Government accused of failing to protect wildlife habitat

The UK branch of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF-UK) believes the government has failed to nominate enough territory for EU wildlife protection. A total of 340 wildlife sites in the UK have been nominated.

“We believe a much larger area should be protected. Other countries have nominated up to 15% of their total territory,” said Sandy Dodds, senior public affairs officer at WWF-UK. The UK has nominated 3.4% of its territory.

The sites have been nominated for status as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) under the European Habitats Directive. Any plan or project that will affect the integrity of a SAC can only be approved, in the absence of alternatives, on grounds of overriding public interest.

“Although the UK government is one of the first governments to submit its list of nominated SACs we are very disappointed by it,” said Dodds. WWF-UK has campaigned for more territory to be included in the SAC submission through its Living Countryside campaign.

Announcing the UK’s candidate SACs, Meacher called for quick approval from the European Commission: “We are urging the Commission to adopt all sites submitted by Member States which contain priority habitat types and species without further discussion so that these most vulnerable areas can receive the full protection of the Directive. We look forward to the meeting of Member States in the Atlantic biogeographic region planned for September so that the process of adoption of sites of Community importance can make progress.”

Sites nominated for SAC status include:

  • Mudflats and sandflats of the Northumberland Coast. breeding ground

    of the grey seal.

  • North Atlantic wet heaths and blanket bogs on Dartmoor.
  • Coastal sandbanks around the Isles of Scilly where the shore dock grows.
  • New Forest, which includes dry heaths and whose decaying tree roots are the natural home of the stag beetle.
  • Morecambe Bay Pavements, a limestone pavement site of a type rarely found outside the British Isles.

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