HOW can we better protect our increasingly vulnerable environment and the wildlife it supports?

That is the question that will be at the centre of a major conference in York on Saturday.

Nine years ago, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust president and RSPB vice-president Sir John Lawton wrote an influential Government report, Making Space for Nature, in which he called for bigger and more joined up wildlife habitats to try to halt the decline of Britain’s native plants and animals.

But how much progress have we made? York-based conservation charity PLACE’s Spring conference at Clements Hall on Saturday, at which Sir John will be the keynote speaker, will be looking for some answers.

Climate change, loss of habitats and development pressures have all fragmented wildlife havens for animals and plants.

“The challenge has never been greater for those involved in nature conservation,” said Margaret Atherden, chief executive of PLACE and a former York St John University academic. “That’s why this gathering could not be better timed.”

There are examples of good conservation management.

Pickering-based naturalist Brian Walker, who worked for the Forestry Commission for 34 years, will talk at the conference about work done in the North York Moors.“The Forestry Commission is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and its record proves what is possible when you tackle conservation on a landscape level and with long time-scales,” he said.

“Today the public forests of the North York Moors are home to a resurgent Nightjar population. Pine Martens have also been detected and even Langdale Forest, once derided by some as a conifer desert, provides a diverse haven, with its limestone grassland, bogs and woodland edge.”

Other speakers include Yorkshire Wildlife Trust chief exec Rob Stoneman, Jeremy Purseglove reflecting on Pickering’s ‘Slowing the Flow’ project, Tim Thom of the Yorkshire Peat Partnership, the RSPB’s Laurence Rose and Defra’s Richard Baker.

The Clements Hall event from 9.15am to 4.45pm, is open to the public. Tickets £10 from