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International Women’s Day 2022

International Women’s Day 2022


To mark International Women’s Day we’re celebrating the work of exceptional women in exceptional landscapes. Meet some of our team who are working hard to help tackle climate and nature crises in the New Forest National Park, so that people and nature can thrive.

Find out about their work, how they got involved in the environment sector, and how they would encourage others to get involved too.

We can all take small steps that add up to making a big, positive difference for the New Forest National Park.

The New Forest National Park is a world capital for wildlife, with a range of species that are rare, uncommon or declining elsewhere in the UK and western Europe. There’s a unique mosaic of habitats here too, including heathland, grassland, wetlands, hedgerows and saltmarsh, as well as the characteristic wood pasture.

But this extraordinary area is under threat from climate and nature crises.

We’re working with partners, landowners and communities to tackle this, and whether you live, work or play in the Forest, you can play your part in helping to protect this precious landscape so that people and nature can thrive.

Why not start today, by taking the New Forest Climate and Nature Challenge Pledge?

Alison Barnes, New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive

As the CEO of the New Forest National Park Authority for the past 11 years, a large part of my work is focused on working with a wide range of people to sustain the New Forest as a living, working landscape.

The New Forest is one of the best places in Europe for wildlife with many rare species and an extraordinary diversity of habitats, shaped by the unique and ancient system of commoning. Its 220 square miles is sandwiched between Bournemouth and Southampton on the south coast of England. Yet in this remarkable place we are already seeing the effects of climate change and the worldwide decline in nature and need urgent action. Never before has working together as ‘Team New Forest’ to make the National Park even better for nature and people been more important.

Landscapes are shaped by people. The direction we take for national parks is as much about attending to the human networks as the physical networks of the diverse and beautiful places we are privileged to work within. It’s in doing this that I regularly look for inspiration and guidance to women who have been inspirational and impactful in building the relationships and connections that make remarkable things happen.

One of my heroines, Dr Jane Goodall, won the 2021 Templeton prize in recognition of her life’s work on animal intelligence and humanity. Her work was recognised as exemplifying ‘humility, spiritual curiosity and discovery… Her achievements go beyond the traditional parameters of scientific research to define our perception of what it means to be human.’

Dr Goodall says: ‘I believe people will only change from within. So to change people, you have to reach their hearts.’

This insight from Dr Goodall reminds me that any target-driven, scientifically-defined approach with hard and urgent calls for recovery of nature and climate need to be handled with an understanding of the human spirit. A collaboration of knowledge and awareness, ‘wiring and inspiring’, tapping into hearts as well as minds.

Many women like Dr Goodall have also guided, supported me and helped me along the way of my 25 years in conservation and landscape management. I can think of many throughout my career, from studying Biology at Oxford University, interning as an environmental consultant, working as a conservation officer with the RSPB, a senior ecologist in local Government, a policy officer in Defra and as director, commissioner, advisor and trustee for various climate and nature organisations. All have shown me in different ways what it means to be an effective and impactful leader as a woman.

I think many of the skills I observe in these women relate not only to exceptional technical ability but to recognising the importance of human connection to our natural world and each other. Being a ‘people-person’, a team builder, nurturing people, creating human networks and conditions that allow others to flourish.

Being mindful about how we work together and what motivates individuals and communities is perhaps the fundamental shift needed to transform our landscapes and one where women working across our protected landscapes are contributing so much. It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate this contribution today and to renew my commitment to support women as they move through their careers as I was supported. I am filled will optimism on this International Women’s Day that many, many more people will be inspired and guided by the exceptional women working for our special landscapes, raising our chances of addressing the climate, nature and health crises and ensuring future generations can thrive.

Olivia McGregor, Net Zero with Nature Programme Manager

‘In my current tole for the New Forest National Park Authority, I work on tackling climate change by increasing the amount of carbon the New Forest National Park can remove from the atmosphere (where it causes climate change). In collaboration with partners, I have identified opportunities for carbon to be sequestered in the Park’s natural environment, for example through wetland creation, woodland creation and soil carbon enhancement measures. I am currently working to bring forward funding mechanisms which will enable these opportunities to be implemented.

I started out working in a sustainability consultancy in London. Here I learnt to help businesses understand their carbon footprint and what they could do to reduce it and become more sustainable. I then progressed onto calculating carbon footprints across whole cities and produced a carbon reduction plan for the city of Kuala Lumpur which was fun. I then went on to do a masters in Ecology to learn more about nature’s crucial role in tackling climate change.

When asked what women can add to the debate on climate and nature emergencies, my response would be – what can’t they offer? The climate and nature emergencies are a defining issue of our time and I think it’s really important we promote and increase opportunities for women to contribute and lead on this debate.

I would encourage others to stand up for an issue they care about, be it a local or global issue. There are so many ways in which each of us can make a difference and inspire each other with our passion and advocacy. I would also encourage others to reach out to those you admire! This can be a great way of drawing inspiration and building a community to support you.’

Find out about our Net zero with nature programme.

Erika Dovey, South Ranger and Commoner

‘As a ranger for the New Forest National Park Authority, I help to provide people with information about the New Forest and how they can enjoy it responsibly. I work as part of a team of rangers, and you’ll often see us out and about in our mobile unit. We talk with people about the impacts of their visit and how they can help care for this precious landscape and the wildlife it supports.

As well as being a Ranger, I am also a New Forest Commoner, meaning that I live in the Forest and graze my animals here as part of an ancient tradition dating back to 1217. Only a certain number of properties retain these rights over the Forest, first laid out in the Charter of the Forest (1217). The Forest is a working landscape, and I mentor other new and young commoners to help this ancient tradition to continue. In this picture I am also taking part in one of the annual drifts to help round up our free-roaming ponies.

I have always lived in the New Forest and am a farmer’s daughter alongside having the commoning tradition handed down. I became a seasonal ranger through experience of living, working and volunteering in the New Forest.

My advice to others would be to believe in yourself, reach out to your dreams, work hard and get to know others who work in the industry. You don’t always need qualifications or degrees as experience can account for just as much.’

Find out about commoning and our rangers.

Julie Melin-Stubbs, Wildlife and Conservation Manager (includes managing the New Forest Land Advice Service)

‘I’m the Wildlife and Conservation Manager for the New Forest National Park Authority, and part of my role includes managing the New Forest National Land Advice Service – which I was brought in to establish. This month is my 12th anniversary with the Authority, and during this time I have worked as part of a small, passionate, expert team with many hundreds of farmers, commoners, landowners and other land managers. Together, we give support, advice, guidance and facilitate funding to deliver nature conservation enhancements and best practice land management across the New Forest and beyond.

With the support of my team, I have worked on a variety of projects which have seen hundreds of acres of nature recovery in woodlands, meadows, heathlands and hedgerows, plus many hundreds of local people trained in environmental and rural practices. And I am proud to have been involved in facilitating the purchase of a unique, significant and highly strategic area of private land adjacent to the New Forest SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in Wiltshire, now Franchises Lodge Nature Reserve owned and managed by the RSPB.

Much of what I have achieved during my career has been in large part as a result of my relationships with a wide range of partner organisations, farmers, commoners and other land managers across the New Forest, as well as volunteers. Nothing I do in my role can be done alone; it is all delivered in partnership. Building and working within these partnerships is one of my greatest achievements.

Prior to starting my career, I spent six years at university and have an international degree in Zoology and a Masters degree in Conservation Biology. I spent a year of my BSc in Canada and did my Masters thesis in Tanzania where I lived in a two man tent on a mountain for several months collecting data on primates in primary and secondary forests. I then spent 18 months volunteering for two Wildlife Trusts, before working for several NGOs carrying out nature conservation projects, including Dorset Wildlife Trust and the RSPB.

I am pleased to say that there are a lot of women working in nature conservation in the UK. I work with a large number of female farmers, commoners and other land managers in the New Forest, all of whom are passionate about their land, livestock and the local produce they provide. Many are keen to contribute in some way to the enhancement of nature, cultural heritage and mitigation of climate change on their holdings and the wider New Forest. I would like to thank and show my respect to all the girls and women out there who are already playing their part in helping with the nature and climate emergencies and encourage more of you to feel empowered to join the conservation movement in any way you can.

There are lots of things you can do to support nature conservation. You could support a charity, perhaps through fundraising, becoming a member or volunteering. However small your garden or balcony you can be a nature friendly gardener. If you are a landowner or land manager there are so many things you can do to help habitats and species; if you are local to the New Forest area, get in touch with NFLAS to find out more.’

Find out about Land Advice Service.

Whilst you’re here, we thought we’d introduce you to some of our colleagues and partners from further afield too!

Dr Rose O’Neill, Chief Executive for the Campaign for National Parks

Dr Rose O’Neill joined Campaign for National Parks in October 2021 as its Chief Executive, leading the charity’s work to campaign to protect and improve National Parks in England and Wales. Prior to that, she was a Principal Specialist at Natural England, leading work on behavioural change. She lives close to the New Forest National Park where she enjoys days out with her young family.

Find out more about Rose here.

Alinah Azadeh, Writer-in-residence at the Seven Sisters Country Park and Sussex Heritage Coast, South Downs National Park

Alinah Azadeh is writer-in-residence at the Seven Sisters Country Park and Sussex Heritage Coast, for the South Downs National Park and lead writer on We See You Now, a literature and landscape programme co-funded by Arts Council England. Partners include New Writing South and Writing our Legacy.

How are you helping to connect people with nature?

Since Spring 2020 I have been running creative writing and walking retreats and groups in the Seven Sisters area (and online), inviting cohorts of writers of global heritage to experience or rediscover this extraordinary, chalkland landscape.

Through its rich metaphors – deep time, borders, edges and horizons – we use our writing to explore migration, belonging, loss, climate change, recovery and more equitable futures. My writer residency there, and wider project, We See You Now, encompasses new writing commissions, ongoing retreats, workshops and The Colour of Chalk podcast. The public will be able to use our self-access writing guide and enjoy our audio commissions and events – evoking trans-global connections across the landscape – from this autumn.

Why is it important that people connect with nature?

It is an act of creative and restorative care, allowing us physical, mental and emotional space to reconnect with ourselves and the ‘more-than-human’ world, free of the pressures and crises of daily life.

The coastline also reminds us in a very visceral way how important it is to care for what is left of it, in this radically changing climate.

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