Just Nature?

Conservation led by Indigenous and local communities

November 14, 2022 Carola Rackete Season 1 Episode 3
Just Nature?
Conservation led by Indigenous and local communities
Show Notes Transcript

How can communities govern their lands in the present and preserve it for future generations? We will hear about two entirely different examples of community-led protected areas. One is the Salween Peace Park created by the Karen Indigenous people who live in an autonomous area within the national state of Myanmar, the other the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve in Scotland.


Paul Sein Twa (Salween Peace Park)

winner of the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia 

KESAN Karen Environmental and Social Action Network 



Angela Williams

Langholm Initiative – Tarras Valley Nature Reserve



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Music & Postproduction: Louisa Beck www.louisabeck.com
Artwork: Céline Keller celinekeller.com

Rough transcript


In todays episode of just nature we will focus on community-led land management and conservation and we will hear from 2 entirely different examples, one from Myanmar and the other from Scotland. 

In the last episode of Just Nature we tried to understand what goes wrong in nature conservation, particularly in terms of land rights and how communities get evicted to create protected areas. 

Today, we will hear from examples where communities themselves decided to come together and protect their land and biodiversity. The first one, in my opinion an extremely impressive example, is that of the Salween Peace Park in Burma / Myanmar. Paul Sein Twa from the Karen Indigenous people will tell us more about it. The second example is the Tarras valley nature reserve in scotland where a small community decided to buy land surrounding their township and co-manage it, Angela Davis will tell us about this quite new projec.t 


Before we get into the interview with Paul I just wanted to introduce a bit of background which I certainly was not aware about but which will hopefully help to provide some context for the interview.

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a Southeast Asian state that borders Tibet, China, but also India, Bangladesh, Laos and Thailand. The population of myanmar is about 52 mio people and there are over 130 distinct ethnic groups. about 7% of those identify as Karen, so this group Paul is part of is one of the largest minority groups and lives close to the border with Thailand. 

The Karen people wanted their independence from Burma since 1947 and therefore founded the Karen National Unit, in short KNU. Since 1949 the armed forces of the KNU are engaged in an internal civil war with the national government. During most of this time Burma was led by a military junta known for its human rights abuses and repressive violence. In 2010 elections were held for the first time in decades and during that time of political liberation, the KNU also came to support a political settlement with federate Myanmar. However, after the elections in 2021 the military staged a coop and took power again. This led to new tensions between the KNU and the national government. These decades of independence struggle of the KNU and their decades of practical autonomy and self-governance help to understand why Peace-keeping is so central to the establishment of the Salween Peace Park. It also shows that this ecological project can not be disconnected from the self-governance struggle of the Karen people in general. I was very excited to learn more about this and I hope you will be as well after listening to the conversation with Paul Sein Twa. 

So right now we have the opportunity to talk to Paul Sein Twa who is the co-founder and director of the Karen environmental and social action network called KESAN. He received in 2020 the Goldman prize for supporting about 350 indigenous current communities to create and manage the none Salween peace park in Burma or Myanmar and that is located. In the Southern River Basin it's a major biodiversity zone and of course home to the indigenous Karen people I'm very curious to hear more about how the community created and self-governed that area. So. Thank you so much for your time. Paul.

I Think a lot of the listeners have probably never been to this area. Can you describe in some words what the place is like you're living in.

Paul Sein Twa

We Karen people are and indigenous people from southeastern Burma, Myanmar and our territories is very rich in. Our diversity and we can say that is one what we call it the best forest to remain in Burma Myanmar. we kind of ah live along the lower Salween river basing bordering with Thailand and it's mountainous area with streams with thick Forest and also of great global importance area for biodiversity.. Um, that's the area or the the territory of our ancestors you know, Karen peoples and that's why we current Karen want to continue to play a role in conserving these importance territories.


Yeah I read that more than a decade ago you and others started to organize the community with the idea of creating a peace park and you held many meetings with Karen villages um, all around that area. Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating that peace park and how you convince the community and why.


Paul Sein Twa

Yes, thank you? We definitely have to start with the awareness raising. Also you know like mobilizing communities to come together and. And kind of discuss about the challenges. We Karen people are facing today as you know, we are also facing decades of civil war in Burma and as also from other factors or other challenges we are facing also the impacts of climate change that's together with conflict and couple with this impact of climate change. You know our people we have to really look at how can we mitigate and mitigate this impact of climate change as well as how to how do we? Also overcome the challenges of the consequences of the conflicts. and conflicts created as you know, um, massive displacement and that means that we have to our Karen people have to flee from the original villages. And then have to in many cases they have to survive in in the jungle and then like I have to practice the livelihood activities that are not our traditional way of of living and. Active things. So that's also causes other issues other environmental degradation so looking at and these issues then we kind of mobilized our communities to look into these issues and identify also the the big. Real problems. The the root causes or problems as well as identifying the solutions so in in the solutions. We have to revive and practice our traditional way of living and knowledge in really managing our environment our rivers our forest in line with our ancestral teachings so that there's definitely what we need to do. But if we only do it at a small scale or individual, you know at an individual area that won't really um, answer the really the big challenges that we are facing today because as as we. Ah, face the um the the development project of the governments is trying to really take over our territories trying to build ah dams mega dams trying to also build roads and also other development project. So if we really only do it on our own individually. We cannot really counter this big threat so we need to come together so that that is why we we. Kind of mobilize our communities in the Salween peace park and then trying to look at how can we scale up our existing initiatives as well as the the way of life that we've been practicing. How do we kind of scale it up to the level that we can say that we we we scale up this initiative so that we are strong enough to really counter the challenges we face. So this is. Where the indigenous sort of where the um Salween peace park ideas came into our discussion. So we you know like ah through consultations through sharing information through also learning. Also from other areas not just within the country but from other countries around the world or near the southeast asia here for example from the Philippines from Indonesia and also from Malaysia how the indigenous people. Really do you know conservation. How do they really protect their rich territories and maintain their culture. So. There's are many lessons to learn that we also learn from other communities other indigenous people. That's why you know we kind of. Work together to create this serving peace path at at a very ah at a last scale where we call it a landscape conservation.


Yeah, it's certainly a massive territory and I was wondering how do you manage the park now you manage to create the park. But how is the governance organized like how do all these hundreds of communities. Participate in in the self-governance process in the everyday life.

Paul Sein Twa

Yes, ah so as the park is Alaskan conservation and it's also ah we say unites. Ah, you know people and different land use within this territory. We have. Ah. Ah, you know our customary or territories or in other words, we call it also ourcestra domains. We also have community forest. We also have forest reserves and also wildlife sanctuaries. So we. We kind of bring together all these different land classification or land use into the Salween peace park but borders or boundaries then we have to create the. Governance that really bring together all these different stakeholders to to kind of manage or co-manage this territory. Ah, that's why we have to develop our charter. Our charter to really disc describe how we're going to govern and men this territory this peace park. So the compositions of the governance is also a hybrid system. Ah, we have representatives from the indigenous communities we. We kind of use the village tracks as a unit to start with um village track means there around. Yeah you know. None to none communities per village track. So it is a unit where we select ah 2 representatives from each village tracks. So one woman and None man to be elected from this village track to sit in the. Selling peace Park General Assembly so we have a total of 26 village tracks. So we have 52 representative from the indigenous community to be in the to to sit in the selling peace park general assembly. So we also have the representatives also from the current national union or the k and you the de facto government as as probably you have learned about our territories is located in the administration of the current national union.

Ah, sort of a local government for our Karen people who has been fighting against the ah the the central government for set determination and set autonomy for more than 7 decades. So we work together with the KNU to also govern this peace park and then we also have the representative from the civil society um to also sit in the um and the the assembly. So I also come from the representative of the civil society. And that got elected as the None chairperson of this Salween peace park. So this is the how the we made up the governing body of the Salween peace park and there we have our charter to be our guiding principals and provide our the basic kind of guidelines for how how to manage this peace park. Definitely the starts is also based on the our Karen indigenous people. Ah. And regulations and knowledge and also we have to also combine it with also the existing forest policy land policy of the KNU so that we kind of hamoon us this together in in their the charter. Yeah.


I Think in Western countries where I've come From. There's often now used this term of traditional ecological knowledge that is used but often for us it doesn't carry a lot of meaning could you give some. Ah, practical examples from your current community like what traditional rules. Do you have that benefit or regulate your relationship with the wildlife around you or with the with the ecosystem around you. And that protects your livelihood.

Paul Sein Twa

Okay, um, yes, the s um and indigenous people are ah or you know similar to other indigenous peoples around the World. Ah. We have our own view our own world view about Nature. You know about this about the world. We are our indigenous people like ah we can say that hold a holistic world view seeing everything in this natural world as interconnected and are equally important. This includes ah the communities themselves. You know who are part of nature as a larger whole and this world view also encourages our people to maintain sustainable livelihoods in tune with nature. As it is their firm believe now I mean it is you know our current people firm believe that a health ecosystem will result in healthy and prosperous community. So this shows that we have a very close relationship with. Our natural World. So if we can maintain a healthy relationship with our environment. Our natural resources that means we will continue to live in a healthy world. So um, now a day. When our relationship has been broken because we we forget to follow the you know the rules the natural The what we call it. The rules that bind us together then we our way of life has you know we call it broken this. Ah. Relationship then cause the environmental of problems then the environmental problems also bring um back you know they impacts our our livelihoods. So This relationship is a very important so that's why um. When we we build this Salween peace park. It means we trying to re-establish our relationship with our territories by writing down our ruin regulation in the charter. Ah so so that ah um. We we will have ah the things that we should do and we should not do are the do at down's thing kind of like in in the peace park and also ah we have um I mean the Fs. We also know that the world is also the world leaders also have already planned already have ah developed many um international commitments ah declarations you know about sustainable development.


Paul Sein Twa

About biological diversity Conservation. You know all this thing So and so there's so many things like that. But if you know they really don't really understand and trying to Build a relationship with our environment by deeply understanding how it is connected then I think many of these pledges many of these commitments will fail and it has failed also many times as we know so this is why we. Trying to say that they had to learn from the indigenous people. How do they maintenance? ah their relationship with the environment and and so that ah the the the world. Our our planets will continue to to to survive. And also um, the the you know like ah the climate change adaptation and mitigation plan. We Also can also be realized if we really support and learn from the indigenous communities. So Um I I don't know. Ah how to best. Describes it in a way that is simple either for the outsider ah to understand it. But this this is the um for the perspective of the indigenous people. It is a very simple thing in our daily life that everything we take from Nature. We have to consider for our future generations. Ah we have to um, think about the sustainability. So For example, we have a poems. about you know this sustainability 

Okay, so our Karen traditional poems said that we who drink from water must take care of the waters. We who eat from the land must take care of the land. Only when we maintain the balance will our well-being be sustained so this this is embedded in our daily life. Our daily livelihood so many we have to take care of of the things that we get from the earth. From the land from the forest from the rivers. Yeah.


I read that you started to run also a community ranger project and that these rangers mainly are doing wildlife research some monitoring and also some public education with the communities. Can you tell a bit more about it.

Paul Sein Twa

Um, yes after we established the Salween peace park and we had to convene our general assembly and then from the the general assembly. We also. Ah. Made some resolutions or we also develop our strategy and our work plan. So among them. It's also it's including how do we? um, sustainably manage our wildlife and. Our diversity so it is one of our programs to um, implement. So as um, this Salween peace park as also it is um, um. We call it located in the lower Salween river buildinging. Ah we we have ah you know the theSalween river as international ah borders international border means the borders between the burma Myanmar and thailand so this um international route for transportation and traveling so as also a trade route also between the None the None countries so it is also um, a place where we have seen also some um. Can say that um threats from outsider you know poaching wildlife trades and also illegal. You know like a logging illegal logging here means so it is stand. Not according to the traditional or the communities or the current. Um the KNU forestry law meaning it's a cutting tree without following proper procedure now this is where I mean illegal log. So. We. We need to really? um, um, form the mechanism or a group of people to help us enforce our own regulation regarding the wildlife conservation. Wildas and also bio diversity conservation and so that's why we we kind of form these community rangers but the way we form the community region is also we ah kind of work with the Local communities to select the representative to to to cannot be in the community rangers. Ah because the community rangers here is also will also report to the Salween peace park governing committee. And also they will also report back to their communities because they they represented the communities and then so we we formed these rangers and we provided training. We also develop their regulations their code of conducts and and then also um, equipped them with other technology for example, like ah Gps and other application that they need to monitor. The forest and wildlife situations along the the river so this is how we organize this community ranger. so far we can say that this initiative is very successful. Um, comparing to. Ah, you know the situation before we form these rangers and after we form these rangers we can see we call a lot of improvements reduction of these we because this um ahtainable or illegal activities. So that's why we're trying to also expanded these ranger programs in other communities. 

These range communities rangers they are not only responsible for monitoring the ah the forest or the wildlife condition. In other words, they are not just the guardian you know the forests or wildlife guardians. They are also our task with the another role which is to um promote the traditional hunting to promote traditional hunting. Because ah if if they are just seen by other communities or outsider as the guardians or as the law enforcement agency. They usually create tension usually create tension between the you know those people or other. Outsiders so they are also tasked to raise the awareness trying to also revitalize the traditional hunting which means we are not prohibiting the hunting. Ah, you know, hundred percent hunting but if they follow the traditional hunting meaning they are still possible to do hunting so for remember the traditional way of hunting means which season they are allowed to hunt now which season they are allowed to catch fish. And which species are prohibited you know because traditionally there are also some species that are prohibited from hunting right? and also which area they are allowed to hunt which area they are prohibited. Um, it's based on the traditional way of um, what you call a um, designating their territories so they they had that. so it's kind of ah letting the community knows which area. Are posited as sacred forest area that are prohibited. You know for entering or or from entering or doing hunting there. So this is that just give a example. So if we approach this way. We believe that. That the communities and outsider will accept it more. Not just come as really the law enforcement agency that will arrest you with charge. You will fine you or something day like that. It's not that the number one priorities for this community Ranger The community ranger here has to really make people ah read what they Call come back to the way of the traditional hunting and they're trying to also collaborate with the regions by helping the rangers. Also. Do that job Better. So This is also one of our um objectives are forming the community rangers. Yeah, Thank you.


Thank you Paul that was a really interesting and and practical addition to what you said before. So thank you so much. Ah, once again for for your time and for sharing this expertise and experience that you have.


I think this is an inspiring example of community self-governance using traditional ecological knowledge and implementing cultural rules. 

Well, if you are a bit like me I can also imagine some of you thinking, we dont live in an autonomous area, we don't have this type of community structures, we have a different situation. And that's probably true. 

But of course there are examples from Europe where communities come together to protect land and the community and this is why I thought it would be relevant to talk to Angela Williams who is involved in such a project in Southern Scotland. 

Before we get into that interview I also want to provide some context to that project. Scotland has the most inequitable land ownership in all of Europe, 97% of scotland is rural and half of that land is owned by about 350 land owners. Mind you, some of them don't live in Scotland because they are maybe the King of england or a sheikh from dubai. 

How did so much land end up in the hands of so few people? Well, lets take a very short dive back into history to the middle ages. In the British Isles land was often managed as a Commons, spelled with a capital C, meaning commonly shared, used and cared for by the local community. People would share the grazing area for their livestock, water, firewood and so on. (Some of you may have heard an infamous paper that claimed that the tragedy of all Commons was to be overexploited. However, in reality, over-exploitation by individuals hardly ever takes place as long as the rules are accepted by everyone and enforced by the community – this is the research of Nobel prize winner elinor Östrom) 

During the 12th century british elites and nobles forcefully began to enclose pieces of land by walls, fences and and hedgerows and began to claim more and more land for themselves, restricting public access. This was the beginning of the enclosure movement which in the following centuries led to the ectiion of more and more peasants from the Commons. This dispossesion of land caused increasing poverty in the rural population and when the industrial revolution began many people moved to industrial cities like Liverpool in search of work. 

Of course people have tried to fight back against this dispossession - for example most successfully in the highland and island region of scotland where the crofters party originated but at this point I won't get into all of this. 

In recent decades more and more communities have organised buy-outs of land, that means they raised the funds to buy local land when it came on the market or directly made bids to owners and estates. Some of this land is now managed by the communities or owned by charities set up for the purpose. Of course, not all communities have a strong interest in nature conservation but it is in this general context of community buy-outs that we should look at the Tarras valley nature reserve.


So now we are speaking to Angela Williams and she is the development manager of the Tarras valley nature reserve this reserve is located in the uplands of Southern Scotland and is the result of a community buyout organized by the langholm initiative. I think it's a super inspiring project and I'm very happy that Angela will share her experience with this and I also want to highlight that she got 20 years of experience with community buyouts and has originally trained as a landscape architect welcome Angela and thank you for your time.

angela williams

That's a pleasure.


In just a couple of words for everyone who hasn't been there. What is the area like as a place and and what is the langholm initiative.

angela williams

So the langhorme initiative is a development trust and established many years ago we've been going about 25 years and as a development trust. That came about as a result of the decline of the textile industry in Langham so langham is in dumfries and galloway. It's been for many many many years. It's been a textile town used to. Probably the textile industry used to employ over 2000 people to the town was a real hive of activity and 1 by 1 the mills closed down. Um, just as the the actual so trade was taken abroad or to cheaper locations and. Of the None mills we've now just got and just a couple of very so small niche textile mills who produce small runs of very high end products for the lax of oh. Ah, Victoria Beckham you know, very niche upmarket fashion fashion houses the results of that was um I suppose quite ah a depressed town in terms of losing its industry and maybe losing a bit of its identity with that. Um employments. Has the structure of employment has changed most people and might live in Langham but they'll go and work in Carlisle or Lockerbie or somewhere else so that has led to a lot of empty buildings and and. The feeling that comes with that ah langham centered around and the confluence of 3 rivers. Um, obviously that was part of the textile industry having access to the water and and like many mill towns. It's. Ah, very concentrated in terms of housing houses are very close together. You've got houses next to the old textile mills next to the shops. So. It's a bit physically It's a very very closeknit town as well as the community being close knit. But we're surrounded by um, fantastic scenery. Um, and we've got the open moors sort of stretching out from beyond the town and the area that we have bought already um lies.

angela williams

Probably so but if you like very roughly sort to the North Northeast of of langham and culturally it's a really important part of a town's identity and every year for the last two hundred and fifty years we've had an event called the common riding and this originated. From the community negotiating with the clew estate and their right to access land for whether it was for grazing or cutting fuel or whatever it might be and to commemorate that every year. Um. Over the course of a week there is ah a physical ride out people on horseback who will ride out and if you like state the community's claim on ah various parts of land around Langham and the land that we've now bought is the site ah is the. And site of None of the main rideouts and is very very close to the heart of people. It's just walking distance from the town. So it's where people besides the common riding rideouts people will wal the dogs. There's um, where you take your kids swimming in the river. So. It's an area that was very much a part of the identity of people who'd been bought ah born and brought up in Langham and I think that strength of identity was why when theclu estate decided to sell the land and it. It caused a lot of upset it caused opera and it was it was taken away something that was really really valued by the local community and sorry that's a lot more than a few words I do apologize.


But it was very interesting and I think it really sets the scene for understanding this this project and it also already answered a couple of questions which which I had because um I was really wondering Who had to come together to make this project happen because it was a massive community buyout. You raised nearly four million pounds and that is not an easy feat. So.

angela williams

What what happened I think when um now I wasn't there at the time so bear in mind this is a little bit of none party and I think the beclu estate had. Had gone through some very very low key consultation before it was put on the market. Oh no, sorry it was put on the market and they undertook some very low key consultation with the the community council but there was no engagement with them with with the wider community. And when v announced it was going to be put on a market the local paper I think so did an emergency insert because um, this was potentially time limited and they really wanted to draw everybody's attention to what was happening and at the time. The Langham initiative was running um a number of projects that it's run many projects over the years but it's never been a landowner and it's not really been a building owner most of the project activity was time limited. It would be probably very much funding led. But as an organization it had a structure. It had a board. It had staff and it was by far by far the best body to be able to sit down and say we need to do something about this. And I think it was quite fortunate at the time that we had an employee called um Kevin cumming who was employed for a very specific wildlife related project and he was away when the land was put on a market but when he came back. He approached the board and said you know we need to do something about this and the board themselves had already highlighted that at the very least they needed to go out and ask for community and would you support us if we started to look see if we could buy this on behalf of the community and. Um I believe it was absolutely you know overwhelming support for this fit if I think it's interesting if a lad hadn't been put on the market I don't think the community would necessarily have said. Actually we we need to buy that land. We need to protect it for the future I think there was. A lot of acceptance about Thelu estate had owned it for a number of years many you know hundreds of years and there actually wasn't any reason to think that it was it was under threat in any way and so this is why it was such a shock when the headline was Langholm Moore ah being put on the market.

And the board called upon assistance from organizations such as development Trust Scotland and Community Land scotland so community land Scotland is if like the umbrella body for the many community land buyouts ah up and down the the breadth of Scotland. And they I think were so quite instrumental in putting the Langham initiative in touch with the scottish land fund um who had potential to be a significant funder. Um, this is all very time limited. Um, and and there was a huge amount of volunteer effort going around getting petition signed talking to people consulting with people building up that level level of momentum. And to see whether or not it could actually fundraise and of course, um then covid hit so a lot of a fundraising was undertaken during covid and and while that made life more difficult. I think maybe on an international basis. It kind of maybe gave a little bit of this is a project about hope. So I think there was it was something that people could really sort of latch onto and identify with that there was this tiny town 2000 people in the middle of a global pandemic. Trying to raise three point eight million to buy land that was really important to them so there was a whole number of factors coming together to help drive the the project forward. Um and it was fortunate that the the langholm initiative existed with the structures it had in place to actually. Drive that forward so it didn't have to worry about setting up a charity. It didn't have to worry about governance documents all that existed that and and I think that was a real strength but it could it had experience um to. Put itself forward to lead this and um and take the whole project forward.


Yeah, and I um think that seems to be a really key point already having an organization that you can build on having the community already engaged and I looked like What's available online about your project now like you have plans to protect the hen harriers you have plans for Pete and restoration native woodland restoration a field center and many many other things that are going on now and I'm wondering like how is the community. Currently involved in the management or in in any type of the decision making about the reserve.

angela williams

Yeah, yeah, and one of the the things we we highlighted in the in the original business plan was the importance of that community engagement and. And certainly you know, right? from the very start of a buyout. There was a volunteer group. There was volunteers going out knocking on doors doing a lot of that that leg work. Ah and in a way that's there's an element of that that is time limited. It's very focused. Volunteering you know you've got various actions at need implementing to to get to the yeah to get to the end and so we're now in a position where we want to explore different ways of allowing people who've got. Got an interest or I've got a skills author to assist in the ongoing running of of the Tara Valley nature reserve as we are as we are now calling it and now that that involvement can take place in a number of ways. Um, at an at the most formal level. Obviously the Langham initiative has has a board of trustees and we would always welcome anybody ah who wanted. To get involved to to seriously get involved with a running because at the end of the day those trustees are the ones who are legally responsible for for making sure that the langham initiative survives that we operate within our governance ah with our governing documents. So that's actually quite a responsible position and it's obviously not something that everybody wants to do somebody might just have an interest in housing or in land or in access. So what we want to be doing and we haven't done as much of this. Um. To date simply because we've been very very focused on the buyout for a none piece of land. You know this the whole bid about doubling the sizes of our reserve and doubling the impact and so we've started making inroads over the last year we've had um. Various and just sort of dropping events and that might be at local the local market or using the local tourism office so that we try and make sure that um if anybody's just got any sort of question about it.

angela williams

Don't have to come to the office. There's an opportunity to meet us kind of out with the office in the same way we've done talks to local groups or we've heard or with'veheld a consultation event on a very specific piece of land and we've had to do some emergency felling. And so we've worked very closely with the immediate local residents around that piece of land to be to be felled that hasn't necessarily drawn in the wider community. That's been a very project-pecific activity and but once we've got the touchwood for second buy out out of a way. Um, we want to. We want to design a process that allows ah anybody who's got an interest in the ongoing running of the reserve that they've got an opportunity to contribute. We haven't fully got the answer to this yet. Um, we want to find some way that is um if I said fun. Ah so something that people don't feel um, don't feel isn't for them but people feel actually I really care about this this piece of footpath here. That they can come in and discuss fat or talk about that or contribute about as much as somebody who wants to really look at the overall. Ah overall ecological restoration. So we want to be able to draw in people regardless of their of the background of their skill level of their interest so that we can dip in. For a small bit of it or they can. They can get much more involved now. There's a huge amount of work in that and we haven't um we haven't got to the bottom of how we're actually going to develop this process. Um. But we've got a number of ideas that where we keep bouncing back and forth in the office. So at the moment. The main involvement is through the formal board. It's through specific projects consultations. But we also have a very active volunteer group because some people. And want to do practical work. They don't want to do the the office discussions or you know sitting around a table talking about the detail of things and we've got um so every Friday as a volunteer group who go out onto the reserve to do practical work. And from that actually some of those have said you know I want to get involved with a guided walks program or or let me know when you're talking about this because I I'd like to I'd like to contribute to that. So that's a good way of of keeping contact and and letting people know and.

And then every time there's things like the love lang and market theres 1 this Saturday will have a stall there so people can come along and and some people actually very happy just to keep involved through the social media channel. So you know we've got a very pardon ofy and we've got. Ah, locally a very active Facebook um, following both for Tv and r and for the volunteer group. They've got their own page and obviously our Instagram and Twitter um, so we were. We've been building up if you like those baseline tools. So. When we start with that ongoing detailed work about the running and development of the terrace valley nature reserve we've got mechanisms for drawing people in for getting them involved in it I would be able to say this is what we're going to do. We've got a number of events coming up. And come along. This is what's going to happen and we've so we've got plenty of ways of communicating with people and I think I think what's important to remember we've only owned the land for a year. Um, but we should be owning it forever and we've. Although there's ah often a pressure to kind of get results quickly. We've been quite cautious about defining things until really, we've got a feel of how the community works Jenny who's the estate manager and I were We're not local to the area neithiveers few other members of the staff team here. So. We've wanted to kind of tread a little bit carefully and do a lot of listening try and find out how things work in the town. How we can plug into existing networks but all the time putting the emphasis to anybody we've talked about we haven't yet made decisions on land management or on the overall estate management. Um, and that there is going to be plenty of opportunity for people's opinions to be listened to and so for them to contribute to a process.


Yeah, and it makes a lot of sense for me that this is a process that will develop over the time and I actually have another question about the reserve. It's 12 because I understand it is now locally recognized. But um, you're also trying at some point to get it nationally recognized is a nature reserve. Could you tell me a bit about how that process is going to work.


angela williams

Well her. Ah, this is going to be a learning one for us as well. So yes, we're calling it Terrace Valley nature reserve and we set down one of the aspirations to be a national nature reserve and and as I understand it, theres. Sort of kind of some basic criteria to establish yourselves as a national nature reserve and that's a bit about scale and kind of operating to good practice and and I think it's been almost. Ah your you're almost pitching your. Your land and your activity to I suppose almost like a committee who can assess um what you're proposing to do and how you're proposing to do it. Um, and they they can then designate you as ah as a national nature reserve. It's um. We've said that's something we want to do we do need to look at the process quite carefully because what we don't want to happen I think sometimes I mean it's it's interesting. You mentioned hen harriers earlier and obviously that's an absolutely iconic species and um. Certainly a species that we want to maintain and protect but actually we want to enhance and develop the whole ecosystem. We've got phenomenal amount of um brightfies we've got different lichens. We've got. Um, you know, really rare moths all all that that ecosystem those those building blocks of ecosystem. There's some absolutely um, phenomenal species and numbers of different different kinds of species and. I think it's important because we are looking at ecological restoration and contributing to climate change that we give as much support and attention to um, some of the less um iconic or a less eye-catching species as well. So we do want to make sure that when we go for national nature reserve it is for that whole system. It's for the whole area. It's not just for None species. Yes, we do want to protect the herarian we do want to see more ah rattors here. But. We also want the whole ecosystem to be healthier so that it will support those iconic species as well and and I think sometimes there's a little bit of a concern that um by having a designation.

angela williams

You know how specific do you have to be with it. So So we do need to look at it in more detail on the face of it shouldn't be a problem. Um, and we don't think be in a national nature reserve will have any if if you like negative effects. Um, but we want to make sure that. Once we've got our aims and objectives maybe more clearly defined when Vr at the moment. Um that we can present that to whoever designates for National age reserve and and that that meets their criteria and then that will give us confidence that. Um. What we want to do is is the right thing for the land and it and it meets fair criteria as well.


Yeah, what you mentioned I think is very important because there has been lately I think much more discussion about the fact that so many common species are in decline as well and that we should really protect Habitat way before.

Ah, species are are declining. So um, that certainly makes a lot of sense and I have just 1 final question basically because of the time even though it's so interesting to talk to you I would definitely love to know more but you have been.

Part of other community buyouts before and I was wondering if you have some learnings to share from that about what is important in planning and conducting a community buyout or what is critical for success or any advice that you would like to share with people who are.

Maybe considering to do that as well with their communities.

angela williams

I I think ah I mean the ah and this is state and the obvious but it is about having community support and as far as possible. You want that support from. Ah, cross-section of the whole community I think it can be very easy to fall into developing a buyout with the support of people who are. That's something that they are instinctively interested in or would support and you can maybe leave other members of the community who don't know as much about it or for whom it can seem quite scary or just something that they fundamentally don't agree with and I think it can be quite easy to. Um, to let those members of a community and not be engaged. So I think you have to if you if you when you are starting down on the process. It's about being transparent and it's communicating with all parts of your community and don't worry if people. Don't support. You will never have the whole community supporting it that that doesn't matter the important bit is you've set out in effect. You've set out your stall. You're giving people a chance to engage with it. You're giving people the chance to find out the pros and the cons so that even if people. Don't agree with it. They can say yeah, but I was listened to be answered my questions. Still don't agree with it. But you know you've you've tried to make sure that that whole community is and represented in that process I think that's absolutely key and and that has to continue. When you if you're successful in buying it and it's not just about working for everybody who supports you you know you want that site to work for the whole community and ah keeping on that level level of engagement. It's not always easy and you'll have ups and downs. Um, but I think that is one of the most important parts and it's you know it's doing that rain check. Are we just? um, updating people who happen to like our Facebook page. How are we reaching out to those groups. Um, who don't and who don't immediately access our our general communication methods. So you know and a lot of that will be a lot of footwork going round might be the mums and toddlers group. It might be the local day centers going into schools going into pubs just talking to people. Ah and I think for more you talking to people for whom this feels a bit of the unknown um a little bit different bit scary and. I Think what you're doing then is you're building a really strong foundation for you going through the process because you'll have to have a ballot potentially and you know that Way. You want everybody to know about it and understand it. Even if you don't agree with it.



Yeah, that is certainly a really good piece of advice I Think for for anyone who considers to to start something like that because we often forget about communicating with the people who are um.


So much is dependent on local context, we can see that communities decide to protect land for the benefit of people and wildlife in very different ways, starting from very different situations. I think this can inspire us to consider what initiatives exist or can be build in our own communities to increase environmental protection in a socially just way. 

Some of the core advice that I take away is to try to reach out to and involve everyone in the community. hearing all concerns and questions is important as well as providing democratic representation in the decision-making . 

Seeing the rangers not as law enforcement but as guides for the community to stick to traditional hunting methods was something that particularly struck even though this is actually very similar to the way in which European park rangers mainly advise and educate people. 

As Paul pointed out so skillful in the poem, everyone who takes from nature has a responsibility to give back and make sure that others can have a part as well.