Kent Wildlife Trust - An Update

Tuesday 25th April 2017

Concern has been expressed on social media and in the press, about the association between Mike Bax (the Chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust) and his past role as joint master of the Blean Beagles. We take all concerns raised seriously and we understand that people feel strongly about this. A statement was published on 28th March, but we would like to take this opportunity to provide some information in response to a number of claims made since, and to provide some further clarification and reassurance.

Mike Bax has been a member of Kent Wildlife Trust for nearly 30 years, is a volunteer nature reserve warden and has been chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust for three years. Mike is deeply interested in wildlife and manages his own farm with wildlife as the first objective. Under Mike’s management the farm has been designated a Local Wildlife Site for its ancient woodland and species-rich grassland. It attracts interest from a variety of conservation bodies because of its biodiversity.

Blean Beagles.

Mike Bax’s involvement with the Blean Beagles ended 12 years ago, in 2005. He has had no role in the Blean Beagles’ affairs since then. However, he and others have been referred to as Honorary Masters since that time simply in recognition of past association. It has been claimed on social media that Mike Bax is still master of the Blean Beagles, but this is not the case.

In 2005 the Blean Beagles was reconstituted and this is when Mike Bax’s involvement ceased. Kent Wildlife Trust has seen the Articles of Association that established the successor managing body of the Blean Beagles and which names the key officers; we have also seen the Notice of the Extraordinary General Meeting in 2005 which agreed the change. Mike Bax’s name does not appear in either.

It has been stated that Mike Bax’s name appears on the Companies House Register for the Blean Beagles. This is not the case and can be checked by members of the public (at no cost) on the Companies House website (https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/). Mike Bax does not have any involvement with the committee that runs the Blean Beagles, nor is he a subscriber (a member).

Specific claims have been made that hunting directories continue to list Mike Bax as a master of the Blean Beagles. We’d like to provide a bit more information about this: one directory, Baily’s, in editions 2005 to 2008, says correctly that Mike Bax is a former master.

Another directory, The Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles Green Book in the edition for 2016/17, incorrectly lists Mike Bax as one of seven masters of the Blean Beagles. The publication was notified of the need to delete Mike Bax’s name earlier this year. We understand the new edition will be published in mid-summer with this correction. It is understandable that this error has led to confusion and concern, but we can confirm that Mike Bax’s involvement with the Blean Beagles ended in 2005.

There have been claims that Mike Bax has been hunting illegally with hounds. Mike categorically denies these allegations. Anyone with information about illegal hunting should contact the police.

Pheasant Shoot.

Claims and images have been used on social media to imply that Mike Bax runs a pheasant shoot on his farm. Mike Bax purchased Street End Wood, next to his farm, in 2007 at which time the local shoot was already in place on this land. The shoot has continued with Mike Bax’s permission, but he plays no part in its management, nor does he receive income from the shoot.

Mike Bax makes land available to the shoot along with five neighbouring landowners. Claims have been made about the shoot’s use of snares. Kent Wildlife Trust has been assured that snares are not used in the management of this shoot but we are aware that poaching is a problem in the local area. The police have attended the property on a number of occasions in response to concerns about poaching, the last of which was in September 2016.

A picture has been used on social media which allegedly shows pheasant chicks destined for Mike Bax’s farm. Kent Wildlife Trust has been assured that Mike Bax does not and has never raised pheasants on his farm. The picture has no association with Mike Bax whatsoever.

A campaign against Mike Bax cannot change the legal activities of the Blean Beagles because he is not involved with them and has no jurisdiction over their management. Mike is not involved in the management of the local shoot but instead actively manages and enhances his land for wildlife.

Kent Wildlife Trust

We’d like to provide a bit more information to the statement we published on 28th March, both to reiterate and provide further clarification on some important areas.

Kent Wildlife Trust does not allow field sports on Kent Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, the very few exceptions being where we do not have control of shooting rights, and coarse fishing. Pursuing specified live quarry (e.g. foxes, hares) with dogs is against the law (The Hunting Act 2004).

A number of people have asked about the Trust’s view on field sports. As a nature conservation charity it is not in the Trust’s remit to campaign for or against field sports on principle. However, we do raise concerns and sometimes challenge aspects of field sports where they have a damaging impact on the conservation of populations of wild plants or animals. As a conservation charity we are obliged to make this distinction to ensure we keep focussed on our charitable purpose. There are other charities and groups set up for the express purpose of promoting and challenging field sports and the Trust’s role is different. However, we recognise that for some people these issues are closely entwined; we respect this and it is understandable they hold the views they do.

Kent Wildlife Trust’s Council of Trustees consists of volunteers from a range of backgrounds representing financial and legal skills, ecologists, scientists, community workers, and others; they are all elected from members and supporters, by the membership and all have a deep commitment to Kent’s wildlife and the Trust’s work. Trustees are required by law to uphold the interests and the objectives of the charity when making decisions in Council meetings. In a charity, it is the body of Trustees, not a single person, that determines the policy. http://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/who-we-are/our-trustees.

Kent Wildlife Trust has a broad spectrum of members. We work with a wide range of people to help wildlife here in Kent, and we value the views of everyone who supports us and works with us. We try to bridge divides and bring people together behind a shared endeavour to help the natural world. We never condone illegal activity.

Our aim is to ensure that 30% of Kent and Medway - land and sea - is managed to create a healthy place for wildlife to flourish. The Trust cares for over 65 nature reserves covering more than 8,000 acres of land for wildlife, including over 55 miles of roadside nature reserve. The total of land and sea that Kent Wildlife Trust manages or has influenced to benefit wildlife is 27,500 hectares, so working in partnership with others is really important. We find that when it comes to managing land for wildlife, having a range of different perspectives and people involved really helps us to achieve more.

We would invite anyone who has continued concerns to contact Kent Wildlife Trust directly via info@kentwildlife.org.uk.