On 16 May 1912 a banker, landowner, naturalist and scientist named Charles Rothschild got together with like-minded enthusiasts to whip-up support for a radical idea: to identify and protect the very best of the UK’s wild places. Thus began the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves which would later become The Wildlife Trusts movement – the first time that anyone had come up with a vision for nature conservation.
Before 1912, the emphasis was on trying to protect individual species. Rothschild’s plan was different: to safeguard the places where wildlife lived – the moors, meadows, woods and fens under attack from rapid modernisation.
Today there are 47 Wildlife Trusts, including the Sussex Wildlife Trust founded in 1961, promoting a far-reaching vision for nature known as A Living Landscape and Living Seas. As well as protecting what already exists in reserves and other special places, Wildlife Trusts are working with landowners, local communities and partners to aid nature’s recovery on a wider scale. In Sussex we are achieveing this with the West Weald Landscape Project, Friston Forest Project and the Sussex Wetland Landscapes Project.
Simon King, The Wildlife Trusts’ President writes:
“Over the past 100 years, we have seen phenomenal changes take place in the UK – and we of course have been the architects of most of them. In recent decades many of these changes have been for the better, with trends of extinction reversed, habitats protected or restored and the natural world finding a place in our constitution more often than ever before. But there is still work to do. The spark of Rothschild’s idea – to procure land with a view to ensuring our wild neighbours have safe haven – took a while to kindle. But the spark was sufficient to burn brightly in the hearts and minds of a few, who became a few more, which developed a community that, 100 years on, has blossomed into one of the most significant conservation movements in the world.”
The Wildlife Trusts’ centenary film