Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
The Prime Minister’s New Year resolution is clearly to talk about more than just Brexit. In her first major policy speech of the year, Theresa May launched the long awaited Environment Plan at the London Wetland Centre. It sets the direction of travel in policy areas from plastics, pollution and pollinators over the next 25 years.
The Prime Minister had already addressed the issue of hunting in an interview with Andrew Marr last weekend when she confirmed what we all knew, and what her Government had already made clear – there can be no vote on the Hunting Act in this Parliament.
The Environment Plan is full of good intentions and aspirations for the natural environment in England. Few could object to the goals of “enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment” or seeing “thriving plants and wildlife”. The question is how these goals are going to be delivered, and by whom.
Whilst it is encouraging that the work of farmers in maintaining and improving our natural environment has been recognised, it is disappointing that the 150 page Environment Plan contains no references to shooting and only one mention of recreational fishing. There is a section on peatland restoration that ignores the work being done by grouse moor managers across the country to improve peat habitat; and there is a section on recovering biodiversity that lacks any acknowledgement that it is on land managed for shooting where you are most likely to see a curlew.
The countryside is a place of great beauty and a habitat for wildlife, but it is also a place of work and home to millions of people. It is vital that delivery of the Environment Plan involves working with rural communities not imposing solutions on them. This is particularly important in the area of wildlife law and the Countryside Alliance is leading the debate on wildlife policy outside the EU, with the publication of a collection of essays on this theme.
The Prime Minister quoted from one of the contributors of our essay collection, Sir Roger Scruton, in her speech to launch the Environment Pan – “the goal towards which serious environmentalism and serious conservatism both point – namely, home, the place where we are and that we share, the place that defines us, that we hold in trust for our descendants, and that we don’t want to spoil”.
We will work to make sure that all conservationists are able to contribute to this task.
Follow me at @CA_TimB