New havens for wildlife - Richard Benyon

BCN Wildlife Trust

In your centenary year, The Wildlife Trusts have played a huge role in helping us deliver our vision for Nature Improvement Areas (NIA).

The Wildlife Trusts have helped lead the way in taking forward a landscape-scale approach that reconnects people with the natural world.

The Wildlife Trusts’ 112 Living Landscape schemes now cover 1.5m hectares up and down the UK and are helping create a national network of wildlife rich areas that benefit people and local economies.

The Wildlife Trusts have helped lead the way in taking forward a landscape-scale approach that reconnects people with the natural world.

The benefits are clear.  Not only will we end up with large, joined-up high quality conservation areas, but we will also see cleaner waters in our rivers and wetlands and more sustainable, low-carbon communities that enhance the rural economy. And as if that wasn’t enough, they will also help the natural environment and local communities adapt to climate change.

I believe that these NIAs will not only restore species and create new habitats but will also provide local employment opportunities and enable the promotion of locally grown food.

I would like to thank The Wildlife Trusts for their key role in developing partnerships, involving other NGOs, landowners, local authorities and business.  I am delighted to announce that The Wildlife Trusts are to lead the NIA partnerships in Birmingham and the Black Country, Humberhead Levels, the Meres and Mosses of the Marches and the Nene Valley.

Wildlife Trusts are also deeply involved in jointly running the Northern Devon NIA and are to play crucial partnership roles in the Dark Peak, South Downs and Wild Purbeck projects.

These partnerships see the creation of new natural woodlands, the restoration of heathland habitats, an improvement in our vital peatlands, cleaner rivers and enhanced chalk grasslands.

Species such as the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel in the River Torridge in North Devon and the Duke of Burgundy butterfly in the South Downs will be helped through this initiative along with many farmland birds.

All of us will see the benefits of the Nature Improvement Areas, not just in our glorious countryside, but also in urban and surburban areas, such as Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton, where our ecological diversity is among the poorest, due in part to high housing density and deprivation.  I believe that we can make real changes in these areas by some simple but carefully targeted action.

I have been deeply impressed with the partnership work and sheer enthusiasm that the NIA competition has generated.  The Wildlife Trusts have led from the front. Today marks a new and exciting opportunity to enhance and restore our habitats and species and I look forward to visiting as many NIAs in the next 12 months as I can.

I hope these 12 will encourage many more NIAs to be set up across the country fulfilling our Natural Environment White Paper ambition to see NIAs wherever the benefits or the opportunities are greatest driven by the knowledge and expertise of local people, and for these areas to be recognised in Local Plans.  Please be assured this is far from the total of our ambitions.  Our Natural Environment White Paper and the England Biodiversity Strategy show many other ways we in Government will work with others to reverse the decline in the quality of the natural environment.