UK Wildlife Law

UK Wildlife Law

©Luke Massey/2020VISION

Below are some of the Acts and legislation that protects wildlife and wild places in the UK - scroll to the bottom of the page for a more comprehensive list.

The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981

This is the primary mechanism for wildlife protection in Britain. This legislation covers four areas:

  1. Wildlife protection, including protection of wild birds, their eggs and nests, protection of other animal and protection of plants

  2. Nature Conservation, Countryside & National Parks

  3. Public Rights of Way

  4. Miscellaneous provisions

National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949

This Act allowed the creation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales. 

Hedgerows Regulations 1997

These regulations fall under the local authority and are intended to protect important hedgerows from removal. Owners and managers must request permission from their local authority before removing a hedgerow, and permission may not be granted if it supports a diverse range or protected species. 

Protection of Badgers 1992

This animal welfare legislation protects badgers and their setts, and makes it illegal to:

  • Wilfully capture, injure or kill a wild badger
  • Be in possession of of a live or dead badger
  • Destroy or obstruct access to an active badger sett

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010

These regulations came into effect to combine the various amendments made to the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 with regards to England and Wales. They cover the designation and protection of European sites and the protection of European protected species.

Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000

The protection of SSSIs (Site of Special Scientific Interest), already established in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, is strengthened in this legislation. The Act also allows for prosecution of third parties that damage or destroy a SSSI. 

Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996

This Act offers protects a form of protection to all wild species of mammals and is more of an animal welfare than conservation Act. 

Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act 2006

This legislation enabled the amalgamation of English Nature with the Countryside Agency and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' Rural Development Service to form a new agency called 'Natural England', which came into existence in October 2006.

The importance of biodiversity conservation was given a legal basis, requiring government departments to have regard for biodiversity in carrying out their functions, and to take positive steps to further the conservation of listed species and habitats. Local government was given a statutory duty to further the conservation and enhancement of SSSIs, both in carrying out operations, and in exercising decision-making functions.