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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 Jodie Le Marquand. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

May Top stories

Covid-19 and a ‘Green Recovery’

Link members have provided Defra and the Treasury with 300+ ‘shovel-ready’ projects in which the government could invest now to get people into work after the lock down and kick-start a green recovery from Covid-19. The projects add up to around 10,000 jobs, at least 200,000 ha of habitat created or restored and hundreds of species protected. Many of them also focus on enhancing nature in the most deprived areas of the country and connecting communities with the benefits it provides. We will be working with the government and others in our sector and beyond in the coming months to shape the recovery in a way that boosts our environmental, social and economic resilience.

In the immediate term though, many of our members have had problems on their sites and reserves with some members of the public taking advantage of relaxed restrictions but not respecting the rules of the countryside. There has been an increase in illegal parking, breaking into sites and littering in many places. So, we are asking people to enjoy nature respectfully and responsibly so that no wildlife is put at risk and everyone can benefit accessing clean, safe spaces.

Agriculture Bill finishes its Commons Stages

The Agriculture Bill has finished its first passage through the Commons and awaits its Second Reading in the House of Lords. In the Commons Report Stage debate, MPs focused largely on import standards amendments, with themes of food security and mandatory labelling. For Link and our partners at Greener UK, it was particularly encouraging to see strong support across the House in favour of public money for public goods. Read our Report Stage briefing here.

In terms of Parliamentary process, it was the first hybrid debate of its kind, with MPs speaking uninterrupted and Ministers not under the same level of scrutiny. There were varying degrees of internet connection strength and minor voting mishaps.

Welcome steps towards closing the doors on invasive species

The Government made some promising moves in its response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendations on tackling invasive species. Particularly positive is the commitment to explore the creation of a Nature Volunteer Force and an inspectorate to boost biosecurity and public awareness on this damaging issue for wildlife and the economy.

Our Policy Lead, Zoe Davies, said: ‘Invasive plants and animals cost our economy around two billion pounds per year and the price tag is set to soar with new post-Brexit trade routes and climate change opening the doors to more potential nature invaders. It’s welcome that the government is considering the EAC’s robust proposals on how to close the doors on nature invaders’ dual threat to our environment and our economy. Properly resourced biosecurity along with an engaged citizens’ army are essential to deliver an effective invasives’ line of defence, which can help make nature and our economy more healthy, and should form part of a green recovery after the covid-19 crisis.’

Concern over lack of investment in the water environment

Four water companies have referred their price determination to the Competition and Markets Authority, claiming determinations by Ofwat place at risk a number of schemes which would ease pressure on the environment and in some cases deliver significant environmental benefit in line with sustainability principles and customer desires. Blueprint for Water share the concern that the balance between price efficiency and investment in a healthy environment has not been struck. Read more in our full submission to the CMA here.

May blogs and publications

In the continued covid-lockdown, Brits are craving the ocean. A new survey, from Surfers Against Sewage showed that 84% of people are looking forward to their first trip to the beach. Amy Slack, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Surfers Against Sewage, details the results of this survey in her blog as well as the desired need for increased protections for our beaches post-pandemic.

David Cowdrey, Head of Policy & Campaigns at Ifaw, uses his blog to celebrate good news for elephants! This month, an appeal against the Ivory Act was dismissed. We are thankful for the Court’s decision to value the lives of elephants above the interests of those who want to profit from ivory. Andrew Allen, Lead Advocate at the Woodland Trust, shares his knowledge on how to utilise the huge opportunity of the England Tree Strategy; highlighting that trees and woods are not just carbon sponges but an integral part of the landscape, helping form networks of habitats and making our towns and cities better and resilient places to live.

Other Link blogs, publications and press releases this month:

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