English Heritage launches wetlands strategy


On 28 May 2002, English Heritage, the Government's statutory adviser on the historic environment (sponsored by the Ministry for Culture, Media and Sport - DCMS), organised in London a seminar on the historic environment in England's wetlands at the occasion of the launch of its Wetlands Strategy, introduced by Adrian Olivier. A handful of speakers, representing archeology and historical science, as well as ecology and the administrative bodies responsible for cultural and natural heritage management (English Heritage, English Nature), covered current issues, practice and policies for better integrated management decisions and debated what can be learnt from the past in shaping the future. The Ramsar Bureau was invited to present the new "Guiding principles for identifying the cultural aspects of wetlands and incorporating them into the effective management of sites", proposed to COP8 for adoption.

English Heritage had earlier commissioned the 'Monuments at Risk in England's Wetlands' (MAREW) report to identify the state of 13,400 archeological monuments in wetlands, without counting those non-identified monuments remaining deeply buried in the alluviated lowlands and beneath upland peat. 78 per cent of this identifiable resource has been damaged or destroyed in the past 50 years through drainage, water abstraction, conversion of pasture into arable land, peat wastage, erosion and extraction, and urban and industrial development.

English Heritage's Wetlands Strategy will thus develop guidelines and manuals for wetland landscape conservation in partnership with other agencies, produce an inventory of the most important wetland monuments in England, promote site-specific conservation management strategies, encourage public participation and community involvement, and assist the European Archeology Council (EAC) in formulating guidance for wetland heritage management at a continent-wide scale (cf. www.ramsar.org/wwd2002_rpt_archaeology.htm).

The discussion amongst the sixty or so participants, how to get the balance right, showed a widespread consensus on the need to take an ecosystems approach and to converge different cultural and natural perspectives in order to bring originally incompatible interests together to find sustainable solutions. With this Wetlands Strategy, England shows the way how to integrate historical aspects into wetland management and conservation, providing a useful case for the forthcoming discussions during COP8, when preparing for the adoption of the proposed guiding principles.

The strategy is available at www.english-heritage.org.uk/archaeology/wetlands/

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Regional Coordinator for Europe

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