Nature must be top priority

Wednesday 5th September 2012

Implementing the Government’s own stated ambitions for nature must be the top priority for new Secretary of State.

The Wildlife Trusts are calling on new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson MP, to stand up for wildlife and ensure the Government delivers on its commitments to our landscape and seas. 

The movement will do all it can to support him in his new challenge.

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said the top priority for Owen Paterson, should be to drive forward implementation of the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper and the 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act.  She said: 

“The Wildlife Trusts applauded the Natural Environment White Paper’s ambition when it was launched in June 2011.  In particular we supported the commitment it made to our leaving the natural environment in a better state than that we inherited it in.   

“We had hoped that the economic crisis would open people’s eyes to the need for a new approach to the country’s future.  Sadly, since June 2011 there have been a barrage of announcements and rhetoric that suggest this is not a cross-Government intention.  This re-shuffle continues this trend.  It wipes out some of the key opponents to short termism.  It signals a green light for out-dated thinking on everything environmental - ranging from site protection to road schemes and airport expansion. 

“Owen Paterson has his work cut out to deliver the Government’s forward-looking White Paper:  that is to save our precious marine wildlife sites before it’s too late and to start the process of putting some wildlife back into our countryside.

“The Shropshire Wildlife Trust has worked with Mr Paterson in his constituency and the movement will do all it can to support him in his new challenge.  But the odds are stacked against us and we will need everyone in this country who cares about wildlife and their children’s future to support us.

“The Government has once again returned to rhetoric painting the environment as a barrier to the economy.  We want to see Owen Paterson challenging these statements and ensuring that the whole Government realises that a healthy environment is vital to the economy.  Otherwise we risk repeating the unnecessary destruction that characterised the country’s approach to nature throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s when we nearly wiped out the otter and decimated the habitat of so much of our other wildlife.  

“He must stop the anti environment rhetoric dead in its tracks, force a re-think and start to deliver the Government’s pledges on the environment.  All departments must be reminded of our dependence on the environment as a life support mechanism, of the density of our population and intensity of our resource use, and of the critical role nature plays in our well-being.   Unless we start to value the natural environment the only way is down.”