A Rocha UK is at the beginning of a 5-year journey, working with others, to transform 75,000 acres across the UK for nature. This ambitious goal recognises that Christians own or manage up to 500,000 acres of land across the UK. Some of this is owned by churches, estates, retreat and conference centres. A very large amount is held by denominational bodies such as the Anglican Church Commissioners. Other areas are gardens and smaller areas of land held by individuals.
Why is this necessary? The answer is that UK wildlife continues to struggle. Many familiar species and habitats are still declining in quality and quantity despite the best efforts of the conservation movement. It is not just that intensive farming, house building, and forest loss have all had impacts but also the rise of climate change and its impact on food sources, migration, water access and hibernation patterns.
It is in response to this crisis that A Rocha UK has launched its big land goal. Influencing 75,000 acres will be a challenge, but one we think is perfectly possible and which will deliver massive benefits if we succeed. 75,000 acres is an area the size of the city of Birmingham and Portsmouth combined. Imagine what that could look like if it was restored for nature conservation?
Our approach will be to use all of our programmes to help deliver the goal. For example, our rapidly growing Partners in Action programme will seek to restore 25,000 acres through the network of Christian conference and retreat centres, and other Christian organisations with land. We will also seek through our Convening Programme to influence at least 500 Christian environmental leaders, many of whom will have a responsibility for the management of large areas of UK land. And Eco Churches can contribute their churchyards to the effort. Wild Christian participants can contribute their gardens too.
We will encourage landowners and land managers to think about continually improving the land they care for so that habitats recover, and species numbers and densities increase. Rolling out ‘Nature-based Solutions’ to climate change is a key part of our plan. We want to see an expanding mosaic of habitats that are good for nature and help wildlife adapt to climate change. But by doing this we can also create landscapes which help slow climate change, expanding the area of land – whether forest, wetland or grassland – which will ‘lock’ carbon into the soil, and regenerate the UK’s natural ‘carbon sinks’.
The recent Partners in Action programme retreat confirmed the members’ commitment to this goal and we look forward to expanding activities rapidly in the year ahead.
Image: Our Partner in Action, Ashburnham Place by Regina Ebner