Farmland wildlife under threat

Friday 24th June 2011

Lapwing by Damian Waters

Ahead of the European Union budget announcement on Wednesday (29 June), The Wildlife Trusts are raising concerns that funding for farmers and landowners, who manage their land with wildlife in mind, may be hit.

Money for environment schemes which support wildlife-friendly farming may be in the firing line for budget cuts and The Wildlife Trusts - which last year worked with more than 5,000 farmers and landowners - are concerned about the future of such schemes over the next few years.

The leading UK conservation organisation for all wildlife will lobby to ensure that the environmental priorities, and corresponding funding requirements, are enhanced.

Paul Wilkinson, head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Across the UK, farmers and landowners are showing great leadership in building in to their core businesses action for wildlife. We can all be proud of what is being achieved.

“Funding through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and specifically Pillar II1, is critical to supporting this action for wildlife now, and in future, to secure nature’s recovery. If Wednesday brings proposed cuts to this vital funding, it will be huge steps backwards.

“We must all fight for this funding to be retained for it is support for wildlife-friendly farming practices which help to achieve a healthy long-term future for farmers, communities and wildlife.”

In the UK, more than £3bn per year is provided to support farmers. The outcomes agreed in the current reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will have a huge influence over how farmland across the UK is managed from 2014-2020, as well as setting the direction for agricultural policy.

The Wildlife Trusts urge this Government to press for the retention of the overall scale of funding to protect and enhance the natural environment:

• Pay land managers to deliver environmental services, such as carbon sequestration and flood water management2.
• Ensure Pillar II funds are available to protect wildlife-rich areas, such as Local Wildlife Sites; and investing Pillar II funds in the creation of Nature Improvement Areas (NIA).

Paul Wilkinson added:

“The UK should be proud of its history in having led the way on agri-environment schemes in 1987 and Government needs to fight to keep funding provision in Pillar II. The way our government handles this will be the first real test of the Natural Environment White Paper and its bold statement to ‘show environmental leadership internationally and within the EU to protect and enhance natural assets’.”