Wildlife still in peril
Sir: It is always entertaining to see just how much spin the Government can put on an issue, but Monday's offering, "Wildlife sites to be made inviolate", was extraordinary, not least because of official data showing how more than 300 sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) are damaged or destroyed quite legally every year.
We were told that the Government is submitting to Brussels for confirmation the final list of wildlife sites chosen to be Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. We were assured that these would represent "a new form of European super-protection ... for some of Britain's loveliest and wildest landscapes".
The fact is, though, that all of these sites are in effect modified SSSIs and are not adequately protected. Indeed, an unpublished European Commission report, obtained by Friends of the Earth, has found that the UK has failed properly to transpose the directive, and that the UK's wildlife legislation is shockingly deficient. There are dozens of legal mechanisms missing and the Commission has now opened a legal case against the UK government which could ultimately result in them being fined for every week that they fail to deliver the level of protection required.
If the Prime Minister wants us to believe that his government really does care about wildlife, then he must deliver tough new wildlife laws in this year's Queen's Speech. If he doesn't, he will be dragged into action, kicking and screaming, by the European Commission.
It will be difficult for the Government to spin out of that one.
Policy and Campaigns Director
Friends of the Earth