Government needs to do more to protect wildlife
The Government needs to address the focus of its wildlife conservation policies, according to a report by a coalition of the UK’s leading conservation organisations, which challenges the government to reverse the declines of all the UK’s threatened species and habitats by implementing a 10-point plan.
The Government’s Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) have been valuable, providing clear benefits to species which had previously been of concern, such as the otter, stone-curlew and dormouse, according to the report, Biodiversity Counts: providing a better quality of life. However, a number of species, including the skylark, the Deptford pink and the marsh fritillary butterfly, are still in a perilous state of decline, and some government departments and agencies have failed to fully engage with the BAP process, says the report.
The ten point plan outlined by the report calls for:
- the imagination to deliver a real increase in the extent of priority habitats, including heathland, downland and woodland, in a way that improves public access, human health, and biodiversity;
- a shift in agricultural payments away from intensive production to support for sustainable rural development, including positive wildlife management;
- the government to meet climate change targets by cutting carbon emissions by 20% by 2010;
- positive management of all protected conservation sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), over the next five years;
- the full transportation of the EU Water Framework Directive into UK law in order to provide the government, its agencies, and industry with a framework to protect and enhance the biological diversity of wetland ecosystems;
- the adoption of a policy on sea level rise of no net loss of priority wildlife habitats;
- the introduction of a bold package of policy and legislative measures designed to protect the marine environment;
- revision of planning guidance to ensure that the planning system contributes to the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity;
- consideration of biodiversity through strategic environmental assessment of all plans, policies and programmes;
- effective monitoring of species and habitats in the UK, with adequate research into biodiversity, followed by the effective distribution of this information.
“Only by commitment to the complete package of ten recommendations will the government realise the promises it made in response to the Rio Summit,” said Dr Mark Avery, Chair of the Biodiversity Challenge Group. “We cannot simply pay lip-service to improving our wildlife without taking action. In this report the group has clearly and succinctly set out the solutions to the BAP challenges and urges the government to take immediate action.”
“Conservation in the UK would benefit if the government implemented our 10-point plan, but people would benefit greatly too,” added Avery. “Conserving wildlife, re-creating lost habitats and protecting the environment all add to people’s quality of life. Our proposals will bring benefits to public health, rural employment and recreation. It is therefore important that the government ensures that all of its agencies and departments fully support conservation objectives.”
The report was compiled by Biodiversity Challenge, a group of six conservation organisations: Butterfly Conservation, Friends of the Earth, Plantlife, The RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and WWF-UK, which came together in response to the development of the Convention on Biological Diversity following the ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The group is keen to emphasise the benefits to mankind from biodiversity, including improvements in quality of life from appreciating wildlife and habitats, to the protection from flooding provided by wetlands.