Letter from the Chair, November 2012

Dear Fellow GNS Members

GNS was established in 1948, as a Society to encourage an interest in natural history; in the last ten years, the emphasis has been on recording of natural history in Gloucestershire, and in encouraging greater interest and expertise in recording, particularly among young people.  Our Society has never aimed to own or manage nature reserves, which is why many GNS members were involved in the establishment of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust in 1961, and have supported GWT over the last 50 years.

For over 30 years, Dr Gordon McGlone has been the Chief Executive Officer of GWT, and has led it from being a small local initiative, to its present status as a body with 27,000 members, a highly qualified staff of 40, an annual budget of two million pounds, a portfolio of over 60 reserves, and the major voice in the county for nature conservation.  He was awarded a well-merited OBE for his services to conservation.  As Chairman of GNS, I have always felt that it is essential for GNS to be in close contact with GWT, which is why I have been a member of the Board of Trustees of GWT for the last ten years.  From this privileged position, I have been able to see at close quarters Gordon’s immense achievements: among them (though there are many others!) I would highlight:

  • greatly improved management of GWT reserves in the county through recruitment of committed and highly effective staff;
  • promotion of conservation through the wider countryside, through development of “Living Landscape” projects in the Severn Vale, Forest of Dean, and Cotswold Rivers (with more in the pipeline);
  • continuous increase in numbers of members, and hence a greater awareness of environmental issues among the public;
  • a concern not only for nature reserves, but for people’s involvement with wildlife;
  • much greater influence among public bodies in the county, through advocacy of environmental issues with local MPs, County and District Councils, and local business leaders; thus Gordon has been the first leader of the county’s new Local Nature Partnership;
  • a constant concern for the effect of climate change on the county’s flora and fauna, and a concern to look forward at GWT’s tasks in the next 50 years;
  • specifically in the last few months, active and balanced involvement in the issue of the proposed badger cull, and a decision to test badger vaccines on GWT reserves; moreover, Gordon has often been the spokesman on badgers for The Wildlife Trusts at national and European levels;
  • at national level too, Gordon has been one of the leading lights in developing a national strategy among the other 46 county Wildlife Trusts.

Gordon has recently announced that he is standing down as CEO of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, though – happily – he will continue in a personal capacity to be involved in local and national conservation issues.  At the Annual General Meeting of the GWT in mid-November, the Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, Stephanie Hilborne, and Professor Adrian Phillips (former Director of the Countryside Commission) paid moving tributes to Gordon and his work.

I am sure that members of the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society would wish to join me in paying tribute to Gordon, and wishing him well in his future activities.  GNS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with GWT, pledging our cooperation in providing data on the county’s wildlife.  Those of us who attended the GWT 50th anniversary event at Stanway House in 2011 will recall that Gordon explicitly singled out GNS in his review of bodies that had cooperated with GWT in the previous half century.  I am sure members will wish GNS to continue along these lines, and to work with the new CEO (and also with the new Chairman of the GWT Board of Trustees) when they take up their positions.  I shall make it a priority to contact them both on your behalf at the first opportunity.

Yours sincerely

Mike Smart

Hon Chairman

P.S.  I haven’t written the usual piece on the weather in the last three months, as it’s been so complicated, that it needs a bit more reflection and data collection.  An account of the Gloucestershire monsoon in the second half of 2012 will therefore appear in the first GNS NEWS of 2013.  Let’s hope 2013 will be a bit drier!

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