Towards A Wilder Britain

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts on new proposals for a Nature Recovery Network to help wildlife thrive in our towns and countryside

In these uncertain times more and more people want to make a positive difference personally. 43,000 volunteers are already active with their Wildlife Trust making their own contribution to the area in which they live. 

Today The Wildlife Trusts publish new proposals for a Nature Recovery Network to help wildlife thrive in our towns and countryside.The Network would be created by mapping existing important places for wildlife to be protected as well as key areas where habitats could be restored to create a more joined up landscape for wildlife. This would also help to create greener places for people to live and work in and deliver benefits to society. 

We believe that working together everyone can make a difference. There are no technical barriers to cleaning up our air, rivers and seas, or to restoring our habitats to allow wildlife to come back in all its abundance and beauty. The barriers are more political or cultural. And if there’s one thing that recent events have shown it’s that people can change, and politics and culture can move on.So please help us build a social network of a new kind. One focused on restoring our depleted natural world so that both people and wildlife can thrive in every town, city, coast and field of our country – a Nature Recovery Network. 

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Three Big Changes

There are three big things we need to do to make this network a reality:

1. New legislation which embeds positive environmental goals across every decision made by Government and drives change in industry.

2. Spatial plans - Make sure that these aims are based on reality by having spatial plans - nature recovery maps - for restoring our environment.

3. Align relevant government decisions behind this so that:
a) Local authorities have plans for nature’s recovery which steer their decisions about where houses and roads go;
b) Farmers are paid by the Government to do the right thing for wildlife and the health of our rivers and soils, as well as being paid by us when we buy their food
c) Fishing keeps wildlife safe at sea, leaving the seabed healthy and not taking out too many fish or other creatures (accidentally).

A Crunch Moment

This is a crunch time. Never before have the stakes been so high. With Brexit nothing is for certain anymore as all major regulations and policies affecting wildlife are thrown into jeopardy, and we face the spectre of new trade deals with countries with much lower environmental standards.

Between now and the 8 May the Westminster Government is consulting the public on the future of agriculture policy and on revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework for England. Next will come proposals for changes to fisheries policy and environmental governance.

Does any of this really matter to people like you and me?

Yes. Because we depend entirely on the right environmental policies for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the daily experiences we have as we walk down the street:

• When you look over the bridge, the river below may be clear and bubbling and full of fish - its edges alive with water voles or it could be heavy with brown sediment and fringed by green algae. This will be determined by what is being put into the river upstream – which in turn is influenced by environmental regulation and agricultural policy.

• When you tuck into your sandwich, the meat, fish or vegetables in it may be brimming with vitamins and good energy or may be packed with pesticides and hormones. This will be influenced by agricultural policy, food standards and future trade decisions.

• The new housing development you walk past may be silent and cold or it may be alive with the sound of birdsong and insects buzzing about and lift your spirits and reduce your anxiety. This can be determined by planning policy.

• The fields you may walk through at the weekend may be flat and lifeless or dynamic and alive with wide field margins. This will be affected by both agriculture and planning policy.

How you can help

The two big things you can do to help before the 8 May:

• Respond to the Agriculture Command Paper – say what you want to see

• Respond to the National Planning Policy Framework consultation – say what you value in new housing developments

Find out more about how you can do this here: actswiftly