Nature Improvement Areas

Friday 15th July 2011

Launching a competition to identify 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) is a welcome move by the Government, but restoration and recovery of the natural environment must take place with greater urgency, and across a much larger area than proposed in current plans, warn The Wildlife Trusts.

NIAs, as laid out in the Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP), will aim to increase the resilience of our natural environment through encouraging individuals and organisations to work at a larger scale, co-ordinating efforts to protect and restore the natural environment.

The Wildlife Trusts have long held that a partnership-led, landscape-scale approach to conservation is the only way to secure nature’s recovery. It is being practiced and championed by The Wildlife Trusts through 112 Living Landscape schemes around the UK.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“There are complex demands being placed on land for food, wildlife, recreation and development. Only by taking a strategic view, and involving local communities, will we be able to secure the survival of wildlife-rich places, and aid nature’s recovery in the face of pressures such as development and climate change.

There is a real opportunity, in the words of the Secretary of State, to ‘become the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it’, so it is critical that we don’t set our sights too low at the very beginning.

“The competition to identify 12 NIAs is a start, but we urgently need to see more of these areas identified across the country, and supported in local policy. With the right level of ambition, commitment and a more innovative approach to funding, the outcome could be not just bigger nature reserves, but healthy flowing rivers, and a landscape bursting with wildlife, from which landowners can make a living, and all can enjoy.

“There is a real opportunity, in the words of the Secretary of State, to ‘become the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it’, so it is critical that we don’t set our sights too low at the very beginning.”

In addition to NIAs, the Government today announced its intention to pilot biodiversity offsetting in order to mitigate the impacts of development on wildlife. Paul Wilkinson continued:

“Like NIAs, biodiversity offsetting presents the opportunity to build new thinking on the natural environment into Government policy. We see biodiversity offsetting as a measure that would only be considered once all other options for mitigating wildlife impacts have been exhausted. It should be an additional measure to the current protections which will recognise the wildlife value, or potential wildlife value, of land and seek to ensure this isn’t lost completely should a development go ahead.

“We would expect compensation for lost areas to be delivered in advance of development taking place, to allow the new habitat to establish.

“The natural environment is hugely undervalued in most decision-making processes. We hope that the new measures announced today will not be seen in isolation, but as part of a larger strategy, with the NEWP at its heart, to reverse this situation. The Wildlife Trusts will keep up pressure on the Government to deliver against its vision. We will continue to challenge for new policy and legislation, if we feel it is needed, to secure nature’s recovery.”

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