Gavin Saunders

The Woodland Edge

For website 3

About me

Gavin SaundersI’m an ecologist and conservationist.  I love wild landscapes, and I care deeply about connecting people - as individuals and communities - with and through the natural world.  

I have worked with wildlife charities, statutory bodies, and as a freelancer, and have well-respected skills in project management, community engagement, field natural history, written work and policy development.

I care about human relationships with the land, and try to promote more meaningful ways for people to respect their neighbours, through a connection with their patch of earth.

This website describes my main activities, the services I offer, and includes a record of some of my published articles.

I offer consultancy services on many aspects of these issues, and I work with a small community of colleagues on a forest-based social enterprise in Somerset called Neroche Woodlanders.  I also help run the British Association of Nature Conservationists, which publishes the influential journal ECOS.  I can be contacted at gavinsaunders@btinternet.com.

My ethos

I grew up in a rural landscape on the Blackdown Hills, on the Somerset-Devon border, and my head and heart are rooted in the wild places of my hills and woods.  My desire to share and enthuse about the natural world has been a constant throughout my life.  Wild nature makes me happy, quite simply, and I want others to have the opportunity to find similar contentment and fulfilment through their own engagement with nature.

In my career to date I have tried to explore what nature conservation means as a philosophy, practice and movement.  Over recent years I’ve realised that the true test for conservation is its relevance to wider human social growth and change, and I’ve tried to apply that test to my own work.  I believe in bringing the best in human interactions – respect, empathy, open-mindedness, optimism – into natural settings, to enrich those interactions and to create experiences and places which last.  I believe in doing things by hand, with care, patience and concern for quality, and in learning, practicing and sharing, to become better.  I sometimes struggle with manifesting those beliefs in my own actions, but my aspiration never dims.

For some people, nature conservation is essentially a technical science about rational resource use.  For others it is about taking a moral stand against extinction, and working to preserve wild places.  And for others still, it is more fundamentally about understanding humanity’s place in nature.  Conservation has facets of all these definitions, but for me it is much more about examining human needs and values, than a technical process of saving species.  I long ago realised that a conservation movement which saves nature without understanding how to nurture human souls, is doomed to fail.

I believe strongly that conservation – the discipline and movement which has evolved over the past century – needs to rediscover the wildness in people, as well as wild places, and speak to that wildness.  It needs to catapult its cause and concerns into the heart of debates on social equity.  It has something to say about every social issue we face.  I want it to be relevant, catalytic, meaningful, and change-making.  I want it to live up to the passion which inspires it, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. 

My own primary role in that movement is to help build the places where that rediscovery, and those debates, can happen.

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