ONE OF Britain's most highly regarded conservation agencies, English Nature, may soon be scrapped by the Government, it was claimed at the weekend.
But in an article printed by the Sunday Times, the agency has apparently decided to go down with all guns blazing by launching a scathing attack saying that schemes to protect wildlife have been constantly "abandoned and delayed" in the seven years of the present Government.
During that time, despite Tony Blair's promise to put the environment at the heart of Labour policy, English Nature officials say wildlife has been devastated by farm chemicals, rivers and streams dried out because of over-extraction by water companies, the North Sea made into a marine desert by over-fishing, and important hillside habitats destroyed by over-grazing.
It has been rumoured for some time that several countryside agencies, like English Nature and the Countryside Agency, are to be amalgamated into one super-quango - a prospect which has been greeted with dismay by many commentators.
The work of many of the existing agencies is highly regarded - even by many farmers who do not readily accept bureaucratic interference - but many remember the fate of the short-lived National Rivers Authority, which conducted a highly active campaign of pursuing polluters in cases which often led to huge fines.
One of the first actions of this government was to merge the NRA into the Environment Agency - and the number of prosecutions has dropped dramatically.