The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts
Predecessor Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves
Founded 1957
Headquarters United Kingdom

The Wildlife Trusts, the trading name of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, is an organisation made up of 47 local Wildlife Trusts in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and Alderney. The Wildlife Trusts, between them, look after around 2,300 nature reserves covering more than 90,000 hectares. As of 2011 they have a combined membership of over 800,000 members.

The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) is an independent charity, with a membership formed of the 47 local trusts. It acts as an umbrella group for the local Wildlife Trusts, as well as operating a separate grants unit which administers a number of funds.

Charles, Prince of Wales serves as the patron of the Wildlife Trusts. The current president is Tony Juniper, and the vice presidents are David Attenborough, Chris Baines, David MacDonald, Julian Pettifer, Robert Worcester, Chris Packham, Nick Baker, Bill Oddie and Bill Bolsover.


Simon King, the then President, celebrating 100 years of the Wildlife Trusts at Gunnersbury Triangle local nature reserve, 2012

Wildlife Trusts are local organisations of differing size, history and origins, and can vary greatly in their constitution, activities and membership. However, all wildlife trusts share a common interest in wildlife and biodiversity, rooted in a practical tradition of land management and conservation. Almost all county Wildlife Trusts are significant landowners, with many nature reserves. Collectively they are the third largest voluntary sector landowners in the UK. They often have extensive educational activities, and programmes of public events and education. The Wildlife Trusts centrally and locally also lobby for better protection of the UK's natural heritage, by becoming involved in planning matters and by national campaigning through the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. The trusts rely heavily upon volunteer labour for many of their activities, but nevertheless employ significant numbers of staff in countryside management and education. Thanks to their work promoting the personal and social development of young people, The Wildlife Trusts is a member of The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS).[1]

The Wildlife Trusts offer a Biodiversity Benchmark scheme through which companies can be assessed and recognised for their contribution to biodiversity. The assessment covers the organisation's performance under the headings of "Commitment, Planning, Implementation, and Monitoring and Review".[2]

The Wildlife Trusts are one of the steering group partners of Neighbourhoods Green a partnership initiative which works with social landlords and housing associations to highlight the importance of, and raise the overall quality of design and management for, open and green space in social housing.


Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, at Gunnersbury Triangle, 2012

Today's Wildlife Trust movement began life as The Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR), which was formed by Charles Rothschild in 1912. It aimed initially to draw up a list of the country's best wildlife sites with a view to purchase for protection as nature reserves, and by 1915 it had drawn up a list of 284, known as Rothschild Reserves.[3] During the early years, membership tended to be made up of specialist naturalists and its growth was comparatively slow. The first independent Trust was formed in Norfolk in 1926 as the Norfolk Naturalists Trust, followed in 1938 by the Pembrokeshire Bird Protection Society which after several subsequent changes of name is now the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and it was not until the 1940s and 1950s that more Naturalists' Trusts were formed in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Cambridgeshire. These early Trusts tended to focus on purchasing land to establish nature reserves in the geographical areas they served.

Encouraged by the growing number of Trusts, the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR) began in 1957 to discuss the possibility of forming a national federation of Naturalists' Trusts. Kent Naturalists Trust was established in 1958 with SPNR being active in encouraging its formation. In the following year the SPNR established the County Naturalists' Committee, which organised the first national conference for Naturalists' Trusts at Skegness in 1960. By 1964, the number of Trusts had increased to 36 and the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves had changed its name to The Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation. In recognition of the movement's growing importance, its name was changed to The Royal Society for Nature Conservation in 1981. The organisation is now known as the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

The movement continued to develop throughout the 1970s, and, by the early 1980s, most of today's Trusts had been established. In 1980 the first urban Wildlife Trust (now the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country) was established in the West Midlands, rapidly followed by others in London,Bristol and Sheffield. This was a watershed for the movement that strengthened its focus on wildlife and people. It was during this period that some Trusts changed their names from Naturalist Societies to Trusts for Nature Conservation, and then to Wildlife Trusts. The badger logo was adopted by the movement to establish its common identity.

As the number of Trusts grew, so did their combined membership, from 3,000 in 1960 to 21,000 in 1965. Membership topped 100,000 in 1975, and in that year Wildlife Watch was launched as a children's naturalist club. By the late 1980s membership had reached 200,000, increasing to 260,000 in 1995, and over 500,000 by 2004. The combined membership for 2007 stood at 670,000 members, 108,000 belonging to the junior branch Wildlife Watch. In January 2011, membership is over 800,000, with over 150,000 Wildlife Watch members.

List of Wildlife Trusts

See also

Wildlife Trusts headquarters in Newark-on-Trent


  1. Full list of NCVYS members Archived May 12, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. "Biodiversity Benchmark". The Wildlife Trusts. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  3. "The Rothschild Reserves". The Wildlife Trusts. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
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