The Game Fair was a meeting place for all those interesting in the countryside.
Not just in fieldsports, but in all conservation activities intrinsic to the countryside. Away from PR departments, media spinners, membership targets, HQ directives; reps from NGOs, shooting, hunting, fishing, and a multitude of outdoor interests people swapped anecdotal stories, compared notes, and learnt from each other.
It was fertile ground for common ground.
Many of the most positive, while at the same time provocative, informative face-to-face conversations I’ve had have been at game fairs past – a world away from divisive material aired on various faceless media platforms.
We require both evidence-informed science and local knowledge to enable conservation to work today.
Science is vital in assessing, not just data for the State of Nature (based on data from a mere 5% of 59,000 terrestrial and freshwater UK species with minimal data on our 8,500 marine species – page 7), but also helping allocate funding and guide conservation practice at ‘grass roots’. Satellite tagging (whether cuckoos, house martins, hen harriers or woodcock) is only one form of data – whereas shared data from big garden birdwatches, farmland bird counts, gamebag censuses – all enable engagement and cross-fertilisation between those who may have different values but a common purpose in conserving wildlife.
These two books are equally vital – blending scientific evidence from ‘What works in Conservation‘ with the human psychology of ‘Conflicts in Conservation‘ – in delivering meaningful traction at grassroots for enhancing biodiversity within our human-dominated environment.
Much as I hope more cuckoos are tagged for science, I equally hope that another countryside event rises phoenix-like from the ashes to help us share anecdotal knowledge to help flesh out evidence-informed research to benefit us all.
Postscript 2018: cuckoos and Game Fair(s) have thankfully materialised. Alas postscript 2019, tribalism seems to be getting in the way of dialogue over conservation.