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Tony Juniper for NE Chair

So the rumours were right. Tony Juniper is heading to be, almost certainly, the new Chair of Natural England.

Congratulations to him – he is a star of the environment movement – and fingers crossed he, with Marian Spain, can make a difference at what is a sadly failing organisation.

And, it has to be said, well done Michael Gove for choosing a person with great environmental standing and a fine track record. If Andrew Sells was never ‘one of us’, Tony has never been anything else. It’s a strong unambiguous signal of intent.

The Chair is a big job and a responsible role, but it isn’t actually the hands-on running of the organisation. Tony’s strengths lie in many areas but I think he might agree that his leadership qualities surpass his management skills (huge though they are) and that is exactly what is needed in that role, and for this organisation.

I thought some time ago, when I heard the rumour, ‘Let it be true!’ but sometimes you can’t really tell how you feel until something is real – I feel chuffed to bits for Tony and slightly more optimistic for our wildlife.

Looks like he is pleased too…

I trust all of Tony’s friends will take the mickey out of him mercilessly in order to keep his feet on the ground.

I interviewed Tony for Behind More Binoculars and all NE staff should read that interview to get a measure of the man who is almost certainly going to be their new Chair. It is perhaps indicative that we met at Wicken Fen to talk, and record the interview, and then went out to look for roosting Hen Harriers and saw some!

Tony is a fisherman. I asked him about this when we met:

Mark Avery: I’m always surprised that fishermen and birdy people aren’t more cooperative.
Tony Juniper: Yes, they should be. There is an awful lot in common. But the two sides instead spend all their time arguing over Cormorants!
And often in the schism between fishing and nature conservation you see the animal welfare issue raised. That aspect made Friends of the Earth quite nervous – unreasonably so I think.

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And this answer was interesting, and is so in the context of his new role:

Mark Avery: What achievements at FoE gave you most pleasure?
Tony Juniper: I think the most pleasure came from putting the heat on people who should know better, whether they were ministers in government or international agencies or companies. Having the freedom and the knowledge and the resources to go out and say ‘This is not right! You should be doing something different,’ and being able to deliver that with some consequence, was always most rewarding.

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Mark Avery: What do you think of politicians as a whole?
Tony Juniper: Well, they are highly variable. There are those who are transparent and want to make things happen and there are those who are self-centred and ideological beyond being reasonable (whether left, right or centre). And we all know who the good ones are … [And he did name some names]

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Tony stood as a candidate for the Green Party in Cambridge in 2010, he has worked for the Prince of Wales (and jointly wrote a book with him, The Ladybird Book of Climate Changesee my review here) and has worked for BirdLife International (when it was ICBP), the Wildlife Trusts (a long time ago, but more recently as their President), FoE of course and WWF-UK. He’s a birder and a fisherman. He’s a leader and a pragmatist.

This news has put a smile on my face, but we’ll all be watching with interest.

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