In January 1981, debate over the Wildlife and Countryside Bill was at its height in Parliament. The Bill was supposed to be the most thorough treatment of conservation and the countryside for many years, and among other things it was hoped that it would guarantee the survival of the last vestigial patches of semi-natural habitat in Britain. Controversy over the proposals was already fierce. How serious a problem was habitat loss? How destructive was modern intensive agriculture? How should farmers, and others, be prevented from damaging wildlife sites? In the middle of all this, an article appeared in New Scientist written by David Goode, who was the deputy chief scientist of the Nature Conser­ vancy Council, the government body responsible for nature conservation. Called ‘the threat to wildlife habitats’, the article explained quite simply that the Bill as it stood was not going to be strong enough to stop habitat loss.