The Countryside Alliance has responded to the Government’s Nature recovery green paper: protected sites and species. Our response to the Nature recovery green paper can be read here.
The background is our exit from the EU that has provided an opportunity to reform the way in which we regulate our environment. A new framework of environmental targets was introduced under the Environment Act, including a target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. The Agriculture Act has established Environmental Land Management Schemes and now the Government are looking at the way in which we designate and protect sites and species.
The intention is that we have a consolidated system that is science and outcomes led and appropriate for this country, while respecting our international environmental commitments. The Government are not seeking to reduce the level of protection but recognises that the current system of designations and protections is simply not working. There has been increasing recognition that the existing environmental regulatory landscape is overly complex, with a muddle of different types of site designations, often overlapping, and that it is not delivering for habitats or species. There is also a lack of legal clarity in many areas and the way in which the existing Habitats Regulations are being applied has led to wildlife law being weaponised by those with other agendas.
The repeated legal challenges brought by Wild Justice over recent years to wildlife licences, gamebird releasing and the heather burning regulations, more about which can be read here, have thrown these shortcomings in the existing legal framework into sharp relief. To the Government’s credit, it has recognised the challenge and the need for substantial reform so that we have a system that delivers for wildlife and for those who have to operate under it. The Government must take this opportunity for reform. In doing so it must listen to those who live and work in the countryside – to the farmers, keepers and shooters and all those who undertake so much essential wildlife and environmental management. Without them the Government cannot achieve its environmental ambitions, which would be bad for the countryside and bad for all of us. The Nature recovery green paper is a start, but cannot be the end.