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Link was set up in 1980 by a group of voluntary organisations that recognised the effectiveness of putting forward a consensus view. Since that time, the Link membership has grown considerably and, as a coalition, achieved a great deal for the natural environment. Early successes include helping to secure the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1981; an International Whaling Commission moratorium in 1986; the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000; and the Marine and Coastal Access Act in 2009.


Post-Brexit joint voice for the environment
Following the EU Referendum, a Brexit blog series has naturally evolved as members want to outline priorities for the environment to decision makers.
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Members have used the series to explore how Brexit can be turned into an environmental opportunity. They have also raised concerns about the uncertainty ahead in articles like UK science faces huge uncertainty post-Brexit. The blogs have become a popular forum with a good readership.

National Wildlife Crime Unit
Members came together to campaign to save the National Wildlife Crime Unit, a world leading police unit dedicated to supporting wildlife crime investigations.
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Link's Wildlife Crime and Trade Group campaigned to secure funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit which was under threat of closure. The Chair of the Group wrote a blog outlining concerns over funding, noting the significant work they undertake. This blog was shared widely across social media and Link was quoted alongside member organisations in two national news articles. In March 2016 it was announced that the Unit’s funding was secured for four years, with extra funding to combat cybercrime, an increasing pathway for the illegal trade of fauna and flora, also discussed in a blog from one of Link’s members.

Farming Fit For the Future and Water Matters
Published two key reports setting out how the natural environment can underpin healthy farmland, rivers, lakes and wetlands in England.
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Launched in 2015, Farming Fit for the Future and Water Matters create powerful visions for farming and our water, at a time when action needs to be taken to reverse the decline in our natural environment. The overarching themes addressed in Water Matters and Farming fit for the Future include pollution, climate change, long-term planning, and restoring wildlife and the countryside.

Habitats and Birds Directives
Persuaded 100 organisations across the UK to join forces to defend nature and worked, with members, to motivate nearly half a million people to call for the law to continue to protect habitats and birds across Europe
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Working with sister Links in the devolved countries, Link positioned itself so that it could influence the European Commission’s current evaluation of the Habitats and Birds Directives. The Directives are under threat from politicians who want to use the review to weaken legislation protecting key habitats and species in the UK.

  • From May-July 2015, working with member organisations, the joint Links group raised awareness of a European public consultation about the Directives, which led to nearly half a million public responses calling for the law, and nature, to be protected - the largest response ever to a consultation on any European law
  • In May 2015, the joint Links group successfully persuaded 100 organisations across the UK to issue a joint position statement calling for the protection of Europe’s natural environment provided by the Habitats and Birds Directives
Marine conservation
Launched a Marine Charter calling for the swift designation of a representative and well managed Ecologically Coherent Network of Marine Protected Areas in UK seas by 2016.
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Launched in 2014, the Charter was subsequently signed by 152 MPs and 22 Peers. During a Link parliamentary reception in November 2014, speakers from the main political parties thanked Link for bringing key people together on such an important issue and all endorsed the Charter, promising to complete the network during the next Parliament.

Floods and dredging – a reality check
In February 2014, following the worst floods in decades, Link’s Blueprint for Water coalition and the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management published this highly influential report
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The Blueprint for water coalition published its follow up report ‘Dredging up Trouble’. Government is now aware that dredging is not a holistic solution to stopping future flooding.

Agri-environment schemes
In October 2014, a strongly-worded Link letter to Liz Truss, Secretary of State at Defra, secured confirmation that the new Countryside Stewardship scheme will ‘focus on providing genuine environmental benefits and better value for taxpayers’ money’
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Link’s intervention was precipitated by lobbying activities by farming unions, which threatened to weaken environmental protection elements of scheme.

Planning Policy and Guidance
Throughout 2014, Link engaged with the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, and with Government officials, to secure key commitments regarding sustainable development, protection of ancient woodland and the use of brownfield sites
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International Whaling Commission
Link had a significant influence on the outcomes of the 65th meeting of the IWC in Slovenia in September 2014
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Two Link representatives were included in the UK Government’s delegation and, working closely with Defra officials, the Defra Minister and the IWC Commissioner prior to the meeting, Link contributed to a UK-led welfare initiative and action plan agreed by the Commission. This significant achievement will ensure that a broad range of animal welfare issues are properly considered by the IWC. Defra Minister, George Eustice, subsequently wrote to Link, saying “I and the Defra officials very much value the expertise you bring to discussions and the support provided to the Defra team.” He also thanked the Link representatives “for your excellent work as part of the UK delegation and the valuable contribution you made to achieving a successful outcome to the meeting”.

Wildlife Trade
In 2014, Link successfully lobbied the Government to provide medium-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which assists UK Police forces in the prevention and detection of wildlife crime
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As a reflection of its coordinating role, Link now hold quarterly meetings with the Head of the Unit and is an invited member on the CPS’s Community Involvement Panel, which brings together stakeholders to discuss prosecution of wildlife crimes. Link was also successful in persuading the Minister to include cybercrime in its recent review of the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (COTES), which delivers the UK’s obligations arising from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Nature Check 2013
In November 2013, Link launched its Nature Check 2013 report in parliament. In her speech , Link’s Director, called on the Prime Minister to formally restate the Government’s vision and commitment to the natural environment and send a clear message across Government that nature is not an optional luxury, but is critical to a thriving economy and to the health and wellbeing of millions of people
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In his key note speech, Lord De Mauley, Defra Minister, said of Link: “You have a vital role to play and are potentially the most powerful ally we have to deliver growth while improving the environment.” Feedback from senior civil servants confirmed that Nature Check is a powerful tool in both holding Defra to account and supporting its work by influencing those in wider Government.

Triennial Review of the agencies
In 2013, Link worked with member CEOs to lobby against the Governments preferred option of merging Natural England and the Environment Agency
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Link coordinated a formal response to the Government’s consultation, organised a high level stakeholder workshop, and contributed to a meeting with the then Minister, Richard Benyon MP. Link is advised that a merger was avoided in large part through Link’s lobbying and advocacy work through 2012 and 2013.

Wildlife Law legislation
Since 2012, Link has played a key role in influencing the outcomes of the wildlife law review, conducted by the Law Commission
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Dr Keith Vincent, the lawyer leading the review, said “Wildlife and Countryside Link has been exceptionally useful to the Law Commission in its wildlife law reform project - which was proposed by Defra. In the early stages of the project, Link facilitated meetings allowing the Law Commission to conduct outreach to the wider community of wildlife and environmental stakeholders. During our consultation phase, Link organised meetings and submitted an invaluable submission that we have drawn on in formulating our policy for any future wildlife Bill.”