Stacking, blending, transformation

Who does not know St Paul’s Cathedral in London? The cathedral is one of the most famous and recognisable sights of England. Its dome, surrounded by the spires of other city churches, has dominated London’s skyline for over 300 years. But did you know that St Paul’s recently won a Gold Eco Church Award, issued by A Rocha UK? Gold awards don’t just happen: they mean that the recipient has implemented sustainable management in all areas of the business. Teaching, management of buildings and land, community engagement, and lifestyle.
St Paul’s Cathedral in London
It’s wonderful to see how the Anglo-Saxon drive (a gold medal!) and religious motivation have now led hundreds of churches in England to become eco-churches. They manage and lease their land and gardens in a more nature-friendly way and take biodiversity into account. So, churchgoers are helping farmers, and pulling together in the transition of agriculture.
Such a constructive dialogue also took place in Brussels last week. While polarisation seems to be growing in politics, an opposite trend can be observed when it comes to natural site management. In everyday practice of nature conservation, there is more and more cooperation between nature conservationists, landowners, farmers, businesses and financial institutions. Numerous examples were on display in Brussels, at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture on 26 March, the European Private Land Conservation Conference on 27 March, and the workshop breakfast of the EU research project “Innovative and Effective Policies for Sustainable Land Use (MOSAIC)” on 28 March.
On the bottom left, LIFE ENPLC project manager Anne-Sophie Mulier in conversation with Jurgen Tack. On the right, Frank Vassen from the European Commission giving the opening speech.

And that cooperation is bearing fruit. Knepp Estate, a 3,500-acre estate in Sussex, England, was once intensively farmed, but now is a ‘green cathedral’ devoted to a pioneering Rewilding Project, regenerative farming, and ecotourism. At the European Private Land Conservation Conference, we learned from its owner Charles Burrell that over the past 20 years, he and his family have transformed this area from an intensive dairy farm to a natural landscape where farming in primitive ways is part of the business model for the future.

An inspiring presentation by Charlie Burrell

Landowners and farmers have various motivations to go beyond legal requirements in nature conservation. In addition to financial incentives, recognition from their peers can serve as a strong motivator to engage in land protection efforts. Amy Johnson, Program Director at the Smithsonian Institute in the US, showed us an impressive case study of a successful conservation initiative that is working with producers in Virginia.
Harm Schoten leading a panel discussion between NABUs president Jörg-Andreas Krüger; Angelo Salso; Amy Johnson, Program Director at the Smithsonian Institute; and Charlie Burell, owner of the KNEPP estate.
Three magic words dominated the talks in Brussels: stacking, blending and transformation. There is no single solution to nature conservation. When site managers, landowners or farmers stack different revenue sources and use them effectively together (blending), they can find just enough courage and space for initiating a land and business transition.
So, it can be done. As Jörg-Andreas Krüger, President of Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), a member of Eurosite, rightly argues: “For systemic change, people need trust, and markets need room for maneuvering. Politicians must set the frame. The ecological crisis can only be solved with a long-term perspective.” Angelo Salsi, former head of LIFE Unit and recently retired from the European Commission, therefore called on us to consider in our voting behaviour, soon in the European elections and elsewhere, to opt for parties that stand for long-term cooperation.
Jurgen Tack, director ELO of and Harm Schoten, director of Eurosite. Probably talking about the ongoing partnership between ELO and Eurosite to further private land conservation in Europe.
Rewatch the event
Keynote speech by Charlie Burrell
Country Profiles of private land conservation
Panel discussion
Jörg Andreas Krüger
Amy E. Johnson
Charlie Burrell
Closing Speech, Jurgen Tack
Impressions from the event


The news items collected on this blog have been written by project partners of the LIFE ENPLC project.