Manx Wildlife Trust marks half a century of conservation work this year. The charity’s Engagement Manager, Graham Makepeace-Warne, tells us about its history and why its work is as important as ever:
In 1972, a proposal to build an oil refinery at the Ayres, an important nesting site for little terns, was defeated after a vigorous public campaign. Had that oil refinery been built, the Ayres ecosystem and its terns would have been lost, oil pollution would have impacted large areas, and the damage would have been irreparable.
This narrow escape from having an oil refinery on the Ayres showed the need for nature reserves to protect Manx wildlife in perpetuity and led to Manx Wildlife Trust’s (MWT) foundation in 1973, although it was originally called the Manx Nature Conservation Trust.
Fast forward to today and we are celebrating our 50th anniversary. Thanks to hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours and generous donations from the Manx public and businesses, MWT has become the Island’s leading nature conservation charity.
The original remit of MWT is still as important as ever. The charity now cares for 26 nature reserves covering well over 300 acres and this is set to grow in a big way this year.
However, we are still losing species on the Island, like the yellowhammer, once our most common farmland bird. So, we must look at how we can have more of an impact on our Island’s ecology and make more of a difference with our limited resources. Partnership working has been key in creating a real step change in the work of MWT over recent years.
MWT's recognisable logo has a new look for the 50th anniversary
Agriculture is responsible for managing around 75% of the Island’s land mass. Through the Agri-Environment Scheme (AES), which we deliver for the Government, and working closely with our farming community, MWT have been able to positively affect large swathes of the Manx countryside for the benefit of nature and people.
Through #TeamWilder and an expanded engagement team, we hope to do the same by working more closely with other landowners including businesses and homeowners alike. It’s vitally important for MWT that our work supports both wildlife and our Island community. The benefits of a healthy Island ecosystem are now well proven and include physical and mental health benefits, flood protection, food security, tourism income and climate change mitigation, to name just a few.
We are busy putting together a brief review of our first 50 years for our Spring Summer member’s magazine, Manx Nature, due out in April. As you can imagine, we have come across some amazing photos and stories but my favourite so far has to be a picture of HRH King Charles III visiting our flagship Nature Reserve, Close Sartfield, with Reserves Officer, Tricia Sayle, in 2000. For the full story and more like it, you’ll have to read our magazine.
We will be marking our 50th birthday in a number of different ways including a Celebration Ball at the Comis Hotel on the 31st March (book tickets via the website). Keep an eye on our social media channels for info on other 50th anniversary events and projects throughout 2023.
But one thing’s for sure, we won’t be resting on our laurels. While we celebrate, we will also be looking for the support and partnerships needed to ensure we can continue helping Manx wildlife for the future.
Main photo of King Charles and Tricia Sayle by Island Photographics.