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In May 1912, banker and naturalist, Charles Rothschild, laid the foundations for nature conservation as we know it today. His new organisation, the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves had one main objective – to save Britain's finest wildlife sites.
Wildlife in Trust: A Hundred Years of Nature Conservation is a history of The Wildlife Trusts. It charts the changing fortunes of UK wildlife and the nature conservation movement founded to protect it. Beginning with Rothschild's first list of potential nature reserves in 1915, it covers: the landmark political Acts, the explosion of the local Trust movement in the 1960s and its subsequent development; the salvage and rescue operation to save woods, meadows, wetlands, bogs, and heaths; the dawn of marine conservation; the decline and recovery of species like the otter, plus the move to restore wildlife across whole landscapes.
This is a tale of local activism, visionary leaders, hard-fought campaigns, organisational growing pains and battles lost and won. Wildlife in Trust: A Hundred Years of Nature Conservation is divided into three sections: a history of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts; individual histories of all 47 Wildlife Trusts in their own words plus a comprehensive reference section. Wildlife in Trust: A Hundred Years of Nature Conservation features more than 300 photographs and maps – including many from The Wildlife Trusts' archives.
Tim Sands, has worked for more than 45 years in wildlife conservation, experiencing and influencing at first hand the dramatic development of the non-Governmental sector. For much of this time he has been involved with The Wildlife Trusts, helping to lead on issues, including better protection for badgers, otters, wetlands and peatlands.
"The Wildlife Trusts is one hundred years old. In that time it has grown from little more than a gleam in the eye of Charles Rothschild to a partnership of 47 Trusts with 300,000 members and a real influence on the future of the natural environment. This is an appropriate moment to look back and take stock. It has done so most thoroughly and handsomely in this heavy, well-illustrated book by Tim Sands, a veteran of the conservation scene with, by coincidence, 47 years of Trust activity behind him.
Wildlife in Trust is divided into three sections. The first is a 190-page history of the Trusts from the early days, when its main objective was that of acquiring nature reserves (with no-entry signs), to the multiplication of county trusts in the 1960s, the failed merger with the RSPB, and the last 20 years in which the body has grown in influence from essentially local concerns (with a small back-up team at Trust headquarters) to the overarching 'step-change' of today with its twin 'visions' of Living Landscape and Living Seas. It is by any standards a success story, a business that has grown and become infinitely more professional while retaining its heart in our shared love and concern for British wildlife in all its forms.
The second section, which takes up more than half the book, is a guest-written history of each of the 47 Trusts; local variations on the main theme, you might say. It must say something about British regionalism that each Trust has come to have its own special character, its particular set of concerns and way of setting about things. Finally, there is an extensive 'reference section', an A to Z of Trust personalities, topics, key sites and events. All in all, it is, I should say, the most detailed account of our nature—conservation story in print, albeit told from a partial standpoint.
It is no criticism of Tim Sands' style to suggest that the story is a little lacking in drama and entertainment value, and that as a read it therefore plods a bit. This is history in the well-worn style of the family firm, comfortable, affirmative and celebratory. It is a year-by-year record of meetings, conference papers, projects and speeches: the nuts and bolts of conservation-in-practice which were no doubt exciting at the time. The obvious way to make this subject sing is to interject personal opinions, but in this case the author's job is rather to present the Trusts as it sees itself. He has done so conscientiously and in immense detail. Perhaps few of us except Trust activists would want to read all of it straight through, but as an informative reference book Wildlife in Trust will be useful for years to come."
- Peter Marren, British Wildlife 24(2), December 2012