Public pressure secures big win for nature laws

Nature laws that protect our most precious places and wildlife have been saved – thanks to record-breaking public support.

The EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives – known as the nature laws – have been under close scrutiny, and under threat, for nearly two years. But now the European Commission has decided to keep the laws and set out an action plan to make sure they are used properly to protect and restore nature.

Why the laws are important

The nature laws protect some of our most precious natural places including Dartmoor, the North York Moors and Epping Forest.

The same laws have led to the recovery of iconic British species such as the bittern and red kite. And some rare bee species are now dependent on nature sites protected by these laws.

Friends of the Earth Nature Campaigner Sandra Bell said: “Thanks to the overwhelming public support for nature we’ve saved crucial protections for our precious places and wildlife.

"It’s a great decision for nature. Now we need to make sure that as the UK leaves the EU, the nature laws are kept and properly enforced to ensure we can all benefit from thriving nature in our lives.”

The nature laws have led to the recovery of bitterns

How we won – some highlights

  • In spring 2015 over 500,000 citizens took part in the European Commission’s consultation asking for the laws to be kept not weakened – the largest response to any Commission consultation to date.
  • In November 2015 campaigners delivered the 500,000 signatures to a high level conference in Brussels prompting politicians to acknowledge the huge public concern for nature.
  • In December 2015, with campaign allies the RSPB, we handed over a book of people's comments and testimonies about nature to UK Minister at the time Rory Stewart. Soon after Mr Stewart said the UK government backed the nature laws.
  • In February 2016, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to oppose the revision of the nature laws.
  • In March 2016, a major scientific evaluation concluded that the nature laws are "fit for purpose".
  • This week over 11,000 people contacted the UK Commissioner ahead of today’s meeting asking for the nature laws to be saved.

2017 – a big year for nature

Today's decision is a huge victory. But nature still needs our help. And a lot will be happening in 2017:

  • The government will ask the public for views on its national plan for our environment. We need to make sure it's good enough to reverse the decline in UK wildlife.
  • Ministers will decide which rules the UK should keep when it leaves the EU. We need to make sure that the government keeps the laws for nature that we've just saved.
  • Crucial decisions will be made which test of how well the nature laws are enforced. We will stand with people defending special places for nature.
  • The European Food Safety Authority will conclude its review of the evidence on bee harming pesticides. We need to make sure these pesticides stay banned in the UK.

But right now you can help nature where you live.

Get a Bee Saver Kit

Picture: keeping the EU nature laws is important for British wildlife such as puffins

The EU is keeping its nature laws, which is great for UK wildlife such as puffins