The European Squirrel Initiative (ESI) came into being as a result of a meeting in London in June 2002 attended by some 40 landowners, foresters and conservationists from all over the UK. The concern which drove these people was the lack of leadership and resolve on the part of government and other national bodies to deal with a dangerous invasive alien species – the American grey squirrel.
Why European? Because grey squirrels dominate the woods of the UK and are also rapidly spreading through Ireland and Italy. A European Initiative is required to deal with a European problem.
ESI’s objective is the restoration of the native red squirrel and the protection of the natural environment by removing the impact of the alien grey squirrel in Europe.
ESI’s strategy both in the UK and in Ireland is to emphasise the damage caused to woodlands and wildlife by grey squirrels and persuade conservation bodies that the only feasible way of saving the red squirrel is the complete removal of the alien grey. Over the last fifty years costly measures to control the spread of the grey squirrel have failed. They have failed to save the red squirrel, failed to conserve woodland bird populations and failed to protect our woodland trees.
The reality is that red squirrels will very soon become extinct on mainland Britain and in Ireland.
As a first step, ESI will work to inform and motivate conservationists by well researched technical publications such as the Grey Squirrel Review; then building on that foundation, convince politicians and the civil servants who advise them of the need to address the impact which grey squirrels have and are continuing to have on our countryside.
Across Europe, ESI will alert decision makers to the peril to European wildlife posed by the spread of the American grey squirrel from Italy. ESI branches will be established in front line countries – especially in Ireland, Italy, France and Switzerland. These branches will publicise the grey squirrel threat and bring pressure to bear on national conservation bodies and governments.
ESI will work towards the completion of a European policy on Invasive Alien Species, including a robust response to the grey squirrel danger. It will actively lobby MEPs to raise again and again the grey squirrel danger in the European Parliament, so that eventually legislation can be introduced requiring member states to effect the total removal of grey squirrels from their territory.
At the same time, ESI will facilitate the revival of research into developing a publicly acceptable method of grey squirrel removal so that once the political will has been expressed, the means to respond will be in place.
Meanwhile in northern England, in lowland Scotland and in Wales, volunteers are battling with insufficient resources to protect the shrinking territories of our remaining reds. The red squirrel is small and he is timid, but he is our only native squirrel and has lived quietly in our woods since the last ice age. Are we as a nation going to continue sitting on our hands while this foreign bully drives him into oblivion?
ESI is an independent privately funded charity. It is supported by people and charitable trusts who really care about the countryside.
If you would like to support their work, please send a donation to European Squirrel Initiative, 4 East Bank House, Tide Mill Way, Woodbridge Suffolk IP12 1BY.
Copies of The Grey Squirrel Review (104 pages, fully illustrated) £30, from the above address.
Miles Barne (Chairman)