Lapwing cpt Wildstock
Our grassland wildlife – including much-loved species like the curlew, the skylark and the lapwing, as well as a host of butterflies and a huge diversity of grasses, flowers and fungi - will not survive without a long-term commitment, secure funding and effective regulation.
It is time for Government and businesses to fully recognise the value of grasslands for pollination, water quality, water storage, carbon storage and high quality food production.
It is time to recognise the value to local economies and communities of keeping places like our hay meadows, chalk grassland and floodplain meadows as attractive features in our landscape. This wonderful 'natural capital' must be fully taken into account in policy decisions on agriculture, planning and water management.
Current measures to protect what’s left of our precious grasslands are weak and we are losing irreplaceable sites – our best remaining fragments. As a matter of urgency the Government must recognise the key role that our grassland habitats play in the ecological networks that are so critical to our future and must act now to halt the loss.
The Wildlife Trusts are calling for a full review of existing protection for environmentally important grasslands and are asking the Government to:
• Improve existing laws and policies and effectively enforce them
Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations need to be strengthened and grasslands should be given better protection through planning policy.
• Support wildlife-rich grasslands on farmland
Farmers should be fully rewarded for managing important grasslands (eg through the new farm environment schemes) and, during the lifetime of the new Common Agricultural Policy programme 2015-2020, stronger requirements for the protection of environmentally sensitive grasslands, should be attached to the direct payments all farmers receive from the public purse.
• Award statutory protection to more grassland sites that deserve it
Species-rich grassland sites that qualify should become protected SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) as quickly as possible.
• Set up a national grassland inventory
A new national inventory of important grasslands in England needs to be established with sustained monitoring of sites in the future.
• Restore more wildlife-rich grasslands
Grassland restoration projects delivered in partnership with landowners by local Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and others should be encouraged and sustained as part of local ecological networks.
We are committed to working in partnership with landowners, businesses and communities to help secure the future of our remaining fragments of wildlife-rich meadows and pastures, but we urgently need the Government to play its part if we are to halt and reverse the decline.