Defend Nature - Q&A

Why is legislation protecting nature under threat?

The laws protecting our most important nature sites and wildlife species (the Birds and Habitats Directives) are under threat as part of a review of regulation by the European Commission, called the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). This is worrying because of mounting political pressure to weaken EU laws that actually provide enormous benefits to people and the environment.

Why are the Birds and Habitats Directives important?

The Birds and Habitats Directives (often known as the Nature Directives) are laws that provide the foundation of nature protection across the EU. They ensure that the most important places for nature in Europe are identified and given legal protection (by being made Natura 2000 sites), and they set out requirements to restore and manage these vital wildlife habitats. These laws also offer vital protection to more than 1,400 rare or threatened species of animals and plants by ensuring they are protected in these Natura 2000 sites and in the wider countryside.


The Nature Directives have been instrumental in the recovery of several iconic native EU species including Bittern, Grey Wolf and Iberian Lynx. Many of the special places protected by these laws are famous throughout the world – the wetlands of the Doñana National Park in Spain home to flamingos and imperial eagles, the lakes and marshes of the Danube Delta in Romania, home to pelicans and white tailed eagles, and ancient beech forests in Bavaria, and closer to home, the New Forest in Hampshire and Wiltshire.

The species and places protected by the Nature Directives are each unique and irreplaceable and deserve to be protected for their intrinsic value. Nature is also good for us: wetlands help protect us from floods, well managed forests help tackle climate change, provide timber and support nature, and regular time spent in nature is vital for our health and wellbeing. Increasingly economists and businesses are also recognising that a healthy and sustainable economy is dependent on our looking after nature.

Why take part in the public consultation?

The whole process of reviewing the Nature Directives started in January 2015 and will take more than a year. But right now is a crucial time for the public to express their opinion. The European Commission is running a public consultation to help it understand how important nature protection and its laws are to EU citizens.

When deciding whether to maintain or weaken the Nature Directives, the European Commission must take into account EU citizens’ support for nature and the relevance of these laws to its protection. By taking this online action you will be helping to demonstrate that people across the EU want nature to be better protected through keeping our nature laws intact and strong.

We need as many people as possible, from all 28 countries of the EU, to tell the European Commission to defend the Nature Directives. That means your participation is vital.

What am I agreeing to by taking this action?

This online action has been designed to enable people to express their desire to see nature properly protected on a scale that the European Commission will be unable to ignore. It allows you to send the European Commission a pre-prepared questionnaire response, without having to spend a lot of time completing it yourself.

Experienced nature experts from the organisations listed below filled in the answers to the key questions asked by the Commission. This is to make it easy for citizens to send a response defending nature and the Nature Directives.

You can read the questions and the answers to make sure that you agree with the answers that we have written before you take the action. If you don’t agree with our answers or you’d like to add some more information you can go directly to the European Commission site and fill in the questionnaire yourself here.

This is the main, and possibly only, opportunity for the public to have their say in this important debate on the future of Europe’s nature. We hope this online action will make it as easy as possible for you and other EU citizens to take part in the consultation process, and take a stand for nature.

Who stands behind the campaign?

This campaign has been organised by Birdlife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, and WWF. The Wildlife Trusts have been working in coalition with these and other UK partners on this campaign, to help ensure we help to give a strong domestic voice to the consultation process.

If you ticked the box, we will be glad to keep you informed about the campaign. Your personal data will be protected kept within The Wildlife Trusts. It will not be used for any commercial purpose.