Organizations and Networks in Europe and the USA
Edited by C. S.A. (Kris) van Koppen and William T. Markham
Chapter 2: Nature Protection Organizations in England
1 Christopher Rootes HISTORICAL OVERVIEW Beginnings Human activity has dramatically altered the natural environment of England2 during the past 6000 years. Conservation measures were introduced in the thirteenth century to permit regeneration of game species hunted for sport. By the sixteenth century, increasing population and changing agricultural practices led to the contraction of English forests, inspiring measures to protect a vital national resource. Nevertheless, by the end of the seventeenth century, half the country was given over to agriculture, and destruction of habitat had reduced many native species to the verge of extinction. From the eighteenth century, the Industrial Revolution accelerated human impacts on nature, factories and mills concentrated people in industrial towns, and more eﬃcient ﬁrearms enabled hunters and gamekeepers to increase their take. Reacting against the ravages of industrialization, Romantics celebrated natural landscapes. Pollution of air and water excited both protests and the 1863 Alkali and 1875 Public Health Acts. Civic initiatives created urban parks, and the idealization of the countryside took root. At the same time, scientiﬁc investigation and exploration enhanced understanding of the natural world. Natural history societies came and went, and only in the late nineteenth century did a conservation movement emerge. An elite rather than a mass movement, which saw legislation as the instrument of nature protection, its success owed less to generally ‘enlightened attitudes than . . . the inﬂuential positions of many of those who championed the cause’ (Evans 1997, p. 34). The ﬁrst local by-laws protecting plants were enacted in 1888,...
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