Monday, April 03, 2006

Sett of badger, burrow of voles and eye of newt...

I get back from Leicestershire, unpack, catch up with phone calls and head to bed.

Up bright and early this morning for a department briefing (bacon butties all round which is grand, unless you’re vegetarian…or a Muslim, which two of our number are – cultural sensitivity would be too much to ask for...).

My new role is announced...and explained at some length…and I just want the ground to swallow me up. What expression is one supposed to adopt in such circumstances? I have no idea – so find safety in staring at my feet.

Happily we move on; to a refresher session on key ecological issues (breeding patterns of great crested newts, nesting patterns of birds, habitats of the water vole, behaviour of your average badger and so forth).

The legal situation is set forth as well.

For example did you know that you need a licence to even handle one of our newt friends, and it’s a criminal act to kill even one of the critters or restrict their travels?

With badgers and water voles, the legislation has more to do with their habitats.

Which leads my colleagues to speculate that it’s ok to step on a badger* or a water vole should you come across one in the middle of a site, but newts must be waved through unimpeded (“no, no – after you Mr Newt, I insist!”).

I’m hoping that somewhere beneath all this the key messages about impacts, responsibilities and timings are sinking in. We can but hope.

*Though it probably isn’t advisable.

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