Jehovah’s Witnesses in Britain have begun constructing their new branch office near Chelmsford, in the county of Essex. This scenic area is home to several species of wildlife that are protected in the United Kingdom by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. What are Jehovah’s Witnesses doing during construction to comply with the Act and protect these species?
Using recycled timber from the site, the Witnesses built small nesting boxes to coax hazel dormice away from the work zone. They also constructed a specially designed dormouse bridge over the new entrance road to ensure that the dormouse habitat of trees and hedgerows remains connected. In addition, the Witnesses are following a hedgerow maintenance program designed specifically for the benefit of the dormice. During each annual hibernation season, a different section of hedgerow is cut back. This rotational approach minimizes disturbance to the dormice, protecting their habitat and ensuring that they always have a range of food sources available on the site.
The Witnesses are also protecting grass snakes, common lizards, and small limbless lizards known as blindworms. Ecologists collected these reptiles from underneath roof tiles that were provided as temporary refuges and then moved the creatures to a safe area away from the construction zone. The new reptile habitat includes hibernation chambers and a special exclusion fence. Witnesses check the fence regularly to ensure that the reptiles cannot reenter construction areas, where they might be harmed.
To avoid disrupting the nighttime activity of vespertilionid bats, the site uses LED lamp fixtures that limit the spread of light. These fixtures illuminate when they sense vehicle movement, preserving as much darkness as possible for the bats. Because bats frequently forage for food at night in the hedgerows around the site, most of these hedgerows will be retained and over two and a half kilometers (1.6 mi) of new ones will be planted. The removal of some trees from the site was unavoidable, so workers installed bat boxes to compensate for the loss of potential roosts.
The Witnesses are preserving a number of valuable trees—known as veteran trees—by keeping construction traffic away from their root-growing areas. Veteran trees provide a habitat for many species of invertebrates, bats, and birds. In all these ways, the Witnesses are determined to continue protecting the wildlife in Chelmsford.