What will the next government do for nature?
Roads and houses are being built upon some of our most precious nature sites – what will the next government do for nature?
In 2017 people across Europe are celebrating 25 years of protection of our most precious places for nature thanks to EU laws.
In the UK in the run up to the election Friends of the Earth is asking every party to commit to uphold the nature laws after we leave the EU – and to ensure that our wildlife and special places are better protected and restored in the future.
In the UK the places protected by EU laws include Dartmoor, Cardigan Bay, and Flamborough cliffs – a great place to see puffins.
Some rare bee species now depend on sites protected by the nature laws – like Salisbury Plain and the Pevensey Levels – because so much of our wildflower habitat has been lost from the wider countryside.
Places for people and nature
These places are great for our wildlife and they are fantastic for people too.
Having more nature in our lives is good for our health and wellbeing – something we’ll also be asking the new government to pay more attention to.
Our nature is in trouble – and it would be in worse trouble without these laws. But the laws are not always upheld.
Only 6% of the UK’s protected habitats are in favourable condition – one of the lowest amongst EU countries. That’s why we need a commitment to make things better for nature from the next government.
But some of our best loved nature sites are under threat Areas of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley are protected under EU law due to their importance for bats.
But a major development including a new road, housing, college and industrial buildings have been approved on this land, and a large maternity roost for bats could be moved.
Mary Newton, of the Dean Alliance, and Forest of Dean Friends of the Earth says:
It is sad that the ancient Forest of Dean, which was a haven for wildlife, is being fragmented by development. It is unnecessary because there are other places more appropriate for this development
Also in the South West, Fal Bay was awarded protected status over a decade ago for its exceptional biodiversity, the bay contains magnificent rocky seaweed habitats, stunning spotted rays, and other spectacular sea creatures. But it’s under threat from a proposal to dredge the bay to make it accessible for big cruise ships.
Nature in Northern Ireland
There is ongoing political uncertainty in Northern Ireland but one thing is clear – better protection for nature must be given more priority.
The Northern Ireland government has shockingly approved the construction of a new road through protected wetlands at Lough Beg, crucial to migratory Whooper swans, and the landscape that inspired Nobel-prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.
Local campaigner Dermot Hickson says:
Imagine 22,000 cars a day hurtling past us here, it’s such a gentle and tranquil part of the world, it doesn’t bear thinking about. The decision to proceed with this route is a travesty
At the same time unauthorised sand dredging continues at the nearby and connected site of Lough Neagh – sand that could end up being used in the construction of the A6 though the Heaney landscape.
This disregard for nature and the laws that are there to protect it must stop.
Voters value nature
The public are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping or strengthening rules that protect our natural environment.
A YouGov survey for Friends of the Earth revealed that 83% of people want the UK to pass laws providing a higher (46%) or the same (37%) level of protection for wild areas and wildlife species than current EU laws.
Only 4% want lower protection.
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