We Will Always Listen, We Won’t Always Agree

Spring 2023

We are hugely fortunate to own and manage a portfolio of special landscapes across England, Scotland and Wales (at the time of writing) and recognise that we cannot and will never be experts in each of these unique environments. We are therefore committed to listening and learning from the people who know these places best – the local communities.

I’m often challenged on what I mean by ‘local’. I’m happy to admit it’s an evolving definition in my mind and I cast a very wide net with respect to space and time. Of course, it includes the people living and working on our estates and those neighbouring them. It also includes those that regularly visit the area or place, experts in the types of natural and built environments and those that aspire to be part of that community in the future too. My intent is to be open to an incredibly wide spectrum of thoughts and opinions, literally crowd sourcing intelligence and experience that can help inform our vision for the future of each individual Estate.

We cannot speak individually to everyone, we’re not politicians, we’re not going to start knocking on doors, we wouldn’t appreciate it, so don’t want to impose ourselves on others who might not be interested in our work. However, we greatly appreciate those that take the time to reach out to us and offer their views – whether this is via our website or social media channels, by email or in person. We won’t always agree, but we will always listen.

Our approach to seeking these views is to be as open as possible, you can contact us through our social media channels or email us directly at hello@oxygenconservation.com. We want to hear your views, we want to hear your challenges and your criticism, even if we think it’s unfair and if sometimes it hurts, please remember we’re all people too. We also love to hear your positivity, enthusiasm and praise, who doesn’t. But we recognise we learn the most from the challenges and criticism, and we will sometimes change our minds and our approach as a result of that feedback.

In seeking such a diverse range of views, it is of course impossible to find consensus. In fact, we’re not even looking for a consensus, as so often this leads to mediocracy and inertia. We simply don’t have time to miss our opportunity to save a little more of the natural world. Whilst I appreciate public sector bodies and charitable organisations must strive to find compromise, as a private organisation, the truth is that we don’t. We work with contradictions and we prioritise impact. We will always do what best helps us Scale Conservation and – yes – that means generating a financial return as a result of our work, but not as the purpose.

The vast majority of the time, we have found agreement with so many people in so many places. We strive to focus on the things that unite us, not those which divide. However, here are some of the things we’ve considered in the face of challenge, criticism and negativity and, despite careful thought, hold completely different views and perspectives.

We believe that by demonstrating it is profitable to protect and improve the natural world, we can mobilise the trillions of pounds we need to undo the terrible harm we have all done to the planet. Some feel conservation should be the purview of charitable organisations and others have told us the concept of natural capital itself is inappropriate.

We believe that it’s not the role of a conservation company to kill living things, where we have to manage non-native and invasive species we will do this reluctantly with consideration and care – we have been criticised for not killing badgers, foxes, mustelids (stoats and weasels) and even hedgehogs.

We believe there are certain parts of the natural world too rare, too precious and too delicate to allow regular public access (for example, Atlantic Rainforests). Some think this is private landowners locking away the countryside.

We take time to baseline, measure, monitor, watch and listen to a landscape. We have been criticised that we’re not changing things fast enough, whilst others think we’re changing things too quickly – perhaps both sides of the debate are correct.

We are hugely supportive of farming and believe the best farmers are incredible conservationists. We don’t, as some do, believe every piece of land should be farmed, nor that it should be farmed in a certain way.

We believe all land should be organic and have been criticised that this reduces the amount of food that can be produced from an area of land. We also know that this is the route to long term commercial viability especially in the absence of subsidy payments.

We are committed to lower stocking numbers across our estates to ensure our impact on the natural world through agriculture is regenerative. We have been criticised for that belief by those who believe livestock are a historical and cultural feature of the countryside.

We believe food is too cheap as we are yet to truly factor the environmental cost of production into the price of food. We think this is the route to a better future for people and wildlife including farmers and producers. Others have said that food needs to be available as cheaply as possible, regardless of environmental impact.

We believe food waste is a bigger challenge to food security than conservation, because failure of biodiversity will lead to a complete collapse of the global food system anyway. Some believe that the solution is to just produce more food. 

We believe there should be more native woodland in the natural environment. We’ve been criticised by foresters for not planning to plant commercial timber, by farmers for planning to plant any trees at all, and by environmentalists for not planning to plant enough trees. We are committed to the right trees, in the right place at the right time.

We want to hear your views about the places and spaces that mean the most to you and whilst we won’t always agree we will always listen.

Rich Stockdale
Managing Director