of the recession in the UK. This plan has therefore had to balance the scope and seriousness of the challenges facing the natural world with realism about the likely level of resources available to enable BBOWT to maintain and develop our ability to provide habitat protection, restoration and public engagement in our mission. Our Vision A region rich in wildlife, appreciated by all Our Mission To safeguard and enhance biodiversity, and in particular: to undertake and promote the conservation of wildlife species and their habitats including the restoration and creation of such habitats to promote public understanding of, and support for, the natural world to campaign in support of sustainable principles and practices for the protection of the natural environment 2

3 Our Work in Context BBOWT is an independent charity. We belong to a partnership of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK that contribute towards the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), which acts as a national voice, generates support and provides leadership for the movement. Measured by level of core income (in particular membership), BBOWT is the largest Trust, in part because we cover three counties and form a mini-region the upper Thames valley and Chilterns region. The Trust has 80 nature reserves, covering over 1,700 hectares, which are visited by large numbers of people every year. Our work is supported by our 53,000 members and more than 1,300 volunteers. However, our nature reserves cover only a tiny fraction of the total land in the three counties, and our membership represents only 2.5% of the total population of our three counties. This is at a time when we continue to experience a decline in biodiversity both nationally and regionally. While our work over the last 50 years has helped to slow the loss of species and habitats by protecting small oases of wildlife, the growing threats of climate change, development pressure and pollution now add to the many threats facing wildlife. It is therefore of paramount importance that we focus more effort on finding ways to reconnect these isolated protected sites and create a network of ecologically functioning Living Landscapes across our region. This requires new ways of thinking and working, and a boldness of action at least equal to the original driving passions and determination that led to the setting up of BBOWT back in Our Aim Our overarching aim for the next five years and beyond is to recreate functional and connected ecosystems on a landscape scale, in order to increase their resilience to climate change and other threats to wildlife. This will be achieved through the engagement of people at every level and through ensuring that our vision for Living Landscapes is high on the political and public agenda. The vision for Living Landscapes is led by RSWT at a national level on behalf of the Wildlife Trusts; it is a shared vision and it can be realised nationally, regionally and locally as described in various Wildlife Trust publications (see back cover). This holistic approach has emerged as the most significant and best hope for our natural environment at a time when there is an overriding need to restore ecosystems and natural processes at a speed and on a scale that would until recently have seemed impossible. To adapt to climate change, the UK s wildlife will need to move north and west along climate corridors or to shadier slopes or cooler valleys. While this has happened before, in previous ages there were no man-made obstacles cities, motorways and expanses of sterile countryside to overcome. And predictions as to the speed of climate change are constantly being revised upwards. However, as with all crises, this presents enormous opportunities as well as challenges. As government, the wider public and funding bodies wake up to the challenges humankind is facing, the environmental and conservation sector is already experiencing a growing frustration among those seeking change, and an increasing amount of support from individuals and organisations willing to take action. The challenge for BBOWT is to harness that awareness and concern and to turn it into positive action for local wildlife at every level within our three counties. 3

4 Our Strategic Objectives 1 Nature Reserves: to create and care for natural places as wildlife havens for people to enjoy 2 Living Landscapes: to work in partnership to develop landscape-scale schemes to enable wildlife and people to thrive 3 Engaging People: to create new opportunities to enable everyone to gain access to and take action for wildlife 4 Education: to inspire the next generation to care for the natural world 5 Championing Wildlife: to be an effective voice for wildlife at local and regional level These are underpinned by the following Operational Objectives: 6 Income: to increase funding and resources to ensure the Trust can flourish 7 Profile: to become widely recognised and respected as a leading voice for wildlife 8 Governance and Management: to ensure the organisation is effective and fit for purpose 1. Nature Reserves BBOWT nature reserves represent some of the last fragments of ancient semi-natural landscapes that once covered the three counties. They provide protection for rare and threatened plant and animal species as well as giving people the opportunity to enjoy and learn about the rich variety of habitats that were once widespread. So much has been lost in the last 50 years that these sites are also set to play a critical role as reservoirs or gene pools of species and communities, which will need assistance in spilling back into the wider landscape if a collapse in biodiversity is to be avoided. BBOWT s reserve management objectives are to ensure the favourable condition of all its nature reserves, ensuring that each site meets its conservation and community/access objectives. In the next five years all designated sites will be assessed for climate change and the necessary adaptation measures incorporated. BBOWT s land acquisition policy aims to reconnect, merge, link and extend existing priority nature reserves in order to ensure they remain ecologically robust and viable into the future. Over the last two decades this has led to the number of individual nature reserves reducing, but the overall hectares restored and managed and the average size of our sites increasing significantly. This trend will continue, in particular within recognised Biodiversity Opportunity Areas/Living Landscape schemes. BBOWT will continue to review all reserves that do not meet biodiversity or access to nature objectives. 4

5 2. Living Landscapes Our Living Landscapes vision focuses on making wildlife habitats across the three counties bigger, better and more joined up, and re-engaging people with the landscapes where they live. BBOWT has identified 19 potential areas for landscape-scale conservation schemes that broadly match with the Biodiversity Opportunity Areas identified by the regional BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) forum and as described in the South East Plan (July 09). BBOWT will encourage the emergence of landscape-scale conservation schemes in these areas and, where appropriate, BBOWT will take an active or lead role in enabling this to happen. BBOWT is already committed to three Living Landscape schemes: River Ray Restoration Scheme on the Bucks/Oxon border in partnership with RSPB; West Berks Living Landscape Scheme in partnership with West Berks Council; and Chimney Meadows in West Oxon. Over the next five years BBOWT will play a lead role in six Living Landscape schemes. BBOWT will lobby widely, seeking to gain wider recognition and protection for these areas. BBOWT will develop capacity to increase our knowledge and understanding of these areas and to provide advice to local landowners. 3. Engaging People The involvement of local people is fundamental to our purpose and therefore our ability to inspire and motivate people to take action for wildlife will define the limits of our aims and ambitions. While BBOWT has many years of experience in providing opportunities for people to learn about and engage with local wildlife sites, the emerging Living Landscapes vision places an even greater importance on this area of our work. BBOWT is rethinking how we communicate the role of the natural environment in providing a sustainable future, and is developing an understanding of the way in which individual decisions and actions affect the future of both people and wildlife. We aim to extend our current programmes from inviting people to join us on our sites, to empowering local people to take positive action for wildlife by joining us in a bolder vision for the future. BBOWT will continue to focus on and develop key sites and visitor centres as the focus for introducing new audiences to the natural environment and to key messages about conservation. BBOWT will increase the number and diversity of people engaged as volunteers. 5

6 4. Education BBOWT believes that we have a responsibility to educate the next generation about the natural world, and that they in turn will play a crucial role as its future guardians. With two environmental education centres up and running (in Bucks and Oxon) and a third in the planning stage (Berks), there is now the potential to provide educational opportunities for most schools in our three counties. By also extending outreach work and providing longer, deeper journeys for learning on and off-site, the overarching aim is to influence behavioural changes within both families and schools. BBOWT will increase the capacity at its environmental education centres in order to extend our reach to more teachers and schoolchildren. BBOWT will integrate its outreach education programmes with the education centres. BBOWT will improve its opportunities and programmes for family members. 5. Championing Wildlife With ever-increasing development and other economic pressures in South East England, BBOWT recognises the need to strengthen and increase our capacity to be an effective voice for wildlife at regional, county and local level. BBOWT will strengthen its presence at county level and fully engage with appropriate forums, decision makers and relevant planning processes. BBOWT will seek to engage its members and other partners in lobbying for wildlife protection where this can help to achieve a successful outcome. BBOWT will work in partnership with other organisations, individuals and stakeholders to achieve the best outcomes for wildlife. 6

7 6. Income During a period of sustained economic growth in the first eight years of this century BBOWT was able to achieve strong growth in core income to expand its programmes, mainly through increased membership. The external financial and funding environment is now quite different and uncertain. It is likely that government funding will be limited, local government in particular will be cutting costs, and funding from grant-making bodies and foundations will be affected by low interest rates and more cautious financial policies. Financial uncertainty will remain high for the next few years and many people will have concerns about their pensions and savings, which may change their perception of how much support they can give to the charitable sector. However, compared to other Wildlife Trusts, BBOWT s market penetration suggests there is still room for membership growth, if at a lower rate year on year. Building loyalty among existing members will be key to sustaining and growing core income. The 50th Anniversary in 2010 provides an opportunity to celebrate and strengthen relationships with the Trust s closest friends and long-term supporters. To support the Strategic Plan BBOWT has a rolling three-year Business Plan, reviewed and revised annually to reflect latest figures and financial intelligence. 7. Profile Public awareness is the first step to engaging people in our vision and mission. By increasing public awareness and understanding of BBOWT s work, sites and programmes, we can widen our supporter base and gain more volunteers and champions for wildlife. BBOWT will increase the level of brand/name recognition in our three counties. BBOWT will develop its e-communications within a clear digital marketing strategy. BBOWT will continue to review and improve its site access and interpretation. 7

8 8. Governance and Management BBOWT recognises the need for strong and effective leadership to ensure it develops the culture, capabilities and capacities required to deliver the Strategic Plan. Sound financial management, regular evaluation and review of performance at every level and an environment that encourages individuals to achieve their full potential are fundamental to purpose. People are at the heart of everything the Trust aspires to achieve and the ethos of one team (staff, volunteers, Trustees) will be at the forefront of both governance and management processes. To reflect the growth of the organisation and the importance of delivering Living Landscape schemes, BBOWT will review its management structures to devolve more to a county level and to develop team working within each of the three counties. BBOWT will improve its management information systems, in particular in relation to project management. BBOWT will continue to improve its own environmental performance, along with mechanisms for monitoring and reporting. BBOWT will play a full role within the Wildlife Trust partnership at both regional and national level. This is a summary of the Strategic Plan. The full version, which will be reviewed and updated annually and incorporate five-year targets, outputs and performance measures, is available to staff, Trustees and volunteers. For more information about BBOWT please go to the About Us page on the BBOWT website, Living Landscapes Wildlife Conservation for the 21st Century (BBOWT publication) A Living Landscape for the South East (South East Wildlife Trusts) A Living Landscape A Call to Restore the UK s Battered Ecosystems, for Wildlife and People (RSWT) All publications can be ordered from BBOWT or at Contact us: BBOWT, The Lodge, 1 Armstrong Road, Littlemore, Oxford, OX4 4XT Telephone: Photographs by: BBOWT, Terry Longley/seeing.org, Jim Asher, Gavin Hageman, Paul Roberts, Rob Appleby, Helen Walsh, Kerry Lock, The Wildlife Trusts Registered office: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust Limited, The Lodge, 1 Armstrong Road, Littlemore, Oxford, OX4 4XT Registered Charity Number Company limited by guarantee. Registered in England Number

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