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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what's happened in September. 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 Emma Clarke. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

September Top stories

Comprehensive Spending Review

We set out our key spending asks for the next four years to the Treasury last week in our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review. They include:
• 1 billion annual investment needed in priority terrestrial and marine habitat creation and restoration
• £3-4 billion annual investment in world-leading, high standards, in food and farming
• £142 million annual investment in sustainable fisheries and marine protection
• £741 million for a National Nature Service to provide new jobs for unemployed people in restoring nature
• At least £1 billion investment in levelling up access to nature by creating and improving green spaces, particularly in deprived areas
• a one-off investment of £150 million in environmental information and data, plus an annual investment of at least £331 million in advice, enforcement and expertise in arms-length bodies and Local Authorities
• £6 million annual investment in invasive species biosecurity to prevent a drastic increase in costs to the economy from invasive species damage
The Chancellor is likely to delay the spending review for another year, which could leave nature in limbo. However, we will continue to engage with the Government and call for these investments which are so crucial to shore up ecological and economic resilience for the future.

Not one river or lake in England is in good health

Long-awaited water quality data was released this month, revealing that 0% of rivers, lakes and streams are classed as in good health in England, despite a target for all waters to be in good health by 2027. When figures were last published in 2016, 16% of waters were classed as good.

The figures released show that the proportion of English waters in good health is one of the worst in Europe, with a European average of 40% of surface water bodies in good health.

Healthy waters are crucial to the survival of humans and all other living things. This affects our crops, our wildlife, the nature sites we love to visit, our water bills and so much more. We need the Government to ensure we have the legal commitments, high standards, pollution prevention and funding to turn the tide for our rivers.

Prevention is better than cure for nature invaders

Our new report, Prevention is Better than Cure: A Diagnosis on the state of UK Invasive Species Biosecurity, calls on Government to increase the budget for invasive species biosecurity from £1 million to £6 million per year to fund greater specialist capacity, strategic control and a dedicated inspectorate for invasive species. We estimate that this additional investment would save the UK economy £2.7 billion by 2040 – a return on investment of £23 for every £1 spent.

23 organisations and individuals, including environmental charities, water and construction companies, and Members of Parliament, wrote to HM Treasury Minister Kemi Badenoch in support of the report’s recommendations.

The story – including a newly released list of the top ten most high risk invasive species to the UK – was covered extensively in national and regional press including the Times and the Daily Mirror.

Farming funding limbo

This week, we wrote to the Secretary of State to outline our concerns about the newly proposed Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) – an interim scheme that would run from 2022-24. A carefully managed transition with tailored support and advice are critical to the success of future farming policy, but we are concerned that the SFI could complicate the transition and pay for practices that do not deliver additional environmental imrpovement. This risks delay, digression and divergence from the principle of public money for public goods, which would fail to prepare farmers for the future and offer little value to taxpayers or the environment.

We also expressed concerns about lack of progress of the Future Farming and Countryside Programme as a whole. To get the programme back on track, we called on the Secretary of State to:

• Ensure that transitional funding to 2024 is used, as originally intended, as a ‘stepping stone’ to a new ELM scheme in 2025. This should focus on adapting the current Countryside Stewardship Programme to prepare farmers for the public goods focussed future, rather than devising an entirely new scheme.
• set out overarching objectives for ELM as a guiding star for designing a successful system
• publish a timetable and objectives for the ELM national pilot
• consult on the components of the Future Farming and Countryside Programme and how they join up

Getting green jobs off the ground

We have been promoting a key Comprehensive Spending Review ask – a National Nature Service, to tackle both the rapid decline of nature and the high unemployment we now face.

New Link research published today shows overwhelming support for the idea that Government should pay for employment in restoring nature (with 8 out of 10 Brits in favour) and highlights public concerns over the Government’s performance, and lack of investment, in tackling the nature and climate crises.
In our proposals for a National Nature Service, an investment of £741million would initially employ 15,000 people to create spaces for nature to recover in, planting trees, creating new urban parks and restoring wetlands. At the end of their placement, NNS employees would graduate as ‘rangers’, equipped with the green skills that will be in high demand over the coming years, to fill the nature job created by the Environment and Agriculture Bills and by the England Tree Strategy.

More information about the NNS can be found here.


This month, the Prime Minister announced the attention-grabbing 30x30. The UK will aim to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030, including 4,000 km2 of new land for nature in England. This is a welcome announcement for those who care about nature, but drawing lines on a map can only get you so far. Matt Williams, Public Policy Officer, National Trust reports on what we need to make this commitment meaningful.

Other blogs include Richard Benwell, CEO of Link, reflecting on concerning news about the health of our rivers and Dr Matt Elliott of the Woodland Trust kicking off Plant Heath Week with a blog on invasive species and how we need to do biosecurity better to combat this intensifying issue.

Other blogs, publications and press releases this month include:
Biodiversity and Ecosystems Inquiry - Link response 10.09.20
Can we harvest hope this organic September?
Failure on global and UK nature targets a wake-up call that UK governments must answer
Government’s new farm funding scheme puts environmental ambitions for agriculture at risk
Greener UK-Link Agriculture Bill Lords Report Stage briefing
INNSpiring change in biosecurity
Invasive species: politics and public opinion
Letter to the Prime Minister: Global Biodiversity Outlook
Link Comprehensive spending review submission
Link England Tree Strategy response 10.09.20
Link invasive species cost saving calculations
Make 30x30 meaningful
Official figures reveal not one river or lake in England is in good health
Prevention is better than cure: a diagnosis on the state of UK invasive species biosecurity
Link letter to Secretary of State - Sustainable Farming Incentive and Future Farming and Countryside Programme
Shouting the benefits of healthy oceans from the rooftops of parliament
Spend £6 million a year to save £2.7 billion on nature invader costs to the economy by 2040
Standing at a crossroad for humanity and nature
Water quality: the true story
What does it mean when a whole community of scientists from across the world calls for urgent action on whale, dolphin and porpoise conservation?
Why you should be using native ponies for conservation grazing

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