UK Glass Eels helps oppose the Severn Barrage
The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust - which works to protect wildlife and landscapes in the county - yesterday took to the air to get a bird's eye view of the Severn Vale thanks to UK Glass Eels.
Outgoing chairman, Andrew Kerr, whose idea it was to take his colleagues on the hour long flight down the Severn, said " The estuary is such a unique habitat, so rich in wildlife, that it is important not just to Gloucestershire, but internationally."
Migrating wildfowl like Bewick swans, white-fronted gesse and many waders overwinter on the mudflats, salt marshes and grasslands along the Severn's shores; while its waters are home to migratory fish like salmon and eel.
Because glass eel arrival numbers are down all over Europe, the population in the Severn is now increasingly crucial to the species survival. "The eels enter the river from the Atlantic and may remain in the river and wetlands for tens of years before returning to the Sargasso Sea to breed", said Andrew. Severn Eels are of the finest quality and are used for restocking across Europe.
Recognising the biological uniqueness of the area, the GWT has recently made the Severn the focus of a ground-breaking conservation initiative - the Severn Vale Living Landscape Project.
Farmers along the Severn are being approached to manage their land and the way stock graze so that it is compatible to wildlife. They are asked not to cut their hay meadows until the ground-nesting lapwings have raised their broods, for instance.
The aim is to create a wildlife friendly landscape along the north/south axis of the Severn, which will mean that as plants and animals can move north along a so-called "wildlife highway", they will be better able to withstand global warming.
The Severn, however, also has the second largest tidal bore in the world, which potentially makes it an invaluable source of renewable energy. Government ministers are now looking at a number of possible projects, including a barrage across the Severn, which supporters say could provide 5% of the country's energy requirements.
But if this project gets the political go-ahead, the unique wildlife, habitat and heritage of the Severn Vale would be irrevocably altered. So which takes precedence: an irreplaceable environment or the country's energy requirements?
After today's flight, Andrew Kerr said " This is possibly the greatest intellectual challenge facing Gloucestershire's environmentalists today, but looked at from the air, from a bird's perspective, there is no contest."