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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what happened in the last month. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Ellie Ward. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

November Top stories

Environment Bill

Throughout November the Environment Bill has been before its Commons Bill Committee, with Committee members drawn from all parties considering suggested amendments. Many of these amendments originated from Link members and we have been working with Greener UK to communicate the need for these changes to the Bill to MPs through a series of briefings – including briefings on the Bill’s proposed targets, nature clauses and water clauses. We have also responded to new Government amendments to the Bill introduced to give legal underpinning to species strategies and habitats strategies, and to change wildlife licensing. Link members support the principle behind some of these changes but are concerned that their application could be motivated by development facilitation, rather than nature conservation. We will continue to highlight these concerns.

The Bill is due to move to Commons Report stage in December and will then progress to the Lords. Link will continue to work with members and Greener UK to press home the key amendments needed to enhance the Bill, and ensure it legislates for ambitious targets and robust structures to support nature’s recovery.

Annual Wildlife Crime Report

On 6 November, the Link Wildlife Crime Working Group launched their annual Wildlife Crime Report through an online roundtable, chaired by Baroness Natalie Bennett. The Group has produced a report every year since 2016 – with official recording of wildlife crime still being very patchy, Link members have had to step in to fill the gap. As this year’s report stressed, ancient forms of cruelty against wildlife like badger baiting and hare coursing are increasingly being joined by new crimes, facilitated by modern technology. This year’s report called for better recording of wildlife crime, better training and more resources for the police officers leading the fight against it and reform of the patchwork of outdated laws that hinder prosecution of it. After a year when we have come to value nature more than ever before, urgent action is needed to better protect the thousands of wild animals killed every year.

10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution

The Prime Minister announced his ‘10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ on the 18th of November this month. The announcement included the creation of new National Parks and AONBs as well as a commitment to an additional £40m for the Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

This represents a shift in the way the Government are communicating on the environment, as they seek to be a world leader ahead of hosting COP26 in 2021. However, the scale of funding available remains significantly short of the levels needed to secure nature's recovery. The Green Recovery Challenge Fund was oversubscribed by 10x in 2020.

On designated landscapes, investment must be funnelled toward improving nature inside existing designated landscapes, not just creating new ones. At present only a quarter of SSSIs are in favourable condition inside National Parks, compared with over a third in the wider landscape.

30 X 30

The Prime Minister’s August commitment to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030 is a significant opportunity to protect the last remnants of natural habitat and restore degraded ecosystems that are important for wildlife, people, and an effective response to climate change. However, the Government has underestimated the effort required to deliver 30% effectively. While the Government has suggested that 26% of land in England is protected, the majority of this land is not specifically designated for nature’s protection. Even where there are environmental designations in place, this includes many poorly-managed sites that are not in good condition and lack regular monitoring. A meaningful 30% commitment cannot simply be fulfilled by designating a new National Park.

In a policy briefing, the Link Nature and Wellbeing Strategy Group outlined how the Government can deliver 30x30 in a meaningful and effective way. Link members set out the conditions the Government should meet to count land as protected under its 30% target. If these are met – in combination with more sustainable management across the whole country – this could provide the foundation for the recovery of habitats and species and a nature-positive economy for everyone.

Blogs

This month saw the launch of Natural England’s Nature Recovery Network Partnership, a broad network of cross-sectoral organisations including NGOs, agencies, and private businesses who are committed to delivering the Nature Recovery Network. Link published the full speech made by Hilary McGrady, Director General of the National Trust, at the launch.

Other blogs include Rhiannon Niven of RSPB exploring the ambition required of the water clauses in the Environment Bill to ensure a sustainable future for water, and Jim Foster of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust discussing the recent Wild Justice victory on pheasant release licensing and sharing remaining concerns over impacts on our reptiles.

Other blogs, publications and press releases this month include:


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