Politicians and environmentalists all too readily reach for the 'farming scapegoat' when they are faced with problems regarding wildlife conservation, according to the Farmers' Union of Wales.One in 14 species in Wales is at risk of disappearing according to data collected by the State of Nature 2016 report.FUW said the report placed 'misguided emphasis' on some environmental factors.Stephen Bladwell, RSPB Cymru Biodiversity Manager and one of the authors of the 2016 report, says the findings suggest that land management and climate change are two of "the greatest factors that impact nature".Naturalist and TV presenter Iolo Williams said species reduction was 'alarming'.'Farming scapegoat'Responding to the report, FUW Land Use Committee Chairman Gavin Williams said: "While we would certainly not agree with some of the assertions made in the Welsh State of Nature Report, I welcome the fact that it is far more balanced than the UK report in terms of recognising the positive role of farmers in conservation, and the validity of concerns we have been raising for decades."Amongst those concerns are the fact that under-grazing – sometimes as a result of agri-environment scheme rules – is having a damaging effect on many species and habitats, said Mr Williams."It is heartening that 67 percent of the priority species assessed in the report are classified as stable or increasing in numbers. "However, for those species which are not performing so well we do need to consider what actions must be taken."Mr Williams said that a proper assessment of the factors influencing such declines should be undertaken."The various state of nature reports across the UK recognise factors such as increases in avian and mammalian predators, and the abandonment of grazing, burning and cutting, all of which have a negative impact on species and habitats."There is a growing recognition of the environmental damage that under-management and the loss of farming has had, and would have if we were to see farming becoming even less financially viable, and these concerns are starting to be reflected in reports such as this.”
However, Mr Williams said there were still those who reach for the farming scapegoat whenever they are faced with problems.He says they remain in denial about "uncomfortable truths" such as the fact that growing numbers of predators are "dining out" on some of our most endangered species."Politicians and environmentalists need to be honest with themselves and the general public about factors such as predation, otherwise they risk causing further damage to the environment."Mr Williams emphasised that despite some differences, there was a vast amount of common ground between the farming community and the authors of the report, and that the FUW would continue to work with other bodies in order to secure an economically and environmentally sustainable future for Welsh agriculture."Our Farming Matters campaign emphasises the fact that farming is important to everything we have and do in Wales, and that includes our environment and the species which make Wales such a unique place," he added.