Wednesday, 4 November 2015

We've Got Numbers To Prove It

Somebody* once remarked on those who  "use statistics like a drunk uses lamp posts - for support rather than illumination"

It came to mind when SWT repeated their ridiculous claim to have counted over 3,000 spikes of bog asphodel on the Cowsick Bog.
Let's imagine the figure is fairly accurate. The question this use of numbers raises is why on earth bother counting? The bog asphodel flower is not rare. Anyone could see that there were numerous examples of the plant if they visited in July. What are they trying to prove by undertaking this inevitably intrusive exercise (trampling all over this kind of terrain does it no good at all). But I'm sure they consider they have made a triumphant point.They may even have calculated that this now shows that nobody can trust their critics who they imply have been claiming the bog flowers have been wiped out: that'll show them!

It is of course a straw man argument and utterly dishonest.

As one of SWT's critics I have not been saying that bog asphodel has been wiped out by SWT's annoying cows. The beasts have trampled over them, defecated over them and left the best display looking utterly miserable but they've not wiped it out or propelled it into local extinction; well, not yet anyway and that's not likely.

Before SWT came along and turned the place into a cattle grazing enclosure there were many spikes of bog asphodel, most not obviously visible, probably at least as many as now. But there was one particular smallish piece of land that was sheer delight in July with a magnificent and inspiring display of the yellow flowers tumbling over each other and beautifully complemented by bell heather. This was the place to bring people visiting the area; it was the most spectacular floral show on Blacka and for some miles around. That is what the cows destroyed and not without it being predicted. This year the trampling has been even worse and we have to accept that, while lots of individual flowers continue, scattered across the bog, the wonderful display is now a thing of the past.

The reason they don't care is because the only criteria they work to is a birdbrained version of a biodiversity priority. Being beautiful and inspiring does not matter. They are managers who care only for the tick box agenda of Biodiversity Action Plans. And I've always believed these are liable to be focused on what suits managers.

As for the numbers they quote, the first time I heard of this counting I was quoted 1,600. Now it's 3,000 plus. But what is the point? Anyone visiting in summer can see there's no shortage so why go any further taking up masses of staff time unnecessarily (when we are told that they've not got time for other important things such as providing minutes of meetings?)

* Now found to be Andrew Lang

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